History is the Story of People: It Should Not Be Boring!

By Jude Lamb, Storyteller ©2016

(NOTE: Jude Lamb will be presenting a workshop at The Maine Muster, Saturday, September 17 in Waterville, ME. Details at https://www.facebook.com/MaineMuster/)

Once upon a time I was tapped upon my brow with a wondrous magic wand, and “poof” I became a storyteller! And lo, the stories I loved best were the true tales. And behold, if they reached back into time, that added to their attraction. And glory-be, if they gave women a voice and a right to be a part of our history, that was the perfect recipe for my storytelling caldron. That truly does describe my finding a path through this forest that we call storytelling.

My first historic tale was one told at our annual Lamb family reunion every year from as far back as I could remember. I’d always heard this wee thread of a story told about “Luther.” Did his wife even have a name? Could Luther have taken a parcel of young-uns into the wilderness by himself and expect them to survive? Unlikely. What might be Luther’s wife’s take on this story? Whose fault was it that the baby in the bowl was lost? And who really found her? (Safe and sound, by the way, and that doesn’t spoil the story.) Interesting characters, a plot, drama, and a positive outcome… the story had everything needed, along with the promise of my own searches down many avenues to turn this thread into a real adventure story that folks would want to hear.

Where can you find a family story? I just bet you already know some. I could say ‘ask some family members,’ but that would be stating the obvious. But even if your elders are gone, or can’t seem to remember any family stories, maybe batting the idea around with siblings or cousins would yield some starting point. My siblings and I always remember stories in slightly, or even drastically, different ways. Hey, that could give your ‘true’ story some flexibility!

If, you find one set 200 years ago, like my story, how do you start researching? My story was a ‘first settlers’ story, so variations were written about in several small books. The thread of my story was enough for me to ‘flesh out’ to become a detailed story. What were the times like? Start with the war closest to the date of your story – American Revolution, 1812, Civil War, WWI, WWII… or other. Those are the time periods where you will find the most written material. Where to look? Internet, history books, novels, historical societies, genealogy websites, old newspapers, authorities on the times, re-enactors … the list goes on.

Think about your senses – hearing, sight, smells, touch, taste – look for what might fall into those categories of description. Food and clothing are important to my story. The styles of the Jane Austen period were just right. Did pioneer women care about fashion? You bet they did! (Did I mention that I dress in period clothing and tell in the first person?) What is happening in your chosen time period? Mine includes 1816 – “The year without a summer,” or “1816 and froze to death”… none of those little books I’d found included that vitally important fact! That weird non-summer becomes one of the most intriguing parts of my story.

Really cannot find any inspiring family stories? Then look to someone else’s family. But take care. You may find objections to your ‘owning’ someone else’s ancestor. Or, you might find a family who is thrilled to have you honor their ancestor in this way. But, do dig deep to find out if anyone objects. My great-great-great-great grandmother, Eunice, has thousands of descendants, but I feel comfortable claiming her as my own, and telling her story. I am as closely related to her as anyone now living. I like to think she would be happy to be heard from after all these years. Even though most history books won’t tell you this… Women Were Pioneers, Too!

LambJude Lamb grew up in the southwestern foothills of Maine. She is a storyteller, artist, and writer, who now lives on the Maine coast. She has a degree in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor. She says: “Word and image, image and word… what else do we need?!”

Jude will be presenting a workshop at the upcoming Maine Muster of Storytellers on September 17th, 2016

For more info:   https://www.facebook.com/MaineMuster/  phyllis.blackstone@maine.edu


About the workshop she writes:

Come along on this ride to search out the possibilities of taking a family story from “the thread of a yarn” to a full storytelling narrative. Don’t think you have any family stories? Balderdash! We all do, and seeking them is part of the fun. Though such stories might be told in the third person, I find that my stories come alive when I dress in period clothing and ‘become’ the character. Come be inspired to make a real family story your own.

We will explore questions such as: How do I choose a story? What research is needed, and how do I start? How closely do I need to stick to the facts? We will leave with some inspiration and a plan for at least one story each. I promise.



History is the Story of People: It Should Not Be Boring! — 2 Comments

  1. What a great article. We have been delving into our history. It started with a family heirloom – a painting of a family member. It turned out to be a treasure hunt which went through Germany, England and Scotland and still has leads to follow!

    • Wow, Simon, that sounds like a great adventure! For most of us, I think, it would be rare to have a family portrait. I have found that my most complex family searches are the most intriguing, and though we may never find out all the whys and wherefores, it sure is fun looking. Nothing better, at any age, than playing detective! Thanks for your kind words. Best wishes with your search, and I’d love to know if you have formed any stories from the search!

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