Here it is … The start of a new year! As to be expected, there have been lists both in newsprint and on the air of “The Top News Stories of 2017.”
What we tend to forget in considering the history around us is the history of our own family. It’s not exactly the same as it was a year before, is it?
Perhaps there’s a new child or two, a marriage, a graduation, a divorce, a bar mitzvah, a death, other changes?
Whatever your age, you are probably part of a family. If someone in your family has not already made the effort to draw up a family tree or has not updated an old one, you have an opportunity to do some good.
There are a number of advantages to making a family tree, beyond just satisfying your curiosity.
- 1. You will feel wiser as you research and learn more about your family.
- 2. Interacting with older members will make you feel closer.
- 3. You will feel good, as you’re performing a service for others.
- 4. You will be helping family members connect with one another.
- 5. When you do a good job of collecting and sending the completed chart to each member of your family, you will have done a wonderful mitzvah.
The basic family tree lists all the members as far back as possible, up to the present. Dates of birth, marriage, and death are usually shown. Last known location (state) could be included.
The search itself can be very exciting. The Dallas Public Library is a good source for tracing American genealogy. Jewish family history, unfortunately, is not easy to trace as records in Europe either have been burned or are often sketchy.
My wife and one of her nieces in California, however, have been able to gather enough information to put their family history online, available to all their relatives.
There is an even more advanced type of family tree, usually referred to as a genogram. In addition to the names of family members, it describes how members interact with each other and provides medical history as well. Such detailed information could be helpful to medical and mental health practitioners attempting to diagnose a physical illness or a mental disorder of a family member.
“Has anyone in your family had this or that?” the doctor would ask. I usually didn’t know when asked. A family genogram requires members to be more open and willing to share with other family members mental and medical health information they normally would not reveal to strangers. A genogram is also used in family counseling to pinpoint psychological issues and interrelationships of family members.
Those TJP readers with children still at home can use this first week of the new year to talk with them about the start of their own family, going back to where their parents met, perhaps roughly drawing and explaining a family chart.
Such family stories supposedly have been shown to improve children’s self-esteem, helping them to better understand their place in the world, while also increasing their interest in history.
There are a number of websites online dealing with tracing ancestry, including Jewish genealogy. Seeking family information from relatives, near and far is often the best source of all. Children may not be interested at the time, but may seek out their history when grown. Genealogy can be a worthwhile and an enlightening family project.