Writing Our Life Stories: A Bygone Time

The following article was from a teleclass held last year in collaboration with the website NewspaperArchive about finding the details in the history of a story about family.

This class was about adding context regarding people and places we do not know rather than people we are familiar with.

In our other classes we talked about writing about our own lives or the lives of family members that we are familiar with. We may have placed them during a certain time and era. We may have thought about the cities or towns in which they lived, or the states from which they came.

We may have known something about their lives. We knew what kinds of things that they did for a living and the timeframe in which they lived their lives and raised their families.

In this class, we are going to look beyond the people we know. We are going to look more into the history of our country and get more of a sense of where our ancestors were in the context of their own time.

In researching for this class, I've been interested in my grandmother and the times in which she lived. For the Where Were You class, I focused on where my grandmother was when certain things were taking place. I learned from research on the NewspaperArchive website about the escalator being invented and read about the invention of the telephone and how it was coming into use at the turn of the century.

If I wanted to better understand the context of the time in which my grandmother was born I would like to know more about what was going on in the late 1800's.

I was realizing that the Civil War had just ended in the late 1865. In general, I think of Abraham Lincoln and the War Between the States as ancient history. But when I think of it as happening only 30 years before my grandmother's birth, it takes on a whole new meaning.

My grandmother was born in 1899, that means that 30 years before her birth the Civil War ended. When I think of that, I think of what was happening 30 years before my birth in 1951, that would have been 1921, which was the Roaring 20's

In contrast, for my grandmother, the country was reconstructing itself after the loss of 618,000 Americans to the Civil War. During World War II, according to wikianswers.com, 273,377 American soldiers lost their lives on foreign soil. The devastation of the Civil War is inconceivable to us today. Researching history sites and learning what the lives of our grandmothers and grandfathers and their parents were like provides a context to family stories and fills in the gaps to show what life was like in another era. 

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Our stories define us, they tell who we are and where we come from. Our stories also help us to preserve the memories of our loved ones. It is important to preserve your stories so that they are not lost.
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