Local Heart, Global Soul

August 5, 2011

Looking to the Past and Thinking of the Future…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One of the items on my  “101 Things in 1001 Days” task list  is:

18. To chase up family history from some older family members before it’s too late.

My Mother passed away some twenty years ago and now with children of my own I started to realise that there are soooo many things I wish I could have asked her, not only about her life but also about my Grandparents on her side of the family too.

My Mother-in-Law is approaching 90 years of age, and whilst she is becoming  becoming physically frail,  mentally she is still capable: to the point where she still lives independently, albeit with ever increasing  assistance from family members.

My Father recently married his partner of a decade and I realised that since I have now lived a substantial part of my life on the other side of the world, and only see them intermittently, that I know rather little about my new Step-Mother too.

To this end I have sent Himself out with a shopping list for books…  the “Oma / Opa vertel ‘s”  books to be exact. (the ‘s  is the shortened form of the word “eens“= a kind of filler word in Dutch that doesn’t have a really literal translation in this particular instance, but  the title translates literally as “Grandma tell us…” “Grandpa tell us… (a story)” and these are separate books that you give as a gift to your parents or grandparents to fill in.

As far as I know these are a fairly recent innovation and I think, a brilliant idea. These books are of course, (naturally enough since we are in the Netherlands) only available in the Dutch language, but since my Father is Dutch he will help my non dutch speaking Step-Mother fill hers in.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

On various pages there is space for free texts, but on many pages there are various prompts to get the thought processes going.

Basic stuff is covered, like where the person was born, how many brothers and sisters they had etc but there are also many prompts about childhood games, toys, celebrations, family traditions, typical food they ate, what their school days were like, work and social habits, how holidays were spent, differences they have noticed between when they were young and now,  their studies, apprenticeships or first work experiences, how they met their husband/wife etc.

All of this is designed to build up a picture what their lives were like as children,  teenagers and adults.

I like that this gives an insight to our parents and grandparents lives on detail,  issues, and experiences that are often, for many many often complicated reasons just aren’t discussed when we are together in person.

Today’s life is very much lived in the “here and now” and we don’t tend to sit down and talk about the past, let alone document it.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

By giving my Father, Step-Mother and Mother-in-Law one of these books each, I hope that they will be inspired to jot down many things that will enlighten me about their lives and to give their grandchildren (my children) an enduring record to treasure when they are old enough to appreciate it.

Family history is more than just doing a genealogy search and  labeling a Family Tree (sigh. that  task is however still on my long  list for “one day” but  a too large and complicated  task for me right now). In the meantime I hope to make the people who are alive today, into real human beings with personal histories and not just a date of birth, marriage and death.

If course, once my 1001 Days is up and I sit to make a list of new 101 tasks, I’m sure that one of the new entires will to be to buy a copy of this book for Himself and myself, (yes I know, we aren’t Grandparents yet, but the principle is there) and for us to start making entries of our own,  (especially the more private stuff that doesn’t go into this blog)  to fill in our kids about our own lives as children and things about their parents that they might appreciate when they are old enough too.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)


  1. What a great idea these books are!

    Comment by Tilly Bud — August 5, 2011 @ 6:12 am | Reply

  2. Hi Tilly, does anything like this exist in the UK maybe?
    Himself and I aim to get a copy each for ourselves sometime soon becuase well, there’s no time like the present and who knows how much time we are scheduled to have on this mortal coil? There is always a wealth of really personal information you can give your kids… details about their first days and early months (both of mine were premies and Kiwi Daughter had a very difficult first year).
    In my case I also want to document details on the two babies I lost to miscarriage and a lot of the very personal feelings that came up as we faced the fact at one point that we might never be able to have children at all. Hopefully it will explain a lot to my kids (probably why I always err on the side of caution LOL) and they will see just how special they are to us.
    There are also many explainations to be made of family relationships, who’s not talking to who in the family, etc and personal stuff that I remember about *my* grandparents. Too long have many generations followed the mantra “that’s best left unsaid” and I find that it only throws up mystries and unease in families. I want my kids to have a more rounded and realistic view of normal everyday family relationships.

    Comment by kiwidutch — August 5, 2011 @ 6:41 am | Reply

  3. wat een leuk idee

    Comment by marja — August 5, 2011 @ 9:23 am | Reply

  4. Wonderful idea! I can only imagine the things you will discover and learn!

    Comment by milkayphoto — August 5, 2011 @ 3:36 pm | Reply

    • I know, it will be very interesting one day. Wanna start a similar business in the USA Tracy?

      Comment by kiwidutch — August 5, 2011 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

  5. i love the idea of the book. wish id done that w/ my grandparents.

    Comment by lisa is on her mobile — August 5, 2011 @ 6:23 pm | Reply

  6. I think this is a lovely idea. I haven’t seen any books like this in the UK but I guess if you look on Amazon you may find one.

    Good luck on fulfilling your challenge.

    Comment by sarsm — August 6, 2011 @ 12:45 am | Reply

  7. That is an awesome idea! i will definitely have to use this on my dad. Thanks so much

    Comment by Design Clash — August 29, 2011 @ 5:01 am | Reply

  8. I’m a kiwi, and these books are wonderful. My mother has one and is slowly filling it in, it’s lovely. The story of how she and my dad met, small memories of her school days and her parents too. I have to be patient though because I’d love for it to be finished tomorrow, it won’t be :o)

    Comment by J.a.f.a.kat — September 6, 2012 @ 9:24 am | Reply

    • Excellent that your Mother is filling in her copy… it’s gives so much insight to the little but important bits of family information that will eventually build up a more complete family picture. Sometimes I think it might also anser many questions… I hope that my Father will put in many of the missing information about my mother, details about when and how they met etc…. stuff I might have thought to ask her had I not been too young to be thinking about that kind of thing when she died.

      Comment by kiwidutch — September 6, 2012 @ 10:34 am | Reply

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