Writing History

With knowledge of family past, pride of ones’ heritage strengthens.

Last year, a friend of mine brought her family history book to Maltese class to show us all. It was this massive, thick glossy book. Published and all. It had stories, and photographs… I was in complete awe over it. What I would give to have enough material to make something like that, is what I thought.

Why not?

Why not put together all my findings and make a book of it? It may not turn out as amazing as my friend’s. But it would be mine, it and would be my family story.

This whole journey of looking back at my ancestors, I have realised that it is pretty much never-ending and that I will always find something to add. These past few months have been testament to that. I keep finding things I thought I would never find, simply because I thought they never existed.

I hadn’t been to the local library in years, and even then, I had only been once since I was little when mum used to take us as children. My Maltese language teacher encouraged me to reading Maltese more regularly and suggested I borrow books from the library. So I went, I renewed my card, sussed out the Maltese language shelf and then decided to walk around a bit. More-so I was trying to look for history books on Malta. I thought in aid to writing this family history book, knowing what happened in real history at the time my ancestors lived, would help me interpret dates, events and photos that I have already in my possession – to better understand what they experienced in their lives and how they lived through this.

I stumbled across a genealogy/family history section. I spent at least 2 hours, plonked on the floor, going through each book on these shelves. I was in heaven! As I was skimming through these books, I was reading things that I already know. Things I already do. Suggestions on how to interpret things, where to look for things, what type of things to look for – things I have already learnt along the way in these past 8 years.

I kept looking nevertheless, hoping I would find something that I didn’t already know. I found this particular book called “Writing Family History Made Very Easy – A beginner’s guide” written by Noeline Kyle. There are suggestions in this book that again, I already know, gives me comfort to know I am on the right track, but there are a heap of other things that I hadn’t even thought of. Suggestions on what style of writing and who your audience is that you want to write to. Other ways to collate the information you have and make sense of it – making a story of it. I’m not even half way through the book and I am so inspired, so excited to start… I have no idea where to start! I feel like this project is way too big and that I will never finish it.

But I am excited. Either way, I am so excited! Starting is the hardest part, but once I get into it, there will be no stopping me!

I’ve decided to incorporate my logs of my journey to get to where I have gotten. I have already started to look into newspapers that were published at the time of my ancestors. I want to organise some interviews and get some oral history from my eldest aunts and uncles. All this to piece a story together. Mapping it out and starting will definitely be the hardest.

I hope to make two books. One for my father’s side and one for my mother’s. I will write them from my point of view as my father’s daughter, and my mother’s daughter – my grandparent’s grand daughter.

As much as I am doing this for me, at the same time, I feel that documenting something and having something to pass down, feels like I am giving a valuable gift to my (non-existent) descendants. I mean, think about it this way; if my ancestors had left letters or diaries they had written and they were passed down, and I got my hands on them… The appreciation I would have and feel would be beyond words to describe. And if my little minion spawns (my descendants) are as interested in who they are and their identity as I am, then I know they will appreciate this just as much, if not more.

One of the drives I have and why I have this obsession with finding these things about my ancestors is a feeling of identity. Heritage is a part of who you are. One of the many questions we ask ourselves is “who am I and why am I here?“. I feel that knowing about the type of people my ancestors were would help define and explain my family’s character, why they are who they are today and how they ended up where they are. Stories of tragedy, heroic sacrifice and triumph. Stories that we may not be so proud of, and stories that we are very proud of.

Knowing how Maltese culture in Australia is heading, if it’s one thing I can keep alive it’s by doing this, tracing my parents’ roots back to the motherland and passing it on into the future.

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