Not enough people document their lives, archivist says
Everyone has a story to tell and pass along Someone out there will be interested, said Curt Hanson, an archivist who heads the Department of Special collections at UND's Chester Fritz Library. Hanson is a man on a mission. He wants to encourage a...
Everyone has a story to tell and pass along
Someone out there will be interested, said Curt Hanson, an archivist who heads the Department of Special collections at UND's Chester Fritz Library.
Hanson is a man on a mission. He wants to encourage as many people as possible to tell their stories. He is especially interested in the stories of 6,500 veterans in Grand Forks County.
He talked about "Writing Your Story" during the series of events that made up the Big Read in Grand Forks this fall. He doesn't want people to squirrel their stories away. He wants them to share and make them available to anyone.
For instance, letters written by people who lived through the Great Depression help tell the story of what life was like back then. The description of farming with horses would be priceless today.
History tells of the wars of the world. But it takes something like the letters Vernon Ellingson wrote home to Grand Forks during World War II that tell the real story. The collection from Ellingson is more than 400 letters.
"There is nothing vain about it," Hanson insisted. "Not enough people document their lives. There will always be an audience of family, descendants, historians." So, he encourages people to think about their lives and maybe start out by writing their very first memories. It's never too late or too early to begin -- perhaps with a tape recorder.
"It's easier now with the Internet to get your word out," Hanson said. "But the electronic records are a little more difficult to preserve than books."
Hanson said every library now gets used for genealogy. "We try to have books to help and encourage people to publish their findings. But research is not enough. You need to write it out and get out there so people can see it."
Genealogy is far easier to do now than it was before the Internet. At the library, he said they preserve those materials and keep them so people can find them.
There are people like the late Elmer Lian, who was a prisoner of war in Germany during World War II. When he came home, he wrote his personal memories and encouraged other servicemen to do the same. Enoch Thorsgard, an area rancher, has written his history of working with horses to satellites.
"If you are going to write about family, it is important to give it to libraries," Hanson insists, "and in their archives, they will hold on to it and share it for centuries."
Hanson distributed tips for writing your autobiography from "Your Life Story Inc." Among them:
n Visit scenes of your past. It triggers memories.
n Review family papers and old photographs and talk to family members.
n Approach your book one step at a time. You're not going to write your life story in one sitting.
The message is plain as handwriting on the wall: There is nothing pompous or self-centered about writing your life story. The question is: "How would you like to have a letter or a life history from a parent or grandparent?"
Reach Hagerty at email@example.com or (701) 772-1055.