When you hear a family story told, remember to write it down.
Family stories are very important for many reasons.
It keeps family history alive.
Most people were illiterate in the distant past. There were no cell phones, cameras, computers or even paper to record family histories so they were shared orally. In Scotland there were men called Bards who would write songs and poems about families and people from their clans or even their enemies. Elders were respected and told stories of what they experienced. In some clans or tribes, there were designated people who were called upon to tell these stories at special gatherings.
It connects us to our ancestors and we feel a “part” of something bigger.
Without family stories, we wouldn’t feel we were a part of a larger family group. I loved hearing about my parents when they were younger and stories about THEIR parents. Their stories make my ancestors “real” to me. These are people I never met but know so well now.
It makes us realize that we have some incredible ancestors- good or bad.
Some were famous. Some came from noble families. Some were agricultural labourers who never had enough to eat or a secure roof over their head.
Some of the ancestors I’ve researched were incredible in a bad way. Some were bigamists, some left their families completely and some were just plain nasty. The stories about my great great grandfather were passed down from his son, to my grandmother, to my mother and now to me. He was a very mean man. He had a very large family but ran the household like he was a king and they were his slaves. The stories of him and the things he did were not pleasant but they made him real to me. His son and all his descendants told these stories because it was awful and they wanted people to know how they were raised. All of them became very loving doting parents themselves and I think his parenting made them who THEY became.
When I was old enough to understand about the second World War, I realized just how brave and strong my parents and grandparents were. How resilient EVERYONE was- they had to be. The stories were horrifying and yet made me realize that our ancestors were amazingly courageous. Their trauma made them who they were. Their “stories” became part of “my” story. Without them having gone through the war and everything that that entailed, I would not be here in this great country.
When my mother told me the story of how her father was taken away one afternoon by the German soldiers it broke my heart. She was 6. Her mother told her to run back home as fast as she could and get a cloth full of as much food as she could and bring it back for him. My mother remembers running so fast and then arriving back into the village and all the men were gone. She didn’t see her father for 3 years until he escaped from the labour camp he was in. She felt that somehow, she hadn’t run fast enough, and it was her fault that he was taken away. This story, along with many, many more she’s told me, make me so sad but makes her life a part of history. She LIVED it. She was THERE. I would have a very distant “book” taught idea of what the war was like if it were not for her and her stories. Her parents had gone through two World Wars and a Depression and they had even more stories to tell.
TALK TO YOUR ELDERS. ASK THEM ABOUT THEIR LIVES. WRITE THEIR STORIES DOWN OR RECORD THEM AND SHARE THEM TOO! ONCE THEY ARE GONE, THEIR STORIES ARE GONE TOO.