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 PD_0033 ...or Why I use “As Told By” pages in my family histories

The other day on Facebook, I found myself in the middle of a simmering fight that seemed to be headed toward a full-out embroilment.  It involved my sister, an aunt, her dead father, and his long-dead immigrant parents – the “Urbanskis.”  I clicked “exit” and went grocery shopping.

  Days later when queried about my sudden disappearance from the on-screen skirmish, I feigned a “virus” that shut down my computer.  Thank goodness for cyber illnesses!

I don’t know if it is a common thing to have so many mule headed people in one family, or if we are just gatekeepers of the stubbornness gene.  But over the years, one writer’s trick in my bag has saved me many times over ~ “As Told By” pages.

It’s my theory that our memories are odd fuzzy filters steeped with emotions and previous experiences.  Our individual point of view is dependent on the “back story” written within our own heads.  This is shaded heavily by how our own experience in similar or imagined situations has panned out within roughly equal settings and/or participants.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as an unquestioning acceptance like~ “That’s what Dad said.  It is true and reliable.”

Some of the touchy subjects I run into as a researcher can easily cause an old wound to open or a fresh feud to start.  Rather than take an obvious side (the factual one) I try to draw a neutral line in the sand.  Using the “As Told By” heading honors the vantage point and belief of all who care to chime in, but still keeps the pot at a simmer instead of boiling over.

I do have to be clear here~  I believe that ALL sides are the truth.  I know that sounds nuts.  But I believe everyone because everyone’s individual story is factual in that it IS a part of how SOME of the family members believe that it happened.  Yep, we are the keepers of the crazy gene too.

Let me put it another way

These stories are all true in the sense that they are and were believable.  They are factual from each “Teller’s” point of view.  I report them as told by so that one version isn’t lost to the shadows by the others.  It’s easy to let others draw their own conclusions. I also think this lack of “side by side comparison” is how family secrets get blown out of proportion, or lost forever.  I guess I can understand a little bending of the facts.  While searching out Uncle Tony’s tenure in the French Foreign Legion…I found he actually spent those 6 years in Sing Sing for embezzlement…whoops! So, rather graciously I allowed Aunt Bertie  her “As Told By” and I had mine when she no-longer needed to hold on to a “variation of the records.”

My own beloved Gramcracker spoke of cousin Barabara’s nuptials as a “Shot Gun Wedding.”  Gram raged on about this for several years until time took her memory and she forgot to be mad at Barb anymore.   It was always her insistance that “No One Has Ever Shamed This Family~ Ever ~ until Barb!” that she took to the grave with her.  It seemed really important to her that she had descended from an unbroken chain of  poor but purely chaste women.

I elected to sew my own lips tight, and to seal up the file on Gramcracker’s own Grandmother who had miraculously birthed an 8# baby only five weeks after she and Grandfather married upon their arrival here in the US.

And Barb? Of course she had a dog in this fight too.  In her “As Told By” she tells the story of her wedding in a very different light.  She did wear white (because she didn’t want to upset Gramcracker …epic failure there) and went down the isle looking a bit more voluptuous than her tiny frame usually was.  But she also told the story of young love and a beau who was about to “ship out” during the Vietnam War years.

As for the Facebook fight?  Well, that was a new one on me.  I’ll have to look into it.  In the meantime

maybe someone should write that down…     :)