By Anne Maxson
In his talk, “We Each Have a Story” from the April 2022 General Conference, Elder Gong shared the following, “Let the adventure of family history be intentional and spontaneous. Call your grandmother. Look deeply into the eyes of that new baby. Make time—discover eternity—at each stage of your journey. Learn and acknowledge with gratitude and honesty your family heritage.”
I have been struck by how excited youth get about doing family history work. For such a long time, like when I was younger, “doing genealogy” was something that only older people did. But now, it seems more and more younger people find joy in learning about their ancestors. There is a reason why they are an important part of the ward Temple and Family History meetings.
That said, it’s always great to find fun ways to get the kids, and even the adults, a bit more excited about Family History. Here are 3 of our favorite family traditions that help us with Family History.
- Document Your Temple Experiences
My oldest son just started attending the temple this year. He had the idea to start a journal so that he could keep track of the names that he has done. He challenged my husband to do the same thing. It has greatly enriched both of their temple experiences as they reflect on the names as well as the insights that came to them while in the temple. My son likes to keep track of how many names he has brought to the temple. Watching that number increase has helped him with setting goals for temple attendance and helped keep him motivated.
- “Family History Spotlights”
A few years ago, my mother-in-law asked everyone to prepare a presentation about an ancestor to be shared at a family reunion. I don’t think I can honestly say that we were “excited” about preparing or even presenting the spotlights but we all did learn a lot and feel a greater connection to our family members - both for the presentations that we did individually and the family members highlighted by others.
My kids also loved searching through the family tree for the longest branch or searching for kings and queens to spotlight.
Last year, I did a presentation about both of my grandmothers. It was such a wonderful opportunity to reflect on their lives and the influence they had on me. At that moment of trying to find a balance between all of the things calling for my attention. In my research, I came across this quote from my grandmother that was so fitting for just what I was going through. She had worked as an artist drawing the advertisements for a New York City newspaper. “I quit working in NYC when I got married and I often wonder how far I would have gone but I certainly don’t regret the life I had. Being a mom has been my greatest joy and I know that it is the most important pursuit I could have.” For me, it was so nice to think of how she faced the same questions and concerns that I did. And, even if we choose different paths, it is comforting to think of her working through that same dilemma.
With Mother’s Day coming up soon, I invite you to look through your family tree. Find one of the women in your family line and learn more about her. Consider doing a little “spotlight” presentation about her.
- Great Grandparent Birthday Celebrations
My oldest child met two of his great grandparents but he was so young that he doesn’t remember them. When he was really young, we started a tradition of birthday celebrations. My husband and I noted some of our favorite memories about our grandparents and also gathered stories from our parents. Instead of having birthday cake, we have one of their favorite treats. We have found this to be a great way to keep our grandparents, our kids’ great grandparents, in our hearts and minds on a regular basis.
Elder Gong goes on to say, “Connecting with our ancestors can change our lives in surprising ways. From their trials and accomplishments, we gain faith and strength. From their love and sacrifices, we learn to forgive and move forward. Our children become resilient. We gain protection and power. Ties with ancestors increase family closeness, gratitude, miracles. Such ties can bring help from the other side of the veil.”
I have found this to be true. As I learned about my ancestors, their trials and experiences, their strengths and their circumstances, I can think of them as I face similar struggles and similar victories. I can feel their sympathy and their encouragement as I navigate my own journey.