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Sharing Family History

April 7, 2014

Have you ever wondered what life was like for your parents, your grandparents or any of the previous generations in your family?  What kind of childhood did your parents or grandparents have?  How did they meet?  Did they know each other long or was it a whirlwind romance?

Some of the most interesting family and historical information can be found in the personal journals and letters of our ancestors and the oral family history passed down from generation to generation.  It gives us an insight into a lifestyle quite unlike our own.  It helps fill in some of the puzzle pieces we find missing in our genealogy searches.  It put “flesh to the bones” of our ancestors.  It gives us a sense of our own history.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to some of these documents or have heard those stories or still have elderly family members who could tell them to you, I strongly encourage you to pull this information together.

Letters and journals should be preserved.  Conversations with family members can be recorded or transcribed or simply encourage them to write down the information.

You may say to yourself “Well, I know nothing about my ancestors.  None of them left journals or saved any letters.  No one ever shared any family stories with me…or…there was no one to share family stories.”

It’s unfortunate if that’s the case.  You may have nothing to draw from.  Your genealogy puzzle may be harder to complete.  The family’s history will have voids in it.  Those wonderful, little human details will be more difficult to find…if they can be found at all.

I’ve been very fortunate to be part of a family where the older members constantly shared our oral family history with us as we were growing up.  I know a little of what it was like growing up in a small farming community in the late 1800s, what it was like to live in the western Canadian plains before World War I, the trials of raising a large family during the Depression and the joy, the laughter and the hardships endured during all these times.

I recently read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” and it gave me a whole different perspective of what life was like during the pre-World War I period in Brooklyn, New York.  And it got me thinking.

We can’t go back and re-write history.  We can’t write the great American novel…well, most of us can’t.  But we can record today’s history for our future generations.  Yes, your children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren may someday wonder about you and your life.  Maybe not them personally, but there will be somebody in the future wondering what life was like in the 20th and early 21st centuries.  It doesn’t have to be a blog or to be published…just get the word downs.

So, give it some thought…think about putting that pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard and sharing your life and your past with your family (current and future), with your friends…and maybe even with the rest of the world.

 

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2014 3:11 pm

    well said

  2. April 7, 2014 6:56 pm

    I think becoming interested in family history is part of the ‘aging’ process. I became fascinated by my genealogy after a distant cousin (that I didn’t even know about) contacted me for some information about my branch of the family (we’d been told for years that there were NO relatives on my Dad’s side of the family; turns out it wasn’t true). I have spent an enormous amount of time on Ancestry.ca and other genealogy sites in the past year and uncovered a TON of information. As I mentioned in my own post on the subject, I wish I’d asked more questions and ferreted out more information before it disappeared with my parents (they died in 2008 and 2012). I’m currently writing my Mom and Dad’s stories (Mom did put together a couple of photo albums and I have a few stories and letters to go with them) as a narrative of their lives and their family histories. I’m doing the same for my own history so my boys will have it; hopefully they’ll keep up the tradition.

    • April 7, 2014 7:04 pm

      And they may not show interest until they’re older as mine have done. But I think our work will be appreciated. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  3. April 7, 2014 8:34 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly, Future historians will have so little to piece together. Texts? Twitter? There is much less bearing of the soul these days.

    My ancestors left precious little. None wanted to talk about the old country. Sad really. Because I decided as a kid that they were probably axe murderers!

    • April 8, 2014 12:02 pm

      Oh, and we all have some skeletons in our closets. But that’s life! ;)

  4. April 8, 2014 9:23 am

    Nice post, you are so right about trying to preserve our history – before we know it, life flies by and we can’t go back and re-live it. But we can give it to the next generation through our words.

  5. April 9, 2014 10:13 am

    My great aunt was fantastic for passing on stories and letters etc. At one point I had boxes but I’ve had to pass some along to other family members. The past is important but living in the present moments counts now. Thanks for your post.

  6. April 25, 2014 5:17 pm

    After my mother’s death, the family pictures were the first things we went through, dividing them up after scanning them into the computer. The history of our families is our own. I just love this post and the importance you’ve noted in preserving oral history.

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