In today’s technology-driven era, we live in a world where we can easily stay in touch with our family members through things like texts, status updates, and Skype. But what about staying in touch with our past? Knowing your heritage gives you a kind of power – one that not only allows you to understand yourself better but also gives you a greater sense of control over your own future. Luckily, there are many different paths one can take when exploring their family tree, and while they are all different in their own ways, they still have one thing in common: connecting you with your past.
Among the many ways one can explore their heritage, genealogy websites rank high among the most popular. While some websites are primarily search engines that let you search for old census records and birth and death records, others act as virtual family trees that let you track your family lineage online. These sites are fun because, in the process of creating your tree, you can learn more about the relatives that you never knew. For example, my mom is using her tree to learn about the grandfather she never met along with his family, something she’s always wondered about her whole life. While the tree doesn’t provide all the answers that she’s searching for, it does make her feel closer to a side of her family that she never knew.
But what if you already know your family tree and just want to delve deeper into your culture? Well, another way you can explore involves one of my favorite topics: food! Food plays an important role in cultures all around the world, whether it’s forming traditions and customs, creating bonds and memories between people, or acting as a “spokesperson” (or would that be spokesfood?) for a specific region, state, or country. Think Maine’s lobster rolls, England’s fish and chips, and Italy’s gelato, just to name a few. It may sound simple, but eating food that is a part of your culture lets you embrace your culture’s traditions and also invites you to create new memories and experiences as you’re exploring your heritage. And there’s an added bonus. Eating food that is native to your culture gives you an excuse to go traveling to the places your ancestors came from. What could be more immersive in terms of culture than experiencing the same sights, sounds, and tastes that your ancestors experienced?
All of these ways are great at connecting you with your heritage and culture, but we still haven’t covered my favorite way to explore: talking to your family members about your ancestors. Family members can provide treasure troves of information about your ancestors (or at least enough to get you searching in the right direction), and they may even have old pictures for you to look at. Not only does the act of sharing provide a chance to bring you and your family closer, but it also makes you feel closer to the relatives you’re learning about.
Growing up, I loved hearing stories about my great-grandparents because, even though they died before I was born, hearing stories about them made me feel close to them. But, more importantly, because of the stories and pictures, I was able to understand more about the lives of my great-grandparents and their families — which in turn allowed me to understand and appreciate my heritage in a way that I don’t think would be possible if I didn’t know their stories.
Today, we live in a world that seems to be full of turmoil and disconnect, which is why it’s important to stay in touch with your heritage and culture. They provide a solid foundation for you to build off of and explore who you are and who you want to be. Now, these ways to explore are by no means the only ways you can discover your heritage and culture; in fact, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Heritages and cultures are complexly woven structures with a lot of intricate parts, so it only makes sense that there are a lot of ways to delve into them. All you have to do is find the right fit for you and start exploring.