30 September 2012

Storied: Capture and Share Family Stories

The ways and means of sharing family stories are countless. I was recently contacted by Anina whose son Eli is involved in developing an app for iPads and maybe other media to help people tell family stories. Eli and his partner Rylan are in the process of gathering funds to launch their app. They were inspired by Eli's father-in-law, Don, who suffered from Alzheimer's Disease.

I agree that story-telling is such a nurturing thing to share with one another and I have my own Alzheimer's story. A dear family member also suffers from this disease. I helped him produce a personal history and his book has meant the world to him. What a wonderful gift a family or personal history can be! I wish Eli and Rylan the best.

For further information, click here. Even a small donation will make a difference. And then use the app or develop your own means of telling family stories.

16 September 2012

The Power in Stories

Ann Romney wowed the Republican national convention when she told the story of her marriage to the Republican presidential candidate. MichelleObama stood up in like manner at the Democratic convention and told similar stories about the first years in her marriage to the president. More and more, politicians are frankly admitting that they are using the stories of Americans to tell thestory of America. They argue over which side these stories illustrate, but no one denies the power inherent in telling a story.

A few years ago, Ira Glass “You Tubed” an interesting 5½ minutes about story telling. He teaches us that a good storyteller has both an interesting story and an important piece of reflection concerning it. In writing family history we need to interweave these two components into our stories and make sure that they are both strong and hard-hitting. Our research brings us many anecdotes to choose from and thinking about those anecdotes while looking thoughtfully at a person’s life will bring us some insightful moments of reflection to share.

Storytelling, done well, is powerful and productive. Look at scriptural accounts. These stories and their forthcoming lessons have inspired millions. “It came to pass” soon leads to “thus we see.” In our storytelling it’s important to let the story do the telling. Too much sermonizing or moralizing will cause the reader to roll his or her eyes just as surely as a pointless anecdote. If we can write clearly enough, the point will be taken simply from the actions or inactions of the characters involved and the consequences that follow. 

10 September 2012

Current Family History

Is there such a thing as "current history"? I think there is. With nightfall, each day passes into history, History does not have to be in the distant past. In fact, when it comes to remembering and writing and having the resources to record history, sooner is better.

That's why, as my family "family history writer," I was excited to find a newspaper article that mentioned some activities of my nephew Bert. Bert is serving an LDS mission in Louisiana and if you have been keeping up with the news last month, you know that parts of that state were badly damaged by the Hurricane named Isaac. The news article I read spoke of Bert's evacuation during the 80 mph winds and then his subsequent return to water-soaked LaPlace.

Frank Johnson 1904
Newspapers are a time-honored family history source for stories as well as genealogical facts. As we know, often a news article can give specific "word pictures" that catch the imagination and put the reader "on the spot." There is a very sad picture in my mind of my great-great uncle throwing burning kerosene out his door just as my great-great aunt and her little son came up the walk. When I came across an old baby photo labeled "Olive's baby Frank," it wasn't just a miscellaneous baby picture. I had to stop and look into those little eyes and picture his accidental death by fire once again. That brain video came from an old news article that has never left my heart. Though everyone involved has been dead many years, I still have some heartache over the sad situation.

In the same way, the story of Bert and his companion wading through knee to waist deep water to help out residents of the town sticks with me too. Bert is quoted as feeling humbled by seeing the people's courage. I feel humbled too, by Bert's service. I took the opportunity to distribute his story to family members. I think maybe his courage and willing heart in the face of natural disaster will help me and others to face our own "disasters" with courage rather than "dis-courage" and with hearts that are turned to each other and to God.