Thursday, September 20, 2007

Capturing Memories

Terry Thornton on his Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi blog has a post this morning printing letters from a friendly lady who used to live in Splunge in Monroe and Itawamba counties in Mississippi.

When I read letters like these from people I am always struck by the thought:

"Who else would know about this? This is a priceless historical resource for residents of this particular place.

"Isn't it too bad that there are not more remembrance books or articles, especially from folks who lived in the 20th century."

Many of our ancestors wrote diaries, had account books, possessed trunkloads of family papers, etc. Like many other bloggers, I have tried to transcribe and post my own family's records - like Della's Journal (most recent here), family pictures, 30th Street Memories (here and here), etc. Hopefully, they will live on in posterity. Other than the instantaneous novelty appeal to other researchers, who are the real beneficiaries to these posts and this information? I think they are only the members of the immediate family. In my case, my brothers, cousins, children and grandchildren - assuming that they read them.

However, I have a lot of information obtained from my extended family members - taped and transcribed family memories and stories, loose pictures and whole albums, family papers, etc. Much of this has not been posted or published - partly because of the volume of information but also for family privacy reasons.

On the Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe blog, I have been transcribing the Table of Contents of published books about early Chula Vista history. Of course, the area was settled in the 1880's, and Chula Vista became a city in 1911. Therefore, many of the stories told are based on personal experiences written or dictated by people in the mid-1900's. In reading these historical narratives I again had the two different thoughts I noted above.

There is more information in any one of the stories in these books than you or I can glean from the historical records - the census, probate, land, vital, and other records. These stories are about how people lived, worked, failed, succeeded, and died.

I guess the point of this post is to encourage all of us to do several things:

* Write our own memoirs and distribute them to interested family members. Frankly, I take the attitude "I don't care if they are interested in it now, but I hope they will be interested at some time, and therefore I will distribute it to them on CD or paper no matter if they want, or like, it or not!"

* Start, support and complete projects in your local genealogy society to capture family memories from willing participants. This could start with family histories and stories from society members. It could also be a published book commemorating a city or county anniversary. For instance, Chula Vista will celebrate its' 100th anniversary in 2011. One of the problems that many people fear is, of course, privacy and identity theft.

What about you? Have you written your memoirs? If not, Miriam Midkiff has a series of blog posts with weekly memory joggers at to encourage you to write about specific topics. Please do it - so that your family can know about your life experiences, and the history of your community too.

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