Helping with Personal and Family Histories

A group of us elderly folks were standing around during a break at the family history center just reminiscing and having a great time, discussing and laughing about the days of yore. While we were thus engaged it struck me how fun and important it is to reminisce. One lady had brought a copy of an old 1916 Ogden Standard Examiner newspaper which had an article about her grandmother who was celebrating her eightieth birthday at the time.

We happened to notice some other items that were interesting such as some events happening in the war in Europe ; World War I was in full sway. We noticed the price of grocery store items and how things that were pennies then are dollars now. Leaving the paper, we all began to remember and share things about our youth. One person’s thought stimulated a remembrance in another and we went on and on for some time. It was exciting and very enjoyable for those few minutes.

Reminiscing, what a great word. It struck me that reminiscing would be a great way to stimulate people to write their personal and family histories. It is similar to a brain storming session where a group of people get together and concentrate on one issue or problem and try to come up with as many ideas as possible in order to eventually identify a best solution. The advantage of brainstorming is that one person’s idea can spark a new or slightly different but maybe a better idea from another one. Likewise one person’s reminisce will very likely stimulate a remembrance in another that had completely left there conscience. A memory that they would never have been able to bring to the forefront of thought had another person not been the stimulus.

Years ago, I was Branch President of a local nursing home and because of that experience I have continued visiting the nursing home weekly, it is both a sad and a joyous experience, because some of the elderly seldom if ever are visited by family members while others have regular and frequent visits. It is fairly easy to identify each of the folks in these categories. I tell jokes and read short stories to share with those who are alert enough to enjoy them. Often the stories will spark a remembrance from their past and they have shared a part of their life with me and almost always it is a story about a family event or a loved one. Those who prefer that I just spend a little time with them to listen, are often stimulated and seem to become more alert when I ask them about their children or families.

I can unequivocally testify that when all is said and done, the only thing that is really important in this life is family. Houses, cars, clothes and other worldly things are seldom if ever mentioned in those brief conversations but the family is always on their minds. The saddest thing to hear, and it is usually from those who seldom or

never have visitors, is how dysfunctional their family had been and how very little love was ever demonstrated. Many times it is a worldly thing that drives a wedge between family members, and when the thing is broken and gone, the hurt may last years or even forever – the wedge is still in place.

Get together with your family often; to reminisce and to demonstrate love for one another, with hugs and kisses and words. We won’t get a second chance at this life and family is the only thing that is forever. We must write down our feelings for family – a love that can be transmitted to future generations through our personal histories.

Article by Emil O. Hanson, Director OgdenFSL