On Genealogy, History, and Stories

bill and oma, 1913

On Genealogy, History and Stories —

I spent last week in a fog of genealogy, listening to researchers whose travels and stories and sleuthing made my head spin. I attended the National Genealogical Society’s annual meeting. Thousands of intrepid researchers in one convention center.

And do you know what? Their message was all about context. It was all about stories. It was all about making these people come alive, making them more than statistics and dates of birth, marriage, death. It was about telling their stories, about delving into the lives that they led. These were real people, not just those whose obituaries (true or otherwise) garnered the most print inches. People who experienced joy and sadness and wonder at their world. People just like us.

And I took heart about my endeavors over the years – to tell the stories of ordinary people, some real, some imagined, but all connected to life. One of the presenters talked of the importance of telling our stories – “If I don’t tell them, people will never know that I’m in love with the Royal Family, that I’ve loved them since I was fourteen years old. That I am really Charlotte’s and George’s grandmother.” That’s what she said, and don’t we know exactly who she is from that? Doesn’t that tell us so much more than her birthdate, her academic degrees, her race and religion? And don’t you want to know her?

And so, I continue to write my stories, about people who existed, or who may have existed. Perhaps they tell you who I am.

The picture above is my father and his grandmother. She played a significant part in his life, and they shared a powerful bond. As I did with him.