25 August 2020
To mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October, we’ve brought together our top 10 reasons to make family history your favourite pastime.
1. Hobbies are good for you!
Of all the things that make us happy, our hobbies and interests are sure to be near the top of the list, and family history has all the ingredients for a perfect hobby: it’s sociable, can be done almost anywhere, you can dip in and out as time allows, doesn’t have to be expensive and as you’ll see below, has plenty of other benefits.
2. Make new connections
Genealogy might be about the past but it’s also a way of life that’s very much in the present. Exploring your family tree has the potential to connect you with new people in lots of ways, for example through DNA matches, people you meet at family history events, connections researching the same lines as you, and those who help you out – perhaps at an archive or via an online forum.
3. Getting social
Whilst there are lots of family history tasks you can quite happily carry out solo, most of us enjoy sharing the ups and downs of our family history with others and this of course brings the benefits of sharing with others, whether that’s online or in person.
Whether you enjoy meeting your fellow researchers at society meetings or family history fairs, or prefer online interaction via forums and newsletters, there’s lot of fun to be had in sharing your research with others and maybe helping other people on their journey.
4. Losing yourself in genealogy
When it comes to pastimes, we might be biased, but few things beat genealogy when it comes to whiling away the hours enjoyably. Whether you’re working on busting through a brickwall, entering a new ancestor on your family tree or updating relatives on your latest finds, family history always offers something new to do or learn.
5. Treasure those family bonds
When you’re tracing your family history, if you’re fortunate enough to have parents, siblings or grandparents you can talk to, you’re in luck. Old family tales form part of our family history story and will fascinate future generations. And even if you don’t have access to such stories, you can still record your own traditions, rituals and day-to-day life for your own descendants to enjoy.
6. Nostalgia is good for you
Whether it’s reliving memories of family holidays and Christmas get-togethers as you sort through old photos or enjoying a chat with a relative about past family members, there’s nothing like nostalgia to give you that golden glow.
Immersing yourself in times gone by can help us put present-day worries into perspective and remind us about the good things in life such as family gatherings, the benefits of friendship and how our ancestors managed to get by even during the hardest times.
7. Get out and about
Family history’s not just about working away in an archive or at your desk, there are lots of opportunities to get out of the house and enjoy something different. Keep a look out for events at your local archive or museum, plan a day trip to the town or village where your ancestors lived, or even volunteer on a graveyard transcribing project. Which leads us on point 8…
8. Give back to the genealogy world
All those ‘better to give than receive’-type sayings you heard growing up turn out to be true! Giving back makes us feel good and there are lots of ways to get involved in family history, from volunteering at your local archives or on a family history society project, to acting as a transcriber for an online project from the comfort of your home.
9. Get organised!
All the organisation involved in keeping your family tree organised and manageable actually makes genealogy a pleasure. It can be so satisfying to file your findings in their allocated (online or offline) home, to label old photos and to write the details of that newly-discovered ancestor onto your family tree.
Of course, none of us are perfect and there are always lot of jobs on the ‘to-do’ list but family history is a pastime with lots of scope for getting and staying organised.
10. Putting things into perspective
If you’re feeling worried or hard done by, the chances are that family history can help put things into perspective. Most of our ancestors will have lived through plague, war, adverse weather and poverty at some point over the centuries. The fact that we exist means that they made it through and triumphed over adversity.
World Mental Health Day
Held annually on 10 October, World Mental Health Day is an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. Find out more at the Mental Health Foundation website.