Saturday, May 06, 2006

Beyond the DNA -- Discovering your Ancestors


Photo of Herb and Esther Ford, my maternal grandparents and the main subjects of their story, My Name is Esther Clara.

  • No, this is not an outline for a family genealogy search. Examining your heredity is more personal than that. The life experiences of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents contributed to what we are today as people, as a country. For me, writing about the lives of my maternal grandparents became a grand adventure. If only I had started decades earlier, while they were alive to share more stories of their early years.

    Since writing this book about my grandparents, many people have said to me, "Oh I just wish I had learned more about my parents' or grandparents' lives while they were still with me." It's not too late to begin gathering information. Elders of your family are a rich source of information.
    · aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, great grandparents and even their friends have memories to share
    · having the opportunity to share such memories can be a blessing for them and a gift to you
    · NOW is a perfect time for teenagers and young adults to harvest such memories while your older relatives are alive to reminisce about the past. Such history will become more precious to you as you age.
    · the more you learn about your relatives and the past, the greater understanding you will have of yourself and the world, and….
    · some day you will either wish you had learned more about your relatives when you had the chance, or will be very thankful that you took the time to listen to their stories

    How can you record the stories your relatives tell?
    · don't trust your memory alone. I relied on certain memories while writing about my grandparents, but memories often fade with time. Write things down in a special notebook you keep for just that purpose.
    · record their stories about the past on audiotape or some modern version of that
    · at family gatherings, videotape relatives who happen to be reminiscing at the time. ENCOURAGE their reminiscences.
    · the audiotapes and videotapes my uncle made of Grandma talking about her childhood and young married years were priceless sources of information when I wrote my book. If he had not had the foresight to record such stories, many of them would have been lost forever when she died

    If you decide to write a book about your ancestors:
    · your book can be printed off on computer and given to family members as a gift. This would be an easy gift at reasonable cost.
    · you can self-publish your book. This will cost a lot of money, but you'll have a professionally produced book
    · you can seek a traditional publisher willing to publish your book at no cost to you.

    Parents, grandparents, great grandparents – back through time – have contributed more to us than simply strands of DNA. Our beliefs and philosophies are often a product of their life experience. Learning more about their lives can open up new worlds to us and enhance our self-awareness.

1 comment:

AstonWest said...

I often lament the fact that I never wrote down or recorded my grandfather's stories while he was still alive. There were so many he told...

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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