Since 2001, October has been designated as National Family History Month. While some of these designated months may pass without you doing anything to commemorate the event, you can do a lot of things with your family to celebrate Family History Month.
Before we give you a list of ideas, we will provide you with a bit of information about the origin of Family History Month.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What is Family History Month?
- What’s the Origin of Family History Month?
- When is Family History Month Every Year?
- How Can You Celebrate Family History Month?
What is Family History Month?
Family History Month is designated as a month when people are encouraged to think about their family history and origins. Many organizations, such as historical societies, genealogical groups, and civic organizations, raise awareness of this particular month by holding events.
What's the Origin of Family History Month?
Senator Orrin Hatch introduced the bill to make October Family History Month in 2001. Senator Hatch wrote, "By searching for our roots, we come closer together as a human family."
When is Family History Month Every Year?
Family History Month is celebrated in the United States each year in October and in other countries as well.
How Can You Celebrate Family History Month?
Are you looking for ideas on how to commemorate Family History Month in October 2021? Here are some family-friendly ideas.
Visit your elderly family members
In your zeal to do "something big" to celebrate your family's history, don't forget to utilize the most valuable resources available — your family. Spend time with the elderly members of your family.
During your visit, encourage your relatives to talk about their earlier lives. Ask them questions about their parents and grandparents. Ask about historical events they might have experienced. Encourage them to tell stories and listen. You may even want to record the session so you can refer back to the information you learned.
While you may be comfortable coming up with questions on the fly, you might want to do a bit of research on the family before you visit to enable you to ask specific questions about their lives.
Do you need additional resources? Come with a list of thought-provoking questions to open up the lines of communication between you and your elderly family member.
Fill out a family tree book
Do you have young children? Get them interested in their ancestors by purchasing an age-appropriate family tree book. Assist them with filling in the blanks with their own information.
This interaction may ignite a spark in your children to spend more time learning about their story and their culture.
Depending on your children's age, you may need to prepare yourself to explain complicated relationships and family stories.
Archive family photos
Learn how to store and label your family's photos, then start the project that previous generations failed to complete.
This project may require the assistance of a member of the older generation who may be more likely to identify the people in the photographs.
Think about what you would like to do with the photos, especially the ones of people from outside of your immediate family group. Even though you may not place much value on the pictures (except for the fact that they are old), someone else may be excited to receive a picture of their great-great-grandma.
Consider sharing those pictures with others in your extended family. If your family tree is on a shared website, you might consider uploading the photos and tagging the people you can identify. Doing this may connect you to a long-lost third cousin.
Complete your family tree
Speaking of family tree websites, is your tree on one? Websites like Ancestry.com provide tons of resources to help you fill in the blanks on your tree. You can also connect with trees from other members and pool resources.
Spend October entering in the details of your family. After this project is complete, use the website's resources to see how far back you can go in your family's history. Maybe you'll uncover a familial relationship to a president or famous outlaw.
For the most part, people who are interested in genealogy are eager to share information. Don't feel as if you need to start from scratch. Reach out to your great aunt or second cousin — whoever is interested in family history — and ask to use their resources.
Write your family’s history
While a family tree is typically a list of names and dates, your family's story is much more interesting. Interview the older members of your family about their lives and the lives of their parents and grandparents. Get as many details as you can about how they came to the United States, what their personalities were like, and how they made their living.
Using the information you gathered, think about how you will record the stories for future generations. Perhaps you would feel most comfortable making a video record of your family member's accounts. If you are satisfied with your writing skills, you may want to organize the details and write the story on your own. You might also consider hiring a freelance writer to organize and record the history.
Consider how you will distribute your family's story to the younger generations, and think about how you can preserve the document so future generations can learn about their origins.
Learn how to prepare your family’s recipes
What foods do you associate with your grandparents or great-grandparents? Were they recipes they brought over from "the old country?" Perhaps you know recipes used for celebrations.
Use October to research these recipes and try them out on your own family. Look for old, worn cookbooks or recipe cards to find ideas.
Attend a genealogy class
Look for genealogy classes held at your local library or civic center during Family History Month. Some of these are organized by historical organizations, and they are often led by people who are well-versed in family research.
Go to a historical museum in your community
Learning about your family's history will undoubtedly inspire you to think about the historical events that they witnessed. Learn more about your community's, state's, or country's history by visiting a historical museum.
Your school-aged children may enjoy living history museums that allow them to explore what it would have been like to live in your area in the past.
Visit your family home
Even though you may have moved 10 times in your lifetime and lived in several different states, what area do you consider to be your family's "home?" Consider visiting that area and see what you can find out about your family's stories by using community resources.
This may lead you to an opportunity to visit with a long-lost cousin or great aunt.
Visit a cemetery
Cemeteries are great resources to find out more information about your ancestors. Make a record of the information you find on their headstones as you ponder the lives of those who came before you. Pull the weeds around your great-grandmother's grave and leave behind a bouquet of flowers.
Create a photo display in your home
As you learn more about your family, you will begin to think of them as people instead of merely "characters" from long ago. Give their photos a place of honor in your home by creating a display of family pictures.
Learn more about your family’s country of origin
Where did your family originate? Learn more about your country (or countries) of origin with your children. Read a basic account of the history. Learn to recognize the flag. Listen to the national anthem, and learn about their most famous historical figures.
Listen to popular music from throughout the decades
What music was popular when your great-grandparents immigrated through Ellis Island? What were the popular tunes played on the radio when your parents got engaged?
Share this music with your children and provide them with the right historical context. They may find themselves enjoying a whole new style of music.
Make connections to your living family members
As in all things, it is easy to get sucked into the world of genealogy. Even though you may get excited to uncover a name that had previously evaded you, don't forget about your living relatives. Send a message to your favorite cousin that you haven't seen for decades on Facebook. Organize a family gathering so that the extended family can reconnect.
Share memories and information with your relatives and also learn about their current lives.
Attend an ethnic enrichment festival
Some areas celebrate cultural heritage by hosting events with food and music. Connect with others with the same background by attending one of these events.
Don't Wait Until October to Celebrate Your Family's History
Even though Family History Month is officially celebrated in October, don't wait to commemorate the event. Your elderly family members may not be around long, and when they are gone (or lose their memories), a portion of your family's history could be lost.
- Anderson, Steve. “October is Family History Month.” Family Search. 14 October 2014. www.familysearch.org/blog/en/october-family-history-month-2/