By Amanda Forson, World Vital Records, Inc.
Connecting families is more than printing pedigree charts and family group sheets. Outside of the library, families come together over food and fun activities. The purpose of this article is to help grandparents, parents, and children learn from each other and pass along traditions that otherwise might die with time and non-use.
As a child, the author learned how to do basic crocheting from her grandmother. Her grandmother learned it from her mother, and the assumption is that the skill passed down through generations. Using needlework to make an afghan around the age of sixteen, the author did not think about the childhood activity for more than a decade. Inexplicably, along with more-earnest research efforts on the particular line for the great-grandmother whose family did the needlework came an urge to start using the skill again and learning more stitches than were learned during childhood.
Not every family reunion has to be spent picnicking or doing activities done in another country. Sometimes reminders of the past are refreshing and welcome. Sometimes it is better to focus on skills that previous generations within the same country develop. If generations have been making the same special tomato sauce for years, then teaching the next generation how to make the sauce is a form of family history.
Other families associate identities with singing, sports, or nature. Costumes may also be a basic form of identity. An outfit, a pair of glasses, a vase, or a painting may be tied to family traditions. Explaining traditions is more than a Saturday afternoon, rainy-day activity.
Modern media presents seasonal activities that may or may not work for your family. Disregard the less-functional activities presented by the prevailing culture, and focus on the things that your family liked to do in the past. This aspect of learning about the past, when done well, explains the connections in personality, tastes, and preferences between generations of family members. Bringing generations together to engage in activities and explaining the significance enables learning on a level that draws attention and constructs bridges through active participation.