Monday, September 24, 2018
Heritage Day and Family History
Today is Heritage Day: what does it mean to you? Is it merely a public holiday, a rest from the office or school, a chance to work in the garden or to indulge in your favourite hobby?
What is Heritage? In South Africa the holiday officially recognises different aspects of South African culture and encourages all South Africans to celebrate their cultural heritage, the diversity of their beliefs and different traditions.
Heritage includes features which belong to the culture of a particular society - traditions, languages, buildings, sites of major events - created in the past and retaining historical importance to all South Africans.
On a personal level, your Heritage is what you were born into, one's ethnic and cultural background, which may differ from that of other people or groups of people but which has especial meaning for the individual. Our personal Heritage is a vital part of our consciousness and in a sense makes us who we are - just as much as our DNA does.
Because it is so vital to each of us, we respect the Heritage of other people, as much as we respect our own.
Heritage may be tangible - traditional clothing and modes of decoration, tools, buildings, artwork, monuments, modes of transportation - or intangible - not physical items but those which exist intellectually. Each aspect is equally significant.
Heritage is about respecting our ancestors (and those of other people). For anyone researching their family history, today allows some free hours to explore another forefather or find one you previously didn't know about. Or you might want to read about the times in which that ancestor lived, providing a context for your family narrative which will make it that much more interesting and exciting.
Perhaps you feel like visiting a cemetery where your ancestors lie buried. Place some flowers to show they aren't forgotten, tidy the plot, clean the headstone so that the information can be clearly read. None of this is done in a mournful spirit - family historians find cemetery visits most enlivening!
Get out that shoebox full of old family photos you keep meaning to collate and preserve properly. Write down as much information as you know about the people in the photos - your children and grandchildren will be grateful. Keep them in suitable envelopes (never plastic).
Make a start on writing the family history. This doesn't have to be a huge volume that will take years to finish: put down the salient features known about each ancestor with some context and a photo, if one exists, to make sense of the results of your research for others who will read it later. Don't forget to put together your own life story - you'll be an ancestor one day!
Happy Heritage Day to all Mole's Blog readers!