by Delia

Of course, we as genealogists value the tales of our ancestors, whether he was a Baptist deacon, she was a missionary, he was a bank robber or she was labeled a lunatic for disagreeing with her husband. Of course, the farther back we go, the more interesting they become.

But the ancestor sitting right in front of us doesn't seem nearly as interesting. He or she is old, crotchety and complains a lot and maybe there's that medicinal smell that reminds us of our own mortality. When a question about the past arises, the facts might get embellished or the speaker will go off on some tangent, telling every conceivable part of the backstory and struggling to reconcile the dates and events to match the story.

A colleague recently shared this with me, and as I read through the poem, I thought about the people whose stories I had heard, and while I wished I had actually recorded those tales, I was happy that I had listened and remembered. Those accounts were good for me to hear and good for someone else to tell.

At this time of gift-giving, we often hear others worry what to give to an older relative, usually resorting to bath robes and lotions. This year, let's advise these non-family historians that the best gift they can give to an older relative is uninterrupted listening time. And, in return, the gift might just come back as a greater understanding of the family.