The holidays will certainly look different for all of us this year. Our normal traditions of traveling, seeing family, sharing a meal and family recipes, and exchanging gifts and memories will have to adapt along with our changing environment.
One way to recapture some of that holiday spirit is to discover the stories of your ancestors and share them with your loved ones today.
Rob Lowe recently did just that, sitting down with his sons Matthew and John Owen to explore their family story together.
A Picture Says a Thousand Words
Rob began his family history journey by starting a tree on Ancestry® and adding the names of his parents and grandparents. Even a few details were enough to trigger the shaky leaf—an indication that Ancestry may have found information on Rob’s family.
“When that little green leaf comes up, it’s great. There’s that moment you hit it and…Bwew! You don’t know what it’s gonna be. And inevitably, it’s a clue to another mystery of your life.”
Yearbook photos were among the first hints Rob investigated.
He learned about his Grandfather Robert Lowe being part of the Dramatic Club, proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
His mother’s father, Robert Hepler, gave a lesson on how to wear a hat with a whole lot of swagger in his yearbook photo.
Connecting with a Cousin
People all over the world use Ancestry to preserve and share family history treasures like photographs, marriage certificates, and other memorabilia found in treasured scrapbooks or shoe boxes in the attic.
Rob and his sons, Matthew and John Owen, found a family photograph on an Ancestry family tree that included Rob’s great-grandmother, whom he called Grandma Goober when he couldn’t pronounce her surname, Grouver, as a child.
It turns out that family photographs, along with dozens more, were available because Rob’s third cousin John Scott had been scanning and adding the treasures he had gathered over the years to his own Ancestry family tree.
Sending a message to John created a mini reunion where they all met for the first time but already felt like family.
The Story of Two Brothers
Rob, Johnny, and Matthew learned more about their immigrant ancestor John Owen who left difficult circumstances in Wales with his brother in search of a better life in the United States.
Soon after, John and his brother Owen (yes, his name was Owen P. Owen) swore their oath of allegiance to their new country, bought land, and built a life in America not far from where both Rob and his cousin John Scott grew up.
Drawing parallels between the lives of his ancestors and the future he envisions for his own sons, Rob said,
“Here we are generations later, and I’m sitting with John Owen and his brother, and I think about what their journey will be as brothers.”
The New Campfire
This holiday season could be a time for new traditions, building on those that have meant so much to us over the years.
Here are some quick tips for finding stories to share around your virtual family campfire :
• Appreciate your grandparents’ style in their yearbook photos. Ancestry has a vast collection of U.S. yearbooks from 1900-1999 for members to explore.
• Connect with a new cousin. Whether it’s through an AncestryDNA test or your family tree, you can connect with living people who might have other bits and pieces of your family story. They might have found notable people you didn’t know were in your family tree or have old family photographs, like the one uploaded to Ancestry by Rob’s cousin.
• Tell about the triumphs and hardships of family members who came before you. These stories, like the one Rob had heard about his Welsh ancestor, can be powerful ways to connect to your shared history.
There’s no time like the present to explore your family history. As Rob so beautifully put it,
“This is the new campfire. This is the new place where we gather and we share and we talk and we remember and we discover.”