Family stories: It’s in the genes


As I get older I am conscious that the storytellers in my family are all dying off. Aunts, grandparents and even parents are disappearing at an alarming rate and if I'm not careful all the wonderful memories that make up the tales of their youth, our family history, will be lost forever. It should be compulsory to make anyone over a certain age…60? 70? record every detail about their childhood for a family history. It's never been easier, they could all talk into the iPhone voice memo gadget or into a dictaphone, God know's, the old ones love to talk…they just need a bit of a prod and they're off, given a regular supply of sherry/whisky my lot could go on for hours. 

Once those storytellers are gone, that's it. Before he died, my uncle Fred was the best storyteller in our family, he used to spin fantastically exaggerated yarns around his brothers and sisters, including my dad, which had my sister and I spellbound. It was the best way to pass on family history, however inaccurate and glamourised. If only the iPhone was around then to record him.

I now pester the remaining oldies for every scrap of information on their childhoods and slowly, each time they come to visit, they bring a story or a bit of family history with them. Last time my aunt and my dad (her brother) came up, they brought two old coat hangers and amazed me with the information that my great grandfather, J H Beaton, used to own a couple of clothes shops in Somerset. He was a tailor, and the photo above shows the clothes hangers -the only remaining souvenirs – from the stores. The fact that they fold up is pretty neat.

So perhaps the love of clothes and sewing is in the genes? The older I get, the more I want to know, who knows what what else they haven't told me yet? Time to crack the family whip….. 

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