Apollo 8 and Genealogy? Yes.


On December 21, 1968 Apollo 8 was launched into space.

This would be the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth’s orbit.  The astronauts were able to see the far side of the moon, orbiting it 10 times. Finally, mankind’s longing to reach space and see the moon up close and personal had come to fruition. But an amazing
thing happened along the way. Once the astronauts entered space, they could not stop looking back, gazing at planet Earth.  Their desire to look upon where they had come from became more powerful than looking ahead to where they had not yet been.  It became such an overwhelming desire that they named it Earth Gazing.

I think life is a lot like that.   

In our youth and in our quest for new and exciting things, we propel forward with great passion and excitement, hoping to discover new worlds but then, we hit a certain place where we realize that where we've come from is just as amazing and awe inspiring as where we are going.

I am always searching for new experiences, creating new things and trying to discover new worlds but a year and a half ago I realized that my personal history is just as fascinating as the unknown that lies ahead.

I guess I have reached a place where, as I float among the years of my life, I have decided to turn and look back. It is addictive. I cannot stop gazing into the history of me. This is not narcissistic; it’s a natural human desire, to feel a part of something bigger.

I have always told personal/family stories, it’s how I make my living, but a year and a half ago I decided to start digging into my family history. Using online resources, Family Search and Ancestry.com, I started to uncover information, documents, and pictures that helped me see the whole picture of where I come from.

One hour turned into two hours turned into 8 hours turned into a yearlong project and now, an ongoing expedition. I can’t stop. I've uncovered pictures of my great, great grandfather. I've found documentation of my grandmothers addresses, which gave me a map of her life.  I've found my great grandfathers marriage certificate, my grandmothers marriage certificate and...her divorce records. I learned about aunts and uncles and I learned things about my mom and dad.  Slowly, my whole world is coming into focus.

Doing this family research led to some deep and meaningful conversations with my parents.  They are at the time of life when all they do is look back.  When I started sharing with them what I found, they sounded young again…thirsty for information. No matter how many times I called and told them about the latest family puzzle piece I had found, they wanted more.

How sad it is that I was in my late 40’s and my parents in their late 70’s when we began this journey.  I wish we had started when I was younger.

Recently Parade Magazine had an article titled, The Secrets to a Happy Family.

Get this.

When a team of psychologists measured children’s resilience, they found that the kids who knew the most about their family history were best able to handle stress.  The more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives and the higher their self-esteem. The reason: These children have a strong sense of “ inter-generational self”—they understand that they belong to something bigger than themselves, and that families naturally experience both highs and lows.

I wonder if that is what the astronauts were feeling.  We all know we are a part of something bigger, but they actually got to gaze on it.

Your family knows they belong to something bigger, but knowing it and actually hearing about it…seeing it, are two very different things.

Whether you share your family history by doing genealogy/family research or by sharing family stories at the dinner table…who cares?  Just do it. Better yet, do both. Here is the best part; your family isn't looking for fairy tale endings. Share with them the good, the bad and the ugly. It will help them through their own good, bad and ugly times. Let them gaze upon where they came from.

The main word in history is story. Share your stories. You were designed to. 


Recently I had the honor of presenting and keynoting at Story@Home/Rootstech, a beautiful melding of story, genealogy  and technology. It was a fabulous experience. I highly recommend that you either attend next years event or at least sign up for their live streaming. 

10 comments:

helenw said...

Hi! So, this isn't about stories, but I started following your blog after I googled my last name, which is the same as yours. My Dad has done a lot of genealogy and when I asked him about you he said there was no connection. But you look so much like one of my sisters that I suspect he was bluffing because he had never thought to do a google search or something.
Anyway- if you want to email me I know who my people were a few generations back.

helenw said...

Oh yeah - helen_weitkamp@yahoo.com

Carol Rice said...

Kim... it was SUCH a treat to have you at Story@Home. Thank you so much for your stories and inspiration! Definitely a favorite of many at the conference. I can't wait to see what next year brings! For those that would like to follow Story@Home, please feel free to "like" our facebook page for news, info and events.

jeff ell said...

I'm not sure I am able to handle stress better... But it always encourages me to hear my family stories because no matter how crazy things get, I can always say "well at least were not as wacky as them"

megan hicks said...

"Here is the best part; your family isn't looking for fairy tale endings. Share with them the good, the bad and the ugly. It will help them through their own good, bad and ugly times. Let them gaze upon where they came from."

Hearing my mom and dad's "huck finn & laura ingalls wilder" stories put me to sleep many nights when I was a little kid, and I am grateful that my parents shared them.

Finally learning some of the bad and ugly times that were not talked about ("In this house, we think happy thoughts!") is what helped me make sense of who my adult self had grown to be. And until you can connect the dots and it makes sense, it's really difficult to attain autonomy.

This is good work.

Linda Goodman said...

Most fairy tale endings are not so happy. The family stories that mean the most to me are the ones that illustrate the strength that comes from enduring adversity. I don't agree that sharing family stories makes one better able to handle stress, but it sure makes us understand what life is about and what our journey has meant to us and what it will teach others.

Sherry Lovett said...

Kim, your post gave me goosebumps, which to me always means something is ringing true. Some of my favorite memories include sitting around the dining room table sharing stories. Thanks for this beautiful insight into the importance of looking back.

Wendy Gourley said...

Beautiful post! And I can tell everyone that Kim was the best part of story@home/Rootstech. She entertained us all, but also resonated the importance of sharing story within our families.

Kara said...

Kim... what a wonderful, descriptive post. I, too, am starting a journey to discover my roots, and I'm finding that this is definitely the time to do it - there is so much help out there. I can't wait until I can look at my grandfather's military records, or find out when my ancestors came from Europe - which ship, how the voyage was, etc. It's so exciting. I enjoyed hearing you present at Story@Home.

Hugs,
Kara

kim weitkamp said...

Megan - It was the same for me growing up. Finally, in their later years, my parents are spilling the beans.

Thanks everyone for your comments and input!