Start a storytelling tradition

My two-year-old son Kyle has a book called Squeeze in a Pinch. Based on the children’s television show, Handy Manny, the characters in the story are all illustrated with large round eyes, typical of any children’s book or TV show. There is one character, however, whose eyes are almond shaped and raised on the outside corners (slanted, if you will). I never noticed that this particular character’s eyes were different. My son, however, started pointing to him every time his dad or I read the story. “My,” he would say, as he pointed to his own eyes.

My husband, who has red hair and is of Scottish descent, and I thought it was interesting and wondered if he, in fact, understood the difference and was saying that he looks like the boy in the book. Does he “see” the facial differences in his parents?IMG_2620

When Kyle and his brother, Ronan, grow up, they will inevitably ask about their family history. They will, like all children, be interested in their families’ traditions, culture and stories. How fortunate they are to have two different stories to enjoy!

For this reason, we take the time to ask questions and write down the stories. The stories are precious gems to be passed down to children and grandchildren. They are also food for the spirit. Everyone wants to belong.

I was fortunate to have grown up in a family that has a strong tradition of storytelling – orally and with the printed word. And so it was natural for my brother, my cousins and I to have the desire to ask questions about our ancestors and to be interested in how our families ended up in Canada – the route they took and the decisions they made. Imagine what our lives would be like if we had been born in China? Would we be the same people?

These are the questions that evolve out of studying one’s family history. But where do you start, when you want to find out about your family’s past? What questions do you ask? Who do you speak to, when very little has been written or passed down through the generations? And, when you do find information and photos, how do you preserve them for future generations? These are some of the questions and topics discussed here.

Check back regularly and send in your questions, comments or ideas. You can email us at TracingOurPast [at] We would love to hear from you.

~ C.T.

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