University of Illinois Extension

Keep Your Family History Alive

Amy Griswold, family life educator

In past generations, reminiscing about family life and history was an important part of the family and community.

The story-telling function was often the responsibility of older persons as a way to make sure new generations learned about the history and heritage of their family.

In today's technology, historical information is recorded instantly via news media. But, many people know very little about their own family's stories. As a grandparent raising a grandchild, you have a unique opportunity to pass on some of those treasured stories.

By passing on the family history, you'll help your grandchildren gain greater self-knowledge and self-esteem. They may also gain a sense of satisfaction as they share their stories with others.

We know that all stories are not happy ones. But, telling painful stories may be a way to release burdens from the past or help the children to better understand their parents or other family members. Sometimes memories are painful and upsetting when they resurface. Retelling unhappy stories may help in working through unresolved issues and conflicts.

There are lots of ways to share your family's heritage. You can write down your family genealogy, keep a journal or interview family members and record their stories. This written history can then be passed down to your grandchildren and, someday, to their children, keeping the family history alive for generations to come.