A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Recording Family History for Future Generations : Guest Post by Pauleen Cass

      Recently Pauleen Cass attracted a good bit of interest with her guest post at the A to Z Blog.  In the post Pauleen described how she created a blog-to-book via Blurb.  In this current post at Wrote By Rote Pauleen discusses more about preserving family history for future generations.
Blurb book - interiorBlurb book - interior (Photo credit: Mrs. Gemstone)


     Family history is my passion and joy: the stories of the generations who have gone before me. While the basic biographical details provide the necessary building blocks, taken alone this data is boring and unengaging. What really captures my imagination is the opportunity to squeeze official and unofficial records for every drop of information about an ancestor until I can get a sense of each one as a person, their life experiences, the times they lived in, and the challenges they faced. 


      None of my ancestors was wealthy or famous yet there is a rich vein of stories to weave into a unique family tapestry. Over the years my research has broadened to include families from the same regions of origin so it’s possible to see what’s “normal” or “typical” in terms of education, employment, migration and mortality: a micro-study in history.

       It would be rare to find a family historian who doesn’t wish they’d asked questions of their relatives and listened to them while they were still alive. Unfortunately when we’re young and busy with family and career that’s rarely a focus for us and then it’s too late. So, getting into proactive mode, I decided to pre-empt that for my descendants.  


       Firstly I joined in the 52 weeks of Personal Genealogy and History in 2011 hosted by Geneabloggers and designed by Amy Coffin of the WeTree Genealogy Blog. This gave me guided opportunities to dredge my own memories of childhood and growing up and to search out old photos to illustrate the stories. One might expect that people around the world would have very different experiences but I was surprised to find just how similar the life experiences were for fellow bloggers of a similar generation, even in that pre-digital, pre-internet era.

        When writing about family stories, the spotlight naturally illuminates the people in the story. Place or location is very often a bit player in the drama. So with the A to Z challenge in 2012 I decided to turn the tables and write about all the places in our family story, some long ago and quite a lot from the current generations. 


       My husband’s family lived in Papua New Guinea for nearly 25 years and we also lived there after our marriage.  Our older children experienced life in PNG but as small children and over time their memories will dim. This was a chance to leave a history of where we had all lived and a little of what life was like there. My husband wrote a couple of guest snapshots for places I hadn’t lived or visited.  We’ve also been fortunate enough to visit many of the ancestral places world-wide so I was able to talk about those from personal experience. Only rarely when challenged by a letter of the alphabet did I succumb to using a place I’d only visited as a tourist.

        In some ways I was breaking the rules, as I was writing with my descendants looking over my shoulder rather than primarily for my contemporaneous readers. Despite this many of my kind readers followed all the way from A to Z and told me how much they enjoyed the travelogue aspects of the challenge. 

       Since finishing these two biographical challenges I’ve published them together in traditional format with a Blurb blog-to-book which I hope will stay in the family for decades to come. I’ve also got a copy of it in an e-book: a dollar-each-way bet on the survival of traditional vs digital publishing.

       My ultimate goal was to leave a trail for our family to follow in the future. Only the passage of time will tell whether I succeeded.


        What have you done to preserve your family history?   Are there any good research resources that you'd like to recommend?


        Be sure to visit Pauleen at her blog Family History across the seas.



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12 comments:

Wendy said...

I need to do this. Thanks for the link to Blurb and your thoughts on using it (I went back and read your post on AtoZ too).

shelly said...

This was very interesting. My dad enjoys researching our family tree. About a month ago, he gave me my grandmother's journal, It is full of intersting stories.

Dana said...

Very interesting. I'm working on something similar right now. Thanks for posting this. :)

kmckendry said...

I've recently been thinking I need to do this. My grandpa is 91 and i'd love to sit down and record his story but I don't know what questions to ask. Great post.

Dee said...

Dear Pauleen, thank you for this short essay on why and how you've written about your family and all its travels. It's wonderful that your children and theirs will have your work to read and to grow with.

I'm glad, also, to learn about Blurb. I've been writing an on-line memoir of my own life and so this is a good backup for me. Thank you. Peace.

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Dee,Dana and Wendy. Good luck with your publishing plans...glad this was helpful.
Kmckendry -if you click on the link to the 52 weeks prompts you will get ideas of topics you could ask your grandpa about. You've got a great opportunity with a grandfather that age: do it now & enjoy the bonding that will come!Do remember life was different when he was young and try not to be judgemental.
Shelly, how lucky you are to have that journal! Great opportunity to make it into a story :-)

Linda Jackson said...

Thanks for this post, Pauleen. You said, "It would be rare to find a family historian who doesn’t wish they’d asked questions of their relatives and listened to them while they were still alive." You are so right. Not that I'm the family historian, but I am considered "the writer" in the family. And I sure wish I had written down my mom's stories before it was too late. I had no idea Alzheimer's would one day come along and steal them. So catch those stories while you can.

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Good advice Linda, we never know when time's running out. It's also important to write our own stories.

Anglers Rest said...

A great post Pauline on how you started your research. I am still busy with mine & getting the last glitches sorted out with my book too. Speak soon.

ahundredyearsago.com said...

I enjoyed this post. It's interesting to think about how to record information for future generations.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Pauline .. great info here and though none of us have kids - I'd still like to go back and learn some more - I seem to have become a sort of 'historian' since I started blogging really from articles and ideas that I was talking to my mother about before she died recently. Not having to worry as such about the future will be easier for me - the family history is very interesting on both sides of the family going back - and I have some records. Certainly plenty of stories to weave in - just alone from the characters.

Your history sounds fascinating and I hope you'll release it in another not so personal format ... as the connection with Papua New Guinea would interest many ...

Cheers Lee and Pauleen ... have good weekends - Hilary

Susan D. said...

A great post and you are so right about preserving memories. Until I started blogging, I never really thought abut recording my own childhood and have enjoyed writing to the various online prompts. On my lengthy "to do" list is the intention to bring these all together into some kind of volume. Watch this space!