Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Family Tree Stories

I was lucky enough to have multiple grandparents. There were seven in total. Some of them were part of my immediate family, some were names on my tree, and some were unknown to me, having died before I was old enough to put my world together in thoughts and memories. It seems to me that sometimes, in our grief, we deal with it by keeping stories precious to us close to the breast. Or we keep memories quiet out of deference to those who come into families after the fact, lest they feel excluded. It’s understandable, but sad for those like me, who don’t share in those memories.
I might not have known them, but there were other family members in my life that did. There are others still alive who remember them. I only recently realized that the older I get, the smaller that group becomes. If I don’t remember, how will those who come into the family after me? I’d like to be able to say more about my father’s mother to my nieces and nephew than, “She died when your grandpa was five.”
I can tell you all the pertinent information about my family tree. I know who was born when and where and who they married. I mostly know when they died and some, how. But that doesn’t tell me about them. Knowing what my birth date is doesn’t tell anyone anything about who I am. What would I want to know from those who do remember them? What would you want to know?

Lives Drawn from Memory
  • Family Member: name
  • What profession(s) did they have?
  • Do you know of any vacations they took; any places of the world they visited?
  • What kinds of things did they enjoy doing in their leisure time? Did they have any noticeable hobbies (needlework, gardening, knitting, carpentry, model-making, etc.)?
  • How many children did they have? How many boys? How many girls? What were their ages (i.e. how often were they having them)?
  • In their lifetime, where were the places they lived?
  • Did they serve in the military? What branch? What was their title?
  • Describe things you did together when you spent time with them.
  • What kind of food did they like to eat?
  • What was their favorite season of the year?
  • Did they play and/or enjoy sports? Which one(s)?
  • What was their favorite holiday?
  • Do you remember attending church with them? Or them attending church? Do you know what church they attended?
  • Did they drink tea or coffee? Both? Did they have a regular cocktail? Do you know what their favorite drink was?
  • Did they listen to music? Did they have a favorite kind of music? A favorite artist?
  • Did they have any known addictions or flaws?
  • Did they have a busy/active social life?
  • Were they members of any clubs or lodges?
  • Do you remember them ever being seriously ill?
  • What kinds of foods did they enjoy? What types of things did you eat when/if you ate at their house?
  • Did they cook?
  • What did they do with their time after dinner and before bed?
  • Did they read? Did they have a favorite kind of book (romance, history, murder/mystery, science fiction)?
  • Did they wear glasses? Hearing aids?
  • Did they have tattoos?
  • When you think of them, what style of clothing do you associate with them?
  • What age were you when you first met them? Did you always know them?
  • Did they seem happy most of the time?
  • Describe briefly a favorite memory you have of/with them.

These are meant to be prompts. Add your own questions. Tailor them to fit your family. Pass them out to your parents, your aunts and uncles, and your grandparents. Ask them to answer the questions about their parents and grandparents, even great-grandparents if they knew them. Take the information you receive and compile a history that gives flesh to their ghosts.

Tell their stories. Share them. Pass them down through your generations. Whisper the names of your loved ones long after they are gone. Tell the stars their stories if there is no one left to share them with. What is remembered lives, and never truly dies.


  1. Wow. That is a load of information you'd have to ferret out and collate. Hope you can more than pull that off, and that you are armed with the type of online software that will let you gather that level of data, and audit it instantaneously.

    Ruby Badcoe

  2. Thanks for the kind thoughts! I mean to do it for my grandparents, and great-grandparents, but not many people are left who remember them, so I'll take what information I can get- it shouldn't be overwhelming. And I put it all together myself. It's the repetition of the data that helps sink it into memory. I want it to become story, not just data.


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