In a way, the declining health of my parents and my husband’s parents has had a beneficial effect because it has motivated me to sit down and enter family information that has been accumulating and languishing for years in folders and envelopes.
Yes, it would have been better to do it before, but everyday family demands, homeschooling, and my freelance job were more than enough. Now that the children are older and more self-directed in their work I have started using this “spare” time to enter what I have; I want to be able to quickly send it off for feedback, further information, or whatever I can learn.
We plan to visit my in-laws soon and I wish to be able to give the gift of a collection of what I have so far. Because of the geographic distance between us, I cannot be as involved in his family as the others; I am also not the best daughter-in-law in the family and I hope to do something to give something truly valuable back to the family who has given me such a wonderful man. This should spark conversation and help me fill in even more blanks, giving me the chance to make their history even more complete.
I use Personal Ancestral File ( http://www.familysearch.org/eng/paf/); it’s free, it’s well-designed and very detailed, and the Mormons won’t come knocking on your door or add you to any email list – they ask for your email as a part of the registration/support setup, which is nice since I recently was having an odd problem which turned out to be with my scanner, not the software.
When I began over 10 years ago, I was keeping all handwritten records on proper forms, but it was a headache to keep up with the corrections and the relationships and entering them into the program was a sanity-saver!
I have offered to teach a class to our homeschool support group as history/elective, but even if they don’t need that kind of class I am enjoying the challenge – I just have to remember to take breaks because it can become all-consuming. It’s just so interesting to see where people came from and where they went and what they did!
Family history gives you a greater appreciation of the value of marriage and family and makes history more real because your family was part of it; it gives you a broader perspective on the history of our country, too. Sadly, history is something our schools either don’t teach (it’s not even tested on in standardized tests!), or is taught in such a distorted or abysmally boring way that we grow up thinking it’s irrelevant or something other that it was, and we become those people you see on Jay Walking who can’t even answer basic historical information and look like idiots. Happily, I have learned so much history this way – I just wish I had known it before.