Genealogy Wise

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Oral History: Sharing Your Family Stories!

Yesterday, Author Anita Wills joined our LowCountry Africana Group here at GenWise and posted an amazing narrative about her Great-Great Grandmother, Leah Ruth-Warner.

Reading about the life journey of Leah Ruth-Warner left me in awe. I was speechless!

I can neither imagine what she endured after being kidnapped from her native Guinea in 1830 or wrap my mind around Anita's TREMENDOUS research effort to discover it!

What I love is that in Anita and other family "Griots", I see the rich, age-old tradition of Oral History continuing in all its splendor.

Passing down family history from generation to generation is a custom woven DEEP into the fabric of who we are, and as descendants of African-Ancestored people, Oral History is often the only key we have to knowing who we were, both inside and outside of slavery.

While I appreciate the benefits modern day technology affords, it will never replace the "gift" of sitting with an Elder while he recalls a long-forgotten childhood memory or sharing with your children, a story shared with you by your very much missed Great Grandmother.

This is why I work. This is why we work. We cannot allow these Ancestors to exist unnamed nor allow their stories to remain untold.

Thank goodness there are many vehicles at hand to support us!

With new user-friendly technology, you can easily launch your own family history blog and/or website, as Anita has done at Pieces Of The Quilt.

Not quite ready for a web project? No worries!

You can share your Family Stories at and via CNN's Black In America2 iReport series - both for FREE!

I applaud the work of Anita Wills and encourage you to take time out from building your family tree to also document your family stories.

While family trees certainly tell us who we are connected to, it's the life stories that really show us how our Ancestors lived.

{Note: Anita's second book, Pieces of the Quilt is available for ordering via today}

Moderator - LowCountry Africana

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Comment by Joyce Reese McCollum on July 22, 2009 at 10:56pm
Afriquest allows us to put flesh and bones to the names and dates on all of those documents we have collected. Without the documents family oral history is consigned to myth. And yet the documents don't give our ancestors the substance their lives deserve. With our narratives we give our ancestors back their humanity, place them in a timeframe of history and make them the protaganists of their biographies. So the two are essential to construting a family history and preserving our lineage and roots. We were cut off from these roots by the Diasphora and chattel status and yet our ancestors knew the value of family and oral tradition. They passed it down even if it were only an African word, name or story of an ancestor and somehow it was valued, cherished and passed down through the generations. We who have inherited these oral traditions photographs/documents and stories are now in a position to insure that they are never lost to posterity. We substantiate them with our research and pedigree charts but most importantly we preserve them for the future. There is an African proverb that I paraphrase, "When an old man dies a library is lost". When I die I will know that the library still stands. Afriquest will be my library.
Joyce Reese McCollum


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