WHY SO MUCH INTEREST IN FAMILY HISTORY?-Katrina Friess - Blog

WHY SO MUCH INTEREST IN FAMILY HISTORY?

I have always felt that there is a certain sense of belonging and security in knowing one's roots and family history.  An article in The Guardian newspaper last year, entitled "Why Children Need to Know their Family History" (by Rebecca Hardy, 14 Jan 2017) consolidated that view nicely.  I quote from parts of that article - as she put it better than I can! 


She begins with "I’ve been inspired by research that suggests knowing the intimate facts of our family histories makes us more healthy emotionally" 
then goes on to name the research - "I came across research showing that children who have a strong “family narrative” enjoy better emotional health. Much of this work is from the late 90s, when psychologists Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, asked 48 families 20 questions about their family history. They found that the more the children knew, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.“Hearing these stories gave the children a sense of their history and a strong ‘intergenerational self’. Even if they were only nine, their identity stretched back 100 years, giving them connection, strength and resilience,” he said." 
 
It doesn't seem to matter exactly what they do or don't know, it's the fact they they have stories to tell, that processes have taken place in their family's lives that perhaps they can relate to.  If nothing else it reminds them that they are part of a family or real people, not just inanimate names on a page.  After knowing things about someone goes towards making the difference between them being a friend not a stranger does it not? 
 
The article goes on to say "Apparently, there are three types of family stories: the ascending one (“We built ourselves up out of nothing”); the descending one (“We lost it all”), or – the most successful – the oscillatory one (“We have had our share of ups and downs”). I grew up hearing stories like the latter: how my grandparents’ house was bombed in the war; how my grandma saw her husband die of a heart attack in the pulpit, while she sat in the congregation with her 15-year-old son; how my great-grandfather-in-law was killed in the first world war, leaving his wife and two young children behind.  I am pleased to learn that the children remember these stories; that my son knows his great-grandad was a coal miner and sent down the pit at 14, that my daughters know their great-great-auntie went into service when she was a teen; and I realise we’re in a whole new unlikely scenario where Downton Abbey is suddenly social realism." 


I put this next bit in capitals because I absolutely love it and it encapsulates the whole article really 

 

"WE ALL FEEL STRONGER IF WE ARE PART OF A TAPESTRY, ONE THREAD ALONE IS WEAK, BUT, WOVEN INTO SOMETHING LARGER, SURROUNDED BY OTHER THREADS, IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO UNRAVEL" 

(Stefan Walter, a family therapist)