One of the things we have recently started in the PRC archives is the preservation of family histories. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say “continued” rather than “started”, since there are biographical files already in existence in one of the cabinets in the archives room.
But these files are mainly of ministers in our churches, and we have noticed that more and more we are finding information on families in the material being donated to our archives – from wedding and obituary notices to pictures and newspaper clippings. So we decided we ought to preserve this personal and family history as well.
To encourage you to do this and send it our way when you are ready for this, I thought I would make this post about it today. We realize, of course, that family history is personal and can even be sensitive and private, and we respect that. At the same time, when that family history is part of and intersects with a congregation’s history and denomination’s history, then we are very interested in that – and in preserving that.
We see some of this in the oral (history) interview material that has come into the archives. Let me give you one example from my own family tree. In connection with Hope PRC’s 100th anniversary this year (in Walker, MI) one of their committees asked to see an oral interview I did years ago with my Uncle Dewey Engelsma in connection with a Seminary church history project (1986). Reading through that again, I realized how some of my own family history is tied closely with Hope PRC, the congregation in which I grew up. I learned some things about my maternal grandparents I had not known before, as well as about my home congregation. That is valuable material on at least two fronts. And, if I might add this, it is that personal element that makes the history come alive.
Now, more than likely, long before any of this family history is going to find its way into our archives, you have to create and preserve that history yourself. And last Saturday while sifting through some books at a local thrift store, I also found a gem of a little book that will help you gather your family history. The book is titled To Our Children’s Children; Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come by Bob Greene (longtime columnist for the Chicago Tribune) and D.G. Fulford (Doubleday, 1993).
It is basically a book of questions for children to ask their parents and grandparents, all arranged by subjects, so that you can have your own interview with your loved ones and gather their vital history. If you get a chance to find this in your local library or to purchase a copy of your own, do so. It will be of great help to you in knowing what to ask and how to preserve your own family history.
And then when you have done that, you may send that history to our archives. Someday, we hope. Because your family stream of history is part of the river of our denominational history. 🙂