Thanksgiving Day is also National Family History Day. It’s a natural pairing: that time of year when we gather together for family, food, and fun also marks the perfect opportunity to gather family information.
That’s the #1 rhetorical question we get here in the Archives. Whether trying to fill gaps in a family tree or hoping to recall or confirm stories from long ago, folks are always wishing they had taken the time to ask questions and record information once upon a time.
National Family History Day was actually declared by the Surgeon General after a Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that
- over 96% of Americans considered knowledge of family history important to their personal health, but
- less than 30% had ever actively collected family health information.
Wondering why the Surgeon General cares about genealogy? Well, it’s simple – tracing family illnesses can help predict health risks and encourage preventative action to keep families healthy! Of course, health questions may not be the easiest ones to address — nor do they necessarily make the best dinner conversation! — but, making an attempt to start talking about family history, asking questions, and recording information might help get the rolling on all fronts.
Here are some quick suggestions for easy ways to record your family history this weekend – or any time you gather together:
- There’s an app for that! Few people have tape recorders anymore, but your phone can do the trick instead! Download a voice recording app such as StoryCorps (read about it in last week’s Wall Street Journal article) or Interviewy. Have some questions ready (there are tips on the websites & in the article), but you can also just wing it & see where it goes!
- Bring out old photos to get the conversation started — and while you’re at it, write the names on the back (in pencil or archival, photo-safe ink).
- Create a Family Health Portrait with the helpful online tool from the Surgeon General’s Office.
- Keep pencil and paper handy and just write it down! Every little bit counts!
Need help pulling it together? Stop by the Community Archives Room and we’ll give you a hand!
We hope you had a happy Thanksgiving – and that you build upon your family history on this weekend — and at every opportunity!