archive photo rgb webFirst, it was Alex Haley's Roots. Then, it was Ancestry.com. Currently, Henry Louis Gates's Finding Your Roots PBS show is sparking the latest trend in genealogy. For centuries, some religions and cultures have placed great emphasis on family history and ancestry. There is something special about discovering that your great-x5 grandfather was King Farquhar the Wiener or your maternal great-grandmother handed Betsy Ross the needle and thread.

Often, our ancestor's stories are cloaked in mystery due to lost records and improbable myths. Why not vow that this won't happen to your progeny by recording your family history, using the latest technology and your little gray cells?

First-person narratives and family histories are important historical documents. Instead of having just an oral history, printed and digital documents can provide proof of your family history.

You and your immediate family are important to many people. Your extended family will appreciate the history, and this will also encourage them to do likewise.

Family trees are abstract. Stories add content. Besides the picture of a tree, your history puts the events and people in context and gives substance and life to the tree.

Over time, memories become fragmented and distorted. People may not remember the things you told them but did not write down. (By the way, it would be good to write down where the documents are stored, too!)

Writing your family history gives you the chance to depict your ancestors as you see fit. This can dispel myths and pre-conceived notions about your ancestors.

It will help you build or solidify a sense of family. This can bring members closer together, especially those you have not seen for a while.

It will have a wider impact than you might imagine. As your tree expands, you learn more and more about family and friends. You will be encouraged to archive and preserve the documents on which your family history research is based: certificates, letters, diaries, etc. Having visible proof of your family’s history is very powerful and satisfying.

Ways to record family history
Capture oral history with a smartphone or other aural recording device.

Take photos of documents and family members. Record the reading of family documents, like letters and diaries.

Video record as many members as possible, especially your most advanced member. Nothing is more powerful than watching a family member recall his or her life and the memories of their family and ancestors.

If you have images from older technologies (photos, 8mm, VHS, camcorder, slides), it is a good idea to convert them to more modern, usable, durable media, like DVDs. These preserve your images and make sharing them with other family members easier.

Your family history may never make it to the big screen, but that knowledge will give them a living picture of the past and hope for the future.

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