I Believe in Writing Down Family Stories

Melissa - Christiansburg, Virginia
Entered on April 15, 2009
Age Group: 65+
Themes: family, legacy
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This I Believe

I believe in recording your family history, not only with the dates, but with stories of people and events. Have I always done this? Not at all. In the early part of our marriage, my husband and I were more concerned with meeting daily challenges rather than recording them. However, about two years ago, my sister and I were going through some genealogy material compiled by my Great Aunt Catherine, and we came across yellow legal pads filled with handwritten stories. I stayed up late, reading, looking for stories of Virginia, my mother. There weren’t any. I consoled myself that I did have two of her diaries that another aunt had passed on to me. Mother had enclosed recipes, articles from newspapers, pamphlets giving advice about buying silver for a bride during WWII, and had written of me. She was 26 and I was four when she died, the result of a fall down some stairs. I had some pictures of her, her diaries, and a shadowy memory. My dad married soon afterwards and we didn’t talk of Virginia. I don’t remember anyone talking of Virginia and now there is nobody to ask. After her death, I went to stay with my beloved grandparents for a time, and while I was always in touch with them, I didn’t ask about their families or their lives either. How could I not have done that? Such a chunk of my heritage is missing. So, I’m determined to leave a family history for my descendants.

I spent some time trying to decide how to start. I decided that even the brief fragments I’d written over the years would be helpful, and I rooted through the boxes in the attic until I’d unearthed them. I had family Christmas letters. I gathered more information as I shredded old receipts and checks. I made some notes. For me a laptop computer was better than pen and paper because of my handwriting, the delete key, and the spell checker. Then too, I could insert things I’d forgotten. I began, “My name is —— and I was born on —–. My parents ——–. Some of my earliest memories are of ———.

I would never have thought about this project until I read Great Aunt Catherine’s notes, and realized how glad I was that she had taken the time to write for us. We may not have greatness in our lives or made earth changing decisions, but our descendants will have a record of what I thought and how I lived. Am I finished? Definitely not.