Thursday, January 26, 2012

With His Spoken Word

Guest post by Caroline Pointer ~ Genealogist and Family Historian

When she’s not being transported back in time and being made awesomely complete by ancestors’ stories, Caroline M. Pointer is the author of her personal family history blog, Family Stories, and the author of her professional blog, For Your Family Story, where one can find out what happens when genealogy meets technology. She has a new blog launching on 31 Jan 2012 called where one can find out how to write effective blog posts.

With His Spoken Word

I was in awe.
No, that’s not right.
It was more like I felt completed.
Yes, awesomely completed.

I was awesomely completed when I put that CD in my laptop’s drive and heard his voice.

My husband’s Great-Uncle Donald, who is now 91, wrote and voice-recorded his memoirs and gave me copies of both a couple of years ago when we went up to Iowa for the annual Pointer Family Reunion. He also gave me copies of the Pointer family photos as well as copies of newspaper clippings his mother, Pearl, had saved all of her life, all of which he had digitized.

He sat me down that day and went over with me every single photo and told me any stories that he knew about each one. To see the faces of those I had researched for so long was amazing. I mean, I had all their facts, but Great-Uncle Donald had their faces and their stories.

But I think what moved me the most – in fact, awesomely completed me – was to hear his story on his memoirs CD. I closed my eyes and just listened to him tell me his story. And the more he spoke, the more his stories came alive. And to be perfectly honest, there were times I may have had a tear or two in my eyes.

As researchers, we search and find facts a lot of the time, and we may have a photo or two, or perhaps a newspaper article, but when we listen to someone’s story as they tell it, it seems to come alive and it’s like we’re there as it’s unfolding.

As Great-Uncle Donald spoke, I could smell the farm animals.
I laughed at their stubborn goat on top of the car.

I could hear the cows moo as Great-Uncle Donald herded them to a different pasture.

I could hear Great-Uncle Donald and his brother goofing off in that swimming hole by that pasture.

I wiped the sweat from my brow as Great-Uncle Donald and his brother Wayne picked corn.

Dust got in my eyes making my eyes water as I listened to Grandpa Williams and Uncle Sim argue as they walked down that long dusty road.

I was right there on that morning when Great-Uncle Donald learned his father, Harve, had been accidentally killed. I could feel his sorrow and grief.

I was there on the ship with him sometime before 6 Jun 1944 when he and his unit knew something big was going to happen that would change the world. They just didn’t know when or where. I could feel both their fear and courage.

I was there when his older brother Lester was buried at Arlington Cemetery after dying from a brain tumor during World War II. And I was there when he learned his brother Wayne’s plane had gone down somewhere over the Brazilian Jungle during that same war. I felt Great-Uncle Donald’s anguish and sorrow.

With his spoken word, Great-Uncle Donald had transported me back to his family story. And this is why it’s so important that we, as researchers, keep in mind that behind those documents, that behind those facts, and that between those census lines are where our ancestors lived and where their stories are lying in wait for us to find them.

And when we’re lucky enough to find and hear those stories, well, they make us awesomely complete.

 Caroline Pointer is a lot of fun! One of my new favorite games that she created is The 48-Hour Ephemera Challenge. (here). There are 116 members to date. Be the next one to join!

"A new ephemera piece is posted every Friday night and you have 48 hours to work with others in a forum atmosphere to figure out the story behind the piece using clues from the piece and online resources."

Caroline can be reached at, but she can almost always be found on Twitter as @FamilyStories , Shades' E-Magazine In2Genealogy Column, and Houston Genealogy Examiner

Other posts to check out from Caroline's blog:

They Had Balls
Was It Really Worth It?
Smiling Big & Laughing Hard
NBC'S Who Do You Think You Are? Preview of Season 3


  1. Caroline,
    You have a fantastic blog! I am learning a lot from you, mostly how to have fun with genealogy and family history. I wish I had caught the bug earlier and had taken advantage of my older living relatives to gather stories that only they were privy to!
    Thanks again for writing today!

  2. What a wonderful gift Great Uncle Donald gave to you, Caroline. Wonderful and magical!

    What a wonderful gift Caroline has given to you in this guest blog post, Betsy. And what a wonderful spark to get you thinking more about Forever (R)!


    Recently on my blog: Blog Soup 01.25.2012 Wednesday Women

    1. Always thinking Stan!
      Thanks for the link to your post. Sorry the link doesn't work! I'll fix it next time.

  3. Awesome post Caroline,
    Betsy and now you.have really rekindled an intrest I've always had but put on the sideline for many years.I have to go do some reading on your blog now!

    Thank you Ladies!


    1. Thanks for coming Jane. You really have to go spend some time on Caroline's blog!

  4. What a wonderful legacy to leave. A man of great foresight :-)

  5. It's a plug for journaling of ALL kinds! Don't you think, Jo? I would love to have the records that Caroline has!!

  6. Thanks, y'all. I'm very lucky to have what Great-Uncle Donald gave me. But with most of my research, I don't have the story. I have to go find it. Like Betsy, I often jump into my ancestors' heads and try to imagine what were they thinking. What were their choices ~ both the good ones and the bad ones? And then I try to relate it all to something I know. I don't want to just know what their name was, I want to know what kind of person they were.

    Thank you, Betsy, for allowing me to guest post! I really appreciate it.

    And thank you to everyone for visiting Betsy's blog, reading and commenting.


  7. Wow, it's great you were able to record it. Those really are the priceless treasures indeed; keeping the family history alive. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for coming by Bill! I would love to have even one recording of y grandparents' voices telling a story. Changes the whole feeling.


What do you think? I'd love to know.