Is there a friend of mine, Facebook or otherwise, who doesn’t know I’ve been working on a family history for nearly two years? Each time I’m “done,” someone finds an error, has a different memory of events, or wants to add a story.
A true-blue friend and former English teacher volunteered (really) to give it a read-through and found a few dozen pesky things. Why did you write 1960’s with an apostrophe? There’s no possession going on. She was right, of course, but the only respond I could offer at the time was, “I’ve seen it that way.” She agreed that was a common error and could understand my reasoning, but….I corrected the years. I also took her advice and changed meagre to meager, especially since after reading Benjamin Dreyer’s An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. If you live in America, he says, use the American spelling, not the British one.
After correcting the errors and adding a few photographs, I discovered some grievous errors on my part: incorrect birthdates for three of my grandchildren. What kind of history book uses incorrect dates for something so important? And what kind of history is all fact and no story?
Since I was working to make the history as accurate and interesting as possible, I decided to add a story about my paternal grandfather and Aunt Polly, his only daughter. Apparently, Polly was learning to skate, and fearful that she might hurt herself, Granddaddy went to the skating rink with her, following behind her with a pillow to cushion any falls. Yesterday, one of my daughters told me she loved that story because it revealed something about their relationship and about Granddaddy’s concern for his little girl.
A brother asked about genealogy. Hmmm. I went two generations before my parents and two afterwards. Maybe the second edition will add some more begats IF someone else is willing to add them.
Memory Differences: At last, I uploaded the absolute final manuscript, confident that all was well. Or at least it was as good as it was going to be until someone else stepped up and volunteered to help with a second edition. I distributed the updated version, and although everything seemed fine, my sister said, “You know, it wasn’t a black and aqua Studebaker we traveled in to Oklahoma. It was a beige Chevrolet Biscayne.”
I could hardly swallow “Are you sure?” I asked her.
“Yes, we had a Studebaker at some point, but that’s not the one we went to Fort Sill in.”
I asked one of my brothers. He agreed with her. Grrr.
Oh, and an aunt insists that her aunt, one of my great-aunts, lived in town, not in a small house down the road from my great-grandparents.
“But I wrote down what you told me,” I said, more than a little miffed.
“Why would I have told you something that wasn’t true? she asked.
“How would I have thought of something like that on my own?” I whined.
So here we are, months after the most recent version, and I’m trying to decide whether to get the car and the location of Aunt Marge’s house right or leave them alone, leaning on the truth that memory is part reconstruction. We did have a Chevy Biscayne, but what year was that?
Of this I am certain. Family history is important, and stories go a long way in making ancestors come alive. Advice anyone?