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Howard Lake author to speak Wednesday about collecting family stories now

May 4, 2009

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE, MN - “I have my grandmother’s beautiful wedding dress and I have several serving pieces of her silver. What I don’t have is her story,” said Howard Lake author Birdie Johnson.

As dear as her grandmother’s items are to her, Johnson said she would gladly trade them for her grandmother’s story.

“Questions come to mind as I view my treasures. What were her thoughts the day she wore this wedding dress? What were her hopes and dreams? Who were her in-laws and were they fond of her? Did she like them? What did grandma deem important in life? What did she consider a life well-lived? I long to know her heart. I was about 11 years old when she died and I didn’t know that I would ever long to know her heart,” Johnson explained.

Johnson will be giving a presentation at the Howard Lake Library this Wednesday, May 6 from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m.

Although she will have her book on hand for purchase, her main goal is to get the word out that family stories must be documented now.

She is the author of The Storybook, a book “designed to capture the very essence of a family’s uniqueness.”

“Despite our ‘information age,’ many of us grow up not knowing who our elders were, what they believed, endured, or dreamed,” she added.

In fact, many people have a list of names of ancestors, but not an in-depth knowledge of what those ancestors’ personalities were, or what trials and tribulations they may have lived through, which is something Johnson encourages people to record now, before it’s too late.

“We have a very limited window,” Johnson said. “When they’re gone, we can’t get their story.”

The Storybook was originally printed more than 30 years ago, and sold about 10,000 copies.

Johnson and her co-author and friend Rachel Rustad manufactured the books themselves back then, which was something that was very labor intensive.

They both had careers and families at the time, and decided to discontinue the business after about three years.

“They are now retired and feel more strongly than ever that families need to share their histories with the younger generations,” according to www.thestorybook.net. “As technology increases and story telling decreases, they feel that gradually we are losing sight of our heritage, who our ancestors were, and what they may have to teach us about ourselves.”

“I feel very strongly about the value of family stories and family history,” Johnson said.

“I’ll be talking about why, how to, and when to collect stories,” Johnson said.

For more information about the event, contact the Howard Lake Library at (320) 543-2020.


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