On a recent trip to Tucson we were taking a desert jeep tour with a local man who was interested in most everything about his area. At one point, after seeing some petroglyphs, we got to talking about what happened to the early native groups who made the glyphs, and how no one really knows what happened to them or where they went. There are certainly native American tribes in the area, and have been right along I gather, but no one knows about these prehistoric ancestors. So we were speculating about it, and how it seemed possible that since they had no more writing than the petroglyphs there might have been an oral history tradition. And that if (and of course this is a big if) the oral history was passed along a specific line of family or role it would have gotten lost if the line was broken for some reason. This could have led to the next generation not knowing what had happened. All of this made me think about the stories in families that don’t get written down, and get passed (if at all) by word of mouth. And we all know how that works, by the time the story is told the third or fourth time it may bear little resemblance to the original tale. (I think that’s where the story about my ancestor Salt being disinherited for marrying an Irish lady and having to come to America as a result came from.) Or, if the story doesn’t get passed by word of mouth the next generation won’t know anything about it.
The post I wrote about my grandfather’s story from his grandfather about woodcutting on the Mississippi is one I never heard told, and I never saw written down. If my mother had not interviewed her father and recorded those interviews I would not have had the chance to hear any of those stories. My grandfather, who was a consummate storyteller, never lived close enough to our family for us to see him very often. So when he and my grandmother did visit, or the couple of times that we visited them, it was such a special thing that there was little quiet time to sit with either of them and hear their tales. I love listening to the tapes I have, and reading the transcripts I made of them. More of those stories will be showing up in this blog as time goes on.
So again I say, if you have any opportunity to do so, interview your relatives and try to record the interview (video would be even more wonderful). I’m planning to ask my remaining aunt to do another interview (she did one already for me). I’m also thinking that my siblings should be asked to reminisce about certain events/experiences since I also know that we all remember things differently.