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    « Family History: What's the Story? | Main | Set a Goal, Finish Your Memoir or Family History Book »

    Genealogists: Your Ancestors, or Your Descendants?

    Yesterday I discussed a book project with an interesting man, Bruce, who knew a lot about family history. His mother wrote a family history book back in the days of typewriters and three ring binders, and Bruce has that book and treasures it. His father is working his way through a memoir, one year at a time, and is all the way up to 1964. Bruce hopes his 80-year-old father will hurry up and finish the memoir sooner, rather than later, before it is too late. And then there is Bruce. He is very interested in genealogy, and has researched his family’s ancestors back to the early 1700’s.

    Bruce is a Mormon, and like many LDS church members, he researches his ancestors as a part of his religious practice. His temple work is meaningful and rewarding for him because he believes he is extending God’s love to his ancestors.

    I have met any number of people like Bruce, and their passion for genealogy is amazing. Quite aside from religious duty, the research itself is an unending puzzle and intellectual delight. These genealogists have gathered precious family information, artifacts, and most important, stories, all of which are fascinating and valuable. They often tell me they have far too much information for one book, or even two, and would love to publish a family history book.

    So what’s the problem? They say, “I’m not ready to do a book yet, I’m still researching.” The problem is that genealogy research is endless! There will always be more research to do.

    This begs the question, who is more important, your ancestors, or your descendants? This is a cruel question, because no one should have to choose. You love your family, and want to help all of them.

    I asked Bruce who he wanted to write his book for. His children. Would his children, and their children, be interested in family stories? Yes, absolutely. They would benefit and learn from his research.

    I hope that Bruce will write his book. It will require a change from him. He will need to stop researching, to summarize what he already knows. He will need to reallocate some of his time and energy from his research of the past, and dedicate some time, energy and devotion to the needs of the future.

    Writing a book is the culmination of a process, in order to produce a product. A family history book is a very real artifact. Yes, it is a limited and flawed artifact. We can never know the whole truth. Nevertheless, a family history book it is an invaluable gift, one that assures your descendants will understand their connection to their ancestors. Don’t forget, that ancestor will be you someday!

    -Nan Barnes

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