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What If the Stories Were Never Told?

While browsing the website for the Association of Personal Historians recently, I found this piece that speculates on what if the last-known living survivor of the Titanic disaster had never been told the story of what happened that night.

Millvina Dean was just a newborn at the time of the sinking and only learned of her father’s sacrifice years later when her mother passed on the story of that tragic night.  Yet, as you can read here, the course of Dean’s life was irrevocably impacted by the events of that night, in more than obvious ways — understanding and knowledge that would have been lost for her and future descendents had the story not been told.

Although this is an admittedly dramatic example, as noted by the post’s author H. Fran Morley (Content Editor, Association of Personal Historians), “the stories from our ancestors help us to better understand who we are today. And our descendants will appreciate the stories that we capture today from our own generation.

Posted in: Making of SDNT

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  1. Sarah White November 2, 2012

    Thanks for checking out the Association of Personal Historians’ blog. I feel strongly that stories are the vessels through which family nature is recognized and celebrated. If we don’t tell the stories about our ancestors’ inherent gifts and the experiences that shaped them, how will we convey the gifts we wish for the family that comes after us?

    -Sarah White
    2012-2013 President, Association of Personal Historians

  2. Linda Coffin, APH Executive Director November 2, 2012

    This is so true! My great-grandfather’s sister, at the ripe old age of 87, typed up her memories of the family’s journey from Scotland to the wilds of Wisconsin in 1841. She was a child of only 6 in 1841 but her memories of those early days were remarkably clear. When she typed up her little manuscript on onionskin paper, my father and his older brother were gangly teenagers who had no interest at all in the family history. But I was born 15 years after Auntie Isabella’s death and I became the family’s historian. Isabella wrote her story with the faith that someone would come along later who would care about it — and I did. Without her stories of the Wisconsin frontier, so many details of my Reid ancestors would have been totally lost to me (poor dirt farmers don’t get written up in the history books).

  3. D. Fran Morley November 3, 2012

    Hi Steve, Thanks so much for sharing my blog post. Linda and Sarah have said it best: if the stories aren’t told (and saved for future generations) they will be lost forever. Good luck on collecting stories about your dad – and come back often to visit us at the Association of Personal Historians. You’ll find a worldwide community of like-minded individuals, all working to make sure that the stories ARE told (and saved)!
    ~D. Fran Morley, Content Editor, Association of Personal Historians

  4. Annie Payne November 5, 2012

    I have been interviewing Australians about their life stories since 1988 and have yet to hear a dull or a boring story. Many of my clients need to be coaxed by their family into being interviewed and are often surprised by the questions I ask. However, when the story is edited and handed back to the family, everyone is amazed at the depth and breadth of the stories their parent or grandparent has kept tucked away inside.
    Through the collegiality of fellow life history professionals in the APH, I have been able to share some of my countrymen’s stories and have been privvy to many moving, emotional, courageous and some downright funny stories from other people around the world. The collection and preservation of such stories is important work.


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