It is a rare occasion when a young person chooses to attend any of our local genealogical society meetings. Still, that is often the topic of discussion among those involved in promoting the pursuit of our families' history. Face it: if we don't have younger generations willing to step up and take our place as family historians, the stories we've worked so hard to preserve may possibly be lost to any interested future generations.
Being painfully aware of that possibility, I found it encouraging to run across a newspaper feature earlier this month about a thirteen year old student who, as part of a 4-H project, completed charting five generations of her family tree. That accomplishment earned her a spot at the Ohio State Fair, as well as appearance of her photo and feature article in her local newspaper.
Following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, Phoebe Cydrus began her student project four years ago, learning how to research online as well as interview living family members and document the lives of her ancestors. She is likely the youngest member of her county genealogical society.
Although those of us involved in local societies often bemoan younger generations' "lack of interest" in family history, that "lack" may not actually be the case. Rather than disinterested, young genealogists may instead be part of an invisible-to-us phenomenon. My own family history research has certainly benefited from the assistance of a young genealogist. And it is not hard to find signs of other young people involved in our favorite avocation, as well. We just need to know where to look to find them.
Take, for example, Ireland's Daniel Loftus, who bills himself as a "Teen Genie" on his website and has been active in blogging, on social media, in organizing fellow Gen Z researchers, and in launching genealogy-related initiatives. In recognition of his leadership role among his peers, the Allen County Public Library's Genealogy Center recently invited Daniel to speak on "Building a Bridge Between Generations."
Perhaps it is because of our own experiences that we know to look for others who share that designation of "young genealogist." When I hear people raise that familiar refrain about "lack of interest," I can't help but remember my own story. I was one of those young people who always wanted to know about my family's story.
It may be when we now see others stepping into the shoes we once wore that a connection lights up. That's how I felt when I ran across a mention of a blog post called simply, "A Love Letter to Young Genealogists." Even closer to my heart was blogger Kelly Wheaton's specific advice offered in that letter. "Don't forget you are part of a very old story," she reminds those young genealogists out there, wherever they are. "Once upon a time I was you," she reminisces, and closes with some advice:
...if you indulge me just a bit more—please focus on the stories. They are the most important things you may hear—you may not know it at the time—but trust me: every one you record will be a gift to future generations.