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.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hi, I'm Back

Okay, so it has been almost a year since I last posted a blog. And, I am resolving to do better. The challenge I have, like everyone else in the world, is that there simply isn't enough time in the day to do everything on my agenda. But, I promise to do more with this blog.

Something that I have been thinking about lately is the lack of family histories in the world. I am told that genealogy is the single most popular hobby in the world today. In the United States, alone, more than 75 percent of adults have expressed interest in their family history. It seems that we should be writing more. It is a straight forward process: Tell me about your family. Yes, I understand it is so much easier, and less time consuming, if you simply repeat the stories passed from generation to generation. The oral history is great, but we need to write it down.

A good friend once suggested to me that anything worth saving is worth writing down. The old cliche, "talk is cheap," applies here. Repeating stories does not guarantee the stories will be remembered. So, we need to write them down. The blogs, the web pages, the Internet resources are all ephemeral. If you want to make it last, WRITE IT DOWN.

Okay, enough of my soapbox rantings for today. And, I promise to visit again soon.