Don’t Lose Your History
Posted by Rita Henuber Aug 5 2013, 11:45 pm
Many of you went to RWA in Atlanta and came home, heads swimming, with exciting ways to put stories the ‘voices’ in our heads keep telling us on the page. Many of us stayed at home dealing with the people in our heads and the stories they demand we write. As writers we scrap for time to listen to what these voices tell us. We carry pen and paper everywhere in case a new voice pops up. Are you listening as carefully to the stories of the people you see and hear every day? Voices of the people who shaped our lives, played a part in building your community and this country?
Do you know the stories of your family and friends?
People write wills to bequeath money and tangible valuables but rarely think about sharing their most valuable treasure. Family history. Don’t lose you history. You are writers. Please take time to talk with family and get their stories before this history is lost forever. This doesn’t have to be some spit shined publishable memoir. But a treasure a family member a hundred years will marvel over what you’ve put to the page.
When I talk to people about this I encourage them to ask the following questions.
Do you know how your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles met?
Do your children know how their parents met?
How did they feel when they first met?
BTW when you ask, be sure to ask both parties. Men have a different perspective. I’ve heard poignant stories from men that will bring you to tears. More important some have never shared this with their wives.
Did you have a favorite relative, or an infamous one?
Did you have a childhood that the kids of today would be amazed at?
Ask parents, grandparents and family to talk about what childhood was like for them. Include your own experiences.
Looking back my family (extended also) was poor. We didn’t know it. My daddy went down to the end of the street twice a week and caught fish for 4 households while the cousins dug clams and caught crabs. Free food.
Chores. Were there specific chore days?
I can guarantee most children today do not know what it’s like plow with a horse, clean a barn or collect chicken eggs. Or if you lived in the city, how were the chores different?
Were there any unusual events that stand out in your childhood? Did you live through a war, a natural disaster like hurricanes and or a tornado? Did a local tragedy shape who you are and how you think today?
Did you grow up with someone who became famous.
Were you named after a special family member?
Note schools attended.
Could you wear makeup to school?
Was there a certain subject hated or loved?
A favorite teacher?
Did someone quit school early to go to work and help the family?
Who had a special talent, was a sports hero or active in any clubs? In the olden days girls played basketball on a half court if indeed they were allowed to play at all.
Who served in the military? Dates of service and where.
What was it like to be a woman (mother, sister, wife or daughter) of a man shipped off to war. How did you celebrate the holidays?
How does your ethnic background have special traditions?
What were all the addresses the family had?
Also, if there were sicknesses in your family.
This could be important to younger relatives. Cancer, diabetes, and mental illness, just to mention a few, are diseases that can be passed down and are important for medical histories.
Did your family help found the town, city or county that you grew up in?
What were weddings like? Find out if wedding dresses were borrowed, handed down, or bought. Did the man wear a suit, a uniform or a tuxedo? Was the wedding big or small and cozy with family. An elopement. Record feelings of that day and if you have one, maybe a photo as well.
Some other things to think about.
We sprinkled our clothes with water before ironing. Ironing? I know families today that don’t own an iron.
Did you have AC?
What was the coolest room in the house in the summer?
Busy signal. Party lines.
Drinking from the hose.
Riding in cars with no seat belts
Saturday evening dances
In the 50’s women wore girdles or they were considered loose women. Explain that one.
Riding bikes without a helmet
List friends and enemies. Make note of the special relationships.
List jobs held and educational experiences.
Historical events and trends that shaped each era, especially those that had an impact on you.
What were favorite toys, games, hobbies, and pastimes.
List goals, aspirations, and dreams. What did you want to be “when you grew up?”
What were the painful things that happened?
Do you wonder what happened to kids that moved away?
Get out that box of old photos and sit down with someone who can identify the people .
Write down who each person was. How they were related, and what was each person doing?
Who took the photo and why?
Don’t you want to know what’s going on in this pic?
Take some time and listen to the voices around you.
Please share any history stories you have.