The Hidden Treasure Trove Of Family History Stories

Writing Stories That Matter

When my daughter shared a speech her eldest son had written for his school newsletter I printed it off to put it in my memory box. You probably have a memory box like mine. Well passed it’s “use by” date, corners giving way & not a little over stuffed with papers, cards and stick figure drawings of legs attached to heads with over sized eyes! As I made a half hearted attempt to sort things out it slowly dawned on me that I had an untouched source of stories to add to my family history!

How To Add Children’s Stories To Your Family History

Asking a young family member to write a story for your family history is like asking an adult to sing a song, in public! A polite “No” is the best answer you can expect. You will have more chance of success if you start your research finding ways to encourage your potential story tellers to talk about their memories.

5 Tips To Finding Children’s Stories

  1. Ask parents if they have saved school note books that may include topics like, “Where I live”, “Our holiday In The Country” , “My Grandma”

2. Talk to the children about what they are learning at school to see if any of the topics may provide something you can use

3.Using a tape recorder is another source for gathering material. If you have a list of prompts ready it will help keep the conversation flowing. The number one tip is not to ask questions that can be answered “yes” or “no” Link

4. Remember a family history is an accumulation of many things. In “Writing Stories For Family Heirlooms” it was the items themselves that provided the story. For young children their drawings, hand made cards and letters are all part of a family history. Who knows 100 years from now drawings with coloured pencils may be likened to our admiration for embroidered Victorian samplers.

5. You may also be surprised to find that tech savvy youngsters have uploaded You Tube clips of family gatherings or holidays. (I stumbled upon one by my traveling Grandaughter)

Eldest Grand-daughter Leaves Home

Finding A Story That Matters

Perhaps it was a serendipitous moment but the very same day I was fossicking through my memory box my second eldest grandson, and ” soon to be leaving” senior student wrote a “Last Word” speech for his school assembly. I may be biased (OK I am biased) but it made me realise that, without my noticing, my grandson had become a young man. A young man who already knew that the education he had received had a value that was not measured by grades alone.

When I asked if I could use his piece his reply was instant.

Hey Nan! I would be privileged to have my writing feature in your blog. Such a cool idea and getting pieces from family is really touching”.

In the future I hope that his grand children will read his words and realise that their loving Grandad was once a young man who sometimes doubted his ability but .

The Last Word


If you boys want me to be completely honest, I’ve had my doubts whether or not this day would actually occur, but here I am, standing in front of you now.

When preparing for my Last Word, like Jacko, I thought to myself, what actually makes a good Last Word? How am I going to deliver a speech that will leave you pondering on the ideas, rather than forgetting I even spoke to you five minutes later? This led me to the thought that for a Last Word to have meaning to its audience, it must first have meaning to the speaker, which is why I have decided to speak about the idea of opportunity, or specifically, making the most of every opportunity as an Otago Boys’ High student.

Otago Boys’ High School

I vividly remember my first day at Otago Boys’ High School. Waiting anxiously outside the archway, socks pulled well past my knees with about a half a litre of hair spray stuck in my lid. Starting high school, I was a very stock standard kid. I did my school work but I wasn’t very smart. I played a lot of sports but I wasn’t very good. I had made a bunch of mates, but also, made the odd marginal decision. Undoubtedly I was a bit of a regular Joe. It wasn’t until I first walked through the archway that a range of different opportunities revealed themselves, which has helped shape me into the young man I am today.

For me, the first opportunity that presented itself at Otago Boys’ was through academia. To my surprise, in 2016 I was put in 9T, which was the top streamed class at the time. Looking around at my classmates with the likes of Hendo and Peter, I thought to myself “what am I doing here?” I’d much rather be causing a ruckus with my friends in the other class. At the time, I was not aware how much this opportunity would benefit me in the long run. Although this began as a challenge, solving maths equations and doing geography tests that pushed my capability, this set me up well heading into NCEA and has better prepared me for the future outside of school.

On the sporting field, many different opportunities have arisen over the years. I can still remember my first school Athletics Day. I was egged on by my mates to enter the 800 metre race as somewhat of a pisstake. To my surprise, I ended up in the front of the pack after the first lap. Looking around I was just about ready to drop off back to the boys, but encouragement from the Year 13’s on the side of the track gave me the motivation I needed to see the race through. It was this encouragement and sense of brotherhood that made me push myself outside my comfort zone and try something new. Since then, I have gone on to represent the school on the track for the following four years.

Lastly, I am most fortunate for the friends I have made over my five years at Otago Boys’. Coming from a large intermediate, I already had a rather vast group of friends, most of whom were heading to the same high school. It was not long before this group expanded, as I have got to know a bunch of good blokes from across all year levels. Although my mates may come across to many as loud, odd and possibly a bit insane, in the words of Mark Hooper, they are “the most unique group of mates I have ever seen”. It is these guys that have made my five years at high school as memorable as it has been, and that is something I will always be thankful for. Never would I have thought heading to Otago Boys’ that I would become friends with a guy called Skitzy from Kurow, but hey, you learn something new every day.

My Grandson: Joshua

If there is anything I want you to take away from Josh Friend’s Last Word, it is to be grateful, to take time out of your day to appreciate all of your wonderful accolades and achievements, and to take each opportunity that is handed to you. Whether that opportunity be large or small, as we are never really certain what fortune or tragedy lies waiting for us around the corner in this crazy game of life. 

With my days in the blue blazer almost reaching the full time whistle, it will be not long before I will be sitting in a cold dark flat, music rattling the wall, nibbling on a some uncooked noodles, thinking to myself “man, Pratley’s business class would not be a bad place to be right now”. As tradition, I will finish on not one but two quotes.

 The first from  a Waitaki local, Balmacewen Intermediate caretaker and loving father of four, Peter Friend.

“There’s not many people in this world who get to go to school in a castle on top of a hill, make the bloody most of it mate.”

The second is from the late great Robin Williams.

 “Carpe Diem. Seize the day” fellas… cheers. 

Telling A Story Without Words

Photographs: Stories Without Words

My Grand-Daughter is a prolific photographer who has the knack of making a photograph capture the feeling that a place or person gives out. The old English adage that, “a picture is worth a thousand words” has resulted in a library of stories. Her collection of images from her life at home and her life as a world traveler will always be a testament to the joy and beauty she sees where ever she goes. Luckily for me, being a child of generous and giving spirit, she told me to choose the ones I like best! Through Caitlyn’s Lens: Her Story is the result.

Through Caitlyn’s Lens: Her Story

Visual storytelling of one kind or another has been around since cavemen were drawing on the walls

Frank Darabont

Share A Family History Find

Have you found a family history story in a way that surprised you? If you would like to share we could put a list together to inspire others.

Just Vicki

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