Real-Life Perspectives

Do You Know Where You’re Coming From?

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The oldie but goodie Diana Ross song “Theme from Mahogany” asks the question, “Do you know where you’re going to?” Figuring out where you’re headed in life can be quite an adventure—and a lifelong game of seek and find for many. But there is another important answer to seek out, as well.

Do you know where you’re coming from?

This is certainly something that many of us are greatly interested in finding the answer to. The popularity of DNA tests and genealogy television shows and websites accurately reflect that.

And while it is certainly cool to send saliva off and find out that you have Viking ancestors, we often miss the wealth of information right at our own family’s kitchen table.

Have you made it a point to record your family’s stories?

For years, I’ve asked my mom to write down her history and our family history so that we have a tangible record of what makes us a family. She obliged here and there in bits and pieces. She did better if I gave her some specific questions to answer, but…it was a task I think she found just too daunting.

What didn’t dawn on me soon enough was that if I had sat down and interviewed her, it would have proven much more successful. I could have gotten a journal and led the way, helping her to flesh out the stories she has lodged within her that she probably isn’t even aware of—until she’s encouraged to dig a little.

I should have started long ago. We would have pages of stories to cherish.

And now that most of us carry a voice recorder and video camera in our back pockets? Well, it doesn’t get much easier than that.

Still, I have been slow to the realization that I could and should be making a point of recording her sharing stories from days long gone. Now in her nineties, it is clear how finite time is, and stories that would have been successfully told a few years ago are now lost to the challenges of aging and clarity of thought.

Even though I’m late to the task, though, I am making an effort to at least ask and take whatever answers come. But it could have been so much more.

So…don’t be like me. If you want to “know where you’re coming from,” get in the habit of grabbing a few minutes here and there to ask questions that help illuminate your family’s past. You don’t have to be formal at all—just ask and really listen. If you don’t want to write things down or video or voice record in front of your “subject,” then write it down or record it as soon as you can.

With speech to text software or our ability to speak into our phones and have it magically converted into text, the process doesn’t have to be time consuming at all. While not quite a perfect science, the overwhelming majority of content will be accurate and usable.

And if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can take those reflections, edit them, and make a history book for your whole family to enjoy. Consider creating a photo book that includes the stories, and you will most certainly be everyone’s favorite family member!

Bottom line: don’t miss out on the chance to learn and save your family’s personal history. It is a legacy you will treasure forever.

Note: If you are planning on having your DNA tested, make sure you know your rights and risks regarding what happens to your data. A great way to do this is to take advantage of ARAG’s resources.

Guest post by Lisa Ancona-Roach, The Juggle Struggle

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