There’s an old saying that says: “you can choose your friends, but family is in the stars!” What it means is that while we can choose who we associate with on a relationship level (relationships come and go), you have NO control over who your parents are and what lies beneath your family history!
We cannot escape from our ancestral past! It’s not just a part of us, it is equal to who we are. The truth is that we all occupy a different position when it comes to our own family history. Some children don’t care to know where they come from while others have an unstoppable drive to research and find out where all of their ancestors came from and the stories that connect us to our past.
From my own unique experience, family history has the power to change your life.
One thing that most people take for granted when it comes to the transformative power of family history is the idea of NATURE VERSUS NURTURE. According to this Darwinian question, “which is a more powerful factor in the outcome of a child’s personality, nature or nurture?” NATURE represents our genetics, our ancestry, our family history and all of the inherited traits that we supposedly accumulate over time and generations. NURTURE represents the environment in which we are raised.
Which is stronger? Which has a more powerful pull on our personalities and predilections toward the things we like, dislike, and how we act towards others? Well I definitely have something to say about that.
As an adopted child, raised over 4,000 miles away from where my birth family is from, my life is the classic tome of nature versus nurture! If I were able to contribute to this scientific discussion in any meaningful way, I would say that NATURE is definitely stronger than NURTURE.
I never realized why I do half the things I do until I found my birth parents and started researching my family history.
The power of family history to change your life comes in the deeper understanding of yourself in relation to those that came before you. By meeting your ancestors through research, you are allowed to travel in a time capsule and embrace the family history that they created for you.
My ancestors were farmers from fairly remote places. They migrated, built farms, prospered, raised large families and participated in the history of our Nation. The more I get to know them, the more I learn about myself.
I had always carried around a frenetic sense of self before I found my birth family. The nature I was born with was usually at odds with the nurture that I had received growing up. That’s not to say I had a bad upbringing, I didn’t; I have a wonderful adoptive family. I wouldn’t trade them for anything, not even my birth parents if that sounds strange.
However, I never saw eye-to-eye with them on a lot of things. They love the city, I love the country. They’re not much into joking around, I’m always horsing around. They aren’t into books, I’m virtually obsessed by them.
Knowing my family history changed my life because it gave me an emotional place to hang my hat!
It finally put all the pieces together for me in terms of why there was so much conflict in my life with regards to the ‘nature versus nurture’ question. Now that I know where my family history comes from, it’s transformed me in ways that many long to be transformed.
Knowing my family history has transformed my life because it has grounded me and confirmed within me the identity I always knew I had via nature.
There have been countless times in my research where I’ve laughed to myself saying, “that’s where I get that from!” or “now I know why I’m like that!” It’s such an amazing thing to understand and to share with the next generations of our family.
Getting to know your family history will naturally come with both the good and bad, the positive and the negative. The important part is to realize that our place is not to judge or transpose our values on the values of our ancestors’ time, but to simply accept things as they were.
That’s the only caveat to doing family history research, finding out things you may not have wanted to find. However, you’ll come to realize that eventually those things will not be as dramatic as you first experienced. I remember finding out that my great grandmother came from Alabama and I thought: “yikes, what the heck is in Alabama?” (Forgive me I grew up 4,000 miles away and had been subjected to Yankee stereotypes my whole life lol).
There were other way more shocking moments in my research, however this example is neat because the more I dug into my Alabama roots, the more I was amazed by the fact that my family were among the first to claim land patents in Fayette County, fought in the War of 1812, fought in the Civil War, and even founded their own town. How cool is that? I’m super proud of my Bama roots now.
Family history has the power to change your life in so many ways, the best ways are the ones you haven’t discovered yet.
Get out and start researching, digging, asking questions of elders that are still alive, join online communities that can help and encourage you in your quest. The search for knowledge and reverence for the past is in our DNA. We are extremely fortunate to be living in this day and age where genealogical knowledge is readily available and cost effective; our family history is just waiting for us to reconnect with it.
We need to preserve our stories for the next generation. We need to bring alive the history part of “family history” and instill in our children who they are and where they come from. Our great American and European histories are about values, and values are what we should want future family historians to know about us.