Friday, February 20, 2009

Family Histories Need To Be Written

"Your friends don't tell you to record everything that you remember about the dead person because you will indeed forget many things over time"--Bliss Broyard, pg 315 of One Drop

How often do we sit, after the death of a loved one and think about writing their biography? We want to capture the memories before they completely fade away. Yet, we allow the memories to fade. We never get around to writing about the live that has passed. And, this is probably the greatest tragedy of family history research, we don't write it down. Now granted, the process of recording the life of someone who has just died is incredibly painful. I have been trying to do exactly this in the past two years since my Dad died. I have only managed 20 pages. So, I know it is incredibly stressful and difficult, but to keep going I keep telling myself, "Dad deserves more," (excuse the cliche).

This is one of the few times I need to make the distinction between family history and genealogy. I am not referring to basic genealogy--recording the name and vital statistics of each of our ancestors. I am referring to family history--the collecting of stories that define the character and personality of each individual ancestor. The stories that help us understand the lives of the people we love. This is what we need to write down and save for future generations--the biographies of all of our ancestors.

As I have said, recording and writing the memories, or memoirs, or biographies, of our ancestors is never easy. Recording the lives of those closest to us is perhaps the most difficult. But in the end, after the struggle to put pen to paper is over, the product is probably one of the most rewards treasures we will ever create.

As a stray note: while you are thinking about writing biographies, you might write your own memories. Why not create that autobiography? In generations to come, how would you want to be remembered? What wisdom and advice do you want to pass on? Writing your autobiography may help, may provide a practice run, for writing future biographies.

There is an old saying, something like: "one man's death diminishes us all." In other words, we are all important in this world. We all have some worth, some contributions to make, or leave, before we die. So consider, sharing your worth, sharing your live, and at the same time, share the lives of those before us.

1 comment:

maryb said...

Oh my dear brother, I agree that memories and personal histories should be written down, however, I feel ridiculous doing so. Do you have any suggestions on how to begin such a process? I would love to share with my children the things that I remember about my childhood. I recognize that our stories are similar, but our memories of history probably vary (with my version being correct) so I cannot simply copy your stories. So help me get started, dear brother, and I will be forever indebted to you (not).