As I read Amy Johnson Crow’s Are Your Ancestors the Average of 5 Records?, I thought about my own recent discoveries on John Bridges, and a book about Rebecca Gilbert’s family, which is a topic for a future post. The first time I read the book, I wished I had a book for each of my ancestors, something to give me an idea of who they were and how they lived. With John Bridges, finding out there was more to the man than the family legend suggested was an eye-opener. To borrow from David Walton, learning about our ancestors is more than names and dates. (Ok, so this is a bit of a plug too, since I’m one of the reenactors, but it’s relevant nonetheless).
My grandpa loved to tell stories and he had a million of them. I wish, now, that I had recorded or written down more of them. As we were going through some of the things in his bedroom, my uncle found a few stories that my grandpa had written down. I never knew that he had and it was a treasure to see them. I’m a journaler by nature. I keep a journal of everyday events. I may write every day for a week and then I may not write again for a month. It doesn’t really matter how often it’s done, just that it is done. While my journal might not mean anything to anyone now, one hundred years from now, it may be a treasure to a descendant. It may provide clues to family relationships that couldn’t have been found otherwise. Part of the reason I started this blog was to put family history in a place where it can be easily accessed and not lost. I encourage the patrons, where I work, to write down their stories too and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.
Stories are important. They give our ancestors character, a voice. They make them relatable and significant. They make them real to us in a way that just the dry facts cannot do. I’ve made it one of my goals to research and write a story for each of my direct line ancestors (at least). It will only be a snapshot of their lives, but it will be more than I had before and it will give me a sense of who they were. If finding out who our ancestors were as people isn’t one of the primary goals of every genealogist, it should be.