Who Was X in Your Family?

On the day I received my bachelor’s degree in music, my father told me that I was the first person in his family to graduate from college.  It was a fact I’d never known.

Years later, while digging into genealogy, I learned that my paternal grandparents–the generation that emigrated to Boston–received only a few years of schooling. Some of my great- and great-great grandparents had no education and used X to sign their names.

VG.PotatoDiggers.

This didn’t surprise me.  My family lived in western Ireland, the area hardest hit by potato famine. Somehow they suffered through severe poverty, cold, starvation, and disease.  Their lives were about survival, not adult and child literacy.  X spoke volumes to me.

My story is not unique. Most immigrants share a similar tale of escaping poverty and disease in search of a better life and education for their family.  Look back a few generations in your ancestry and you’ll discover where your X is.

 

Family Storytelling at Thanksgiving

After the pumpkin pie is put away, take your phone and sit with a loved one in a corner.  Ask some thoughtful questions.  Listen and record (video or audio) their responses.

Why?  You’re participating in StoryCorps’ Great Thanksgiving Listen, by asking meaningful questions of someone close to you. Storytelling is an art form that links us humans through time.  Oftentimes, some of our most personal and meaningful stories come from loved ones, like grandparents, and we should preserve them whenever we can.

Here’s how to do it.

You’ll always be glad you did.  There is no greater act of love than listening, really listening, to another human being.