Flow Lesson #10: Exploring Your Family Heritage

Materials needed: computer or tablet; loose sand or dirt; large square or rectangular Tupperware; water


Learning about our past

This is a wonderful exercise for expanding the understanding of the fourth commandment: “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). The bible is replete with family history including the lengthy genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew, chapter one. We continue to honor our parents who have passed on by carrying on certain family traditions and legacies. This can also apply to a beloved aunt, uncle, cousin, a child, or a dear friend. As I have discovered the traits I share in common with my parents and grandparents, I am motivated to continue digging deeper into my life to find more. Knowing their history gives new purpose and meaning to what I do.

In preparation

Take a day to get together with your spouse and children and explore the history of the families of your mother and father. Before beginning this exercise together, take a moment to be quiet and sense the presence of God; recite the Our Father together. Turn to Matthew, chapter one, and look over the many generations leading up to the birth of Christ. Consider how this genealogy was preserved, even before the days of printed books to demonstrate the sacred nature of honoring our ancestors.

Ryk Neethling Open Bible with pen Antique Grayscale
Ryk Neethling Open Bible with pen Antique Grayscale, Flickr Creative Commons

Exploring your family

Look at family photos together, go through old papers, diaries, and letters, and visit the cemetery and/or the town of your family’s origin. You might want to bone up on some history of the town to give some background as to how people lived during the time your parents were young. Encourage your children to ask questions about you by sharing episodes in your life of which they may not be aware.

Three generations of my family (Bailey-Hoyle-Breed): My mom Deb Breed Hoyle, sister Chris Hoyle Houde) and daughter Meredith Bailey.

Questions to ponder

These questions can act as a guide connecting your life with that of your ancestors:

  1. In comparing yourself to your mother, father, grandmother, or grandfather, what personality traits do you see in any of them that are in you? Are you happy with those traits? If so, how can you honor that person with that trait within you? If you are not happy with that trait, what can you do to turn it from something negative to something positive?
  2. What talent, ability, or interest do you share with a parent or grandparent? What can you learn from your parent or grandparent’s life that will help you make the most of your gift? How can you honor your parent or grandparent with your use of this gift?
  3. Find out more about the religious heritage of your parents and grandparents and how their faith was commonly practiced in their day. How has that heritage affected your faith? What religious traditions did your parents and grandparents practice that you could continue to practice in your own home?
family history title page
Breed and Hoyle Family History

End the exercise with drawing out a family tree together, seeing how far back you can go. Beyond listing names and dates, see if you can also add a brief description of your ancestors, perhaps even adding a photograph or a sample of their handwriting. You may want to check out ancestry.com to trace your family history. Here’s what our family did.

copyright 2015 Susan W. Bailey;
from Chapter 4 of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times,
published by Ave Maria Press