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The Joys of Genealogy
Column published: 14 September 2006.
By: Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

According to Webster, the definition of joy is: "Excitement or pleasurable feeling caused by the acquisition or expectation of good; gladness; pleasure; delight; exultation; exhilaration of spirits; the cause of satisfaction and happiness."

I have been asked many times what I hoped to accomplish in my genealogical career. I have thought about it carefully many times. I would hope that I might be able to inspire others to want to work on their genealogy. If I could only accomplish one thing, it would be to help others discover the joys of genealogy. There are many wonderful people who can teach people how to do their genealogy and there are many experts in the different areas of genealogy. Sometimes we get caught up in the how-to and the techniques, and we forget the joy.

I would encourage you to share the things you have learned and to help others find the joy of genealogy.

If you have the opportunity to work with children, do so. There are many opportunities to help them learn about family. It may be through your church, school, scouting or perhaps a neighbor kid. Some of these children don't see much to be proud of in their homes. Some come from such fragmented families it's hard for them to even understand the concept of a family unit. Most families don't even sit down and have dinner together. When you can help them to understand a little about family history, you can open up a new world for them. Sometimes you can see a light go on. You can help them reach back into the past to find someone to be proud of. It may be something as simple as the fact that their ancestor was a survivor and because of that they are here. That is one of the joys of genealogy.

I had a chance to work awhile back with a group of about thirty 11-14 year olds. Now with a group of that age, sometimes all you have going for you is a wing and a prayer. My co-instructor asked the students why they were in our session. After the first student said to "learn more about my family history" that's what we heard from the rest of them. Finally one young lady, who looked more bored than the others, said "they didn't have anything else that looked remotely interesting so I just came here." You had to admire her honesty. We did a lot of things that day with the group. Finally after finding a newspaper clipping about one of her ancestors, our young lady came up to me and said "you know lady, this family history stuff could be kinda cool". Now that was joy!! Think about your children, grandchildren, or perhaps nieces, nephews or cousins. Perhaps you can be the one to light the spark in them.

Think about some of the senior citizen groups or civic organizations that you belong to. I have worked with Foster Grandparents and other groups. Some times some of these people don't think they have a lot to live for. I have observed over the years that the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

The Joys of GenealogyTry and talk with them about sharing their family stories. Help them to understand how important they are, because, they are the only ones that can do this. If they aren't able to write them down sometimes they can tape-record them. If you can, help them to understand that their reminiscences and anecdotes would be of value to someone. Help them to understand that people would be interested in knowing about their lives from the cradle to the rocking chair. You may help them to feel useful again.

These are the joys of genealogy.

Shirley Hodges

To read back issues of Shirley Hodges' articles, visit her biography & archived Articles

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