Try your hand at a memoir

By Nancy Battick

The New England Historic Genealogical Society is asking members and visitors to write a piece for their new project, Ancestor Strong, which honors ancestors who survived tough times. I visited the site and am impressed by the entries celebrating ancestral courage and strength. The stories were all different and touching.   

These are brief entries, so if you’d like to honor a loved one, visit https://ancestorstrong.americanancestors.org/. Remember you don’t have to be a member. 

This leads me to encourage you to consider writing a memoir. I’m not suggesting a celebrity style tell-all. I am suggesting you cast your mind back to things that happened in the life of an ancestor or relative, something forgotten that should be remembered.  

For example, my father first trained for the military police in WWII, and was sidelined when injured helping to break up a battle between sailors and soldiers in a bar. In the 1960s we were at my uncle’s cottage on a local pond when a neighbor’s child was discovered floating facedown and not breathing. Everyone panicked. Dad calmly walked over, ordered everyone to move back in his MP voice, and performed artificial respiration. The little girl was soon upright and crying. She grew up and did fine. Ironically, no one in the family ever thanked my father for saving her life. If he hadn’t been there the child would have died.  

I recently recalled this episode and will enter the story in my genealogical software. Dad had learned lifesaving techniques in his MP training all those years before and it stood him in good stead.  

Stories can be about courage, loss, humor or anger.  A co-worker told me a friend of hers, a really good cook, could never please her husband, who criticized every pie the woman made. Since he’d only eat berry pies they tended to be juicy no matter what she tried. He told everybody, even strangers, his wife couldn’t bake. My co-worker took him to task for it, but he insisted he was just teasing. One day she made a fresh blueberry pie. Her husband and her brother started in on her and she later admitted she’d had it. She walked to the cooling rack, lifted the bubbling pie with oven mitts and threw it at her husband’s feet. She told him she’d never bake him another pie. She suggested he clean up the floor and his clothes. True to her word, she never made another pie. And he never criticized her cooking again.      

You don’t have to be a gifted writer to record these stories. Just write in your own “voice.” Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Just write the stories. They’re an important part of your family history. Don’t let them be lost to time. 

I was so proud of my Dad that long ago day. He never got a medal but he was a hero. And I cheer for the abused baker who finally silenced her tormenter.  

What’s your story?

Nancy Battick is a Dover-Foxcroft native who has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society, author of several genealogical articles and co-transcribed the Vital Records of Dover-Foxcroft. Nancy holds an MA in History from UMaine and lives in Dover-Foxcroft with her husband, Jack, another avid genealogist. You can contact Nancy at nbattick@roadrunner.com.

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