Saturday, January 1, 2011

Second-Hand Memories

I have lots of first-hand memories.  Don't we all!  They come from interactions with people, from experiences, from reading a book or watching a movie, from living life.  I also have many second-hand memories, the result of others (mostly my aunts and a cousin) retelling their experiences in life and experiences with older family members including my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.  Some of these family members - ancestors - I never knew or didn't know when they were younger.

Another person's memory, given to me, becomes my own memory.  Not my own in the same way as first-hand experience, by my own, nonetheless.  My imagination embellishes the story my aunt told about my father and the homemade candy until I can almost see him as a little fellow in the farmhouse kitchen.  I know by heart the house where my mother and her parents and sisters lived in the story my aunt told about her own grandfather teasing the grandchildren.  I never saw the factory where two of my great-uncles were killed but I’ve seen postcards of the factory and read newspaper articles about their deaths.

These second-hand experiences become my own memories, and I share these experiences and memories here on this blog.  I believe sharing first- and second-hand memories is a way that we can come to know those we have never met in person.  It’s also a way to keep the memories of our ancestors alive.  This is important to me because I can learn from my ancestors.  The life of every one of my ancestors (if I can uncover/discover the story) offers a lesson in courage, determination, compassion, dedication, faith, or other worthy attributes and/or even some unsavory lessons in how not to live life.

I believe every one of my ancestors, not just the rich and famous, deserves to be remembered.  I believe those who come after me, my daughters, in particular, and all descendants of those who came before, can expand their memories by learning about their ancestors.  I hope that my family members who read posts about our ancestors will remember and share their experiences with their own children.  I hope they'll share both their first- and second-hand memories.


Copyright © 2011, Nancy Messier


  1. What a lovely post, Nancy! Just what I needed to read this evening.

  2. You said exactly what I believe, and so eloquently. Great way to wind up the old year and get ready for the new!

  3. Thank you, Nolichucky Roots and Greta. Happy New Year to you both.

  4. I definitely agree- I never quite thought about it in these terms, but it's so true. Happy New Year!!

  5. Nancy,
    I think you just explained the very essence of the joy of genealogy! What a wonderful post!

  6. I love the notion of "second hand memories." Isn't even more interesting when they become so entwined with our first-hand memories that we can't tell the difference. I guess that is what we might call "inheirited" memory.

  7. Nancy, A wonderful post. You said it so well --- and we all know exactly the feeling. Wonderful.

  8. Thank you Natasha, Dorene, Family Curator, and Joan, for coming to visit and commenting. I appreciate it.

    Family Curator, thanks for adding your thoughts to mine. When I was writing this I was thinking about my twin niece and nephew who were born when I was 16 and all the memories my family and I had about them and how we shared those memories as they grew. A few years ago I asked my nephew if he remembered a particular event. He was probably too young to remember but having heard about relatives' memories of the event, the memory had almost become his own. Definitely entwined!

  9. Nancy, this was a wonderful post!! So well stated, I feel the exact same way - all my "acquired" memories are probably even more precious to me than my own since many of the people who gave them to me are no longer here.


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