Birth to Death and the Dash in Between

The following poem by Linda Ellis provides insight to the placement of a dash between a birth and death dates.

For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.”

This is the reason families need the family tree, the family lineage and not just the names and dates but rather the personal story (whenever possible) for each person on that tree. Adding info of a person’s occupation may not be much but that one tidbit of information does speak about the ancestor. Studies have shown over the years that those individuals who knew more stories about their direct lineage and extended family were more resilient in the face of adversity. They saw what their ancestors endured and how they made the best of their lives. The ‘dash’ is that life, the good and bad, over the decades.

Yet, it not just finding the stories of our ancestors, but make sure those living today, have written their ‘DASH’, their own life stories. The entire individual life does not have to be one epic writing session. Just like a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a personal history begins with a single story, followed by another story, and another one.

The following is a short but important life story on an individual, Carol A. Kershaw Teepe:

“During the rest of 1972 and into early 1973, work and school took up most of Carol’s waking hours. She did manage to spend some time with her boyfriend, Bill whenever she could. Graduation from nursing school was set for the spring of 1973, but the classes and grueling nursing duties were beginning to take their toll on Carol’s physical and mental abilities. At one point she was ready to quit, chuck it all, she was literally worn out, to the sheer point of exhaustion. It was Bill, who convinced her to continue and not give up. She was so close and had come so far, he insisted she had to complete her classes and be there at graduation.

In May 1973, Carol had finished and completed all her courses. She stood proud with her nursing class to receive her nurse’s cap and graduate. The family, friends and especially Bill were all present for this special occasion. Carol beamed with pride as did everyone else around her. She had achieved her goal of becoming a registered nurse.” (photo with Carol’s father, sister and mother)

One method is to make time once a week, or once a month to sit down and either write out those stories, just a few or record them on a digital recorder. If done one a week you will have 52 in a year or once a month you will have at least a dozen completed.

Save the collection of stories and add to them whenever you can. Keep print copies, digital copies, share with other family members and you can submit those life stories to

Make the ‘dash’ count for better knowing an ancestor or for other family members knowing living relatives or yourself. Each family researcher should make their personal collection of their life stories (dash) for future generations, who better to tell their own story?

Photos: Family Stories; Headstone with a dash for Eric Long 1936 – 2009; and Carol Teepe graduating from nursing school in 1973.

Related FamilyTree Blogs:

Find the Family Story

Favorite Family Stories to Preserve

Look Up Family Stories in Local Newspapers

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