Why Tell Your Story?

History belongs to those who tell it.

I forget who first uttered those words, but they’re super-true. This is why you must tell your story. Take the reins of your own narrative.

I love paging through Preservings, particularly the early years when it didn’t quite know what it was going to become. Those issues contain stories written by local people, about their own family histories, musings, and discoveries. I’ve marked their pages with countless sticky notes, because they tell me something about my own family history too.

We’re all connected. This fact is plainly illustrated with those issues of Preservings, and their companion publications Settlers of the East Reserve and East Reserve Village Histories. Paired with the excellent resource of Grandma’s Window, you can very quickly discover that when one person sat down in the mid-1990s to write about their great-grandfather for publication in Preservings, well, that very well might’ve been your great-grandfather too — and suddenly you find yourself learning something more about your family, a new story, you’ve never encountered before, from a branch of your family tree that you never knew existed.

Not because it was a secret, but rather because you never paid attention before.

We’re all connected. This is why if you step out and tell your story, others may benefit. You’re leaving yet another breadcrumb for yet another curious soul to discover and say, “This is my family too!”

You’re leaving a bit of hope and information, another arrow pointing the way… okay now I feel like this is getting cheesy.

On a less cheesy note, the narrative you craft and share may be a messy one. A fraught one. One that someone else steps in to contradict. I think that might be what half the letters to the editor were about in those early years of Preservings (and frankly it’s why I’d been drawn into Preservings initially — miffed letters are very interesting). Unedited, raw, not holding back.

Okay look, it can also be difficult to pay attention to this tangled web of Mennonite interconnectedness. Once you realize how much information is truly at your disposal, it can be overwhelming. It can also be confusing, when you begin to recognize the incredibly repetitive naming conventions which can lead you down the entirely wrong rabbit trail.

But, do not be discouraged. Just take a break, take a breath, and when you’re ready, begin again.

Because history belongs to those who tell it.

Tell your story for the people who are just like you… and those who are yet to come.

Related posts:

I’m Distantly Related to John Denver

The Story of Peter B. Koop is Just Really Sad

Snooping Into Andrew’s Ancestry

A Heaping Helping of Preservings