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The Therapeutic Benefits to Connecting with Your Heritage

Military to Civilian Transition

There are a lot of real issues to deal with when returning from a deployment, many of which take serious coping skills. But while you face your new normal, you can also embark on a new hobby that may just prove to be an exciting adventure and a source of therapy at the same time. Read on to learn how to get started in family history and about the benefits it can provide.


You might be thinking that the last thing you need is to add one more activity to your already packed schedule. Yet don't write it off so quickly. Researching your family history can actually be a relaxing hobby. You can immerse yourself in the past for a while and set aside the stresses and problems of the present. You'll quickly notice how excited you get when you make a new discovery, too. In fact, many genealogists find themselves leaping up and doing the genealogy “happy dance” when they finally find a long-lost relative or prove a connection they've been working on. This is just plain fun.

A New Sense of Focus

Perhaps you're the kind of person who loses your concentration when you're stressed and worried. In that case, family history research can give you a new sense of focus. You might quickly end up lost in a search for a particular ancestor, hunting through birth, death and marriage records, shifting through census reports (including the newly released 1950 census records) and delving into the historical context of your family members' lives. Distractions will fade away as you put your full attention into your research, and this focus is something that you may learn how to transfer to other activities.

A Connection With the Past

Finding your ancestors and learning their stories will also provide you with a connection to the past. You may even end up “grounded” in a way you never thought possible. You'll discover that you have ancestors who struggled and survived even in the toughest conditions, and these people can inspire you to keep going when your life looks bleak and you feel exhausted. Their strength can give you a boost. What's more, history will come alive for you as never before because you'll realize that your ancestors lived that history. The past will overflow with meaning.

Insight About Yourself

As you learn about your family, you might gain some insight about yourself, too. You may discover, for instance, that a particular trait runs through your family, one that you see in yourself and have never fully understood. As you study the past, you might even find some solutions to your problems in the present. Perhaps an ingenious ancestor came up with a clever solution to a difficult situation. This might give you inspiration to be creative in your own troubles and to persevere. Your family survived. You can, too.

How To Get Started

If you're now convinced that family history is the perfect hobby for you, then go right ahead and get started. Go online, and print out a basic family tree chart. Then fill in as much of the information as you can, starting with yourself. Ask your relatives to add what they know about your family tree. When you have this in place, you'll be ready to begin researching online.
Start with searching for your ancestors' names, one at a time, on an online genealogy site like Ancestry or Family Search. You'll be able to gather information from historical documents to piece together your ancestors' stories. Be wary of family trees contributed by other users, though. Those often contain major mistakes and faulty connections. As you collect more information, you may want to use some genealogy software to organize and store what you've learned and to print reports you can share with others.

Indeed, you might discover that researching your family history can actually be a good source of therapy for you, and it's an enjoyable hobby, too.

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