October is Family History Month in the United States and Canada. In Australia and New Zealand, we celebrated Family History Month in August. In the United States and Canada, this is your 12th time around. Down under, it was our first.
It’s a wonderful idea and one that invites everyone to get involved.
There are many ways to “do” family history. The list includes a variety of public and private activities. On the public side, you can go to seminars or research for hours at wonderful genealogical libraries. Or you can attend book launches or participate in history walks. Or join a local genealogy society. Privately, you can develop a family cook book or spend long hours on your computer sorting through information to attach to your family tree. Or you can simply record stories.
I’m inclined to favor the private approach because it directly involves the people I care most about, and because it gives me the chance to leave a record of what’s important to me. It gives me an opportunity to share the “real me” now and in the future.
Six Possible Reports
This year I had a milestone birthday. I turned 55. From my perspective, it was a historic event, and on that day, I received a call from my granddaughter and a letter from the government. I also wrote in my diary. But did my birthday translate into local news? Hardly.
As I think about the future, I ask myself how do I want to share my memories with immediate family and future generations? So I looked at six possibilities. The first three versions described below cover what actually happened. The other three versions assume I did nothing, but instead left the reporting of my life up to others. Consider these six possible “historical” versions.
Version 1 – what actually happened:
“Hello! How are you today my beautiful little SweetPea?”
“Good. Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday Dear Nana,Happy Birthday to You! Hip Hip Hooray!” …
“No, I already did the Hooray and sung you the song.”
“Well it was lovely! Thank you so much!! I’m going to have a beautiful day now you’ve rung me!”
“That’s ok. It’s my birthday soon too you know! Did you get a present from Da?”
“Yes I did, he gave me a guitar!”
“Because I want to learn how to play songs you can sing to”
“Love you, Nana”
“Love you more, SweetPea”
Version 2 – what the Government recorded:
Dear Mrs. Aubrey,
Congratulations on your birthday! Please accept this free hearing test on our behalf. Your health is important to us so take advantage of this offer and have your hearing tested today.
Version 3 – what I wrote:
Today I turned 55. Can you believe it? No, me either. I’m sure it’s a mistake. I still feel 16. Don’t know where these rotten flabby arms came from though. Oh, the Little One called this morning to sing Happy Birthday. She is so sweet… had to remind me it was her birthday soon too! I love those kids so much. Nothing in the world could be a better present than to hear their voices. And WHY does the Government think I can’t hear? I’d like to tell them a thing or two….
Version 4 – what newspapers reported: Nothing.
Version 5 – what SweetPea will want to know (when she turns 55) assuming my diary is misplaced and that I leave no other record: I wonder what Nana felt when she was 55…I wish I could hear her voice.
Version 6 – what future genealogy records might show:
Kim Aubrey, 3XG Grandmother – Born 4/9/1958.
The six versions above present a clear range of possibilities—from an intimate conversation with my granddaughter to a written diary to a blank page of unknowns to basic dry facts. There’s no contest. The conversation with my granddaughter wins by a landslide. Why?
Because it captures me.
To me, collecting oral history is the MOST meaningful historical tool we have. To ask a family member what they felt, saw, heard, tasted, danced, held, liked, disliked, drew, swam in, walked on, flew over, read, hid from, ran to, shared, loved or lost and to have them answer you, in their voice, with their emotions, is a priceless gift to be treasured.
While my diary provides a good glimpse, my recorded voice offers more. How I have ached to be able to have my father’s voice beside me again through my times of sorrow.
Time to Act
Don’t waste this month in dusty archives or in front of your computer screen staring at documentation. Get out there and record your living history orally. I’m going to have my granddaughter interview me on the Saving Memories Forever system.
We have the technology. We have the ability. We have the family members around us. What are we waiting for? I encourage you to enrich your records and to use this month to “talk history”.
SweetPea and I have already scheduled “Nana’s interview”.
Kim Aubrey is an Australian genealogist who has been researching for over 20 years. Kim shares ownership of kkgenealogy.com with her youngest daughter, Kristy, and undertakes all research with the “digging deeper, learning more” approach . To date, KKGenealogy has published 6 books. You can connect with Kim via kkgenealogy.com.