by
National Development Manager, Family Dynamics

In this update:

  • Exploring your family history and gaining a clear understanding of your ancestors’ sacrifices, challenges, successes, and shortcomings may serve as an inspiration for you and your loved ones.
  • There are four ways you can get started to discover your family history.


Genealogy: An account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor
– Merriam Webster Dictionary

"A family history helps provide a sense of belonging, a connection to the past," shares genealogist Stacy Taylor. When planning for the future, it may be relevant to take a look back at the past. A clear understanding of your ancestors’ sacrifices, challenges, successes, and shortcomings might be just the inspiration you or your children need to continue forward with ambition, purpose, and stewardship for the resources available to the family.

Connect to the past, inspire the future

One family with twin teenage boys who were getting ready to go to college turned to family history to help add perspective to their situation. Both had grown up around their family business but weren’t sure if they had any interest in pursuing it as a career. Before the boys left for school, the family decided to have a family meeting, and they asked a neutral third party to facilitate.

The facilitator encouraged the parents to invite the young men to take an active role in the meeting. One was asked to develop a four-generation family history chart, which included birth and death dates, employment, health issues, etc. The other was asked to prepare a presentation on the history of the family business. The facilitator worked with them and encouraged them to interview their grandparents.

The family meeting date came, and the young men shared their findings. The first shared information he had learned about the family, which resulted in him feeling a special connection to his great grandfather, who had passed away before he was born. Despite the fact they never met, he felt they had similar attributes and character traits.

The second son shared stories about some of the toughest times for the business and how the business had to re-invent itself multiple times through the generations. In sharing this information, he seemed almost relieved to know that the business and the family had struggled in the past. Before this project, the only perspective he had on the business was that it was a large, stable, and successful enterprise. He was fascinated by the fact that there were times when the family thought they might lose it all.

Getting to know their past sparked an interest in both brothers for their family business. They wanted to get to know the business better and pursue education that could allow them to bring some unique value back to the company, should they choose to return. For their parents, it provided a communication bridge to their teenagers, who were trying to develop their own identities.

Family history benefits inmates and inheritors

Learning about one’s family history goes well beyond those who are part of a financially successful family. Genealogist Stacy Taylor has volunteered her time for the past three years at a state correctional facility in the Pacific Northwest. She helps inmates discover and appreciate their family history. She shares stories she finds about their ancestors and then helps them develop a five-generation chart; these stories and artifacts become treasures to these men. She has assisted over 500 offenders over the past three years. Taylor shares stories about how learning their family history gives them a "desire to improve their life." It provides a sense of belonging and a motivation to improve as a citizen and as a family member.

For example, Taylor shares one story of a man who learned that one of his ancestors was an honorable and successful businessman in Texas with a town named after him and a statue erected in his honor. The inmate had never heard of this ancestor. "This new information provided a vision of the family that came before him and inspired him to want to change his life and become the type of person that his ancestor would be proud of." She adds, "Knowing where he came from allowed him to look at himself differently. Yes, he had made some poor choices, but his bloodline contains a man that overcame huge obstacles and became a well-known, successful businessman."

Connecting with our family history allows us to know ourselves better, no matter where we currently are in our lives. When we learn about our ancestors, we may be inspired and strengthened by their struggles and perseverance. We may also find that we share common attributes and tendencies, and notice them in ourselves. Our family history can motivate us, warn us, and assist us as we manage our stewardships, and help us become proud, confident, and successful people whom our ancestors would be proud of and the next generation may want to follow.

Four ways to get started on family history:

  1. Create a four-generation chart with as much information as you can find about birth and death dates and locations, health issues, employment, and where people lived.
  2. Conduct interviews with family members to capture stories and memories. Consider using audio or video to record your family members telling their stories so other family members can also benefit from hearing or seeing them tell their stories.
  3. Use that information to search out more genealogical information and stories on websites like Ancestry.com, Archives.com or FamilySearch.org (For example, perhaps the story of how your family came to this country).*
  4. Set aside a time for your family to share stories you have learned about your ancestors. Encourage family members to do research and share the stories they find.

*Please note that we are not responsible for the information contained on the listed websites. The sites are provided to you for information purposes only.