The art of tracking family history in Art of Memory series

The art of tracking family history discussed during Art of Memory series

Published: April 21, 2010.

As part of the Art of Memory series, Brother Joseph Martin, FSC, assistant to the President, led a discussion April 8 on how family history can be recovered through memories.

Martin explored how family history research can prod and preserve memories and also keep alive the memories of ancestors. He provided examples of subjective memory, including family stories, as well as objective memory, consisting of several documents, to enhance the topic. His “generational history” included research and the analysis of appropriate social history.

Although he recognizes that the Internet can be very useful, Martin cautioned his audience against using only the Internet when recovering family history because there are too many documents that have not yet been scanned and added to it. According to Martin, one of the most important tasks at hand when performing genealogy work is to record oral history before it is too late, emphasizing the importance of informally asking relatives to share their stories.

After suggesting some possible interview questions, Martin shared that it is helpful to tape record and take notes during the conversations. By talking to a few of his relatives, Martin gained a great deal of valuable information regarding the rest of his family. To verify the accuracy of their subjective memories, Martin searched for and found necessary documents to use as supportive objective memory, including immigration records. In order to ensure that all of his work will be available to others, Martin publishes it online.

The Art of Memory series is presented by the Lewis University History Center: Urban, Cultural and Catholic History of the Upper Midwest, which supports a biannual symposium. It is also a part of Lewis University’s Arts & Ideas Program, providing cultural and educational programming for students and the community. These events are free of charge and open to the public. For further information, please contact Dr. Ewa Bacon at (815) 836-5568.

A Catholic university sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and programs of study, accelerated degree completion options for working adults, various aviation programs and 22 graduate programs in nine fields. The ninth largest private, not-for-profit university in Illinois is being honored for the sixth consecutive year by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.

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