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What Is Heritage? Discover Your Family Identity


Defining Your Heritage

The word “heritage” brings to mind different ideas for different people—and it should. Heritage is a person’s unique, inherited sense of family identity: the values, traditions, culture, and artifacts handed down by previous generations. We absorb a sense of our heritage throughout our lives as we observe and experience the things that make our family unique. Although not every inherited trait, tendency, or tradition is positive, we generally consider heritage to be the positive and meaningful elements of our family’s identity that we incorporate into our own lives and pass along to succeeding generations.

Heritage can express itself in many ways. Some families define their heritage primarily as their ethnic, cultural, or national identity. Other families can point to values that have been passed on, such as a love for education, participation in community life, a strong work ethic, or religious devotion. People may feel that an inherited aptitude—such as for music or mechanics, athletics or art—is part of their heritage.

How to Discover Your Heritage

Some people have a strong sense of their heritage. They can point to a flag hanging proudly nearby or repeat stories and traditions shared by their parents or grandparents. Some have a confident sense of the unique interests, occupations, or values found in their family.

Others may have to look a little more closely to identify traces of heritage in their lives. Asking the following questions may help people discover elements of their family’s unique legacy in their lives: