Select Page

Connecting past, present and future

It was The Legal Genealogist‘s honor and privilege to be a keynote speaker this morning at the fourth annual RootsTech, that massive gathering of genealogists in Salt Lake City that brings so many people together to share, study and learn about family history.

RT-Speaker-badge-200sqThe theme of this year’s conference was connecting the generations, past, present and future, and I drew inspiration for what I wanted to say from an article by Texas genealogist Judy Everett Ramos, published in in December 2013.1

She quoted Aaron Holt, an archivist with the National Archives in Fort Worth, Texas, as saying that “it only takes three generations to lose a piece of oral family history. … It must be purposely and accurately repeated over and over again through the generations to be preserved for a genealogist today.”2

Think about that.

Without a real effort to pass down our family stories purposely and accurately, the richness and depth they add to our family history can be lost in just three generations.

From grandparent to child to grandchild. That’s just three generations. Things that were absolutely critical in the lives of our own great grandparents — even our own grandparents — could be utterly unknown to us today.

From us to our own children to our own grandchildren. And even the small trials and treasures of our own daily lives could be lost to our own descendants… in just three generations.

GenStandardsI won’t repeat here the six questions I asked at the start of today’s keynote. I’m told the keynote will be available online from RootsTech in the near future. I hope you’ll take a moment to tune in to the many features FamilySearch is making available from the RootsTech conference.

But I will tell you this: they’re questions I couldn’t answer about my own family. Questions about little things that I so wish I could know about my parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents.

So what do we do about this? How do we avoid the terrible loss of our own family’s oral history?

Aaron Holt told us: we need to purposely and accurately pass down the stories from generation to generation.

And there is no better way to do that than to apply the best practices of our field of genealogy, set out in the brand-new book, Genealogy Standards, from the Board for Certification of Genealogists.3

Available through the BCG website, Genealogy Standards is a guide to doing genealogy right.

These standards — these best practices for our field — are not for board-certified genealogists alone. They’re not just for professionals who work for clients. They’re for us all, as we try to purposely and accurately identify the relationships in our family history and pass down the stories of our family members.

They help us understand what we need to do to capture the information, to ensure that it’s right, and to transmit it down the generations so it won’t be lost.

So as I did with the RootsTech attendees this morning, let me do with us all with these words: I challenge us all to apply our Genealogy Standards to our own work and to our own family stories.

Let’s purposely and accurately pass down our family stories from generation to generation.

And, in that way, make sure that our own family history isn’t lost, in just three generations.


  1. Judy Everett Ramos, “Oral family history can be lost in three generations,”, posted 18 Dec 2013 ( : accessed 6 Feb 2014).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn. : Ancestry, 2014).
Print Friendly, PDF & Email