Power of Story Week 4: Discovering Where I Come From

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I was 18 and moved away from home for the very first time; a whole state away. I wasn't worried, though; I was brave. Or so I thought. After the excitement of the first few nights wore off, I was ready to go home and sleep in my own bed. I was ready to have mom make me some dinner, all I'd done is kind of snack on stuff in my kitchen. I was ready to get a big, warm hug and have someone ask about my day.

I worked up the nerve and swallowed enough pride to let my mom know how I was feeling. It wasn't long after that her and a friend of hers decided they wanted to make a road trip in my direction. My mom arrived with a big, warm hug, made me dinner, and asked me how everything was going. Then, as we sat there on my dorm room “cot”, she told me a story. I'd heard the story before but it had never meant so much.

She told me about a young girl who lived in Ireland and lost her mom when she was about 12 years old. She was a good girl and took care of her little brothers so her daddy could still provide for them. She kept house, made meals, knew her place in her home, and was happy with it. But a few years later when her dad remarried, she didn't know her place so much anymore. She was missing her mom more than ever and was invited by an aunt to come to America. So at the young age of 16, she packed up her courage and, utterly alone, got on a boat. As she waved goodbye to her home in Ireland, Jennie Duffy, my great grandmother, knew she would never return to the land and family she loved.

I hugged my mom and thanked her. All of a sudden, things didn't seem so bad compared to what my great-grandmother had done. Her blood ran through me and her story reached out to me like a lifeline. After that, my mom pulled out a little package. Inside was a doll dressed in a little red, wool tartan and carrying a bag with a luggage tag that said, “To America, From Ireland.” I love that doll. To this day, it's still a reminder that I can do tough things.

My mom created a sweet memory that day. She was able to do that because she did some family history, and because she told me stories.

"How will we know who we are if we don't know where we come from?"

And this is the next chapter in our story. Where do you come from? What is your heritage, and what has its presence, or lack of, meant in your life? Where do your favorite family recipes come from? Ask the oldest living person in your family about their grandparents and then ask one magical question, "What is something that turned out better than you expected?"

So many people want to know their family stories, but many of us don't know where to start. There's a conference in Salt Lake City, Utah that is all about family stories. And this year, one of our fabulous keynote speakers will be the famous and fabulous Jyl Pattee! There's lots of other great speakers, fun things to do, workshops to attend, and people to meet. The conference is called Story@Home and as a Mom It Forward reader, you can come for only $59! But reserve your space soon, the offer will end October 30th.

Have you done family history? What was the most helpful resource in your research?

Check out other posts in our Power of Story series:

For over 20 years, Carol Rice has been a national presenter, lecturer, author, and conducted hundreds of workshops and training events about the power of storytelling. Yet, she has been living it her entire life as the daughter of an avid genealogist, Carol learned first hand the importance of bringing our heritage to life through the power of story. She currently serves as President of a storytelling and family history publisher, Cherish|Bound. She produces an annual event called Story@Home. Has served as Outreach Executive Director for Timpanogos Storytelling Institute and Finance Chair of the National Storytelling Network.  Everyone has a story – Carol’s mission is to help you tell yours. Find her on facebook, follow her on twitter: carolrice or email: [email protected].


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