A dozen people gathered at the Yellow Medicine County Museum last Thursday with SMSU Professor Emeritus and author, Joe Amato, to listen and share the paths to finding and understanding family history.
Amato believes that family history is more than genealogy; more than a family tree listing names and dates. “Family history is about stories of people, places, local and regional history and situations. It’s the stories that reanimate the dead for current and future generations.”
During the presentation, Amato shared stories from his new book “Jacob’s Well” which is a collection of stories about his grandfather and his book “Rethinking Home” in which he proposes an innovative approach to writing local history. He shared that he believes family history has three elements: Genealogy; local and regional history and family stories. He recommended when researching don’t go any farther back than great grandparents. “Start there and see what doors open up.” Local history and regional history is important to put details, facts and dates into perspective. “Most family histories are actually a history of migration in America.” At the end of the presentation he showed old photos of his family, not to show his family, but to show that each photo has a story and those stories need to be included in a family history.
He shared that he believed that he inherited the gift of the lives of his ancestors. “I see family history as an obligation to the dead.”