Genealogy versus lifewriting

BlogHer’s Find Your Roots prompt for today asks whether I am interested in genealogy and whether I’ve made a family tree. You know from my last post that I can’t make much of a family tree since most of it is overseas and unknown. I do like genealogy and would make a family tree if I could, but I’m most interested in the stories, not just names of strangers. I would create a book with the lineage, what stories I could get, photos, copies of documentation, and additional information to place the people into their historical and cultural setting.

I have an impressive and unusual historical and genealogical book that captures not one family but a whole rural community in Tennessee. The 8.5”x11” book was printed at a copyshop and I don’t know how the two staples can hold the 160 pages together—the thing is bulging. The community was tightknit and interconnected as children married into local families and settled nearby, so this book was popular and a valuable resource. I know a lot of the names, at least, since the book includes half my husband’s side of the family and their friends. Country singer and actor Eddie Arnold was born and raised in this community. Below is a list of types of information included.

Intro to the community
History, descriptions of churches
History and stories of the community center and fire department
History and stories of the schools
Names of the teachers and rosters of students (these were very small schools)
Short news clippings (retyped) of community happenings
History of the cemetery and list of everyone buried there up to publish date
History and genealogy of each family (back to 1800s if known)
An index of families and the pages they appear on
Photos, including class photos, group baptisms in the pond, family photos

These insular communities don’t exist anymore what with everyone moving around so much these days, but a lot of the general information included in the book would be interesting in any one family’s history book.

Friendship History

Friendship Snippet

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About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), and cats
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7 Responses to Genealogy versus lifewriting

  1. Jan Morrill says:

    I admire people who take the time to put together a history like that. It’s one of the things that does interest me in genealogy–having something to pass down. I know what you mean about the difficulty of finding information about our generations that lived overseas, but that’s what I’m most interested in, and where I believe the most interesting stories are held. However, I don’t know how much I’ll ever realistically be able to find out.

    • It sure would help if we spoke Japanese. This BlogHer question has me thinking of asking a friend to translate a letter with questions that I can mail to my Japanese cousin – before her very elder mother (the obachan I’ve never met) passes away. I hope you can find something out, Jan.

  2. Oh, and don’t I wish I could find one of those books on the communities my family lived in! Or the houses that I am researching, for that matter. What a find that would be. I know what you are going to say – I could always write one. But that brings me back to the age old question of who would be interested in such a book, outside of a handful of family members. Sigh…

    • Yes, this woman put a lot of work into the book, but that was her passion we all benefited from. The community was rural, small, and insular though, couldn’t do a book like that otherwise.

  3. Cate Russell-Cole says:

    Linda, I am adopted and thus can’t put my family tree together either. So I got a DNA test done – best thing I ever did. Now I know who I am, plus I can follow the history of my people through time and so there is a tree of sorts. I can see where some of my personality characteristics come from, such as my temper, my love of the ocean and my creative side. The same surprises came when my husband did his DNA – even though he has traced his tree back a long way.

    I recommend it.

    This is a great post. Thank you for sharing, I’ll be tweeting it.

  4. Cate, that’s so interesting! I thought you could only find out what country was in your heritage, although that would certainly be helpful in itself. I know a lot of old adoption records are closed unless both parties ask them to be opened. I assume you checked for the records. I need to have you guest post about this.

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