I’ve taken an ancestral incident in Kentucky in the early 19th century and turned it into a bedtime story for my grandson.
I did not review the records of the resulting court case before I started telling the story. There was no preconceived plan to tell the story. I just started one afternoon when it was naptime and a book was not within reach.
The story had been told several times before I reviewed the actual records. My concern when telling it had been to keep it age appropriate and not overly detailed. The story originated from a court case over the theft of some hogs in Kentucky in the 1810s. I took out some of the gruesome details involving the actual butchering of the hogs and the inclination of my ancestor to attempt to murder the perpetrators of the crime.
I knew before looking at the court records that the story I told my grandson was not the story given in the court records. But I thought I knew what the actual story was.
I was wrong. There were details I thought were in the court records that were not. Sometimes my memory was close to what was in the records. Other times it seemed I had consumed too much Kentucky bourbon when I read the records the in the first place (I had not).
I’m a fan of telling children stories of their ancestors–just make them age appropriate. It is a great way to potentially generate some interest in family history. If you’ve altered the story slightly, just remember that you’ve done it.
The lesson? The reminder? Our memories of events can easily be incorrect and it’s important to review any materials before quoting them, discussing them, or analyzing them.