October is Family History Month

HISTORY MATTERS - Todd Sales Lucero - The Freeman

Many events are celebrated in the month of October, but for a professional genealogist like myself, October will always be Family History Month. Since 2001, many countries have started celebrating the month of October for this very purpose, and genealogists all around the world see this month as a great time to talk about families. Many Filipinos appear to be uncaring about their family history. At least, this is how we appear to other cultures. Perhaps, because family is so ingrained in our day-to-day life, we appear to not pay too much attention to the history of our families. But ask any Filipino to narrate the stories of his grandparents and relatives and they will be able to talk for hours about their family.

I have been doing genealogy for more than 25 years now. While my initial reason for doing my family history was due to vanity (I thought I was a descendant of Lapulapu!), I have long been converted to see the subject of genealogy as something far greater than just proving a relation to a prominent person or clan. When you start doing your family history seriously, you get to hear the most amazing and sometimes fantastical tales ever. For instance, one of the first stories I recorded from my maternal grandma was the story of her own mother who was supposedly born with a twin snake in 1882 (so my family’s twin snake story predates the Robinsons department store snake stories) that lived with her all her life. When my great-grandmother died, the snake supposedly went around our house and then disappeared. The “circling” around the house was supposed to be the snake’s way of protecting our family forever.

Tall tales aside, there have also been more historically realistic stories I was able to record over the years. There have been stories of bravery and cowardice since various family members fought on either side in various wars since 1896. There have been stories of great love and loss, such as with one of my great-grandmothers who was not allowed to marry the love of her life because her older sister had already gotten married to the older brother of her beloved. While they fought for their love and already had a child out of wedlock, the elders of their families insisted that two sets of siblings marrying each other would be very bad for both families, calling it “loca”. So, my great-grandmother ended up with my great-grandfather, but when her first love was on his deathbed and asking for her, my very liberal-minded great-grandfather actually allowed his wife to go to her former lover and be with him until he passed on. It was even said that when my great-grandma failed to produce sons in the early years of their marriage, she allowed her husband to have sons with other women! Scandalous!

Learning about one’s family is not just about pride. It is about understanding why you are who you are. Tracing the past is not vanity; rather, it is a most important activity to complete our identity. Who we are now, why we feel this way about people, and why we act in such a manner in certain moments, can all be answered by the stories of our ancestors. Without a doubt, genealogy has made me a more confident, complete, and caring person. When you see the interconnectedness of families and people you begin to understand that while we are all separated by time and distance, we all came from a common root, somewhere generations ago. I hope this month will encourage the younger generation, and perhaps a few of the older ones, to celebrate their family history and begin their journey in tracing their genealogy.


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