As we start a new year, many of us have New Year’s resolutions on the brain. Instead of the usual resolutions — which are typically broken by the end of January — consider creating a family tree if you don’t already have one. I have been working on mine off and on for years, going back five Italian generations. This can be something you work on by yourself, or you can make it a family project.
The passing of my grandmother in October prompted me to dig out my family tree. Her death wasn’t unexpected, as she was 94 and had declined a lot over the last few months. But she was tough. She even survived COVID in her nursing home. As I wrote the eulogy for her services, I designed it as a letter to my 7-year-old son. He was fortunate to have had a loving relationship with his great-grandmother. And I was fortunate to have had two great-grandparents when I was a child. It wasn’t until later in life that I recognized the power of four generations existing at the same time — a brief, yet beautiful gift. It was something I wanted to be sure my son was a part of.
Through the years
My grandmother’s eyes lit up when I brought my son to visit her in the nursing home. He only knew her in that setting. What he didn’t know is the childhood I had with her — the Italian Christmas Eves, the outstanding food she cooked, and the love our family shared. A love that was most certainly passed down through generations. Someday he will understand. Something magic lingered in the rare moments when there were four generations of us in the same room together — my son, me, my mom, and my grandmother. It was a true blessing to have been part of the four-generation link, and I know my family tree will help preserve that bond.
Preserving your history
I discovered my Italian ancestors’ names and birthplaces as far back as my great-great-grandparents. The older I get, the more valuable my family tree is to me. My son doesn’t know it yet, but he will have his maternal family history at his fingertips as he gets older. Give this gift of family history to your own children; it’s the absolute best gift that transcends time. If you have older relatives still with you, ask them questions about themselves and their parents, before it is too late. Write it all down!
My grandmother shared many stories about my great-grandparents. I have warm details of all four of my grandparents and great-grandparents that will be preserved forever. And as my son asks me questions about his great-grandmother, who he had the good fortune to have in his life for almost seven years, I am happy to share my memories.
Starting a family tree can be a great quarantine project. Talk to your older family members to find out as much as possible about your ancestors, before it is too late. If your family is local, take your children for a ride by your parents’ or grandparents’ old neighborhoods. Tell them stories about your grandparents. As for the actual research and records, you’ll be amazed at what’s available online. Whether you use Ancestry, Family Search, Archives, or simply a personal journal, you are giving the next generation a timeless gift.