There was once a time when grandparents sat amidst a group of wide-eyed grandchildren telling stories of days gone by. As the global village shrinks and families spread out across the nation and the world, the tradition of sharing family stories orally is in decline.
Oral tradition – passing stories by word of mouth – has been the primary means of sharing family histories until the very recent past. As families spread out across the globe, it is far less likely that multigenerational families will spend extended time together; however, just because the method of communication is changing, does not mean that the global village will be the death of family history.
Despite the fact that extended families are more separated than ever, modern technology narrows the communication gap caused by distance. As such, families do not have to be distant even though they live far apart.
The same holds true for sharing family histories. While family histories may not be shared at the dinner table as they once were, it does not mean that they can’t be shared. The same modern technology that allows families to stay close also allows them to communicate family histories from one generation to the next. The only difference is the absence of the dinner table and the means of communication.
Since the written word is a much more permanent – and accurate – method of preserving family history than dinner table conversation, it is actually recommended that all families make an effort to preserve their family histories in written form.
In some cases, the stories will only hold significance for the family itself; however, in many cases, one family’s history may be representative of an entire town or era. Just as historians and students today study Revolutionary or Civil War era letters to learn about what life was like for regular people, one day, people will turn to our electronic transmissions to learn what life was like in the early 21st Century.
Those people who do not feel confident enough to write their family histories themselves should seek out professional writers to ghost write for them. The most important thing is to get the stories in written form to preserve them for later generations, but some families may even choose to go a step further and self-publish their family histories in a nicely bound book. There are many self-publishing services that copy and bind books. Because of new print on demand technology, people can order 10 copies or 1,000 copies. Some of these services even sell the books online, making it easy for family members and members of the community to obtain copies.
No matter how you choose to proceed, preserve your family’s history in written form before the stories are lost to coming generations.
This article was posted on September 29, 2005