The power of family history

We recently read a great book and article by The New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler which highlighted eight keys to having a happy family. We were especially intrigued by one: the power and importance of family histories.

The simple story

Mr. Feiler says the “the single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.” He cites a survey from Emory University that found that families where children know more about their parents, grandparents and relatives – the successes and setbacks – have greater confidence to confront their own challenges.

In fact, the research discovered that knowing more about family history is the single biggest predictor of a child’s emotional well-being.

Losing the plot?

In the past, these family histories would have been passed down orally, around the kitchen table or a roaring fire. The researchers highlight the importance of dinnertime conversations. But life has changed.  As families are increasingly dispersed and busy, rich family histories risk being lost.

We’re amazed that you can now put a cotton swab in your mouth, send it off in the post and a month later find out where ancestors centuries ago hailed from. And online heritage sites can retrieve public records about your family in minutes.

But what about the first person accounts? What did Grandma experience during the Blitz? What was your great Grandfather’s biggest regret in life? 

Keeping the thread

This got us thinking about the importance of family histories, and the power of documenting lives – beyond just keeping in touch and sending updates to family.

With Internet tools like Lifecake and others at our disposal, charting our lives in a profound and long-lasting way is even easier. Not only can we capture events as they happen, but we can record how they made the family feel and react.

And we may find that the simple recording we do now of our children has huge benefits for the happiness and success of generations to come.

You can read the full findings of the Emory University researchers here.

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