Despite the advent of computers, CD’s and DVD’s, the written word – books – are still enormously popular. Go to your local bookshop and take a look at the number of new releases. And what about the Harry Potter phenomenon? The thirst for the written word, despite modern technology, shows no sign of abating. There is nothing so comforting as relaxing in bed with a good book. Being curled up in bed with your laptop does not have the same nuance somehow. And coming across a dusty old memoir written by someone in your family is a feeling not easily conveyed in words.
To a family historian, finding an ancestors’ journal or memoirs is like discovering the Holy Grail. If you come across one in your family consider it akin to winning the lottery – only more valuable! They are a time capsule into which you can look back over the centuries at someone elses life, trials and quite possibly a skeleton or two. Of course, not all will be literary masterpieces but even the dead boring (sorry for the pun) could offer some amazing insights into your progenitors. I have not been fortunate in this area thus far but Maureen, my wife, had an amazing stroke of good fortune some years ago. Her mother’s side came from quite illustrious stock. Maureen’s great-great grandfather was the head of one of South Australia’s pioneer families and she received a copy of his memoirs, which are quite extensive and were written when he was in his 90′s. It describes in detail his life in England, journey to Australia and his many successes as a businessman in the fledgling colony of South Australia.
You may have your own little piece of history to pass on to your descendants too. Many people keep journals and diaries of their own and they are a fantastic legacy to give to your children. Anyone can start and maintain a journal and from there it’s just a short leap to writing a memoir. If it seems beyond your ‘talents’, think again. Remember, unlike W.Somerset-Maugham, you are not trying to impress a publishing house. All you need to do is write YOUR story in YOUR words. Just like writing a letter – and we all know how to do that, don’t we?
What is the difference between a journal, diary and memoir? Great question, so listen closely.
A diary is, by nature, daily jottings:
“Today went to work. Had 50,000 phone calls – don’t remember any of them!”
A journal is a bit more extensive – sort of a diary with atmosphere.
“Today is a day that I would rather forget. The phones kept ringing at work and by 5pm my brain just crashed. Every sound on my way home that was even remotely ‘phone like’ made me cringe in horror.”
By contrast, a memoir looks back over your past life. Moments, good and bad, that are essential to who you are. Of course diaries and journals are an invaluable resource when it comes time for you to put pen to paper on that long awaited memoir too. They will jog your memory and bring to mind events that were important, but that you may have forgotten. Perhaps some that you would even rather forget, but then there’s always a downside!
Someone determined that if you perform a certain task for 21 days straight it becomes a habit. Probably the same person who said that everyone swallows at least 8 spiders whilst sleeping in their lifetime. Don’t ask me how these ‘statistics’ are determined. The point is if you do something long enough it will become ingrained.That’s what needs to occur in your
journaling. Just like brushing your teeth, only more memorable. Start by purchasing a notebook. There’s no need to buy anything expensive but make a point of keeping it just for a journal. If more convenient, buy one with the dates already printed.
The important thing is to get into the habit. Before going to sleep is an ideal time. Mull over what you did throughout the day and write them down in YOUR words. Not every day is going to be exciting or even remotely memorable but when you look back on your journal you will pick up on special little moments to make you smile – or perhaps cringe!
1. Set yourself a time during the day when you can just relax – bedtime is perfect.
2. Let your thoughts flow out into your pen. Don’t be too concerned about grammar or spelling – apologies to Mrs Sprague, my English teacher – as long as it is readable.
3. It’s probably not a good idea to write comments that may be deemed inflammatory, but use your own judgement. If you want to bare your soul AND your anger, keep your journal under lock and key at least until after your demise!
4. Don’t be overly critical of your own importance in the world. This ‘pearl of wisdom’ was seen on a toilet wall but I think it should be written on granite.
“I am a child of God, and God don’t make no junk!”
5. Do not underestimate your role, no matter how ‘lowly’ you may consider it to be.
6. Enjoy the process. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Article Source: http://www.familyhistoryarticles.com
Wayne Thomas has been interested in genealogy for 25 years. Go to his website for tutorials and resource guides at www.new2-geaneology.com
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