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Begin with what you know

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

Where do you begin when researching your family history and telling your family stories? It’s simple, you begin with what you already know.

Most of us grew up sitting around the dinner table or at other family gatherings, hearing parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles telling stories about relatives, living or dead. Some of these stories were told over and over, others you may only have heard once.

Many of these tales began with the words ‘I remember when…’, ‘When I was a girl... ‘, or ‘Do you remember…?‘ ‘Did you know that…?’ or some similar opening.

These stories were entertaining and interesting to us, and may even have become part of a living family ritual, developed around events such as Holiday dinners, other cultural celebrations, and special events such weddings or funerals. These were events where particular anecdotes were brought out and told again and again, anecdotes that had the wonderful effect of creating a shared history or experience. These tales act like a kind of social glue that give a sense of belonging and maybe even identity.

I suggest that you begin by writing about what you remember of the stories that were told in your family. Some of these stories will be your own memories, and some of the stories that you recall you’ll have heard from parents or grandparents.

Take it further and ask your relatives to confirm, retell and elaborate on the stories you remember being told.

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