Sunday, August 16, 2015

Scrapbooking DOA: Anecdotal Tales

Anyone working on family histories or scrapbooks knows that "interviewing" people and getting stories about the past can really add personality and depth to the stories you're trying to tell.

If the person is speaking of their own past, you assume that a lens of time and emotion is applied to their stories whether they know it or not, but the essence of the tale is almost certainly true and worth noting.

When they speak of their contemporaries, including their parents or grandparents, a larger lens of refinement is applied depending on what relationships with those people have been.  These stories are valuable for inclusion because they help paint a larger picture for future readers, but you need to note somehow what these relationships are, or have been, so anyone would know it isn't necessarily an eyewitness account of events.

Anytime the person is speaking of someone from the past who they didn't really know or interact with themselves, I think marking these stories as anecdotal  (a short usually amusing account of an incident, esp a personal or biographical one...Free Dictionary) lets everyone know it is just a story passed along down the years.  As you're writing your own section, you might want to make things pretty clear, so your tale doesn't get enlarged or modified.  Could work.

As I'm going through old photographs, and getting birth and death and whatever other information is out there, I know I can't really bring the previous generations to life.  I do have anecdotal tales of some of the way back folks.  It seems to me that what survives as anecdotes is often not the everyday things in a person's life, but the out of the ordinary or borderline scandalous stuff.

Did this couple really have a line drawn through the center of the house and one side was his, and one was hers?  And did he "have a woman on the side"?

Even more Dept. of the Wierd...did this woman have such a strong constitution that she survived her Atlantic crossing in a barrel?  Did she use her iron will to arrange marriages, possibly including the unhappy one above?  Was there an opportunity to follow some love to California (which would have brought considerable relief to the locals) which she turned down?

I'm wondering if I should keep some of these stories in my own notes, or should I include them in just my own book and give everyone else just the facts?


  1. Oh, for a time machine to go back and talk to my ancestors. I have a feeling they weren't as colorful as yours. I'd use that machine to talk to some of yours, too.

    1. Anyone doing genealogy always warns you need to talk to older folks while they're around. You think you will remember stories but you don't. I am not too interested in just names and dates, which is why I'm not going back far with these. I want the people I have photographs of to be the stories that are told. Anything else is the proverbial icing.
      I like your time machine idea! Let me know what you find out ;)