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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Preserved in Writing

In two weeks I am doing a workshop entitled Researching and Writing History at a Writer's Conference in Virginia. I am planning to spend most of the time talking about how to do research but will wind up with the importance of preserving the past in writing. Oral history is often distorted but what is written does not change.
This afternoon I came upon a wonderful example of some written family history which has been hiding among the box of assorted things I inherited from my mother way back in 1993. If I ever saw this before, the signifigance of the piece did not register. It is a little booklet which I believe was written by my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Witmer. It is not my grandmother's handwriting and from the age of the family record I think it is safe to say it was written by her mother about her Witmer family.
The little booklet begins with my 3xgreat-grandfather, Martin Witmer who was born October 9, 1801. His son, Levi, (my great-great-grandfather) born in 1834, was the father of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Witmer. She lists all of Martin Witmer's family and all of Levi's family, including all the deaths that occurred up to Martin's death in 1907.
This little booklet covers a little over 100 years of family history and the latest recorded death is over 100 years ago. It has been well preserved and the writing is still easy to read. The next time I go to the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, I want to take this little booklet along and check if they have all the information it contains. I can't believe I've had this valuable little booklet for 15 years and did not know it!
Here is the first page. What it says has not changed in 100 years and is a pointed reminder of the value of preserving your history in writing!

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