Archive for July, 2013

The Ancestor Effect and Other Benefits of Genealogy

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

I have five grandchildren now; the fifth just arrived. They’re a little cuter than yours, and adorable, amazing, and brilliant. I find myself drawn to write stories for them – my stories, my parents’ stories, and stories I recall hearing about generations I never even met. These stories must be preserved, but I’ve never before taken the time to do it.

I’m learning where I came from, and I want my grandchildren to understand where they came from, too. In the process I’m coming to understand something about my grandchildren that I didn’t know when my own children were young. They need to be taught genealogy when they are young, so that it becomes a natural part of their daily experience.

Clare and three more generations

Clockwise from top: My mother, myself, twin granddaughters, and my daughter, their mother.

Some people explore their family history for religious or medical reasons, or simply because they want to understand who they are. But recent research suggests another good reason for doing it – and for starting young. Unfortunately, it’s also a good reason for me to feel a little more guilty for not getting as much done as soon as I might have.

For a decade I’ve practiced as a mental health therapist. This means I need to keep up on the research in my field, which is how I recently discovered an article in the European Journal of Social Psychology about “the ancestor effect.”

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Preserving My Grandfather’s Voice

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
Noah and Shirl Rodeback

My grandpa and his first son, Shirl

For more than 30 years, a certain cassette tape has moved with me to dormitories, apartments, and homes in two different time zones. It contains the original copy of an interview with a long-deceased ancestor, which makes it precious. For decades I have procrastinated doing anything useful with it, which makes me . . . well, human, I suppose. In case you are human in the same way, I am documenting the recent end of my procrastination in some technical detail.

My paternal grandfather, Noah Rodeback, passed away in May 1983. A year or two before that — no one remembers exactly which year — he visited my family in Moreland, Idaho. I don’t remember whose idea it was to sit him down with a tape recorder, but that’s what we did. I supplied the tape recorder and the tape — nothing fancy in either case — and the tape remained in my possession, so it may have been my idea. In any case, he was a good sport about it, and we got him talking about his childhood, his memories of my father and the rest of the family, and other topics for more than an hour.

We never planned to distribute the tape, just transcribe it. I started that once but never finished. It was slow work, because the recording is of fairly low quality,  like the recorder itself, the microphone, and the cassette — which, just to make things worse, I was reusing. I’ve been careful not to lose the tape through several moves, but that’s about all the good I can say.

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