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My great grandmother was a school teacher. She raised five children in small town Alberta. When she reached the point of near exhaustion, she would grab a book and a blanket. Then she’d tell her husband she needed a break and she’d disappear into the hillside to read for an hour or two. I never met my great grandmother, but this story helps me understand her personality.
You may be tracing your family tree. Many people enjoy genealogy and identifying their ancestors. Where people were born, what they did for a living, and other biographical facts are interesting. But to capture personality, you need stories.
Each family has its own way of deciding which stories are important. Some like to remember how they came to Canada with nothing and built a new life. Others find value in remembering moments when they nearly lost everything.
Your family might celebrate the ridiculous. They might enjoy listing the silly things they have done. Lots of us do because it’s fun to laugh. Your family might be drawn to romantic moments, acts of heroism, surprising situations, and all of the above.
The task is not easy. If you’ve decided to gather the stories of your family, where should you begin? You can’t record it all. If you wrote down everything, the details would fill libraries.
Here are a few suggestions on how you might begin:
◾Look for the moments that reveal personality most vividly.
◾Encourage input from everyone in the family.
◾Interview elder members of the family to gather stories about ancestors.
◾Look for humorous moments as well as heroic.
◾Choose a deadline for completing the project, such as a family reunion or milestone birthday. (Otherwise, the project may never be completed.)
◾Set a maximum length for each story; 500 words is likely enough.
◾Enjoy the treasure hunt. You’ll be delighted by what you find.