How to Celebrate Your Family Heritage

How to Find Your Family Heritage

In some families, a sense of heritage might always be strong. In others, it can be easy to lose a hold on complicated personal histories. It only takes a few generations of failing to celebrate heritage for those precious memories and stories to be lost indefinitely. That's all the more reason to keep up the traditions -- or to pick them up again if they're on the brink of oblivion.

In your mission to discover your heritage, it helps to have at least a basic understanding of the past few generations of your genealogy. Luckily, genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States, and there are plenty of resources that can help you along in this journey [source: Szucs].

Most experts recommend that you start with what you know. Document all of the names you can recall -- parents, grandparents, great-aunts, great-uncles and so on. Also, if family members have told you any stories, record ones you remember. Did you have a great-uncle who was a decorated war hero? Do you know how family members coped during the Great Depression?

The next step is to talk to living family members. You should interview grandparents and ask them about their own lives, and they might even recall family stories that their parents passed on to them. Consider asking your parents to write down information about their lives. It helps to give them specific questions to answer, like ones about hometowns, high schools and important life events. Also, be prepared to encounter contradictory accounts. Family stories tend to change depending on who's telling them, so take note of the discrepancies.

Although we spoke of technology on the last page as a deterrent to our connection to the past, it nevertheless can make it easier to rediscover heritage. After you've gathered all of the information you can from personal sources, you can search online databases, using the details you've gathered to find out more from official records. For a fee, you can even send a sample of your DNA to some organizations in an effort to find distant relations, or to find out more about your origins. But beyond access to databases, computers can help you organize the information you document and even allow you to share that information with other family members.