Missed Opportunities: Generations of Lost Stories

[Editor’s note: Saving Memories Forever blogger Stephanie Pitcher Fishman shares the impact that the world made on the lives of six generations of women in her family.]


History is made up of many things: world events, inventions, and even simple daily routine. Our world develops with speed and purpose in a way that our ancestors could have only dreamed. Along the way, our family history is created within these developments, and history begins to tell our family story. Are you saving your memories and experiences for future generations to hear? By capturing these family stories, we can use our family’s journey as part timeline and part history lesson.

Elizabeth Gorday Wilson


Elizabeth: Generation One

My family story begins in 1866. Elizabeth Jane was born the daughter of a Confederate soldier just one year after the war ended. She grew up on a farm in South Georgia, and, though her father was involved in other business in town, she was a farmer’s daughter. Elizabeth saw amazing changes in her life including the birth of ten children into the family that she created with her husband, John, a farmer and general store owner. Though she was spared the turmoil of a country in crises during the Civil War, she was all too aware of the changes that war could bring as she witnessed World Wars I and II. The Stock Market crashed in 1929, and her husband died in 1931 leaving her to navigate the Great Depression on her own. I look at Elizabeth’s life with awe and wonder. To have her stories of these events would have been a treasure trove. Unfortunately, because her memories weren’t saved we’re forced to speculate about her reaction to these events. Even still, her life inspires me to write about the struggles that I’ve experienced, though they may pale in comparison to great wars and depressions.


Ida: Generation Two

Elizabeth’s eldest daughter, Ida, joined the family in 1885. One of only two girls in a family with ten children, I imagine Ida running through the fields after her brothers. Though it was a different time, she was still a little sister to some and an older sister to others. Ida married Jim in 1906 while Theodore Roosevelt was president. Like her mother, Ida experienced war and financial struggle. As a pastor’s wife, she also helped in the community through these times offering food and help to others when it may have been difficult for her own family financially. She cared for both her husband and young children after Jim experienced a stroke. She had to push forward learning to farm the crops so that the family business would continue. In my great-grandmother’s case, we are lucky that my grandmother was able to share her stories with us. They are different than having these experiences in her words or voice, but we are getting closer to holding personal memories in hand.


Cortez: Generation Threeceb.hsgrad.age.17

My grandmother, Cortez, was part of Ida and Jim’s younger set of children. She ran across the farm fields, picked cotton, played with her brother, and looked up to her older sisters. She graduated from high school at age 17 in a town that isn’t much more than a dot on the map today. She also continued to educated herself through additional classes and courses in adulthood. She witnessed her friends leaving for the service to fight in far-away places. She married Lee Roy, a Navy sailor who fought on a ship in the Pacific Campaign of World War II. She saw segregation end. She was also one of the first women in her family to travel the United States moving across the country with her husband and children. She flew in a plane, drove her own car, and even wore pants in church. Most importantly, she taught her children about the experiences she had, and she began to journal her stories. And, she began recording our family’s history with us. In fact, she is the one that got us hooked on this thing called genealogy. After her death, my mother and I found several notebooks and scrapbooks of clippings showing world events and changes. Her written records pushed us forward in our understanding. We know more not only because we knew her but also because she recorded her life in her own words.


Cindy: Generation Four

My mother, Cindy, was the first child to join Cortez and Lee Roy’s family. She swept in early and stayed late taking care of both her parents in their later days. She was also the first woman in our direct line to hold not only one but two college degrees. Education wasn’t a fight – it was an assumption. She saw teachers leave for Vietnam and the children of friends head to the Gulf War. And, she’s recording her stories as well as those passed to her.


Rounding Out the Family: Generations Five and Six

My daughter and I round out the generations. We’ve moved into a new century. Automobiles are no longer a luxury. My great-grandmother saw the development of the telephone that took up half her kitchen wall while my daughter spends too much time on a cell phone that is small enough to fit into the palm of her hand. War is still present. Financial difficulties still plague us. However, saving our memories has become even easier. I’m recording my stories through technology such as the Saving Memories Forever app and an online blog. Thanks to the family history work of my grandmother and mother, my daughter knows only a life of shared family stories.

Our following generations will not have to speculate about our experiences because they will hold our stories in their hands in written and recorded form. The history present in our past generations is too important to lose.

How will you share your memories and experiences with your descendants?


Photo Credits:

Elizabeth Gorday Wilson, held in personal collection of Stephanie Pitcher Fishman. All rights reserved.

Cortez Bullington Flowers, held in the personal collection of Stephanie Pitcher Fishman. All rights reserved.


One thought on “Missed Opportunities: Generations of Lost Stories

  1. This gives such a crystal-clear picture of a line of women, through the generations, who experience world changes as a thoughtful part of their lives. What I see is that with each generation, these women’s thoughts and feelings and recorded memories seem more important to the women themselves. By contrast, I suppose, men have typically thought that their observations and memories were important — as in letters home from the Civil War, with descriptions and opinions.

    And now, today, technology and women’s increased sense of self-worth are coming together. The past and the present are becoming one continuum of remembered knowledge. I hope that trend keeps going. In Women’s Studies, one book we taught was “A Woman’s Way of Knowing.” It’s somewhat essentialist, but I still remember that book.

    Thanks for this post!

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