The popular TV show Who Do You Think You Are? provides some valuable storytelling insight that we can apply to the narratives of our ancestors. Despite the professional genealogists, unlimited travel budget and celebrities, the show also has some practical storytelling wisdom for memory and family history writers.
How do you gather momentum for the new year in the bleak mid-winter?
Remember riding your bike when you were young? Starting out downhill, pedaling like mad to gather speed and momentum for the hill ahead? You don’t have to dust your bike off (though if you’re able, it’s a great idea) to approach the new year with passion. There are other ways to store up emotional energy and keep a healthy cadence rather than a half-hearted slog during the coming months.
Try the following in addition to the tried-and-true procrastination busters.
It’s hard to know where to start writing your ancestor stories. Sometimes it helps to look at potential stories from different perspective. Instead of looking at the plethora of facts and deciding what to write, look at the following first lines for story ideas.
Which relative or ancestor do they remind you of? What stories could you tell about them? Choose a few prompts and try writing a vignette or two. If you were born before 1950, many of these will also work for your own memories.
I’m not raving about the RootsTech family history conference to fulfill my Ambassador obligations. It’s the other way around. I’m excited about being an Ambassador because I love going to RootsTech. The conference doesn’t take place until February 8 – 11, but if you plan now you can take advantage of early bird registration prices.
Genealogy Today lists three reasons family history buffs should go to a national conference: Lectures, exhibits, and other genealogists. To me, those are more like categories. I embellished them and came up with a few more.
Do beauty and family stories go together? Should they? When we leave a photographic record for prosperity, we’re all smiles. Why not do the same for our legacy of family stories?
Most of us want to present ourselves in a positive light. Maybe not quite perfect, but normal. We want to cover the blemishes. We may not be the Cleaver family, but we keep mute about the family disfigurements, the bad times.
Culture Clashes. They happen among nations, ethnic groups, and generations. Sadly, culture clashes also occur among families. Heritages or upbringings collide. Differing values splinter relationships.
Personal memory collectors, memoirists, and family storytellers all struggle with whether or not to tell the unhappy, unflattering, or embarrassing tales.
Understanding the fears our ancestors faced can help us understand their lives. That, in turn, can help us tell their stories. Although it’s hard to know from the meager records we unearth whether an ancestor was an introvert or adventurer, we can form some theories based on historical context. We can also get a better grasp on their everyday lives.
Until last weekend, I had forgotten how poignant reunions can be. Whether it’s family, school, or something else, reunions allow you to reconnect with the past. Not only are they great places to re-color some of those faded memories, they refresh the soul.
Last week, however, a friend showed me how to look for silver linings.
The news is often disturbing, but in the last couple of weeks the horrors that some people will inflict on others makes me want to run and hide. Only I don’t know where I’d go.
The fallibility of memory can make truth and accuracy hard to come by. Competing versions of the same stories—the same memories—dance and whorl around family tables every get together. One person remembers it was a Sunday in July. A sibling insists it was in October and a Sunday.
How do you decide which version is true? What details are accurate? Perhaps a better question is how do you decide if the details of the story are worth fighting about.
Often the answer lies in understanding the difference between truth and accuracy as well as your own role as storyteller.
Truth versus Accuracy