In a recent Matilda Butler, who along with Kendra Bonnet, blogs at Women’s Memoirs discussed an insight about family history she had while visiting the Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California.
I stood watching a video of interviews with workers who have contributed to the growth of Salinas over the past 100 years. I was struck by what was missing. One person described how his family, his grandparents, moved from the Philippines to Hawaii and then on to California. He said he didn’t know why they didn’t stay in Hawaii, he just knew that they moved to California several years before his father was born. Another man spoke about his parents leaving Italy for California. He didn’t know the year they moved to Salinas. The stories continued in this vein. It was interesting to see how many cultures have made a contribution to the farming in Salinas, but none of these descendants knew the details. They didn’t know what motivated their families to move or when they moved or what they found when they arrived or why they stayed.
It was an eloquent statement of a dilemma faced by many family historians. While genealogical details of their family trees are complete, the stories of the people who inhabit its branches have been lost. A number of the conversations Nancy and I had with people at the Salt Lake Family History Expo focused on trying to find lost stories of ancestors.
What is clear is that the longer you wait to get your family history started, the more likely it is this will happen to you. If you followed Nancy’s series on story recording over the last few days, you have some excellent guides to help you in gathering your family’s stories. [If you haven’t yet seen the series, take a look at our last four posts.] But whatever you do, talk with relatives to gather the stories they have and make sure they are preserved.
You may wait to start your family history book, but don’t wait to gather the stories that will make it interesting and memorable for your readers when you do get it done.
To read Matilda Butler's full post, click here.