Thursday, November 21, 2013

Writing Down Family Stories

My kids and I got a unique opportunity with our homeschool group last week. Three hundred parents and children (mostly children) listened as a Holocaust survivor told his story of escaping Germany when he was a child. It was gripping and enlightening and when it came time for questions, someone said, "Have you written a book we could buy?"

He said, "No. No, I haven't written a book and it's probably nothing I'll get around to doing at this point. But I'd welcome someone else to write it if that's what they wanted to do."

I happened to be sitting next to my writer friend, Andy, and we both just looked at each other. This man had a compelling first hand account that's going to be lost one day. It makes me wonder how many millions of stories are lost because they've not been written down.

There are several captivating stories in my own family history. One of my ancestors got shot in the head with a musket ball during the Civil War and survived. Another soldier wrote love letters to his wife for four years while he fought during the war and died just four days after coming home. Another of my ancestors, who came over on the Mayflower, landed at Plymouth, MA and apparently became smitten with a "savage woman." He ran away with her and was later seen in the area dressed "half nekked." I guessed he was really undressed. At any rate, he was kicked out of the colony.

                                                My girls at Plimouth Plantation in Plymouth, MA

                                                            The Mayflower reproduction ship

What about you? Do you have any unique family stories? 

The holidays are perfect opportunities for writing these treasures down so they won't be forgotten. I'd love to hear who you'd most like to interview in your family. Kids are great at this, because no one can refuse their cute little faces. Here are some questions to spark conversations:
             In what year were you born?
             Where were you born?
             What did you like to do for fun?
             Did you have toys? What kind?
             What kind of work did your father do?
             What country did your family come from?
             How did they get to America?

Family History Tip:

Designate one binder or notebook for each branch of the family and always note the name of the person you're interviewing. Older family members often repeat stories and need help from others remembering names, dates and specific events. Having one notebook will help keep everything in one place for future interviews.
                                                                                         Happy Hunting and Happy Holidays!

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