Albert Einstein's quote sounds a lot better than "Rubbish In, Rubbish Out" but the basic premise is the same. As the family historian it is important to record and preserve family memories. It is also important that future generations have access to the whole gamut of stories from the perspective of all those who have memories to share.
Anyone engaged in writing family histories will understand the challenges in uncovering supporting documents. But, the bigger challenge we face, as amateur family historians, is finding the hidden stories behind those "facts". I can now declare that finding hidden stories in military records is a whole new ball game! During WW1 my Great Uncle Arthur Ilson moved around, a lot! Different battalions, different countries & various hospitals. I know all this because somehow, in all the chaos and mayhem that surrounded him, someone kept hand written records that have been saved for me to read 100 years later!
Military historians poor over the records to dissect, analyze and speculate about the places, arsenal and movement of the "troops". When a family historians pours over the same military records they will take on another dimension altogether. The "troops" include your Great-Uncle. The location becomes a place your visit and put your hand on the bark of an old tree. The speculations include the sister who receives payment every month for the efforts of her baby brother. The same military records will become the scaffolding for a story that has been hidden for over 100 years.
As family historians we can all agree that coincidences happen. Where we may disagree is whether they are meaningful coincidences or meaningless coincidences. Which you choose will depend on whether you believe in cosmic forces, outside the world of pragmatism, or not. If you are firmly in the "random" camp you can admit it's odd and move on with out any further engagement. But,what if you don't move on?
Some of you may set an alarm to remind you to get up from your computer, stretch your back and re focus your eyes. But then again you may be like me and only resurface when your bladder, partner, kids or hunger demand attention. I have found podcasts to be the perfect alternative to alarms that go off just when you're on a roll. It also has the added advantage that my research/blog is still making progress while I have my feet up and a cup of coffee in hand!
Last week I posted a photo on Facebook of my mother on a "Charabanc" I was surprised to see the comments & "likes" rolling in so quickly. Experiencing my Mother's history like this had me hooked!. The research began & in the process I learned a little more about her life. The questions I should have asked her have been answered. From start to finish the journey has been a happy one. It seems I have found a formula for writing that works for ancestry blogs. It's time to share!
Writing stories about our family history is not the same as writing a novel. Our characters already have their place in history. Their life events have already been written. If we don't want our ancestors relegated to column of numbers we have to ignore that persistent voice in our head that whispers, "You're not a writer, you have writers block, stick to the records!
My last post started with brainstorming ideas for ways to record family histories (link) that didn't include lots of writing. Scrap booking seemed to hold the most promise & flexibility. I should confess at the outset that my one and only attempt involved cutting & pasting pictures of Elvis Presley! The result wasn't pretty but I guess it reflected the effort I gave it! This time I will remember that “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ...
A cup of coffee with a friend was the motivation for this post. It seemed that her dormant interest in family history was being stirred by my blog. However, she felt that her perceived lack of writing skills was holding her back. This post is for Maggie and anyone else who finds the idea of "writing" a family history just too daunting.
With any family history research there will be times when the only records you have are a list of dates, names and places. Hardly the material need for a story that will encourage your family to feel connected with. The sort of connection that Theophilus Adcock provided! Without records we must fall back on what we do know. Oral stories, photographs, intuition & assumptions all have their place in a writers imagination. Trust yourself and write from your heart.