The Challenges in Collecting Family Memories and Family History
Collecting family memories, especially memories of long ago, can be a challenge. Be ready for the unexpected. You may even uncover family secrets, scandals, and skeletons along the way – some family stories you may wish you had never discovered.
Recalling details becomes more difficult as time passes. Preserving those family stories and memories as you go is surely the best approach. But doing research, interviews, exploring old photos, and gathering information from the past can be a daunting task. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way while collecting family memories. Maybe you can relate to my experiences.
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Each person remembers a story or event based on their own interpretation of the experience.
Many years ago, while I was still in school, (yes, MANY years ago…), I witnessed an incident in the classroom. Everyone in the class was a witness. We were given a list of questions and asked to describe what we had seen. You’ve probably already guessed where this is going. We all had noticed different details about the event. Some noticed hair color or height while others noticed the shoes or the writing on a shirt.
The same thing is true when someone recalls family stories and their past. Memories can vary depending on the perspective of the storyteller. For instance, the older brother remembers the difficulty in getting the younger brother to cooperate, while the younger brother just remembers a fun, carefree time. Personal interviews are one way of passing down family memories, but may not always be completely reliable. However, they are a great way to learn about other family members and their individual memories.
Here is a FREE question list to get you started if you’d like to interview your own family members
Not everyone shares your interest in preserving family memories.
My Dad has always enjoyed talking about the past, researching our family’s history, looking at photographs and family heirlooms from long ago. I didn’t share that interest until recently, probably because I hadn’t made the effort to ask for information. Now that he has hooked me, we have started to sort through the pictures, documents, newspaper articles and memorabilia.
We have learned many interesting facts, heard family stories, and investigated ways to hold on to those memories. Because I can see the importance of preserving these memories, I want to share that interest with other family members. The enthusiasm may be lacking, but my hope is that one day the information will be passed down the line.
There is not a perfect way to organize photos when collecting family memories.
Diving into history, the photos, and the papers is so exciting. It’s exciting until you try to organize and store the things you want to preserve. Everyone has an opinion on what is most important. Many suggestions researched online sound like the solution, but quickly become cumbersome and out of control. I have started three different methods of scanning, labeling and storing photos.
There is not a perfect solution. The advice from multiple sources will need to be combined to form the best solutions for our own family’s needs. I did, however, stumble upon this great family memory photo album from Snapfish. What a great way to remember special family events like a reunion, a wedding, or vacation!
Every family has its own family secrets.
Every person that has ever lived has made mistakes. We have taken a path down the wrong road or suffered embarrassment because of a poor decision. Extensive efforts may have been made to hide the truth. Even so, the cold hard facts may eventually be unearthed. It is possible to uncover things and wish you had left that puzzle unsolved.
Be prepared to handle whatever you may find in your search for family stories and information. There will inevitably be an incident, a circumstance or an indiscretion that could lead to a different impression or better understanding of the people in your past. Family secrets are inevitable.
Many of those that went before you suffered hardships and sacrifices.
A little investigation into someone’s past can reveal difficult days, times of trial, and tragedies they experienced. Appreciation of the strength, courage, and perseverance of your people can be an encouragement to those who follow. The family spirit and toughness is passed down. Examples from the past can reach future generations.
There is not a shortcut to take when collecting family memories.
There is never enough time to do everything necessary to ensure a complete book of family stories and memories. It takes patience, commitment, and a desire for knowledge to continue researching the history of your family. Resources online today, like Ancestry.com can make the search a little easier than it was in years past. However, information can still be elusive and difficult to verify. Take the time and effort necessary to work towards your goal. The project will never be finished. Simply enjoy the ride.
There is still a LOT to learn.
Collecting family memories is a never-ending endeavor. There are many organizations, clubs, and individuals who are very willing to offer help. Use these resources to expand your knowledge of your family. Find new and fun ways to connect and grow your stash of information.
Collecting family memories can be a rewarding, satisfying experience. I’ll never know everything there is to know, but I won’t quit searching, exploring and learning more – even the family secrets.
Will you join me?
Come along with me as I continue this journey. Help me to help you by sending me questions or suggestions for subjects to explore. Have you uncovered any unexpected or incredible family stories? I appreciate your input!
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Keep Passing Down the Love,