The importance of telling the stories of our ancestors:
I've written at least two blogs on this subject. I think it's really that important. I realize that most of my contemporaries are the oldest generation still alive. It's up to us to tell the stories of our family as we know them. I read a little fact before when I was writing about this subject that really brought it all home to me: We are the connection between the two generations that came before us and the two generations that come after us. I'd say that's an important connection. So if we don't do it, who will?
I've also written about the importance of sharing these stories with our grandkids. I've read and repeated in this blog, that kids who have a strong sense of family history and the importance of family traditions, just fare better in this world. They have good self esteem and a stronger performance ethic. They realize they can conquer just about anything life throws at them because they know the ones who came before them did exactly that.
So let's tell those stories--even what little bit we may know! I'll start with my in-laws as my mother-in-law is still living, and that means I can interview her. And I also have a wealth of artifacts as my father-in-law did not throw anything away--and I mean that precisely! He never threw anything away. So here we go--I'll share the process that I used. and maybe that will inspire you to do the same.
I started by interviewing my mother-in-law. I've heard the stories before, but this time I wrote down what she said. To give you some background information, my father-in-law was in the Army Air Corps stationed in England during World War II. My mother-in-law is from England. The air field where Adrian worked backed up to Margie's family's farm. That's how they met. But fast forward to after their marriage, and Adrian bringing Margie to America. That's one story I wanted to tell. Future generations would probably want to know how she got to America, and I wanted my grands to know the hardships she endured making such a trip. Here are the facts I got from Margie in our telephone interview:
And with these next artifacts, my children and grandchildren can actually see what life was like aboard a ship in 1947. How cool is this?
Each day the ship printed out a newspaper with news of the world as well as news from aboard ship. I loved reading all the copies he saved. And as you can see, there was entertainment aboard ship each night. One such newspaper revealed that they even showed movies. One night they saw "Anchors Aweigh" with Frank Sinatra. In "technicolor" no less!
I realized after I started this that I really need to interview Margie again...and perhaps again. In telling her story, I need more details, like where did they live while waiting for their papers? What did she pack? Did she use a big trunk? What was she feeling and thinking on the day they traveled to Southhampton to board the ship? How did they travel to Southhampton? Did any of her family go with them and see them off? As you can see, the questions go on and on, and something I'd really like to know.
And I've discovered websites that can help you write your ancestor stories. So you don't have to go it alone:
And there are myriad ways to do this. My husband told his family stories in a scrapbook. I'm thinking this is the best and easiest way to do it. Just simply paste into the scrapbook any pictures and memorabilia you have, and add any captions to give additional facts as you know them. Oral histories are fine, and most of us do that. But to have a memento of your family stories for your kids and grandkids is wonderful too. And as I always tell you in this blog, there are great websites for using your scanned photos and making your own book.
You don't have to have a lot of details about the ancestors or all the wonderful keepsakes that my husband's family has. My friend Kathy made a book about her and her husband's ancestors and at Christmas, presented it to her children. She had very little information about the people, but she proceeded anyway. Sometimes all she had were the dates of their births and their marriage, and sometimes their children's names. But what she did know either from her own experiences or from reports from her parents, she added to the book. Anything that makes those people come alive and jump off the page as flesh and blood people trying to eke out a living and participate in life. Here's a page from her book:
That was the extent of Kathy's writing about her great-grandparents. But they were still alive when she was a little girl, and she remembers how she loved going to their home. She says it was such a warm and happy place. That makes that couple in the picture above seem so real.
Another friend is researching and recording her family history. Beth has this wonderful picture of her great-grandparents. They moved from Bell County, Texas to Lea County, New Mexico back in 1895. Our children and grandchildren study the Western Movement in school. Can you imagine how that comes alive for them when they see their ancestors actually participated in that expansion? And no, someone in the crowd didn't take a selfie. Either a traveling photographer took the picture or they got a photographer to come and take the picture upon their departure in Texas or arrival in New Mexico. More interesting details to tell the grandkids.
One last plea!
Please don't leave those old family photos in a box in the attic for your kids to spy after you've gone, only to simply throw away as just a dusty old box full of ancient pictures of strangers whom they simply don't know. Put them in a scrapbook and record any details about them that you might know. I think it's that important. And if you can add any details that you might know about them from your own experience, add that too. It makes them come alive right off the page!
My previous blogs about writing "Ancestor Stories":
The app Kathy used for her book of ancestor stories: Simple Prints. And the website--
"The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children." Phillip Carr-Gomm
"We're all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us." Liam Callanan
Retired school teacher and now full time grandmother sharing ideas and looking for new ones about grandparenting!