Americans over 30 probably remember Lay’s potato chip commercials declaring “You can’t eat just one.” Ancestor stories are like potato chips —a non-fattening, healthy version—that shouldn’t be limited to just one.
Lest you misunderstand, I’m not making a case that family and ancestor stories are no more valuable than a slice of spud immersed in boiling fat.
What I am saying is that these stories—legacies capable of nurturing family connections—shouldn’t be limited to just one per ancestor.
Yet, that’s what many of us do. Rather than tell stories and present slice-of-life vignettes about our predecessors, we compile an ancestor profile. An, as in singular.
It’s logical in a way. One is definitely better than none. (Which is arguably not true of potato chips, but I digress.) If you’re compiling a family history book, you might want to come up with a biological sketch for each ancestor.
But that shouldn’t be the ONLY thing you share about them, especially if there are stories waiting for the next family reunion. And particularly not if there are latent stories waiting in old photo albums in closets and attics.[i]
Potential Stories Await the Telling
Every time you uncover a new record, you’ve found a potential story. It’s like reaching down into the potato chip bag and finding an over-looked wafer of saltiness.
For instance, when I recently posted my husband’s great grandfather’s WWI honorable discharge on Facebook, my mother-in-law made sure we all remembered that her father, William Jacob Tuffs served in the “Red Arrows,” from which the Lowell (Michigan) High School takes its mascot. The 32nd “Red Arrow” division “served on the front line in WWI in 1918, fighting in four major offensives and earning the nickname “Les Terribles” from the French, according to the 32D Red Arrow Veteran Association.
If all goes as planned, William Tuffs’ great-great-grandson will become a Lowell “Red Arrow.” When he does, he’ll have some stories to share. Not just about the Red Arrows, but also the house in Grand Rapids filled with five children, days at the Lake Michigan beach, and so forth.
See, you can’t tell just one.
When have you found ancestor stories that you just can’t tell (or hear) enough of.
[i] If there are photos in the attic or basement, at the minimum, rescue them from extremes in temperatures.