Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Being A Family Historian Is A Labor of Love

I submitted the following article to an editor in the Kansas City area several weeks ago. He did not respond which translates to most writers that the article was rejected. Monday, I received a check in the mail from said editor who had published my article in the June issue of The Best Times. The magazine, which is both print and online, is for seniors but my article is pertinent for all age groups.

I'm posting it below to once again nudge all of you to write those family stories. I can attest to the fact that the effort will be appreciated. I recently assembled a 167 page book of family stories and memories for my three younger brothers. All of them, and their wives, thanked me for the gift. Each one said it would be passed on to their own children and grandchildren in time to come. I had already written the stories. All I had to do was visit a copy center and purchase a 3 ring binder to put them in. That way, any future stories, can easily be added. 

Family Historian--A Labor Of Love
By Nancy Julien Kopp
I’m the Family Historian for both sides of our family. We didn’t hold an election that I won. The job fell naturally to me because I’m a writer and maybe because I am the eldest of four.  It might also be the fact that I care deeply that our history be passed on to future generations.
You needn’t be a professional writer to take on this important task. All that’s necessary is the desire to preserve the family stories and the ability to string words together. Write it like you’d tell it sitting around the dining room table after a Sunday dinner.
You don’t need to be chronological. Start anywhere. Tell a story and put it in a notebook. Then write another. Soon, your notebook will become fat with stories about your grandparents, your mother and father, your siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. Also stories about yourself.
A good place to trigger memories of your family tales is in old photo albums. Dig them out, dust them off and leaf through. Memories will flood back. If you’re lucky, there will be names and dates on some or all of the pictures. If not, guess at the time period. You’ll come close. Family bibles often have personal records in them that can serve as memory triggers for the stories that abound about your relatives.
Interview the older members of your family, even neighbors who lived nearby. Some folks get so enthused they end up doing research at the library or online to learn more about relatives in the distant past. They find out when Great-Grandpa came to America through ships’ records, or where someone lived by checking the census records. But the Family Historian needn’t go that far. Use your own knowledge and what you learn from other relatives to write the stories. You’ll still have plenty.
Someone might say that their family never did anything important enough to write about. I bet they did, because the everyday things are meaningful to those who care about the people involved.
For example, my father’s grandmother lived in Chicago but never learned a word of English. She spoke nothing but French. She made lace, then used it to fashion elegant baby clothing which she sold to a famed Chicago department store. It’s something I’d like my children and grandchildren to know.

   My maternal grandfather started work at age nine in a coal mine. He never finished school and spent the remainder of his working years in the mines. My mother walked to the mine after school and waited for his shift to end. They’d walk home together and talk over the day.
Two stories from two sides of my family, but I refuse to let them fade away. Consider this labor of love for your grandchildren. Write the funny things, the scary ones, and even
the very sad. It’s your family history and deserves to live on. What a legacy for you to leave!

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