I am so pleased to have Laura Hedgecock, our guest blogger, to share with us why writing about our family stories matters.
There’s no question that documenting your family history is a gift for future generations. That gift doesn’t have to stop with names, dates, and places. You can bring your family history to life by writing about family stories.
I’m passionate about this because I’ve been on the receiving end of such a legacy.
The silhouette of my own family tree used to look more like the willow that lost limbs in every storm than the archetypal oak.
On my father’s side, we had precious little information, owing not the least to the fact that our grandmother claimed to be an orphan. (That’s a whole different story.) The opposite was true of my mother’s side of the family, where my aunt had traced ancestors back to about 1500.
However, the ancestry information paled in comparison to my grandmother’s Treasure Chest of Memories—an old spiral notebook filled with a lifetime of writings. It included childhood memories of relatives, stories of her children as they grew, and family stories. Her stories ground us—all fourteen of us cousins—not only to her, but also to each other and our common history.
Writing about Family Stories Forms Connections
Writing about family stories connects family members on a visceral level. In contrast to facts, narratives can help family members—including future ones—to their ancestors. These stories matter because they convey traditions, personalities, and relationships. They can also fill in the gaps of our research.
For instance, when I see “Charles Crymes” on a family chart, I think of my grandmother’s words, “I remember Cousin Charlie Crymes and how jolly he could be….”
Writing about Family Stories Helps Us Understand History
I learned all about the Great Depression in school. However, I came to understand it through family stories of going hungry and scraping by. Our family stories are a way of teaching our children (and other family members who might have dozed off during high school) history through the lens of our genealogy.
Writing about family stories of immigration, migration, and service to God and country bring history alive. Perhaps more importantly, family stories of doing the right thing or coping under difficult circumstances allow our ancestors—and us—to be there to teach and share long after we’re gone.
Family Traditions are part of our Personal Stories.
Whether we love them or hate them, family traditions are part of who we are. We may not observe family traditions or cook the same recipes, but they are part of the forming of our formative year. So are the stories that were told at every family get-together. These stories need to be written down and shared.
Start Preserving Your Family Stories
You can’t always fill in the missing branches on your family tree. However, you can make the branches that are there accessible to your loved ones. By writing about family stories and memories, it’s as if you’re adding a tire swing or little boards up the trunk to make it easier to climb.
LAURA HEDGECOCK is author of Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life (coming May 2014 via Cedar Fort Publishing’s Plain Sight Imprint) and blogs about telling stories and sharing memories at TreasureChestofMemories.com/blog. Laura would love to connect with readers via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest.