What Calls Us To These Personal Histories
I have to admit that I don’t find the History Channel very interesting. My husband watches it constantly and aside from something that occasionally catches my eye, I find most discussions of political, military and social history rather boring. I am horrible at remembering dates and while I can recount the presidents since I was born, prior to that, I don’t know my Adamses from my Tafts or even remotely where they fall in the historical timeline. It just doesn’t really interest me or capture my attention.
Now YOUR history, or your story, that’s a different matter. I am deeply moved and motivated by what gives a life. What dice-roll of events, personality traits and chance happenings call forth the footprint we each make on our world. How we affect our family, our community and the family of man. I consider it my purpose in life to help people tell those stories in a way that articulates who they are in the world and why they do what they do and I consider it my gift to be able to call out these stories and relate them in an artistic manner to their current and future generations.
But I also understand that our personal histories are not of interest to everyone. This is evidenced by the boxes of old photos and ephemera that constantly end up in junk and antique shops around the world. A family, sorting through possessions of a departed family member makes that decision that these items and the stories associated with them, have no value. Or at least not enough value to save and pass on. How many times I have stopped in an antique store to wonder who the people in the photos are. I have even bought some of these photo albums because the subject matter seems interesting to me or the photos are collected in a beautiful vintage leather album. Usually there is no information linking the photos to their correct owners.
As someone who combs genealogical and personal history blogs, I occasionally come across a story about a family reunited with an old photo album or a pack of letters. Recently someone bought a box of personal effects on Ebay and when they went through them, did the research and contacted the relatives who were thrilled to receive these items.
But I do also know that one’s interest in their family history can turn on a dime. A life can mosey along it’s course for years and then one day, one finds an old letter or a relative’s name appears in a library search and suddenly the hunt is on. I recently read an article about a man, Bob Smith, who retired to Idyllwild California on some property that belonged to his family. While reading a box of his grandfather’s letters, something stirred in him and he went on to not only research and write a book about his family’s history but he also wrote another book about the history of the community. I have no doubt that Mr. Smith’s historical fascination for uncovering the truth about the previous generations will continue, as will mine.
We each have our hobbies and interests but for those of us who are personal history buffs, picking up the clues and pieces that make up a story can be so deeply satisfying.
Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.