Tuesday 1 August 2017

Stories from people I know

We don’t often think about the stories our contemporaries might share when we are looking at our genealogical research. But people my age have lived long enough to have heard about and possibly been around when important historical events happened, as well as those that touched their own families. Family history is not only about who was alive hundreds of years ago but also about who we have been in contact with during our own lifetimes.

How often have you seen or heard the phrase, “Where were you when….?”

You may remember details of things that are now reported as important historical events, such as the shooting of a US President, a war fought in some far off place in the world or the births of future Kings. Such events may have had some personal impact on a member of your family – or yourself. Perhaps you or someone close to you was in the wrong place when a major natural disaster occurred (see my previous blog posts about Natural Disasters and Family Misfortunes). Maybe a special trip or birthday comes to mind because it happened at the same time as an important and newsworthy occasion.

I was reminded of this aspect when a friend asked if I had seen a piece he published recently in The Devon Family Historian (May 2017 issue). It was titled Memories: A Country Boy. Alick Lavers related his experience as a small boy of the bombing of Plymouth during the early years of the WWII and, in particular, when a German plane crashed in the countryside on 24 November 1941 not far from where he lived.

It is a poignant story, one that still lives vividly in his personal memories. I recommend reading the piece if you can (If you send me your email address in the comments section, I will forward you a copy. I won’t publish your email contact details.). His article serves as an example that we do not always need to look in books or newspapers for information about events and how they impacted people. Sometimes we can just ask our friends and relatives. Many of them are now of similar (advanced) age as ourselves.

I do confess that I have not written much about my own life and those people I came in contact with. To my descendants, my personal recollections and story will, of course,be part of their family history. Perhaps this blog post might be a start in that direction, if I can remember what happened decades ago. Good thing I have photos and many documents that go back through several generations.

When recording your family’s history, remember to contact friends and relatives to see what they remember about significant events within your and their living memory as well as what they may have been told by their parents.