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When I was in elementary school, I was given an assignment to go out into my community and interview a senior citizen. I met with an older man in a retirement home who told me stories about working on a threshing team. I was completely fascinated. I had heard people speak about harvest work parties and was familiar with terms like ‘straw-boss’ but had never heard a first-hand account of harvest time on the prairies in the early days.

It is amazing how little we know about the stories of others. It is amazing how little we know about our own families.

As a young adult, I visited New York City with my brother. While I was there I got an email from my father encouraging me to look for my grandfather’s name on a plaque on Ellis Island. I was shocked. While I knew that my family were immigrants, I had never considered how they arrived in Canada, and I had never heard about them entering through Ellis Island. 

To this day I know very little about my grandparents. I never had the privilege of spending much time with them. And though I’m at an age where my family history interests me, they are long passed. My mother has also passed, and my father is now in a care home. Much of my family’s story has already been lost to the sands of time.

So how about my own story?

To be honest I haven’t been very intentional about sharing my story with my children. Our household is busy. There are enough distractions for any fleeting curiosities my children may have about my past and I’m too focused on keeping up with the present.

I can imagine there will be a time when my kids will want to hear more of my story. And perhaps there will be a time when life seems more spacious, and I will make more effort to share it. Of course, there is the possibility that my story will be lost like my grandparents’ story. The years are going by faster, and not every good intention is followed up on. 

The good news is that there is a lot of help available for those who want to investigate their family’s history or share their own story. It doesn’t need to be as complicated as publishing a memoir. 

The highly-rated app Remento invites you to select a picture and then offers prompts for you or others to reflect on the story that the picture tells. The app records your narration or that which you text to others on your cell phone. Believe it or not, it can assemble those pictures and transform those narrations into written stories that you can then order as a book. This is all down without ever putting a pen to a page.

If you want to learn about your heritage but don’t have living ancestors, you can always consider tracing your genetic origins through companies like AncestryDNA. This involves sending away a swab of your DNA which is then thrown into a database that generates historical insights and geographic details. The report I received shows not only the original location of my ancestors but their movement through time, across Europe to North America. If you choose to make your information public, you may also discover close relatives that you never knew you had. Yes, this has happened to me!

You might also consider walking a more conventional route and tracing family trees through historical documents like baptismal records and databases of gravesites. You will find websites such as MyHeritage to be very helpful. Your local branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is often equipped with research software that you can use for free. 

This work may be of moderate interest to you, but it might be of great value to those who follow you. I don’t know how important it was for that senior citizen to share his story about the harvest. But it is a story I will never forget.

*Image: Mnanian, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons