Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Power of Stories

We are once again attending the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Orem, Utah. It goes on for four nights and two full days of storytelling. One of the side benefits of moving to Provo is attending the Festival each year.

Stories play an important part in the history of a family and many of the stories from the Festival talk about personal, family experiences. One of the storytellers last night, illustrated how the "truth" of the story was much greater than the facts. The stories run the full gamut of emotions from hilariously funny to sad and thought provoking. But there is a danger with stories; that they will replace reality.

In Utah, this is a busy time of festivals and conventions. Notably the Salt Lake Comic Con has attracted as many as 120,000 at past events, nearly six times the attendance of the largest genealogy conference in the world, RootsTech also held in Salt Lake City, Utah. The huge numbers of attendees at a Comic Con conference illustrate the power of stories especially when those stories are based entirely on fantasy. Perhaps in genealogy, we need to be concern with reality more and the popularity of fantasy a little less.

Genealogy has been painted as dull and unattractive. But as I have written many times and asked the question many times over: where do the stories come from? As I talk to genealogists around the world, I find many of them have discovered remarkable stories about their ancestors. But these stories do not just appear in serialized form in an online dramatic TV show, the stories are developed through the painstaking efforts of researchers who dedicate time and effort to researching old records.

In a real sense, stories are the dessert of the genealogical meal. We would all like to live entirely on cake and ice cream, but we inevitably realize that we need a more balanced approach to maintain good nutrition. We need to get back to the basics of good genealogical nutrition and start emphasizing accuracy, historicity and consistency as goals. We also need to realize that the product of all this methodical research is not just a list of names and dates, but the history of our families.

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