To Family Historians

September 4, 2014

Dear Colleague;

This appeal to you my kindred spirit is an outcome of years of pouring over documentation, artifacts, and memorabilia inherited from my late family.  This overabundance provides me a lack of personal stories, but a surplus of documents that I need to research and compile to formulate a story.  I know from experience that when formulating a story about others, based on recorded information I run a big risk of not correctly capturing the essence of their being.  Most of what I glean can at best be put in a category of situational context that misses the overall fundamental nature of the person I write about.  It occurred to me that just perhaps each of us needs to be a little more conscientious about leaving our own story behind; giving to those who follow in our pursuits of family history a more complete picture of us rather than just names, dates, and places.

If all you wish to leave behind about your family history activities is a record of vital statistics, then this letter will most like likely hold little interest for you, but just imagine writing a story about your favorite ancestor, what would you write about?  Most likely if you are in a similar place that I am you will at best have snippets of your ancestor’s life drawn from newspaper articles, a sporadic letter or post card, a note in a bible, a diary, a family story, etc.  Not much to draw a story line from but one we try and do anyway, even knowing it can be burdened with error.  It is from this point of view that I decided to write my own story, not because of an interest in genealogy, but to document my story in journal form for my kids to read as they did not have the opportunity to live with me due to a divorce.  Over time in my growing interest in family history, I was able to search out and find journals written in the past that gave a glimpse of my ancestors, a glimpse that resonated in my soul on a personal level.  This led to expanding my journal writing to include the recording of memories, short or long term types, snippets or essay styles; subsequently molding into a life story of interest to a genealogist.

I got to thinking a while back how wonderful it would be, to pick up and read, a journal, or memoir of an ancestor.  I was fortunate to read and annotate my grand dad’s memoir, an inspirational story that I am certain during the living of the experiences he did not view them in the sense of a romantic adventure, as, but then his experiences were aimed at making his life better, from the time he stepped out on his own at age sixteen for good reason, to the time we were able to share an intimate time together in Phoenix, AZ on his 80th birthday.  This reading gave me an in depth understanding of the man that I was not privy to growing up as his first grandson.  I found this understanding much different that the family stories or even family gossip led me to believe.

Couple these experiences with my pursuits in writing my ancestor’s stories on a personal level, as best I can, a level that will not be the dry, reporting of facts and statistics, the notion crossed my mind that it would be nice if more of us did this recording of our own life stories to be left behind for others to read, relish, cherish, and otherwise hold dear to them.  Put yourself in your descendant’s shoes, if you will, and see yourself reading your own story describing the specific where’s, what’s, when’s, how’s, and whys of situations you encountered in life.  Or perhaps you might read your own opinion on a relevant happing in the day, response or reaction to an event that occurred at the time you lived.  Would not this give you the reader a better understanding of your ancestor?  Is this not the excitement, the enthusiasm you feel when you uncover something about your ancestor today?  Why not pass it on and give your descendants or any one else who reads your story the same opportunity?  These are questions I can not answer for you, but I can offer my assistance to you if you choose to write your story.  There are several methods you can use to trigger and capture memories, several styles of story telling that in time will be much better than nothing at all.  The important thing is that you make the time available and take the time to share of yourself in ways that you wish to and are appropriate for you.  Once the writing time is set aside, WRITE, WRITE, and then WRITE!

Sincere Warm Regards and Best Wishes.

George

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