How Family History Has Changed Me


It has been a while since I have really put a lot of effort into this blog, and some of you may have noticed that I changed my Instagram handle from @thehipstergenealogist to @welshwagonwheels. I was reluctant to do this, but ultimately, this was me acting on inspiration for reasons I have yet to understand.

I am definitely not a “hipster” by any stretch of the imagination. This might be obvious, but the reason I chose this name was mostly because it was attention-getting and lighthearted, in an attempt to attract interest in family history from people my age and younger. Five or ten years ago, I might have fallen more into the “hipster” category, but these days, I am about as boring and typical as a Mormon mom can be. I am not ashamed of this, either. I am what I am.

Family History is truly a righteous pursuit, and I know that because it has changed me in so many ways, some of which I will explain here.

I have become more (shudder) Conservative. Yes, I realize this is the antithesis of Hipsterdom. As I have familiarized myself with historical context of families, indeed, my values have migrated closer towards Conservatism. Don’t get me wrong; I am not hyperpolitical in any way. I don’t endorse any particular political party. I am very much a true Centrist. Too easily, I see both sides, and tend to sympathize with both, depending on the issue. However, I can tell you that as I strive to understand my ancestors and the historical context in which they lived, I have grown to value the traditional family as the fundamental unit of society. Furthermore, I have become more patriotic as I have learned not only about my ancestors and the sacrifices they made to come to this country, but also as I have explored the history in my hometown, which also happens to be the very place where George Washington and his troops fought for independence from Britain. I love this country. I love it so much.

I have a desire to be more kind. From studying my own family just in the past century, I have learned that just a few unkind words can completely sever family relationships for generations to come. The effect becomes gradually worse over time. While you and a sibling might have some resentments and grudges after a falling out, your kids will, in turn, not be very close. Their kids might not even have a relationship at all, save it be meeting a few times at family gatherings. And then their kids won’t even know each other, and then those kids after that will be complete strangers, thus causing the complete breakdown of a family in less than 100 years. Things like addiction and abuse make the breakdown happen much more quickly. I have so many second and third cousins who have memories of our parents and grandparents having close relationships, but yet we have only met because we spit in a tube and sent it to a lab. That seems sad to me. It makes me want to reach out more often to my in laws, nieces and nephews, and cousins. Lord knows I try. The feeling is not always reciprocated, but I at least try to let everyone know that we are family, and I am there for them. They might not care now, but someday, they will. If ever they are in a situation where someone asks them, “Do you have any family or relatives you can call for help?” they will be able to answer yes with full confidence, because they can call me. That is what families are for, regardless if we have talked or hung out recently. This imperative has caused me to choose my words carefully, remember to speak kindly, and learn to let resentments go.

Our loved ones are still very much around. If you don’t believe me, just commit yourself wholeheartedly to researching your family history. Spend some real time getting to know those who have lived and died before you. Astounding things will start to happen. This might sound weird, but trust me on this. I never have any doubts about whether or not there is life after death, because I know there is . All that stuff in scary movies about ghosts, or haunted houses, or seeing apparitions, that stuff is counterfeit. It is not real. Family history is real. Spirits are not scary; they are loving, and familiar. They are aware of you. You just have to trust me on this. I have lost a lot of people very close to me, and I am relatively sane so I think I am believable. They will let you know they are there if you are in tune with their plane of existence. Death and The Dead do not scare me, because I have an understanding of it now in a way I didn’t before.

Which brings me to my next point.

Family History becomes important when you have lost loved ones. Something happens to your soul when someone you love very much dies. You begin to look ahead to death with certainty. If death can happen to my baby sister, whom I used to hold in my arms and who was my best friend in the entire world for 20 years, then it can and will happen to me and you. It might be a good idea to make peace with that now before it all catches you off guard. And I am not saying that we all need to live our lives with a somber shadow cast upon us. Quite the opposite.

Family History adds meaning to your life. People of all backgrounds and beliefs are turning their hearts to their ancestors, and there is something deeply meaningful about this. You get a strong sense of who you are. Perhaps that is why I have totally abandoned the pursuit of “branding myself” or whatever. Everyone tries to stand out and be unique, but I think we have all really lost sight of the importance of day-to-day diligence of just serving those around you. It has taken me a while to be humbled, but I have learned to take the ego out of why I do any of this. My intentions have become more altruistic. I exist not to impress. I cannot possibly compete, anyway. I have learned and accepted that. I can’t keep up the image contest because I don’t stand a chance. I am not rich. I am not exceptionally pretty or skinny. I am not all that outgoing or charismatic. I have some qualities to varying degrees, but I find that it is much more of a relief to not seek the spotlight. The spotlight is overwhelming and anxiety-inducing.

I hope that these reasons make sense and are easy to understand. These are based on my own experience. I can’t speak for how family history changes other people, but I am curious about your experiences and insight. Please share and add to the discussion if you feel so inclined.