Writing Family History - Flunking Family History

If your children was given a "test" that covers many of the details of your life, and included questions about their own family's history, how do you think they'd do?

If your children are school-aged, no doubt, they have been inundated with tests of all kinds. When they fail those tests, or do horribly on them, we are quick to blame the school and the teacher.

Well, after a number of years of living (studying) in the same home with you, you'd figure that they'd know a lot about your life, the lives of their grandparents and more.

In this scenario, the home is the school and we, the parents, are the teachers. I fear that, when it comes to communicating significant family history and why it is significant, many of us may not be receiving as good of a grade as we would hope for.

Believe me, it's not that we don't want to teach our children about these things, but in today's hectic lifestyle, the traditional opportunities to share these stories and memories are fewer.

  • Hectic modern family schedules, especially when both parents work, may curtail time spent talking around the family dinner table.
  • Full-blown family reunions and get togethers are less frequent due to the distances we live from other family members.
  • Distractions, such as, non-stop cable television, computers, video games, mobile phones, MP3 players, texting and more reduce the actual time that we spend talking with each other.
  • Increases in extracurricular school and community activities absorb family time as well.

In the past, my job involved helping individuals between the ages of 17 to 27 years old with background investigation paperwork. For this, some family information was required on the application.

I would estimate that nine times out of ten, these individuals would have to call someone to be reminded of their parent's birth dates and their grandparent's full names. It always made me wonder. What else didn't they know about their own family?

Okay, ready? Here are some sample test questions.

How would your children do? How would you do, if given the same questions about your parents and grandparents?

  1. Describe how, when and where your parents met? And Grandparents?
  2. What would your parents say were the 3 most influential people and events they experienced during their childhood? How were they influential?
  3. What did your parents want to be, when they grew up?
  4. What kind of students were your parents?
  5. What would your parents, individually and collectively, consider their best decisions made? Which have been their most regrettable decisions?
  6. Who is the oldest member of the family that your parents (or grandparents) can remember, while growing up? What is known of them by the family?

Well, how do you believe your children would have done? How well could you have answered those same questions about your parents? No one has been given a guarantee that they'll live to be old and gray. It really makes one stop and think, when confronted with this sobering reality.

  • "If I didn't live past tomorrow..."
  • "Have I conveyed everything about my life, that I've intend to, to my children? If not, what am I waiting for?"
  • "Have I shared with them the hard-learned lessons I've learned about life? Or am I just going to let them figure it all out on their own?"
  • "Have I passed on all the great family stories and memories that were told to me by my parents?"

Then wonder...

Will my children know, or will they someday understand the happenings in my life that...

  1. Cause me to think the way I do?
  2. Make me believe the way I do?
  3. Make me act the way I do?
  4. Cause me to celebrate the things that I do?
  5. Help me make the decisions that I do?
  6. Cause me to worry about things like I do, etc?

Then there are these questions...

  • What have I taught my kids, so far, that will impact them the rest of their lives?
  • What have I NOT taught them that will impact them the rest of their lives?
  • What will they remember most about me?

One day, this test will actually be given to your children. It will come, most likely, from the sweet innocent voice of your grandchild or great-grandchild. They will have questions about you. Questions that will help them understand who they are and how they fit into the family, historically.

Will your child have the right answers to give them? Will they have an answer at all?

Nothing beats an open book test. When you keep a journal or create a record of your life, the test that your child faces someday will indeed, and thankfully so, be an open book test.

Won't you get started today?

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