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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ten Things Oral History Can Teach You

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Congaree National Park, Robin Foster 2013
Oral history can include written or spoken accounts that were passed down to us for generations.  You probably have a few stories that you heard while growing up, or there may be stories that your family rehearsed during family gatherings.   To illustrate the importance of documenting these stories, here are  ten things you can learn from oral history:

1.  You can discover the names of people that you did not know that were related to you

2.  Personal accounts of historical events (local or far away) can help us understand how people may have interpreted what happened.  Additional insights can be gained that were not obvious from a newspaper.

3.  It is impossible with your own memory to reconstruct the past.  Gathering the recollections of those who were born before you extends your own memory back beyond your birth date.

4.  Perhaps there are talents or characteristics that you have that were inherited from a particular ancestor.  Discovering the ancestors you are most like can teach you a lot about yourself.

5.  Are you curious as why certain family members seem hesitant to talk about branches of the family or periods in history?  If you are fortunate, someone in the family can help you understand why, or you may find clues in things that were recorded in journals, family letters, or newspapers.  Sometimes there is a lot hiding behind the thick silence.

6.  Stories reveal a lot about the decisions our ancestors had to make.  You may wonder what you would have done in the same circumstances.

7.  Learning about the strengths and weakness and hardships and triumphs our ancestors can tell us something about our own potential and can equip us to to do as well or better than they were able to.  We can learn from their mistakes.

8.  The oral history that is passed down to us illustrates the values important to our family.  Your own identity is dependent upon these values and whether or not you feel obligated to embrace them.  Have you discovered values that you have lived by that an ancestor also embraced?

9.  The life lessons gleaned from stories told can be called upon and shared in the form of a non-threatening story for a wayward youth or during times family members are facing hardships.

10.  Often, descendants feel hard pressed to ambitiously follow a course in life only to learn that they had an ancestor who had a similar desire that went unfulfilled.  We are an extension of our ancestors.  Our children are an extension of us.  What aspirations are we unknowingly embedding in future generations?  What are others we want to purposefully plant into their hearts?

I hope this article has caused you to ponder our family stories and that if there is a story waiting to be saved, that you will take a moment to do so:  FamilySearch - Add A New Story.

Check out a few oral history pins below:


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