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Honoring our ancestors

Old family photos can be scanned and preserved.
Old family photos can be scanned and preserved.
Archival, family photo, E.Christensen

Passing family stories to our grandchildren is part of our job as grandparents.  We can select which stories are best for them to know, but learning about how they came to be can be fascinating for them.  In our family, we have family members who fled from the Khmer Rouge out of Cambodia, family who came over from Denmark through Ellis Island, and family members who moved north from Central America and Mexico. We also have family members who moved here in adulthood, leaving some humorous and challenging dilemmas regarding a minimal knowledge of the language and local customs.  We learned how fortunate we are to live in a place with our language of origin and, through various moves and readjustments, can appreciate what our ancestors went through to provide us with freedom and an opportunity for a better life.

Trying to compile a family tree may seem daunting at first, but there are many resources to help you. It was amazing to find the manifest from the very ship on which my ancestors sailed to America online, with their names and ages listed; there was even a photograph of the ship that brought them here. If you happen to know of your ancestor's date of birth and birthplace, you may even be able to gather information from other countries.

If you are a writer, you may want to write down some of the memories you have or those of your parents while you still have access to them.   If you are more graphically-oriented, use a 3-ring binder and some plastic sheet protectors to hold family mementos that tell a story. Old passports and documents may be preserved this way.  If you are a scrapbooker, you can create a wonderful family history with a few old photos or internet-discovered information.  And, if you have computer skills, consider creating a DVD of some of the old family photos before they fade into dust.  Scan the photos, put them into some semblance of order, add a little music, and you will create a wonderful memory of your family's legacy for the next generation.

If you are more of a narrator, you can share stories of important family tales as the children or grandchildren reach the appropriate age.  Consider honoring a former family member by having their ethnic cuisine on their birthday every year.  When the children ask about an old framed photo, tell them a story about the family member and why they were important to you; the child may be curious and want to know more.  Playing some music from an ancestor's culture became a source of great joy for a grandchild; they enjoyed the bouncy music and the strange words, which we play every winter. 

Celebrating our ancestry increases the richness of the legacy each child receives from their family history.  Below are many resources to get you started, but all you really need are a few good stories to share. It is all part of passing the baton that we grandparents are privileged to do.

Find a grave - Grand Prairie

Grand Prairie Genealogical Society

Ellis Island Foundation

Finding Mexican Ancestors

African-American Ancestors

Genealogy in Asia and the Pacific

Native American Genealogy Search


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