Saturday, July 17, 2010

Family Fact-Finding Expedition

The book is progressing nicely. Turns out, writing a memoir is surprisingly educational. Despite my extensive knowledge of the central character, I've had to do an astounding amount of research.

The backdrops for various parts of my story have stories, too. Thanks to Google, historical information about some buildings and institutions is readily available. My first church and school date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. I had no idea. Sure, I knew they were old, but never knew how old or thought that much about it.

I have 16 aunts and uncles, not counting the people they married. Except for two uncles and four aunts--all on Dad's side of the family, they've all passed. Mom is the sole survivor of her clan. My memoir is largely about growing up in this huge extended family network.

Even though I really only knew one of the four, my grandparents are an important part of the story. Their circumstances influenced how my parents grew up, which in turn influenced how they raised me. No man is an island.

Finding dates for births, marriages, deaths and other significant events has been a huge challenge. The longer ago the event, the harder it is to find someone who knows. Conflicting answers and differing interpretations of events abound. The frustration mounts with each new dead end.

Tracking down the details is worth the effort. For the first time I know exactly how the people who were around me my entire life are related to me. Now I know how I'm related to the people my aunts and uncles talked about in the stories they told about growing up.

How much of your family's story do you know? Jot down as much of your family tree as you can. Pick up the phone and call a grandparent, elderly aunt or other family member to fill in what you don't know. You may never get another chance.


earthlymama said...

Great post. I think family history is so interesting and important.As a child, my grandma and I would visit her brothers and sisters. They'd sit for hours reminiscing about the past. I loved listening to all of their stories. I only wish I'd written it down.
Good luck with all of your research! Sounds like you are pretty good at tracking down all of that info.

CathyB said...

Yes, great post! I agree with your advice about talking to elderly family members. When they are gone, they have carried with them a wealth of information. I thought I was fairly happy with my knowledge of family history, but now that I am writing my book, based on a family heirloom, I sure wish my grandma was still here to help fill in some of the gaps, and to tell me more stories about the trunk. I'm glad you're enjoying the experience of writing. I continue to have issues related to my original surgery, and still have not had time to do any writing. Only in my head. And I'm sure I'll have forgotten all my thoughts next time I sit down to do any actual writing. Thanks for the update! Don't neglect us for too long!! We wanna hear more! :-)

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