Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A month of stories

April was Stories Month here at the website, and I had a fair amount of success in gathering a few good family tidbits to put online.  The main goal this month was to create the stories pages, so there would be an organized space available to put new stories that come in.  I came to realize that there are different types of stories, and I created three categories that would include all of them.

Characterizations:  This refers to any attributes, traits, habits or descriptions of a person that makes him or her memorable.  This may be something like WTG's habit of eating salt, pepper or other spices after he'd eaten his meal, if he'd forgotten to season it beforehand.  Or Pop's penchant for pulling nickels out of your ear or giving you his famed "electricity."

Anecdotes:  These are memorable stories that you've heard from family members or even witnessed first hand, but the key is that they are one-time events.  Examples of this would be the story of Pop helping the sick during the 1918 influenza epidemic, or Bryant, Carl and Margaret living through the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  It could also be something as trivial (but memorable) as when Monty and Emily decided to put some frogs in the washing machine for safe keeping and nearly gave Frances a heart attack when she went to do the laundry.

Narratives:  These are basically family histories that flesh out the skeletal family lineages and trees, and add a bit of depth and substance to the normally dry births-and-deaths histories.  They could also be defined as a string of successive anecdotes used to build a family story.

Most of our stories this month come from Martha Waskey, along with a few from her husband Jack.  If you'd like to see how it's done, just click here to get an idea of the kind of stories we are looking for.  Everyone has these sort of stories tucked away in their memories, and hopefully this will jog some of them loose.  It is rather ironic that the best way to save a story is not to continually remember it, but to write it down.  First of all, the more you remember and re-remember a story, the more it changes over time in your mind.  And second, keeping a story alive in your brain takes up valuable time and space that could be used for other things.  Go ahead and have a brain dump, and free up your grey cells for more important projects!

As to some of the specific stories I've put up this month, the largest project is a narrative I created of the Gillham family history from 1933-1978, i.e., the Frances and Bill Gillham clan and their adventures.  This project was partly borne of a need to finally nail down the exact timeline of their extensive travels and determine when they lived where.  All members of the Bill Gillham family have heard stories of the various places that they lived, but it's always been tough to keep in one's mind the exact sequence of events.

The Gillham story is a work in progress, and I am hoping that you will read it and send me any changes and additions that you feel the story needs.  In this way we can begin to build the full history.  I would also welcome any family narratives from the families of Dan and Bryant!

We also continued to process Dan Holsenbeck's Navy journal, which we had begun last month.  This month we have a true narrative, or rather something like a family travelogue, in the 18-page journal of his trip to Scotland while he was in the Navy.  We are transcribing the main section of his Naval journal, because a lot of his writing is tough to read (he writes in all capital letters), and the pages are heavy with photos, postcards, menus, matchbooks and the like, which makes it very difficult to scan properly.  His Scottish journal, however, is written out in cursive on separate 8-1/2" x 11" sheets, which makes it almost like a letter, although it is not addressed to anyone in particular and has individual chapter headings.  Therefore, I decided to scan the entire document and make a link to it on Dan & Nancy's story page, so you are now able to read the original for yourself.

One last interesting story is a type-written narrative by an as-yet unknown author detailing (among other things) the connection of the Bailey family to famed orator and journalist Henry W. Grady.  The Baileys were Pop's maternal grandparents, through his mother, who most of us know as Mama New.  You can find the link to this narrative through Mother Cile and Pop's stories page.

And as always, I am continuing the drumbeat calling for all stories, photos and letters.  There are any number of ways to communicate with me, as you can see by clicking here.  I am also available on facebook, and you may send me a Message or write on my Wall whenever you'd like.  I check my facebook account fairly regularly, so please don't hesitate.

In the coming months, I am planning a trip to some sites of family importance, which will probably include some original landing places along the Virginia and North Carolina coasts, as well as the final resting place of Thomas Gillham, Sr., the first of our American Gillhams, in South Carolina.  I will keep you posted with the final itinerary on this blog, and I will also communicate via facebook status.