“Where did you grow up?” That’s a common question in New England, where I live. The expectation, at least in my town, is that you likely grew up here, or in a nearby town. I’ve grown to anticipate the surprise on the person’s face when I explain that I grew up over a thousand miles from here, in sunny South Florida. The next question is then, “Why?” and thus begins my “origin” story.

Origin Stories Are as Old as Time

Every civilization has its “origin” stories. The Book of Genesis is exactly that—a story of beginnings. Many Native American stories offer explanations for how ancestors arrived in the Americas. Modern science continues its quest for our origin, searching for keys to the beginning of life. It’s a fair question to ask why this is ultimately so important to us. How much does it matter where we come from? Isn’t it more important who we are right now?

How Did We Get Here?

New england map - What Is Your Family Origin Story?I live in Massachusetts, one of six small states created in the early days of colonization in America. I am confronted daily with borders, boundaries that were set up in colonial days. Choices made by people nearly 300 years ago affect my daily life: which state I live in, what tax rate I pay, who I vote for, and more.

I meet people regularly here in Massachusetts who grew up in New England, as did their parents, and their parents before them. But I was raised in south Florida; my mother was a native Floridian and my Dad came from Minnesota. When he was in Junior High School, Dad’s family left the frozen north, traveled to California and eventually ended up in south Florida. We heard often the stories of how his family traveled in search of a place where my grandfather, ill with arthritis, could live more comfortably. Their experiences in such varied parts of the U.S. became an important part of our “origin” story as a family. Listening to those stories, we grew to understand the challenges our family faced, the difficulties they confronted, and the steps they took to make a new life in a new place.

Regardless of our own “origin” story, the common thread in each is that there are reasons, turning points, branches in the road that influence where we live, work, and play where we do. Choices made by family members who came before us placed us where we are today. Because of those choices, we are who we are. And knowing those stories provides us with a sense of belonging and of being part of a greater whole, whether it is a family, a profession, a faith, or a community.

What Is Your Family Origin Story?

letters 637196 1280 500x332 - What Is Your Family Origin Story?Do you desire to know more about your family origin stories? Professional personal historians can help. We bring important experience, including interviewing, organizational, and technical skills to help in your quest to learn more about where you are from and who you are because of that. Clues might be found in your old family photos or family letters, and additional documents can provide additional information. And of course, the stories that can be told by the oldest members of your family are invaluable. A professional personal historian, a member of the Association of Personal Historians, can use these and other resources to help get the big picture of your family. Genealogy research can provide more background information, but it is the stories that will put the flesh on those bones of your family story. Please ask for help capturing those stories before it’s too late.

Marjorie Turner Hollman

Marjorie Turner Hollman

Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and More Easy Walks in Massachusetts. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 18 years, a personal historian since 2011, and serves on the board of the Association of Personal Historians as Communications Director.
Marjorie Turner Hollman
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