Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Preservation and Interpretation of Our Ancestor Stories

Today I am honored to have Dr. Bill [William L.] Smith guest post for us.

Dr. Bill [as he is affectionately known] is the author of the 2009 book, 13 Ways To Tell Your Ancestors Stories [available at here]. He is also the author of eight [yes, count them 8] blogs! My personal favorite being Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories. And he conceptualized and organized the facebook group Tell Your Ancestor Stories [which is growing daily!].

Very graciously, Dr. Bill agreed to write the following article for this blog. Please take a few moments to read this fascinating piece regarding Preservation and Interpretation of our Ancestor Stories:

Preservation and Interpretation of our Ancestor Stories

The mantra of many of the folks working on our National Heritage Areas across the country with the National Park Service is "Preservation and Interpretation." It seems to me that this concept works very nicely as well with the Ancestor Stories we are discovering and writing through our genealogy and family history work and studies every day. As we grow to understand those who came before us, our ancestors, they become living beings again and their stories can speak to us in many ways. And, each and every day, we ourselves are creating new ancestor stories for those who come after us.

I really like the quote from artist Judy Shintani [ and] that she allowed me to use on the back cover of my book: "Telling a story about an ancestor can be a gift to oneself and to one's family. It is powerful to have your stories heard." This is what I am trying to promote among those willing to listen. And, it is not only the stories of our ancestors alone that are important... it is the social history of the times in which they lived and were a part. A story set in the Civil War in Tennessee is much different from a similar family story set in frontier Arizona or gold rush Alaska. The vital statistics of marriage and children and births and deaths may look very similar, but the interpretation based on the setting of the story is different and each carries a very different message to us living today... and to our grandchildren tomorrow.

In "13 Ways to Tell Ancestor Stories" I have made an attempt to assist the people who know these stories, who have heard them, who have discovered them through their research to share them with the world; not to simply collect and store them, as important as that role is. This sharing takes many forms, of course. It all starts with oral story-telling, of course. And we all do this to one degree or another. Some think you have to write a book or a newsletter to share your stores. Many do this very effectively, although it can also become costly. In recent years, genealogy blogging has become a phenomenon and continues to grow. Thomas MacEntee, the father of numbers current genealogy bloggers at over 800 and growing at 10 to 20 a week; he lists them weekly on his blog as they come to his attention. Venues for story-telling, and ancestor story telling in particular, continue to expand. From schools to theme parks and shopping centers, from churches to nursing homes, people enjoy hearing good stories. These stories can now be heard on podcasts, videos, and each of the new technology innovations that comes upon us. We have gone from simple web pages, to blogs, to wikis, to huge corporate sponsored date bases and cloud computing applications as tools of the story-telling and related research activities.

If you haven't been reading the genealogy blogs that are out there, today, I urge everyone who sees this to expand your horizon and do so. There are many, many great stories being told every day. Some are long, some are short, some are poignant, some are tragic, many are happy and make you smile. Cyndi has (more than one) great site(s). I mentioned one blog of Thomas earlier. I have more than one. Most blogs list other blogs that person follows. Stop by and check us out. I guarantee satisfaction. If not, let me know, and I'll suggest a couple more places to look. The stories are there. We'd like you to add yours. Families are Forever! ;-)

Keep these ancestor stories coming!
Dr. Bill ;-)

Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories
Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

1 comment:

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Thank you for the opportunity to become a part of your great blog. I am honored! ;-)