Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Saving Family Stories

Welcome to the April 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family History
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, lore, and wisdom about family history. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
When I was in high school, my English and history classes were kinda/sorta combined into a program called American Threads. If I remember it correctly (this was 10+ years ago, mind you), the biggest idea was to try to tie together themes between the events we were studying in history and the books we were reading in English.

Like most of high school, I don't really remember very much of what we taught. (I was a great student... when it came to memorizing facts to pass tests. Long-term retention? Not so much.) I remember playing this fantastic role-playing game related to the American Revolution. (I remember that because, of course, role-playing games are AWESOME.) I remember the names of some of the books we read (but again, not much about the books themselves; lots of those are back on my mental reading list, to be revisited someday). I remember that we really didn't get as far in history as we had been promised at the beginning of the year.

What I remember most was this big personal history project we did. It involved family trees, collecting old photographs, and stories. I learned a lot about my family through that project. I'm pretty sure I even have the final project saved away in a box somewhere.

Now that I have a child of my own, I find that I appreciate the ideas behind that project a lot more. At the time, it was a lot of work and stress to put together. Looking back now, it was nice to have a chance to compile some old pictures and to learn more about my parents and grandparents, and to have some of those stories written down to refer back to later. No matter what, so long as I keep my copy of the project, I will always have some pictures from my childhood, pictures of my parents when they were younger, pictures of my grandparents. I will always have some of those family stories written down.

To be truthful, it actually kind of makes me want to gather more stories, more photographs, so that I will have them for Bug when he's ready to learn more about his family.

What to do? I want to start collecting family history for my son. I want to ask my parents and in-laws to write down stories for us, in their own words, about things in their lives that are important to them. I want to encourage them to tell more stories around the dinner table on the occasions when we are all gathered in one place. I want to get family trees and create photo albums.

I want to know about favorite memories from childhood, notable vacations or camping trips, journeys to foreign countries or across our own country.

I want to know what school was like, both for the novel experience of comparing school experiences between generations (because surely there's a big difference between my high school years and those of my mother, for example) and because, as of now, there's a good chance my son will be homeschooled and never know what a formal school setting feels like at all firsthand.

I want to know about college experiences, as well. Bug has many family members who went to college for different reasons, and at different stages in their lives. I want to know about what was studied, and whether it eventually led to a career. I want Bug to understand that sometimes we know early on what we want to do with our lives, but it's also perfectly okay to change your mind a few times.

I want to know birth stories. I want Bug to hear his own birth story, of course (and I love talking about Bug's birth, so there's little chance of him not knowing it!), but I also want him to hear about what birth was like for his grandmothers, his aunt, other family members. I may have an ulterior motive here, since I'm a birth junkie and I want to do my best to normalize birth for him, but I also think that birth just makes for some neat family lore.

I want to know all kinds of other stories about family. I want Bug to know where his grandmas and grandpas were born. I want him to know about the places they have lived and what kinds of jobs they have worked. I want him to hear stories of favorite pets, first cars, and famous ancestors.

Are you reading this, family? Write down your stories! Put them in your own words, with as many details as you can remember! Add pictures, if you have them!

And if you're not my family, consider writing down your stories for your own children and grandchildren. Someday, they will thank you for them!
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • They Come Through You — Aspen at Aspen Mama shares what her late-discovery adoption means to her and her family.
  • The Shape of Our Family: Musings on Genealogy — Donna at Eco-Mothering delves into her genealogy and family stories, observing how the threads of family reveal themselves in her daughter.
  • Hand family stories down to the next generation — Lauren at Hobo Mama asked her father to help her son learn to read — never expecting that Papa's string of richly storytelling emails would bring a treasure trove of family history into their lives.
  • Saving Family Stories — Holly at Leaves of Lavender talks about why she thinks it's important to preserve fun and interesting family stories for future generations.
  • Serenading Grandma — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama started playing violin in the fifth grade, her grandma and mother were the biggest part of her musical cheering section. Her grandma urged her to keep playing and reminded her that someday she'd be thankful for her talent. As was so often the case, her grandma was right.
  • Family legacy ambivalence — With a family history of depression and suicide, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama frets about her children's emotional health.
  • Seder and Holy Week: Family Traditions, Old and New — As an Episcopalian whose children's ancestry is five-eighths Jewish, Becca at The Earthling's Handbook values the annual Passover seder that connects her and the kids to family traditions.


  1. Such good ideas! It makes me so sad that so many stories were lost when my grandmother passed away - she hadn't written any of it down. We aren't very close to my other grandparents, but your post makes me want to make a new effort to reach out.

    1. I know what you mean! I only have one living grandparent, and he's in his 90s now... I really want to make sure we get some of his stories recorded while we have the chance.

  2. I love the idea of collecting and comparing similar stories (birth stories, school experiences, etc.) I hadn't considered family stories from that angle before - I'm inspired! All my grandparents are gone, so I need to start with my parents and get it written down!! Thanks for sharing.

    1. I'm glad I've inspired you! I hope you get some stories collected; chances are good that someday you and your kids will be thankful for them!

  3. We're homeschooling in part because of that same tendency in us you mentioned: Sam and I were fabulous at memorizing facts and passing tests, but it took us years before we began to love learning for its own sake.

    I love your quest to preserve family stories! My post today is about how my dad is doing just that for us, and I LOVE it. He also gave me one of my favorite Christmas gifts this year: a set of DVDs of family photos and home movies, stretching back to my great-grandparents' time (the photos, not the videos/films — though those go back to my parents' honeymoon!).

    My husband, when we visit his family, spends part of each time taking photos of photos. As in, he opens up a photo album and starts photographing each one he wants, and then he makes posts to put them on our family blog. I love having things digitized in this day and age.

    I love the idea of getting down birth stories. I know I love it when my mom shares her memories of my own birth. :)

    I really need to remember to start writing down my own stories — it's so easy to lament the stories that are lost and forget that your own are important to the generations to follow!

    1. That's a great point; I need to make sure I'm sharing my own stories too! I think that's part of the reason why I started blogging. I just love recording what's going on in our lives here and now, and I also love how it preserves those little stories for the future.

      I also love the idea of digitizing older photos. I know my father is in the process of scanning a bunch of the pictures he took when I was a child; I am looking forward to someday getting a digital copy of them all!

  4. I LOVE that you want everyone to write down their stories! There's something so special about having something handwritten from a loved one. And the birth stories too- big time birth junkie here too, a collection of family birth stories for my daughter would be an amazing idea!

    1. Right? Birth stories are such a cool thing. I know that just a few years ago, before my son was born, I didn't appreciate how powerful they are, but now I love hearing my own mama tell about how my sister was born in the car on the way to the hospital, or how the biggest thing she remembers from my birth was that when her water broke... well, let's just say there was a lot of amniotic fluid. ;) I just need to get her to actually write those stories down now!

  5. http://aspentreemama.blogspot.ca/2015/04/they-come-through-you.html
    also here's the url for mine that should work ;)

  6. My mom is a story gatherer, a few years ago we drive to Idaho and we sat with a small recording device running, listening while my great uncle talked about France and Germany during the war. Later my great aunt told us, those are times I've never heard him talk about.

    1. How wonderful that those stories are now saved forever! Someday, your kids will be able to hear them, too.