The day we’ve been waiting for has arrived – today, November 23, 2012 is the fifth annual StoryCorps National Day of Listening!
Each year, Story Corps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.
This year, our Genfriends have come together to contribute to a special blog carnival “The Ancestors Told; The Elders Listened; We Pass It On,” in celebration of the National Day of Listening.
The response to the call for submissions was tremendous, and here you will find 18 inspired, thoughtful posts on the subject of family oral history and its importance to family historians.
The posts cover a full spectrum – some joyous, some sad, all relaying the same message – that WE are important links in the chain of oral history, and it is WE who must learn and preserve the Ancestors’ legacy for generations to come.
We thank our contributors and invite you to settle in and read the stories – a whispered Hallelujah; a night that changed a family forever; a realization that snippets of information amount to a wealth of oral history – and more. Read on…
Sandra Taliaferro: Remembering Family Oral History Changed My Life!
In “Remembering Family Oral History Changed My Life!” Sandra Taliaferro reflects upon how snippets of oral history have come together to form an important part of her research.
Excerpt: “I am quick to tell you “I don’t really have any family oral history. I am just piecing things together as I go along. No one has told me anything.”
“This morning, while sitting and sipping my coffee, I pondered what to write about for this blog carnival because “I don’t have any family oral history” and no one to interview. Then I thought “dah” the most important family event in my life could not have happened without the bits and pieces of family oral history that my mom had passed to me over the years. It had never occurred to me to think of it in that way.”
“Sometimes you may think you have nothing, but you really have all you need…” MORE
Vicky Daviss Mitchell: Front Porch Hallelujah
Vicky Daviss Mitchell’s blog post “Front Porch Hallelujah” speaks of a candid moment when her grandmother, normally reserved about offering family oral history, revealed the name of her grandmother Mariah, step-grandfather Lawrence and several cousins. Reading it, I felt as though I was on that porch on that day.
Excerpt: “On one of those last “sitting” on the porch days, I said to her something like I wonder what your daddy’s mother looked like. She looked up and said, “You mean my grandma Mariah” I thought I would jump for joy.
Halleluja, Halleluja I silently thought. After all those years of asking, I finally got a name.
With a quiet voice I said to her, what about your grandfather, was he a nice man? Her reply was that her step grandfather was Lawrence. She mentioned her father Joseph’s funeral and two cousins.
I was too afraid to get up and get a pencil…” MORE
Sandra Taliaferro: Family Oral History – It’s Not Always a Pretty Picture
“Family Oral History – It’s Not Always a Pretty Picture” speaks powerfully to the need to be prepared for whatever you may hear in an oral history interview.
Excerpt: “Senomia Middlebrooks (1898-1994) was my great aunt. Her mother was Sudie Parks and her father was Alex Middlebrooks. Her grandmother was Malinda Guise who I wrote about in Finding Malinda – Part 1 (click here if you missed that post). I grew up knowing my aunt Nomie, as we called her, and visited her many times. As a cousin said “She was the matriarch of our family.”
Never once did I think to ask her about our family history and what it was like growing up in Meriwether County. It would be years after her death before the genealogy bug would bite me and I would crave for knowledge of my family history. A missed opportunity for sure, and I can only imagine the stories she had to tell. Little did I know Nomie had already added a chapter to our Middlebrooks family oral history…” MORE
George Geder: Oral History Or Bust
“Oral History Or Bust” – George Geder looks back and wishes he had asked family members about their recollections; family members who are now gone. George’s is a cautionary tale.
“Mother, why didn’t you tell me about your family?
Father, why didn’t you tell me about your family?
Grandma, why didn’t you tell me anything?
It’s a little late to be asking your parents pointed questions after they have passed away. The trick to oral history is to catch them when they are alive; vibrant and coherent. Check this out… interview your grandparents if they are still around!…” MORE
True A. Lewis: When the Elders Go, the Stories Go
In “When the Elders Go, the Stories Go” True A. Lewis thinks back on the oral history she has gathered in casual moments when opportunity presents.
Excerpt: “When the Elders go, the stories go. That is all to be said. We can’t get it back. We have to do what we can now to Preserve our History.”
“Every time I try to explain to a family member or conversate with a near stranger. I try to convince them the importance of Oral History. I can’t leave the importance of that out.”
“It was the first thing I did as a unknown Family Historian without even knowing at the age of 9 what it was called. I was doing a “Oral History Interview” with my Father. Simply by just having a conversation with him over a family album. Seen in the photo below…” MORE
Kristin Cleage Williams: Questions I Wish I’d Asked
Kristin Cleage Williams’ “Questions I Wish I’d Asked” speaks of questions she would like to ask of ancestors if they were with us today – mysteries she now seeks to solve through research.
Excerpt: “The generations gathered around my Graham grandparents dining room table in 1963 for Thanksgiving dinner. There was turkey with cornbread dressing cooked by my grandfather. There was white rice, cranberry jelly, green beans, corn pudding and sweet potatoes. There was my grandmother’s finely chopped green salad and her homemade biscuits with butter and with a relish plate holding olives, sweet pickles and carrot sticks.
One thing there wasn’t, was talk about the old days…” MORE
Andrea Kelleher: Sharing Oral History Brings the Family Together
In “Sharing Oral History Brings the Family Together,” Andrea Kelleher talks of finding two mystery relatives her mother remembered visited as a teenager, and what it meant to her mother to know who they were.
Excerpt: “A couple of years ago, my mother told me a story of one time when she was a teenager she made a trip to Morehead City with her mother and while there, they took a ride in the country. Now I know my mother and we have a similar sense of humor. I know when she was riding in that car she was probably thinking to herself, “Um, How much more country are we talking about here?” My mother was visiting from New York so Morehead City was looking country enough for her. Ha.
Anyway, she recalled they were driving out in the woods for quite a ways and finally came to this place where two sisters lived. To her they looked “Indian” or something. They were fair skinned with freckles and with long reddish brown hair. She remembered they were petite. They were referred to as some of her “grandmother’s people.” She’s carried this memory with her all these years and wasn’t sure who they were…” MORE
Angela Walton Raji: My Ancestors Told, My Elders Listened, We Now Pass It On
In “My Ancestors Told, My Elders Listened, We Now Pass It On,” Angela Walton Raji tells of a tragic night in her family’s history when night riders changed her family forever.
Excerpt: “For the National Day of Listening, I am sharing a story about an ancestor whose story was carried into the 20th century and preserved for the 21st century. This simply reflects how a simple story can unlock doors to the past.
The Ancestors Told….
In the late 1880s my ancestors living in rural Tennessee faced the threat that many black families faced—night riders!! They lived in Giles County Tennessee, the birthplace of the Klan. Until the 1880s the family had lived mostly in peace, during those post Civil War years.
One of the sons of the Bass family had even secured an education, attending and graduating from Meharry Medical School in 1878. Meharry was a school established in the 1870s to train black doctors. He had become a doctor and the family’s status was rising in the small community where they lived. The changes in their life became the envy of a poorer white community and the prospect of seeing a black family acquire land and secure a better life meant that they had to be “put in their place…” MORE
Linda Durr Rudd: A Natural Born Storyteller
Linda Durr Rudd’s “A Natural Born Storyteller” recalls oral history passed on by Linda’s aunt Rosie Lee Durr (1928-1990).
Excerpt: “My Aunt Rosie was a natural born oral historian. She loved sharing about growing up in rural Copiah County, Mississippi, during the Great Depression. She shared the good, the bad, and the ugly about the people she loved and about herself. She didn’t need prodding, she just talked.
Standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes, drinking a cup of coffee, dressed for church with the mink stole around her shoulder, rollers in her hair on the front porch, she would tell stories. A major family event or simple everyday activities would take her back. She remembered the events of her own life and she remembered the stories that had been told to her…” MORE
Robin Foster: Pearls of Wisdom From My Mother
In “National Day of Listening 2012: Pearls of Wisdom from My Mother (VIDEO),” Robin Foster shares portions of her National Day of Listening interview with her mother Edna Foster.
Excerpt: “As you can see from this video excerpt, I am not finished learning from her or basking in her great wisdom. I urge you if you have not done so, to spend some time this Thanksgiving honoring your ancestor by interviewing and preserving his or her story…” MORE
Robin Foster: Voices In My Head: Values Dad Put There
In “Voices In My Head: Values Dad Put There,” Robin Foster shares values her father Robert Foster (1938-1988) passed on to her from childhood, values she now holds in her heart.
Excerpt: “My memory of what I consider to be our first house is very special to me. My dad was a mathematical statistician who worked for US Civil Services in the 60’s and 70’s. Parents did not talk much back then to young children as they do now. The first house we lived in was the first one that my parents purchased. One day as I looked out the living room window of this house, I saw my father building another house.
I had heard no mention of this, but it fascinated me as I watched from next door as he progressed from the foundation to the roofing. I can not remember how long it took, but it did not seem long. It was a ranch style brick home. He, with great pride, took our family on a tour when it was finished…” MORE
Bernice Bennett: Wow! We Are Just Passing Through
In “Wow! We Are Just Passing Through,” Bernice Bennett shares memories of Mardis Gras celebrations past, and recalls a poignant trip to the cemetery to honor those in her family who had passed away.
Excerpt: “My mother was always sharing a childhood memory! So, one day we were driving to the grocery store and she saw some ladies standing on the street. She immediately began to talk about her Cousins Josephine, Minerva, Pinky, Myrtle and Augustine. Mom did not have any sisters and those cousins meant a lot to her!
She told me that they were always there for each other! Helping out when necessary, visiting and celebrating a birthday, church event, you name it!
Mardi Gras was always a special time for the family to get together and we could always count on a bunch of relatives showing up at Aunt Hester’s house on Thalia Street in New Orleans because the truck floats would stop in front of her house…” MORE
Yvette Porter Moore: Family Stories Handed Down Through the Oral Tradition
Yvette Porter Moore’s “Family Stories Handed Down Through the Oral Tradition” tells of oral history interviews Yvette shared with her mother.
Excerpt: “If the Story-Teller leaves no oral or written family history, it dies with them. I think my mother knew this. 44 years ago in 1973, I was 5 years old. My mother was an elementary school teacher and I distinctly remember during Summer vacation, my mother sitting in her home office and firmly letting me know that she was writing a family story. She would tell me that I needed to find something to do as she spoke into an old-fashioned tape recorder with a hand-held microphone, clearly pronouncing every syllable of every word…” MORE
Shelley Dewese: Military Monday- Army Nurse
In “Military Monday- Army Nurse,” Shelley Dewese pays tribute to the daughter of her 3nd Great Uncle, Harold Bough, an Army nurse who cared for Tuskegee Airmen during WWII.
Excerpt: “Kathryn Yiensena Bough was born on March 18, 1909 to Harold Bough of St. Croix, a retired Wardroom Steward of the US Navy, and Maggie Keeling of Virginia, a retired Teacher, in the Public School System. Kathryn was the 4th of seven sisters (known as the Bough girls in Portsmouth Virginia).
Kathryn, a Registered Nurse, graduated from Lincoln School of Nursing in 1934. She also did some studies at Columbia University. Before joining the Army Nurse Corp. where she attained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, she served as Head Nurse at Harlem Hospital, New York City…” MORE
Tami Koenig: Your Story Coach: Honoring Sgt. Frank D. Age
In “Honoring Sgt. Frank D. Age” Tami Koenig honors her uncle who was killed in action in WWII.
Excerpt: “Frank Age Jr. was my mom’s brother. Just a few year’s older, he was my mother’s best friend and her protector. They both valued education and found a way to leave their poverty stricken home and take room and board near a good high school where they both studied. My mother graduated in 1942, but by then Frank had already joined the army. He enlisted in February 1941 and became part of the 34th Infantry (Red Bull) Division…” MORE
Cheri Hudson Passey: To Honor Those Who Served: My Family’s Veterans
“To Honor Those Who Served: My Family’s Veterans” honors those in Cheri Hudson Passey’s family who served in the Revolution, WWI, WWII and Viet Nam.
Excerpt: “As I continue to research the lives of my ancestors I am sure I will find others who served or were willing to serve if called to do so.
I am grateful to each of them for a family legacy of service…” MORE
Dr. Bill Smith: National Day of Listening – Friday, 23 Nov 2012 Upcoming
Dr. Bill Smith’s “National Day of Listening – Friday, 23 Nov 2012 Upcoming” urges us to interview aunts and uncles, who may have a wealth of family history information.
“Talk to aunts and uncles this holiday season about their family stories.
I frequently write of learning and sharing the stories of my and your family history and genealogy. This year, as we approach the holiday season of family gathering, I want to encourage each of us to reach out to some additional key persons to better gather, record, understand and share these family stories: aunts and uncles (including great aunts and uncles, of course)…” MORE
Toni Carrier: Lessons from My Grandmother … Taught by My Uncle
Finally, in my own entry “Lessons from My Grandmother … Taught by My Uncle,” I discuss a recent experience that opened my eyes to the need to quiz every family member who will sit still for it, to ask about family history.
Excerpt: “My uncle, who is only a few years my elder, came to visit me and in a back-porch conversation, the topic turned to my grandmother. We were talking about different jobs my grandmother held and my uncle said, “It is amazing to me how much she accomplished with a 5th grade education.”
WHAT? I shook my head like I was shaking out cobwebs…” MORE
Many Thanks from Your Blog Carnival Hosts!
Your blog carnival hosts Angela Walton Raji, George Geder and Lowcountry Africana thank YOU for making this blog carnival “The Ancestors Told; The Elders Listened; We Pass It On” in celebration of StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening a tremendous success.
To our contributors and our readers we say THANK YOU, Happy Holidays and don’t let those stories slip away. You are a vital link in the chain of oral history!
Grab your smartphone, a recorder or your laptop and follow the links below to see how YOU can celebrate the National Day of Listening!
5 Ways to Celebrate the National Day of Listening: Simple Ways to Honor Those Who Have Touched Our Lives
Overcoming Three Obstacles to Recording Your Oral History Interview
From Lowcountry National Day of Listening sponsor Your Story Coach: 5 Ways to Preserve Memories and Share Stories on the National Day of Listening
Thank you all for hosting this carnival! I enjoyed writing my entry and reading the other entries.
Thank you Kristin! It has been a great experience, shared with great friends! :0)
What an Honor, Thanks so Much for the Opportunity. These were so heartfelt stories. Loved it!
They surely are heartfelt True. Reading each one, I felt like I was there in the moment. Amazing.
Thank you for your wonderful post!
After reading just the first couple of blog posts for this National Day of Listening, I found a common reaction, among the eldest of ancestors when the their grandchildren asked questions about their family origins, was to clam up up say, "you are not going to exploit my family for money". I believe that this reaction was caused by the influx of so-called "carpetbaggers" to the South during the Reconstruction Era between 1865 and 1877. These outsiders, as they were seen by Southerners, moved in and took advantage of people struggling to make their lives better. I think the Great- Grandmothers remembered stories from their elders of carpetbaggers making fortunes from our ancestor's despair and hence, their reluctance to share those most important names and stories. What a shame that so much history was lost in time.
Thank you all for participating in this blog carnival and for keeping the memories of your ancestors alive and for sharing the wisdom from your parents. These are the treasures that will be revered in the next century and what you have done is to have made a mark, so that your ancestors will never die! You have uttered their names and told their stories!
So true Angela and so beautifully stated! Thank YOU for hosting the carnival!
Thank you for setting aside this day. It was a pleasure to be a part of the carnival.