Family Histories

  • People have an inborn desire to know something about their ancestors.

  • Family histories are important to individuals, families and society.  They help us learn from the strengths and experiences of our ancestors, enabling us to better cope with our own trials today. 
  • "Children who know where they came from are more resilient, according to research.  They are able to handle problems, do better in school and better socially, because they know they are part of something larger than themselves," said Helen Jackson Graham, English professor.  Helen is the Houston area Freedmen's Bureau coordinator, and has 20 years of experience in African American genealogical research.  Nurture the interest and collaboration of genealogical and family history research.  Linking to other families sometimes brings you right back around to your own family.  Help them recover their historical memory.  Help them recognize they are part of one human family.  Help them discover who they are, where they came from, discover their family stories, and to feel connected and bound to their families through generations.  (Source:  Reuniting the Black Family:  Volunteers Index Freedmen's Bureau Records, by Linda Talbot, LDS Church News, November 4, 2015)    

  • Children with learning disabilities who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges."  (Source:  "The Stories That Bind Us," by Sara Duke (psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities), The New York Times, March 2013) 

  • In every family, each generation passes stories and traditions on to the next. The knowledge and experiences that are transmitted in this way become a part of the entire family’s memory.  It is not only a history of who our ancestors were, but it gives us hope that we too can overcome trials and make a difference in the lives of others. 

  • The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.  Marshall Duke was a colorful psychologist at Emory University. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Duke was asked to help explore myth and ritual in American families at a time when there was a lot of research into the dissipation of the family.”

    Dr. Duke’s wife, Sara, a psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities, noticed something about her students.  “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges,” she said.

    Dr. Duke and Dr. Robyn Fivush began studying children to find out what they knew about their families. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

    The ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.  It has to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family, and knowing that no matter what happens, we always stick together as a family.  Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “inter-generational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

    “Traditions become part of your family,” Dr. Duke said.  Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

    The bottom line:   If you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.  (Source:  The Stories That Bind Us,” The New York Times, March 15, 2013.  This article was adapted from Bruce Feiler’s recently published book, “The Secrets of Happy Families: How to Improve Your Morning, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smart, Go Out and Play, and Much More.”)
  • Research shows that children who are best able to handle stress are those who know the most about their family's history.  Family history can bring an understanding of common backgrounds, experiences and interests.  As children, grandchildren and descendants hear about the past, they are more able to meet the future. 

What You Can Do
  • Share family stories within your own family.  Whether it is telling a story, comparing the family member to an ancestor, or teaching a lesson through a similar experience of an ancestor, sharing stories helps family members draw from the experience of their ancestor.  As people know about family members who have gone before them, their ancestors become real people with real-life situations, whose example can help us in times when we are experiencing our own difficult situations.  Children will grow to be more resilient, able to handle problems, do better in school and better socially, and have higher self-esteem, because they know they are part of something larger than themselves.  (To learn more, read the remarks above by Linda Talbot and Sara Duke)     

  • Teach children with learning disabilities about their family’s history.  Children with learning disabilities who know a lot abut their families tend to do better when they face challenges.  (“The Stories That Bind Us,” by Sara Duke, psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities, The New York Times, March 2013)

  • Make a difference to both living family members and future generations by preserving your family history for those living and future generations. 

  • Organize family records (originals or copies) for your parents, siblings, children, and extended family.
  • Gather full names of children, dates and places of births, marriages, deaths, burials, military service, and interesting stories. 
  • Collect or duplicate records of older family members before they are no longer available.  Interview relatives in person, asking them to share their memories with you. 
  • Search for records in cemeteries, courthouses, funeral homes, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records, wills, land deeds, newspapers and libraries to learn about the lives of your ancestors, how they lived, and the history of their time.  Court records can offer insight into an ancestor’s occupation, wealth and lifestyle.  Military records may reveal hair and eye color
  • Ask your family about their medical histories.  Let your doctor know what diseases run in your family (heart disease, alcoholism, cancer, etc.).  One-third of all diseases can be predicted and prevented. 
  • Make a family album with pictures, stories, newspaper clippings, certificates, and even old letters. 
  • Record family histories—written, on tape or video. Family stories, memories, knowledge, skills, and funny or tender times which are not recorded, soon become lost to the next generation.  Encourage other family members to help you.
  • Learn about an ancestor and share their story.  For help, try

  • Pass down something you learned from your parents or grandparents.

  • Organize a family reunion, and share the items you have gathered—pictures, family recipes, clothing, stories, etc.
  • Visit the cemeteries where your ancestors are buried. 

Additional Resources
  • Family History Centers.  The following four Family History Centers are located inside the chapels belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The public is welcome.  Look for a door sign to enter the Family History Center.

    Please CALL for current hours:
Spokane Northside
401 W. Regina
Spokane, WA
(509) 466-4633 
Tues 10am-2pm              
W-Th 9am-9pm
Located across the street from Brentwood Elementary School.
Enter the East side of the building, glass enclosure. 
Week of Thanksgiving
Last 2 weeks of December
Major Holidays

Spokane South Hill
1620 E. 29th Avenue
Spokane, WA
(509) 624-9407
Tu-Th 10am-5pm
Sat 9am-4pm
One week for Thanksgiving
Two weeks Christmas
Major Holidays 

Spokane Valley
13608 E. 40th Avenue
Spokane, WA
(509) 926-0551
Tues, Wed, Thursday:  10am - 8:30pm
Saturday:                      10am - 2pm
Major Holidays

10405 W. Melville Rd
Cheney, WA
(509) 455-9735
T-Th 6pm - 9pm
Wed & Th  10am-2pm

  • The Family History Library.  This is the world’s largest collection of genealogical records.  They have microfilmed documents containing more than 1 billion names, with links to over 4,000 family history library branches in 65 countries, operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.