The place we choose to settle and put down roots has far reaching (no pun intended) consequences. It’s the community our children call home. It’s the environment in which they form their worldviews. Frequently, it becomes the place children and grandchildren choose to start putting down roots. In other words, it’s something that will matter to future generations. But it’s often a story left untold—especially when it comes to our ancestors.
There’s no question that grave markers are an invaluable resource for birth and death dates, full names, and family connections. However, when we try to tell a person’s story, we often over look them or give them only passing attention. We look for something more dynamic than a cold stone to illustrate someone’s personal history.
But grave markers are more than a resource. They’re a memorial to a life that has passed. And many times, if you listen and observe closely, they also tell a story.
Your story does not have to be extraordinary to be worthy of the written word. In fact, memorializing a typical day can be the key to connecting with loved ones.
I remember my younger son’s fourth grade teacher pulling me aside to describe my son’s “spacy” behavior. “Welcome to my world,” I told her. Although I sympathized with her, a part of me was grateful for someone who understood—viscerally understood—life with my son.
We hear “Walk a mile in my shoes!” with good reason. Experiencing the dust around another’s feet and the rhythms of their daily life promotes understanding and empathy.
Historians at London’s Imperial War Museum (IWM) are trying to preserve the stories of 8 million people. That’s how many World War I stories they estimate are in danger of being lost to “living” memory. And, that’s only counting those who served the British Commonwealth.
The “Great War” began on June 28, 1914. We’ve lost the lives of World War I–the veterans, survivors, nurses, and doctors of that war. In addition, the next generation—the children that knew their stories, are also aging. These stories are in danger of being lost to history.
In my family tree, there are huge gaping holes in our family stories. I have so many questions for ancestors. If I could go back in time with a little voice recorder, there are quite a few of my ancestors I would want to interview. I’d also have a few questions for my husband’s ancestors—after all, they, too, are my children’s progenitors.
Note: Keep in mind; stories don’t have to have happily-ever-after endings. Your questions for ancestors could lead to great stories about them!
Van Field Clark: “Are all Grandma’s war stories true?”
Van Field Clark was “Grandpa Clark” to my grandmother. As she collected her memories, she wrote down some of his Civil War stories, none of which I have been able to substantiate. Not only would I want to know if the stories are true, I would want to hear them first hand.
The fallibility of memory has been getting increased attention in the press lately. Eyewitness identifications, for example, have been found to be erroneous.
No doubt, the legal implications of imperfect memory are far-reaching. But how does our memory’s malleability impact the family storyteller? How does it affect the memories you preserve?
Telling the Stories with Inaccuracies
Family stories will no doubt have small inaccuracies. Over time, details may have been distorted or embellished.
I’m excited to introduce Valerie Hughes, today’s guest poster. Valerie, a professional genealogist, recently gained insight about what to do with slave information you encounter during your family tree research.
Will You Take The Challenge? Share Slave History from your Family Tree.
About two months ago, I joined a Black Ancestry Group on Facebook. You may think this is an odd thing to do considering I am not black. However, I did it for a specific reason, to ask a question that had been plaguing me for a long time. The following is the question that I finally asked.
“Let your roots show” isn’t something likely to go over well over drinks on a girls’ night out. However, the same comment might be warmly received by a group of family history buffs. They’d wonder how they could do that, short of getting their pedigree chart screen-printed on a sweatshirt.
Whether you’re a certified genealogist or just writing down a few stories, you need to let your roots show. Preserving family history information will be a true gift for loved ones. Knowing where you’ve come from will help loved ones understand who you are. Even if you haven’t been tracing your roots, there’s a lot you can do.
Often, when we look at our parents’, grandparents’, and ancestors’ history, the stories of pregnancy and childbirth are sparse. Without an eye-witness account, these chapters of your family history often remain unwritten.
Ask your Relatives for Stories of Pregnancy and Childbirth
With today’s technology, it’s easy for moms- and dads-to-be to share the progress of pregnancy and the details of childbirth with the world. It’s a fun way to connect with loved ones that previous generations didn’t have.
Stories matter. Not just the bare bones stories based on facts, but the rest of the story. Personalities, proclivities, relationships, and experiences are an important part of preserving your family history.
Flynn Coleman makes a good case for this in his article Only Connect: Why Your Story Matters. Huffington Post writers don’t usually need my help in stating their case, but just this once I’ll help Mr. Coleman out with an illustration.
I decided to compare what I know about my second great grandfather from research as opposed to my grandmother’s “Treasure Chest of Memories.” I hope that it will bring home the importance of sharing and documenting family stories. You won’t just be providing the rest of the story. You’ll be facilitating a connection between the family members, past and present.