How Older People Benefit From Knowing Their Genealogy
Alex Haley, author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family puts it this way:
In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage—to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning."
This article presumes that the research produced or will produce information on at least three generations. The family members, although they have lived more than 60 years, realize that they made no contribution to their genealogy (another term for family history) and have graciously accepted the facts, likable or not.
What benefits do they get from the knowledge they have? How is their wellbeing affected? Probably, in more ways than they expect.
Tracing family heritage can help elderly people . . . gain the perspective that they are a part of a long line of relatives that leaves a legacy for future generations.— Allison Merlino
A retired scientist grew up with a couple whom he thought were his parents. The fake father was actually his mother's brother (his uncle). When in his twenties, his biological mother was introduced to him, she apologized for the deception and for the fact that she could never tell him who was his real father. In his sixties, he was still agonizing over the fact that his identity and family history were being withheld from him.
Consider how different the scenario is for older people who not only are accepted by their immediate family, but can also trace their identity backwards to previous generations. The psychological benefits of knowing their roots boosts their mental wellbeing in positive ways, giving them:
- a sense of accomplishment if they did the research themselves;
- the perspective that they belong to a family which leaves a legacy for future generations;
- a sense of self worth and belonging to ancestors with whom they can participate to play their part in history;
- acceptance of the concept of death and mortality.
"The psychological benefits of genealogy are significant and plentiful," writes Allison Merlino. Among them, she lists basic needs like acceptance and friendship, ego needs like achievement and status, and self-actualization.
In order for doctors to determine what preventative screenings and tests you should take, they must be able to view your family health history.— MemorialCare Health System
According to the Center for Disease Control, only one-third of Americans have gathered their family health history, although 96% of them believe that it is important. Family history is only one of a combination of factors which contribute to chronic diseases; still, not knowing it guarantees guessing where facts could make a difference.
MemorialCare Health Systems advises older people to compile the history from three generations of biological relatives.
The risk of disease increases in older people. Family healthy history can offer clues as to the cause for certain health challenges. It can also be helpful in determining nutritional needs and the necessary adjustments in lifestyle behaviors like smoking and alcohol consumption.
Obviously, older people who have paid attention to their family health history are better able to contribute to their own wellbeing, and better prepared to affect the wellbeing of their descendants.
Sample Family History Form
Fill out the form below with your biological (birth) parents’ information (living and deceased).
❑ Alcohol and/or drug abuse
❑ Cancer - if yes, what kind?
❑ Heart disease
❑ High blood pressure
❑ High cholesterol
❑ Mental Illness
Does he or she smoke? ❑Yes ❑No
Is he or she deceased? ❑Yes ❑No
If yes, at what age?
If yes, of what cause?
List any questions or concerns you may have about their medical history.
My family tree has many branches, both living and dead... but all equally important. I cherish the memories that make its roots run deep.— Lynda I Fisher
Carl Brashear was the first African American to become a U.S. Navy Master Diver. His navy experience is chronicled in the 2000 movie Men of Honor, with Cuba Gooding Jr. playing the hero. Feeling privileged to meet one of Brashear's second generation relative in 2016, my attitude toward her was immediate love and admiration (based on my love and admiration for the sailor).
People of every age benefit from their ancestral family connection. Not only do they receive respect because of their family name, and applause because of what their family member accomplished, they are also presumed worthy of the same social status as their ancestors. However, by the time an individual has lived through 60+ years, there is no more presuming.They have either proved themselves worthy or unworthy. Those who are worthy receive continual praise for carrying the family name with honor.
Older individuals who love and respect their ancestors, and who live up to the family 's good reputation, often receive favors and preferential treatment just for belonging to a family with a honorable name.
Now that I am old and gray . . . Let me proclaim your power to this new generation.— Psalm 71:18 (NLT)
The jury is still out on whether or not morality is genetic. There is an ongoing debate on Debate.org in which 38% of the participants think that it is. Regardless of the findings, there is an obvious trend of certain behaviors repeating itself in generations of the same family.
In the Genesis story, Abraham lied with intent to deceive and similar lies were repeated in his son, his grandson and his great-grandsons. In another Old Testament family, the ancestors of Jehonadab manifested obedience to his counsel and refused to drink wine (Jeremiah 35). In modern times, there is a story of a family whose members in several generations have adopted other people's children and raised them lovingly.
Older individuals have the opportunity, if not the responsibility, to point out obvious tendencies in the bloodline toward positive and negative behaviors. This information is useful in determining the moral instructions and warnings to the next generation. The grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles also have the duty to relate the lessons their ancestors taught, and the moral principles that kept them focused.
For this reason, the lyrics in Steve Green's Find Us Faithful make an appropriate motto and prayer for older people who care about the moral wellbeing of younger generation:
Let us run the race not only for the prize,
But as those who've gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives.
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.
What aspect of your descendants' wellbeing do you want to affect the most?
MemorialCare Health System, Importance of Understanding Your Family Medical History, Copyright 1999 - 2016, Memorial Health Services
Merlino, Allison: Genealogy Benefits, April 18, 2008
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2017 Dora Weithers