To create a great family history, you need to work on your family present (meaning the hear-and-now, not a birthday present). We can explore old records, search microfilm, and travel the world taking pictures of headstones, but if our own family relations in the present-day are not strong, all that hard work may fall by the wayside as the years go by.
A strong family will help ensure a family history worth keeping and a desire to make the most of it. There are many ways to strengthen the family and to better your family history. Spending time together and staying connected when apart are key to building a good family and memorable family history.
Spending Time Together – As simple as it sounds, spending time together with your family will help strengthen your family and your family history. One side of my family gets together for family reunions (these are big events). We enjoy the events and loads of family history info has been shared and swapped as a result. Unfortunately, on the other side of my family, it’s been decades and decades since the whole clan got together. There has been little shared in the way of family history. It’s not too late for us, but if you get started early, sharing family history will be much easier down the road, and hey, you might just have a more fulfilling family life.
Below are a few ideas of things you can do to strengthen your family ties. These are simple ideas, but the simple things are what can make the most profound difference if enacted on a regular basis:
- Eat a home-cooked meal together (with your immediate and extended family).
- Do yard work together (we have a “Help Grandpa Day” that is simply fantastic).
- Perform an act of service to the community together.
- Make a family video with pictures and music.
- Share family pictures during the holidays of what each family has done during the year (a 2-5 minute time limit isn’t a bad idea for this activity).
- Take a family vacation with the extended family.
- Visit the National Parks or State near your home.
- Turn that television off and go enjoy the out-of-doors with your family.
Staying Connected When Apart – Since we can’t always be together as families, there are many tools that we can take advantage of to stay connected with family while apart. It’s a shame not to take a part in some of these fascinating tools we have.
Email - If you don’t have or use email very much, I suggest you reconsider. Writing letters can make a big difference and are a treasure when saved, but writing emails is a great option because they are delivered much faster than conventional mail, it’s free to send, and it’s easy to store and preserve.
Many folks have an email address set up with their Internet Service Provider (the company that you use to receive the Internet). Getting your email through your Internet service provider isn’t such a great idea. I’ve had plenty of family members that keep changing their email address because they keep changing their Internet Service Provider. It’s a hassle for everyone. Try getting a free email account from Google’s Gmail. You’ll get plenty of storage space for your pictures and no advertisements will be placed in the bottom of the emails that you send to others (other free email accounts do this, but not Gmail).
Webcam - Using a webcam (camera hooked up to your computer) is a great way to stay connected with family members. If Grandma can use it, so can you. Just ask the resident “geek” in the family (just about every family has one) to help you set it up. Try using Skype for your video conferencing using your webcam. Skype is a free video conferencing software. You can also make national and international calls with Skype for well below the rates you’ll pay with your telephone company. The calls can be made from your computer’s microphone or from a special Skype phone that hooks into your computer. We had a family member do this on a trip to Asia and it worked better than calling on the regular phone!
Phone Home for Free – My favorite pick is ooma for staying connected to family by phone. With Ooma, you make a one time purchase of the Ooma Hub. You plug you Internet connection into the Hub and your phone into the Hub as well. You now have no more phone bill because your calls are routed through the Internet. That means free long distance to family members and you can still use your regular phones (no need to purchase a special phone). The person on the other end of the conversation doesn’t need to have any special adapter to receive your call.
I have an Ooma box, and I love it, love it, love it. The voice quality is great. The Ooma service will store voice mail for you, and you can even check and listen to your voice mail online after you log into the Ooma Lounge.
You can check to see if your current phone number is “portable” which means you can transfer your number completely over to Ooma from your old service provider without a break in service. If your old number can’t be ported for some reason, you can still use the land-line backup option which will retain your old number for you. You can also select the option for a brand new phone number.
Whether away or at home, have fun, and stay connected. A better present-day family relationship will make for a better family history now and in the future.