I love family history. It is something I enjoy doing and when I told a certain friend this, I watched as the boredom glazed across her face. I had lost her interest at the mere mention of family history. In fact, a lot of my friends react in this way.
I have spent time helping and teaching others doing their family history and I have had it drilled in to me over and over again the importance of dates and sources. Dates and sources are important and I know some people think they are the most important thing, but I disagree. I can feel all the family historians, all the genealogists reading this recoiling in disgust.
If you gave me a random date, a name, a job title – I feel zero connection. When family history is reduced down to the facts and the facts alone, then I feel my mind wander on to more interesting subjects – and I enjoy family history.
For me, family history is about stories – that is what interests me. It’s the background information surrounding the dates and names.
I write about my Grandpa’s book quite regularly on my blog. It is a book full of stories from his childhood, the majority of which were him accidentally getting up to mischief: the time he blew up the toilet; the time he was taken home by police at the age of 9; the time he gave someone a white feather in WWII because he thought it was pretty, with absolutely no concept of what it represented.
We created a jar of writing prompts for him, a Christmas present for ‘a man who has everything’. The result was a beautiful book and his grandchildren knowing stories from his childhood. I have been reading his book again recently and thinking about how I can record my stories.
For those who want to, here are 52 prompts to help you write the stories of your childhood (click the image to open a pdf copy of the questions).