“Your life has value and this is something that you should record, not only for yourself but for your family so your life story can live on. “ ~Tom Ladegaard, founder of Eternal Roots
2016 wasn’t that long ago but the message hasn’t changed, and it won’t. Telling your story is important!
Check out these stories of ancestors’ past who probably didn’t think that their story was important. However, as genealogists, family historians and seekers of knowledge, these are the exact stories we are looking for!
- Grandma and her friend jumped out of a burning building. At age 14 and 16, grandma and her friend were employed as seamstresses. One day, while at work, a machine caught fire and the girls were forced to jump out the 5th-floor window to the roof of the 3rd story building beside them. The grandson never heard of this story until a newspaper article was presented to him. He only knows as much about this story as the newspaper provides but what if grandma had told this story more often or with better details? Did they go back to work the next day or week after? What were the long-term effects of this event? Was it something they thought about later in life? As much as the women probably didn’t think this was a story to tell, he was quite excited to know that grandma had quite the adventure!
- The Prohibition Era Great Grandpa Bootlegger. Family stories always told a woman that her great-grandfather was killed in a car accident on Christmas Eve when her grandmother was only three years old. It was an unfortunate event as the grandmother had no memory of her father. In conducting research on the accident to obtain more details such as exactly when, where and how, she also learned that great grandpa was as a manufacturer of moonshine and was arrested three times for transporting and selling it between county lines. This is not the research that she expected to uncover but it was still exciting. Quick history lesson: The United States had an era of prohibition where the sale and consumption of alcohol was prohibited by law (1920-1933).
- The WWII Navy sailor who only gave vague hints of what happened during his time in the service. This man was stationed on a merchant ship that was responsible for moving supplies to troops overseas. Over time, his stories were pieced together to determine that during the war, his ship was moving through the Panama Canal and had to be unloaded and reloaded as it passed through each lock. By the time the ship was through, the war ended and needed to return to port…. back through the same way it came. The ship turned around and had to go through the loading and unloading process again. Funny 50 years later, but probably really annoying at the time.
- The rumor that your third great grandfather fled Ireland for the United States because he stole a horse. In my own research, I’ve been tracking down a Patrick Murphy which is quite the common name in Ireland apparently. I’ve found a number of Patrick Murphy’s who came over at the exact same time and lived in the same area of Virginia and married Ann’s and Mary’s.I’ve seen the story that a horse was stolen and he was given the opportunity to come to the US to work off his debts which follows as him being a stable manager in the census records. Another story involves joining the family business as a tavern/innkeeper.
- When you research a family that is always in the newspapers but with small and vague details, you learn that the only son joined the Army at 27, was honorably discharged two years later then lived the rest of his life 2,400 miles away from his hometown seemingly never to return. While his early life can be pieced together, his life after the Army is a blur. Why did he move so far away? Why does he seem to be estranged from his family with the exception of one sister? What was his story? Why is there a 10-year gap where he doesn’t appear in any record found so far?
The stories of these “average people” can be a moment of reflection and argue the common belief that “my story isn’t important”. However, generations later, it’s these stories that make us want to emphasize and remind everyone that yes, your story is important and that your life has meaning and that it needs to be preserved and told to the future generations.