No Life is Ordinary—Please Write Your Story

August 26, 2015  - by 

In addition to finding the names, dates and place names of our ancestors, an equally important part of family history is the gathering family stories. One of the best places to begin this quest, is to begin be recording your own story.

When my husband became terminally ill, I asked him to write his life history so our children would know about him. I told him that if he didn’t tell his own story, they would only have my version. I guess it must have made him nervous because he got up the very next morning and began typing. He stuck to it for days. As new memories came back, he added those. After his death, he left us with a legacy of his life, his dreams and some valuable lessons. We treasure it. What a wonderful gift he left us.

Think about it. Who is better qualified to tell your story than you? And of those close to you, who is better qualified to share your observations of others around you, than  you? Gather the stories and put them together for your family.

My mother wrote her life story, typed single spaced with no margins using an old Royal Manual typewriter. She brought it to me almost apologetically saying that she had such an ordinary life that no one would be interested. She asked me to retype it on the computer and made me promise not to show it to anyone – not even my brothers – until she was gone.

Diane Sagers 2
Zola Christensen (left), mother of Diane Sagers.

After she passed away, I put it and my dad’s story into a booklet, added pictures and gave copies to my brothers. They were amazed at what they learned about our mother. One brother said, “why didn’t I know these things?” and another said “It was fascinating. It read like a novel. I couldn’t put it down.”

My mother’s “ordinary” life took her from early childhood memories of the end of World War I and transportation by carriage, through school years in the “Roaring 20’s,” finding a way to attend college and enjoying a courtship and marriage during the depression, and building a house during the years of shortages during World War II. It told of watching her tiny babies turning blue as they struggled for breath when they caught whooping cough and the fears that she might lose one of them. Many babies in town had passed away during that epidemic.

She told of her interests and talents, of my dad’s job changes and the effects on their family and of raising kids and spending time with grand kids. Of her mission with my father. Of dealing with grief, setbacks, and challenges. Of high spots in her life. Of very low spots in her life and of prayers for help to deal with them.

These were all things that we didn’t know and couldn’t know if she hadn’t written her life story. It provides for us an example of the strength and quiet courage of this very human woman.

Ordinary? Probably not. Not important? Absolutely not. If you think you have nothing to tell, think again. Write your story.

 

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  1. My grandmother is an incredible historian. Her work isn’t just about filling in our family tree, it is about knowing our ancestors stories. I have helped her with some of her projects, and I completely agree that it is important to collect our life stories.