When I give presentations to church groups or at retirement communities, I’m one of the youngest people in the room. But researching family history didn’t get to be the second-most popular hobby in the United States by appealing only to senior citizens.
The powerful desire to know one’s family history often begins at an early age, most frequently because of the death of a close relative or through a school assignment to interview and write about a family elder.
Elyse Doerflinger got the bug when she was 12 or 13. Now 20 years old and a California college student, Elyse writes a genealogy blog and posts helpful videos on YouTube. She’s also one of my Facebook friends. When I asked her for her thoughts about researching family history, here is what she said:
“It all started with my aunt when I was 12 or 13. She had discovered Ancestry.com and … I thought the facts she told me were so interesting. … Then, during a trip to Tennessee to visit my grandpa for the summer, I discovered so much about my family that I became permanently hooked. Everyone was telling me stories and giving me information.
“Being out there, in the rural Appalachian mountains was nice because I learned so much about American history as well as my own history. Pretty soon I was asking for a filing cabinet to store all of my papers and I started asking for Family Tree Maker software for my birthday and Christmas...I can definitely say that it certainly made me an odd teenager when it comes to that. Every since - I've been heavily hooked and I never plan on dropping the habit.
“I think researching your family history is extremely important. It gives you a sense of who you are and where you come from. Plus, it is nice to be able to connect people in your family tree to history. Like, I can honestly say that I have an ancestor in the civil war and that I have ancestors that served in both World Wars. Its honestly an addiction - once you start it takes you over.”
Elyse’s family is lucky to have her around. Most families benefit from a member who serves as family historian. If you have one in your family, give them a hand. Your whole family will benefit.
Photo: Elyse Doerflinger