Every person in every family is assigned at least one role. Most of us have more than one.
In my family, for instance, I am primary cook, lawn-mower, bill-payer and grocery shopper. My wife is lead laundress, cultural affairs officer and captain of the family ship. Neither of us was born to these roles, they’ve just evolved in our 40 years of marriage and, for the most part, have served our family well.
One additional role I play is as our family historian. Again, this more or less evolved naturally. As a reporter, I loved hearing the stories of others, something I continue to enjoy today as a professional family historian at When Words Matter.
At the family level, I assumed the role simply because I was the one most interested in my family’s history. Through the process of researching the Lehmer, Breckenridge and Andersen families, I’ve been helped by cousins, aunts and uncles as well as my brothers and parents. It seems to be working out well, at least for me.
But what about families who have no designated family historian, or who have one that is ill-suited for the assignment? All it takes is a one-generation gap in the family tree to lose the work that was done before. This is particularly tragic when the next generation starts asking questions for which there are no answers.
Picking a family historian is usually an informal process, falling to someone with the interest and initiative to learn more. If such a person exists in your family, you probably know who it is. It is in your best interest to support that person any way possible.
That includes rounding up stray pieces of information and funneling it through your family historian. There’s plenty of information out there – journals tucked in attics, photos boxed up in the basement, scrapbooks in the closet, stories swirling through your brain. Don’t let them slip away.
Writing prompt for the day: Who is your family historian? What can you do to offer support?