This weekend I spoke at the Illinois Family History Expo. One of the lectures I gave was Finishing The Story which is three case studies about my World War I and World War II ancestors who died in service.
My lecture basically goes like this for each case study:
- Tell the story I heard from a family member about that soldier
- Explain my initial research process
- Go through all the records, books, newspaper articles, and more I located on each soldier
- The process of proving, disproving, saying it is possible this story I heard is true
- And the process of writing the “final” story of my soldier even though all my questions were not answered
When I got to the end of the lecture the room was quiet. I asked if there were any questions and no one said a word. I thanked everyone for attending and after a few more very quiet moments, they clapped and started filing out. A few came up front to talk to me and ask questions or tell me the stories of their military ancestors.
A friend of mine attended this lecture and had never heard me give it. I asked her what she thought because the first time I gave this lecture people had questions during the lecture and afterward. There were ooo’s and aahhhh’s at certain points of the lecture.
This time there was none of that. I was concerned that because no one said a word, it might not have been very good. My friend said I had her about in tears twice as I told the stories and walked through the case studies. She said no one talks about the stories of those who died in service or how the families had to deal with the aftermath of waiting for news about their soldier being buried overseas and then years, yes years later, having the option to bring the remains back to the United States or buried overseas permanently. No one talks about the anguish and pain felt by those left behind. My lecture brought all this out.
Don’t underestimate the power of the stories that you may write and tell about your family, whether they were a soldier, baker, mother, politician, whatever. The research we conduct may never be finished and we may never have all the answers, but our words and stories have power.
Have you written your stories?