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Finding Yourself in the Archive | Family History and Emotional Health

family history and emotional health

This article is based on:

Etherton, Judith. ‘The Role of Archives in the Perception of Self’. Journal of the Society of Archivists 27, no. 2 (October 2006): 227–46.

Our past is important for constructing our identity.

Judith Etherton's article is about how personal memories impact our long-term well-being. Our identity and self-esteem are powerfully linked to our sense of belonging.

This particularly comes to the fore, when we are faced with difficult circumstances. And in these situations, Etherton argues, archiving and family history research both become therapeutic activities.

In the face of illness

When someone is seriously unwell, recording their life experiences can form part of their palliative care. It can comfort the patient by helping them to see themselves from a new perspective. Resolving past conflicts reduces anxiety, and understanding behaviour patterns can ease future conflict.

The resulting records provide care-givers with more nuanced information about the patient. And they can support family therapy work further down the line.

In the face of loss

When a child is separated from their family - say, if they are adopted or in foster care - then their life-story is disrupted. The more knowledge a child has of their personal history, the better for their long-term well-being.

One activity that cultivates a sense of belonging, is collecting mementos, stories and photos.

What do you think?

Do you find that telling and re-telling your life story helps you formulate your identity? Does collecting family mementos help you affirm relationships with your loved ones? Do you feel that other people's life stories feed into who you are?

Thanks for stopping by!

This is the fourth article in my Deep Dive into Personal Archiving Series.

If you would like to keep up with the rest of this series, I am sending my subscribers a round-up email once a month. Sign up here (and as an added extra, I'll send you my free workbook on how to set up your digital archive!)

Until next week!

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