My grandfather died in 1979, I was 37 years old. My grandmother died two years later, I was 39. My father died in 1985, I was 43. Before you do the math, I will tell you that in 13 days I will be 72, but this is not a post about age. It is a post about gathering information, or rather about not gathering information. And by information I mean stories.
I have done some significant genealogical research of my family tree, and am fairly happy with my results. However, genealogy has to do with names, dates, locations, relationships, and other vital statistics. It does not tell the story. I know a lot about what happened, when, and where, but I don’t know why or how.
My grandfather was a remarkable man. His story needs to be told, so I am in the process of doing research for what will be a book about his early life. He was a circuit riding preacher in the early 1900’s. The problem is I didn’t ask him, my grandmother, my father, or any of my uncles and aunts to tell me the story. I certainly had the time and the access necessary to ask the questions, but I just didn’t see the need, until now. But now is too late. They are all dead.
Luckily he left behind a lengthy handwritten document telling a lot of his story, but there are things missing that would be interesting to tell. Why did your family decide to leave East Tennessee in 1888 and move to North Texas? How did you travel? What was the trip like? What was school like? What were your chores on the farm? What crop did you and your brothers and your father raise? When was the first time you had indoor plumbing? Well, you probably get the point by now. I have a million of these questions.
I am beginning to be able to fill in some of the gaps, but wouldn’t it be fun to have the real answers? This book will, of necessity, be part fictional. I will have to invent certain situations, events, and conversations from my own imagination. I just want it to make sense and be true to the times.
If you are reading this post, and have parents, grandparents, uncles, or aunts still living, take the time and opportunity to ask them the questions. It might not seem important now, but some day you will be glad you did.
I definitely agree with you! My dad died when I was 13 and my mother died when I was 23. My father’s parents died before I was born and my other grandparents died when I was a little girl. So many questions that I have now and no answers. So many stories that were never told. We are so fortunate today to have the technology that we can tell our story and include photos by using a book publisher such a Blurb, but how many people will take the time to do it?
After writing this book, or maybe during, I will be writing my own story for future generations to have.
One of my biggest regret in life is not having taken or shown an interest in asking my parents to tell me their stories. I am a first generation American, and it would have been fascinating to hear about their experiences during their childhoods in what is now Ukraine, to learn how they came to the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century, and to hear their story of how they met and married here in the States. But I was too young and too self-absorbed to take the time to ask them the questions and to listen to their tales. I had ample opportunity to ask my parents all the questions that I can no longer ask and would love to have the answers to.
Self-absorbed is a very good definition of my plight also. Thanks for the comment.
I was curious as a child and got lots of information from my parents at an early age- including stories from my Dad’s WWII service. Both grandfathers passed many years before I was born (age 47 and 65). I recently found an affectionate letter from my paternal grandfather to my Dad, and my Mom tended to hang onto mementos – unlike me. One grandmother passed when I was 4, but I remember that last conversation very clearly. My maternal grandmother was widowed early with 5 kids still at home during the 1940’s and later she became my penpal. In those days, my parents kept newspaper articles from those small towns where even birthday attendees and visitors were identified on the front page. Fortunately, my mother’s side had early researchers which resulted in an interesting CD. But I am very grateful for the high school student that interviewed my parents in 2006 for a time capsule. I have the CD and newspaper article – real treasures.
Long ago, family history was important, and I feel the interest is returning. Perhaps you can find and join a genealogy group online where much research has already been done and you see a connection somewhere. An elderly friend published a mini-biography years ago (“for anyone who cares”), and added his unique humor even in tragic moments and let friends like me read them-to our great delight. With your own sense of humor and writing skills, I hope you consider doing that.
Thanks for the comment. Sounds like you have better luck than most people. Good for you.
That sounds a really interesting story Troy. I will look forward to reading it when it is finished. Good luck in your quest. I have enjoyed reading your blogs and think it would be a very entertaining book.
My great grandfather emigrated to Caernarfon, North Wales from Krakow, Poland in 1860 at 20 and started a successful photography business. I would love to know more about his background, but he changed his surname to Kinsley. We have never known what the original one was so the trail runs cold . As my father died quite young at 49, we didn’t ask those questions either.
Thanks for your comments. We just never know sometimes until it’s too late. Unfortunately, we can’t get those opportunities back.
An excellent suggestion. I’ve been there. Don’t wait … do it now.
I count as one of my life’s blessings that I was raised in a family that valued story telling as well as genealogy. Family reunions and get-togethers featured folks sitting around sharing stories about their lives and their parents’ lives. To this day, the best part of family visits is when someone says, “Say, do you remember that time when…” and the story telling begins. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.
I can remember family reunions, but if there was story telling, I must not have been paying attention. I am happy for you that you have all those wonderful stories at your disposal. Thanks for the comment.
I really liked this post. Thank you. I am in the process of writing a prose poem about my grandmother, which I hope to have up on my blog, http://www.thinkdreamdo.wordpress.com in the next few days. Thanks also for the like regarding my post on grief and social media. Cheers!
Thank you for your comment. I look forward to reading your post regarding your grandmother.