September 2018 Pointers from Papa

I have done a lot of family history research. In almost all cases, I only know this much about my ancestors:

  • Name
  • Birth date and place
  • Death date and place
  • Marriage date and spouse
  • Children, including their birth, death, and marriage dates

In many cases, I don’t even know that much. But, I rarely know more than this. I rarely have a photo of them. I rarely know anything at all about their lives.

There are reasons that we know little about our progenitors. In most cases, they were working hard each day to eek out a meager existence in a difficult world. There were no computers, of course. Most were not “journal writers.” Even if they kept a journal, it may have been lost or destroyed or simply not found its way to us down the years. However, we live in a world of computers, where it is easy to leave information about our lives. But do we record the details of our lives so that our posterity can know about us? Some of us don’t consider ourselves writers—and then there’s inertia. It’s just hard to start writing a personal history.

I wanted to write my personal history for years—but I just couldn’t get started. It seemed like a monumental effort. I didn’t know how to organize it. I didn’t know how to outline the book and put things in a logical order. I had all sorts of reasons why I just couldn’t get started. Then one day I had an idea. Instead of writing the “story of my life,” which seemed daunting, I’d write the “stories of my life,” which seemed doable. I started jotting down a list of things/stories that had happened in my life, that meant something to me, and I just wrote each individual story. Eventually, I had dozens of stories from my life—childhood, youth, young adult, and on. And I compiled them into a book. (See the photos.)

Now, my children and grandchildren (to the extent they’re interested) and beyond that, later generations can know about my life. Not all of them will be interested. And many of them won’t be interested until they get older. But I can tell you this, if I had a book that shared stories from the lives of my pioneer ancestors who left Iceland and migrated to Utah, it would be precious to me. If I had a book that shared stories of my ancestors who left England and Switzerland and came to America, it would be priceless to me. And I believe 200 hundred years from now, my little book of the “stories of my life” will be precious to at least some of my descendants.

And, instead of just knowing when I was born and died, they’ll know me.

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