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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Journal With Impact: Family History

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.” Corrie ten Boom

Family Stories

Some family stories are repeated every time relatives get together. Sometimes as an icebreaker, or common ground, or a particular incident that no one wants forgotten. Perhaps to reflect an incident of pride or, unfortunately, to nurture a grudge. And like the telephone whisper game the reality at the beginning may not be what is still being passed down through the generations.

Or to clear perspective. A cousin and I talked recently about one of our relatives. Because she is older than me she knew more details of an incident that I, as a five-year-old at the time, had heard but not fully understood. In turn, I was able to share a later update in my teens, which she had not been aware of. Between the two of us we realized a huge gap had existed for both of us. And the reality gave us both a fresh perspective.

Journal Sources
Some places to look to fill in the gaps or jog your own stories are photo albums, especially those that include anecdotes or vignettes. Look for those both with or without stories, autobiographies and biographical sketches. Look to see if any family members kept a memory book, either as an individual or for the whole family.

Is there a family tree or special notes in a family Bible? Did anyone keep a record of archives? Sometimes even a day-today diary that only lists chores or business can open up a picture of the past no one was aware of or had forgotten.

Past. Think of a specific relative in your past. What do you wish you knew about their particular circumstances or their feelings?

I knew at some point in my life that my paternal grandmother had crossed the Atlantic in 1911 to join her husband. She had three young children under the age of ten. Yet the full concept didn’t connect with me until I saw a ship from that era and the unit size she and the children would have occupied. I was stunned at the deprivation and wished I could know more about her courage to immigrate. All I had of her were a few pictures.

Future. Write a letter to a grandchild or great grandchild, niece or nephew in the future. What do you want them to know about their family—what do you feel is so important that it must be remembered?

Action Steps:

1. Make a list of some key relatives in your past. Then choose two from different generations and write a letter to them.

2. Put it aside and then re-read the following day. Were you surprised at some of your questions? Did you think of some more?

3. Now write one to a future family member. Again leave overnight and revisit. And surprises?

Share: What has been a special story that has been passed along to you?

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