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Archives by Topics: Family History

"It is difficult to estimate the direct contribution of family historical information to the understanding of one's family in the present. I believe the indirect contributions are great enough to warrant the effort by anyone who aspires to become a serious student of the family. In only 150 to 200 years an individual is the descendant of 64 to 128 families of origin, each of which has contributed something to one's self."

— Family Therapy in Clinical Practice. 1978. New York: Jason Aronson, Inc., p.492 (Chapter 21, "On the Differentiation of Self" (1972))

My interest in family history is different than that of most people.… I am more interested in the total family of man than the outcome of special members of the "family." I think there is evidence to support the thesis that mediocrity and un-greatness are the handmaidens of greatness and that one cannot be understood without the other. So, I am just as interested in… the alcoholic as in [someone] who is remembered by history, and just as interested in… the recluse as the other(s)… [who are] remembered by the history books.


—Dr. Bowen to Brigadier General and Mrs. George S. Smith, June 26, 1965

By about 1960 I was working at knowing about relatives far into the distant past. I was the developer and author of a theory and methodology to work out one’s own emotional problems through contact with family history. The theory was worked out with my own family which became the #1 family in this effort. This brought about more personal contacts with my parents and each family member. To my own family, I became a resource for knowing about family history. To the psychiatric world, I was the #1 resource for using one's own family to work out one's own emotional problems. Through the long years of that effort, I learned that emotional issues are never quiet. It requires a continuing effort for life. Always, always, always, the family tends to return to its original emotional state.


—Bowen, Murray. Big Brother Returns Home Again. Paper presented at Georgetown Family Center Symposium, October 9, 1982

Family members at the 50th anniversary celebration for Dr. Bowen’s parents, Maggie May (Buh) and Jess, Sr.