Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Find Your Family Story

My Miller Roots: Esther on the Right
A big "thank you" to all who attended my talk at the Needham Public Library on January 26th. I loved every minute of it. But some of the best parts I couldn't have possibly anticipated.

Showtime was 2:00pm. I arrived at 1:15pm for an equipment check and I was not the first one to arrive. Besides the wonderful Friends members who were setting up, there were two guests who had arrived together early to take the extra time they needed to get good seats. They were followed closely by a handful of other early arrivals who came in pairs: a son and his elderly mother, some friends, and two sisters. One of the sisters offered me the speaking tip, as a former despiser of public speaking, to hold my pointer finger to my thumb as a stress diffuser. She and her sister also told me, with examples, how much they love people from the Midwest, so they won me over right out of the blocks. Actually, they had me at "We've been talking about this all week."

After the talk and questions, a number of people approached me with tales of their own genealogy research, one woman even carried a prized research document. From my friend who came here as a young woman from Ireland, who knows all about her ancestry, but is inspired to have her daughter sit with her mother and write down her stories the next time they go "home," to the retiree who asked me to sign my book for him as he explained how he recently buried his father and brought his mother to the event because they are interested in exploring their genealogy, it was a wonderful, heartwarming experience for me. There is strong interest in the subject of family genealogy and a sort of "strength in numbers" as people who work away at it on their own feel a collective boost from learning or knowing that others are doing the same. I think it makes what can be a somewhat solitary job feel less lonesome. Not to mention the boost given to those who have thought about beginning the journey and attended the talk to get started in the right direction.

I'm fortunate that my son and husband recorded my talk, even though I was at first skeptical about having my family in the front row! I've added a link to the recording (now a YouTube video: Are You Ready to Find Your Family Story?) here and as a permanent addition to my blog (the smaller screen seems to give the best resolution). It would have been silly to record the before and after conversations because it would have been impossible to capture my feelings or the sincerity of the people I met. But those are great personal memories I am now the better for having. 

If you missed the talk, I hope you have time to view the recording. My cameraman had to switch cameras with about 3 minutes left, so the last few minutes are not as clear. But you can get the general idea in the other 45 minutes. In case you can't make out the last few minutes, I closed with the story of my Uncle Max, previously blogged about here, and the following advice: The genealogy resources that are available to us are amazingly large in volume, many are free, most are readily accessible, and all will continue to grow, but the people who are alive today to tell their stories won't be here forever. Don't waste any time in listening to their stories.

I feel as though I reached my talk's goal to inspire at least one person in the crowd of 50 to find their family story. I hope I have the opportunity to give the talk many times again at other libraries and other venues. There are so many people thinking about beginning the journey to find their family story and I want to say to them again, don't wait!