Each year Whitman County Genealogical Society presents the Dorothy Sevier Matson
scholarship to a graduating senior from Pullman. One of the requirements for this scholarship is to
write an essay detailing why family history, or history, in general, is important to the applicant. This
year a $500 scholarship was presented to Samantha Rich. Below is Samantha’s essay.
Many cultures view ancestors as guiding beings who should be remembered and honored even
after their passing. I believe this as well, especially through the power of genealogical work. Family
history provides inspiration from ancestors, allows one to become closer to those far away, and is an
act of service for other family members.
When reading the stories of those who came before one, inspiration comes very strongly. This
phenomenon occurs because one feels empathy of those they are related to and feels grateful for the
sacrifices and work that the ancestor put in for the family line to be in a better place. For example,
I felt this inspiration actively when putting together my senior project and discovered the story of my
great-grandmother who had traveled over the mountains of Peru to provide her then ten-year-old son
and 1-year-old baby a better life outside of the village that had no opportunity for them. This story
inspires me to work harder and take advantage of the opportunities given to me.
Because of my senior project, I had to work on improving my Spanish to adequately interview
my grandparents. This effort to connect is an example of how families grow closer through family
history work as they bond over stories, spend quality time remembering ancestors, and learn from
their own life stories. Doing such closes the gap that distance of time makes among family by
bridging it with the commonalities of ancestry and brings personal strength and confidence by
knowing that one has familial support.
Family history is not a simple task as it requires detail-oriented work to record the facts of
somebody’s life accurately. Therefore, by committing oneself to working on family history, one is
providing service to their community by completing such significant work. Once the genealogical
work has finished, then future generations can access the records and discover their roots just as
those who had done the work themselves.
Family history is a core principle of what I think is important for both a community and
individual identity to mature together. The power of genealogical work bonds families and helps
people discover themselves through reading the histories of their ancestors. After all, the people who
have lived before us are our blood and deserve the honor and recognition we can give them by
keeping their memory alive.