Among my other endeavors, I thoroughly enjoy guest speaking – big group, small group, doesn’t matter. I have a page on my website, http://charliehudson.net that lists the primary topics I speak to, and one of them is “Everyone Has a Story: Creating Family Histories and Memoirs”. While I have always had an interest in family history, it was really brought home to me during the period when I was coping with my first mother-in-law’s health crises that ended in her death and the settling of the estate. That experience, was of course, the background for my book, Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, and in Part 2 of the book, I have a section about writing your family history or memoirs.
As a quick differentiation, capturing the family history may be guided by one person, but it is likely to involve multiple members of the family, whereas memoirs in general will be told by one or two people with perhaps input from others. Both are likely to contain old photos, maybe recipes, letters, etc., and perhaps portions from a professional geneaologist. The primary point that I make in my presentations is that in our mobile society, it is so easy to lose track of those stories and that as we (or whomever) in the family reaches later years, capturing those family memories and stories can be a wonderful project. Today’s technology and internet can be great resources and the project can be launched to coincide with a birthday, anniversary, family reunion, and so forth. One of the things that my father has mentioned (and even though he’s in good health for his age, he is having memory issues) is that when he was a boy, they didn’t have electricity or running water in the house. It existed, but not in the really rural areas and few people had vehicles. Think of the change between then and now from both a technology and availability perspective. Do you really think those are stories that should just disappear? And that is how I close the presentation. If you don’t capture these memories, who will? So, if you’re casting about for something interesting to do or have an older relative who is, this might be the time to get started.