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The Importance of Capturing Family Stories

black history

Over the past few years, I’ve been researching my family’s history. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck. I’ve only been able to find information about three previous generations of my family. I thought I was doing well until one of my friends told me that she can trace her family’s heritage to 35 generations.

I didn’t get serious about learning my family’s roots until I had kids. By then my grandparents and several other relatives had already died. I found some information on online resources, but they could never replace the interaction with a real person.

I wish I had spent more time talking to my grandparents when they were alive. They could have told me several stories about their parents and grandparents. Most of all, I would have loved to learn about their lives.

Since I cannot talk to my grandparents (they died in the 80s), I’ve made a point to spend time with their children – my aunts and uncles. Most of them are in their late 60s and 70s and I want to make sure that I get to hear about their lives while I can. They’ve taught me more about my family’s history than I could have ever learned on Ancestry.com.

My uncle told me how his grandfather narrowly escaped a lynch mob in rural Louisiana. He also told me about his experiences in Vietnam. I had never heard these stories before. If I hadn’t asked him about them, they may have never been revealed.

I’ve encouraged my children to interview their grandparents while they have the opportunity. My father-in-law told my daughter the story of his mother’s carrying a refrigerator across the kitchen. His mother was only 5’2″ and weighed a little over 100 lbs. My daughter was totally impressed by her great-grandmother’s strength and was eager to learn more.

I love to watch my children interact with their grandparents because it gives me hope that our family’s stories and legacy will be passed on to the next generation.

Connect with Fred on his blog Mocha Dad or via Twitter. You can also read more of his posts on Babble.

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Photo by Elvert Barnes via Flickr Creative Commons

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