Monday, February 8, 2016

About Stories at RootsTech 2016

There were two presentations at RootsTech this weekend that I thought dovetailed into each other.  The first was Bruce Feiler's keynote address on Thursday.  His presentation was interesting and entertaining but for me, the heart of his ideas came toward the end when he spoke of integrating family stories into our everyday lives.  Not just stories about the good, happy, easy times, but also stories about the hard times, the times of sorrow, the times when we or someone in our family overcame a challenge.  I liked his ideas about how stories of our experiences help us create, and possibly direct, our memories.

I first "met" Bruce through a New York Times article a few years ago and, being strongly impressed, wrote the post, Good Reasons to Tell Family Stories.  Here, below, you can watch all (or part) of his keynote address.

The other presentation that impressed me so strongly was David Isay's Friday keynote about StoryCorps.  He tells what it is, how it came about, and showed several videos that were recorded at StoryCorps locations.  Most impressive is that all the videos are being saved at the Library of Congress.  Watch his address to learn more.

After listening to both presenters the thought that settles on my mind is that there are different kinds of stories we can tell about our own lives and/or the lives of our ancestors.  Some are the big stories of our lives, stories about the major events, the monumental moments, the stories that will stay with us forever for having effected us so strongly.  Other stories are of little events, brief interactions, tiny experiences from our lives, stories that, in one way or another, made us who we are.

I think both are important to record.  (It matters not whether we have a receptive audience now:  sometime someone will appreciate and perhaps take inspiration from our lives.)

Julie Goucher's Book of Me meme a few years ago was helpful because it offered prompt suggestions to record stories.  But then a journal's a great way to record stories, too (which makes me ask myself why I'm not currently writing in a journal on a regular basis).  When I was writing my own Book of Me posts one of my daughters commented that she liked those best of all my posts. 

Our descendants will appreciate our stories, which can be powerful and provide insight into our personalities.  Are you recording your own stories?  Are you recording your unwritten ancestors' stories?


Copyright ©2016 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. That your daughter likes your "book of me" stories best is no surprise. One day we wake up and are curious about our parents' lives. It's easy to relate to stories of someone we actually know. Of course, then there are people like you and me and countless genea-bloggers who are curious about older generations too. But for the vast majority, stories about their parents will suffice.

    1. You're right, Wendy. I just wish I could bring to life the lives of ancestors as easily as I can tell stories of my own life!

  2. Hi Nancy, I'm just catching up here and appreciate this post. It is the stories, really, that are most important to me. I get distracted by the genealogy research because that is also interesting, but I want to focus more on the stories. I wish I were better at writing! I am constantly inspired by what you write and these are not even my people! I want to write stories about my ancestors, but really don't know how. I have started and I try, but find it very difficult. And I need to write more of my own story as well! So much writing...

  3. Thank you for your kind words and thoughts, Kathleen. But I think you are an excellent writer! I think it's sometimes hard to get started and I find I just have to write and write -- any thoughts or memories that come to mind, any facts that I'm trying to include -- and then edit after. (I spend way too long on each post, writing, editing, then editing again.) I'm sure your descendants will thank you for the stories you write.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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