Researching your family history usually begins with finding names, dates & places. It doesn't take long before you have a list of births & baptisms, deaths & marriages, occupations & residences. The thrill of the chase keeps us searching and our lists grow longer. But who wants to read lists? Now is the time to take those lists and turn them into something else. Something your family will enjoy reading!
In Downsizing Family Heirlooms I warned that you should "be prepared to be disappointed!" I wrote about "what is", "how to" and the history of family heirlooms. The more I wrote the more dissatisfied I became with my ramblings and explanations. It wasn't until I began writing my conclusion that I understood what I really wanted to write was the stories behind my own family heirlooms. Now, any blogger will tell you that if you make your reader scroll too far down the page you are in danger of them missing the punch line of your article. There is no way my mother's flying brass ducks were going to be relegated to blogger oblivion! In this post, family heirlooms are given back their stories that will go with them into the future for as long as those stories are remembered.
With it's roots in English Law, an heirloom is described as an item that is passed down the generations through family members. As heirlooms go, the Crown Jewels of the Queen of England have to be right up there alongside Monet's, Chippendale's and the Kohinoor diamond. They are perfect examples of how their history and their value guarantee their longevity as an heirloom. Ordinary family heirlooms, on the other hand, have a far more checkered existence. For some the emotional connection and life circumstances will see these treasures survive as family heirlooms. But, when the emotional connection is not shared and lifestyles change what then?
Be warned, if your goal is to research how to podcast your short story then typing "digital story telling" in the task bar is going to be somewhat disheartening as its use as a either a marketing tool or a classroom activity takes the lead in search engine results. Advertising, television and gaming are so well established in our 21st century digital age that it's not surprising that the media of choice for digital story telling is overwhelmingly visual. However, with today's baby boomers and their offspring taking up the fastest growing hobby of genealogy (not to mention the impetus derived from the publication of Alex Hayley's "Roots" in the 1970's) there is always room for new "players" in the form of story tellers who want to podcast their short stories.
Stories are meant to be shared. Balladeers, minstrels, shamans, bards; all shared their culture & history through myths, legends & folk tales. They were the story tellers of their age. In the 21st century they are the equivalent of today's "Google" search engine . If you are have worked through, writing your podcast & making your podcasts your next step as story teller is to find an audience. One way to draw your audience in, is to make a podcast teaser!
When I wrote about the future of my storytelling I did not expect that the process would begin so soon. It all started with my habit of making lists! The list I made (doodled really) of what was required to make a podcast was surprisingly short. Although a little out of my comfort zone my family history research had given me the confidence to use the internet to search for answers. Through the necessity of starting a blog I would describe myself as a "non-geeky" geek in that my knowledge of technology is restricted to a "need to know" basis. If I was going to record my family history in a story format then my "need to know" led me to researching the world of podcasting.
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.
Before the advent of the printing press oral story telling was the only option for the budding narrator/bard/raconteur or, as we say in Australia...."spinner of yarns" However, long before story telling became entertainment it held a powerful place in our evolution. Gilgamesh, the Sumerian epic was recorded on clay tablets in cuneiform script 1,500 years before Homer. Now, I have not read either of these epics but, even without this scholarly exercise, I know that story telling began long before Gilgamesh. Wherever people have lived together there have been stories told.
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.