What is your family story?

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Hugo Wendt, my great-grandfather. Circa  1912.

The Value of Family Stories

At some point in our lives, many of us have experienced a loved one share the same family stories over and over again.  Perhaps we did not fully appreciate them back then, but we cherish them now.  For other folks, perhaps not much oral family history was passed down.  At any rate, each of our respective family stories is a kind of gateway to our ancestral past.  It is not uncommon, later on, for such family stories to spark an interest in genealogy—that of discovering where we came from and who we are.

Genealogy and Oral Family History

One way genealogy enthusiasts and professionals start their family history journey is by pursuing their loved ones’ earlier stories and transforming them into a timeless treasure. Perhaps certain stories were snippets of a rich or of a more complicated family past.  One story, for example, which was passed down in my family for a couple of generations, was that the marriage of my great-grandfather (depicted above) failed because he was injured in a train accident.  With no other information to go on other than that he suffered a horrible head injury in a train accident, the inescapable conclusion had been the following theme: that there was a causal relationship between the earlier train accident and the family break-up.

Validate Through Research

Oftentimes, we are able to ascertain the veracity of an oral family story by performing research.  Perhaps a particular story was entirely factual-or in part-or demonstrably false (or somewhere in between).  In my great-grandfather’ case, our family did not have many of the details.  My family’s forgotten past made it next to impossible to determine ‘where’ I came from relative to this family line.  Interestingly enough, in depth research indicated a likely causal link–at least to some extent.  However, over 20 years had elapsed between the train accident and the family break-up. In between both tragic events, my great-grandfather had been very accomplished in his professional life, which none of my contemporary family members had even known about.  A majority of the missing information was unearthed by performing historical newspaper searches.  Consequently, this tragic family history story has been expanded to include outstanding moments along the way!

Your Family Tradition

The key to starting or continuing genealogy research is to focus on what we know and take it from there.   There are many tools at our disposal in the pursuit of answers.  Whether it is evaluating an oral family history, attempting to take a family line back a generation, searching for DNA details or determining whether we are related to a famous person in history—whatever the reason may be, many of us are curious about where we came from and who we are.  Far from being a dull undertaking, genealogical research helps us to answer burning questions about our family past.  It is this passion for unlocking their family history which constitutes why many genealogy enthusiasts and professionals do genealogy in the first place.

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