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Harry van Bommel, family history, Canada 150, genealogy, writing, publishing, recording, libel, interviewing, conversational style, timeline, data collection, preservation, Expo 67, centennial, sesquicentennial
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Recording Your Life and Family Stories
Part of the Canada 150 national project
Harry van Bommel
If you have picked up this book you would likely love to read the diaries and letters of your great great grandparents. Their day-to-day stories of life, love, hardship and accomplishments would give you a real sense of who they were and from where you came.
The same is true of your descendants. They would love to hear your stories of life in the 19th and 20th centuries – the dawn of space travel, computers, the Internet and telephone conversations where you can see the person across the ocean to whom you are talking. All of these ‘new’ things will seem so ‘old’ for your descendants and they will enjoy reading about them, but more importantly about you.
Story telling is cyclical. We grow up listening to stories and learning from them (whether we like what we learn or not!). As adults we move into the role of teller, teacher and guardian of our history.
Strong families are bound together by the glue of their stories. Family stories create and encourage a particular type of family relationship as defined by the storytellers. Even if we challenge the stories, we cannot ignore them or resist their influence over us since we heard them when we were young and impressionable.
Families that experienced pain, abuse, overwhelming poverty and violence can also become strong. Their stories can teach themselves and subsequent generations what not to do and what to do instead. If we told only ‘good’ or ‘happy’ stories, we would never learn the lessons of peace after hearing war stories; the lessons of the power of love and compassion after stories of abuse and violence; the lessons of finding inner strength after a period of self-doubt, illness or isolation. If we do not record and tell the stories of the Holocaust or the deaths on D. Day, how will we learn to avoid similar tragedies. If we ignore the consequences of addictions and poverty, how can we overcome either.
Let your stories, ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ teach your descendants. Do not use your stories to get even with those who have hurt you – use them to help your family and friends learn from your experiences. It is not the details of your suffering that are important but the details of how you overcame that suffering.
Stories connect us to our past and to our present loved ones. Our family stories teach us how our family began and what it stands for. They teach us what roles we are supposed to fulfill and how we are fulfilling them.
Our belief in the truth of our stories reflects who we are, what we believe in and what lessons we hope others will learn from us. History is nothing more than this re-creation of events through our eyes and hearts. May we repeat the successes of our ancestors and avoid, or minimize, their failures as we provide a role model to our own descendants.
Table of Contents
PART 1 Your Outline by the End of the Day
The I don't want to forget List
What rises above the rest?
PART 2 The Who, What, Where, When, Why and How
Why are you producing a record and for whom?
Organizing your record
Physical, emotional and spiritual pain
Where to work
Revised Outline Draft
PART 3 More Depth and Colour to Your Story
PART 4 Helping Others Record Their Stories
PART 5 Appendices
Ways to generate further ideas