Quiet Spirits ~ Heritage Traditions

Written by Ann Edall-Robson

Author, photographer and lover of life. Capturing and sharing moments others may never get to experience.

April 21, 2020


I find it unfortunate that so many people in today’s world are not interested in their heritage. Traditions and knowledge passed down through generations, face a continual demise because of them. 

Events, people, stories, and personal memories, whether good or bad, are all triggers. Ramblings of the old ways and days somehow are encouraged to leap to the surface from a hidden memory vault.  A pilgrimage to where? Bits and pieces rendered together by a thread of coherent thoughts. 

Perhaps just logical arguments between possible misconstrued imagination and the actual archived knowledge.


I am passionate about preserving western lifestyles and traditions. What is it I do to ensure the information passes to the next generation, and beyond?

You can often find me traveling gravel roads and wandering the land, stopping to take pictures as I go, and capturing moments others may never get to experience. When I come across a familiar scene that evokes an image of yesteryear it’s easy for me to slip back in time and writeWestern Traditions

Finding the unexpected sends a slight shiver that pulses through the body and mind. Words resonate with a visual scene telling of a life that still exists from another era, a reminder of stories told by old-timers and elders in an attempt to keep traditions alive. It was a way for them to teach about their lifestyle while sharing a connection to their past.

Personal experiences and the recollections of our family’s stories make for excellent research data, and I rely on both when I write.

What can I suggest to you about keeping your traditions from evaporating into hearsay?

The process has no need to be elaborate. A simple trek into genealogy will provide a lot of information. It’s as easy as paying attention to the stories your elders tell. Make a habit of recording names, dates, and anecdotes. Their age and mental health might cause some skepticism in their tales, but don’t let that deter you.  Take pictures. Ask about people in old pictures. Nothing has to be carved in stone. For now, it only needs to be documentedBear Springs Cabins

Now for some fun…

I encourage you to write about a tradition from your heritage. It can be one your family follows with a modern twist. It can be one you would like resurrected. It can be one you have used for research in something you have written. The only rule…go where ever the quiet spirit within takes you.



Keeping the fast disappearing western heritage and traditions alive, in case you haven’t guessed, is one of my passions. And like everything else in life, it isn’t until you can see it sliding away, that you start hanging on for dear life. 

The taking pictures thing started forever ago, and when I found I could marry them to the material I have written, and am writing, well, to put it mildly, I think I have a bit of a runaway going on. 

I am a lover of life and all things that make us smile. I write and take pictures for the pleasure of being able to share at Morning Muse, HorseWest, and my Blog at AnnEdallRobson.com where you can also contact me. 


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  1. Ritu

    Love this. I’m a British born Indian, born to Kenyan born Indian parents.
    We have such a colourful Indian heritage, filled with traditions, language, song and dance, and I’d hate it to disappear.
    On top of that, Kenyan Sikhs created their own traditions, which I what to uphold.
    My mum loves to dig deeper into learning the why’s for these things too, so I have great fun talking things through, and learning from her.
    I try to use these nuggets of inspiration in my writing.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      I like to record the stories I am being told. I ask if I can and sometimes I am turned down. Mostly because the person isn’t comfortable about being recorded. I will offer to record a bit and let them listen to what they have said. Usually, that is the turning point and we are away to the races. I let them talk with as few interruptions as possible. Listening to their voices as they fill in the holes of tradition and history is wonderful.

      • Ritu

        How wonderful!

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    You’ve set my mind to wandering this morning. I suppose traditions are the seasonal things that have to get done. The heritage is the stories of the previous times and people doing those same things, real stories and real people with the teller a direct link in the great chain of h’story. The heritage is in knowing (knowing) the place of the stories and the stories of a place.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      I think we all know some of those stories. Deciding to capture them before they are lost is the key that unlocks the chain. The fun part is hearing the same story from two or three family members or friends. All the same…all different.

  3. Jules


    One tradition I can not quite grasp was why, when someone died young they in my family… weren’t spoken about. It is through odd ways that I found out some of the stories of the mystery of a very important person in my heritage.

    We need to remember to ask early and often…of our elders. Once I finally thought that the time was right the memories were too painful for the one person I was asking… so a whole box of photos has nameless faces…

    Now of course our own ‘unit’ has its own traditions of mixed faiths. Now as the ‘elder’ one must respect the parents of the younger ones and perhaps wait for the questions… and hopefully then have some answers.

    It is that way through my own writing – that I hope to have captured some of who I am – and maybe there will come a time when others in the family will appreciate that.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      Gathering history in any way we can is important. Taking that information to the next level in your own writing may give food for thought for those in the family to do their own research.

      • Helen Wand

        I couldn’t agree more! Asking our elders for stories is like asking an astronomer to explain the moon. You get the nooks and crannies of your family heritage and a greater appreciation of your ancestors. I’ve written one book about my fore people and am in the process of completing another. It truly is the most satisfying thing that I’ve done in my life. Thank you, Ann for you encouragement and inspiration.

      • Ann Edall Robson

        I have had the pleasure of meeting Helen and enjoyed a day traveling her back roads to the places in Oregon she wrote about in her book, Where Eagles Nest. It was a treat to spend time with this talented lady on the land oozing with her history. Learning more about the family that she had brought to life on the pages of her book.
        I am looking forward to reading the next book, and I hope you will come back and visit us at the Carrot Ranch, again.

  4. Michael

    Great post… got me to thinking about how uncertain i ask add to what my culture even is anymore…i feel very much detached from what went before… yet my present seems lacking in anything that clearly defines my culture…

    • Ann Edall Robson

      The norm of today seldom lets us see the history of our culture. Grasping at a shred of tradition and following it through to the end opens many doors we don’t consider as part of who we are.

  5. denmaniacs4

    I enjoyed the post Anne. Much of what I write tries to paint a picture of the past and give it new currency. This excerpt from my second book was meant to glow lightly on a small family tradition…”As I grew older, my favorite snack became a hunk of raw onion accompanied by a sizable slab of plastic Velveeta Cheese. Every year until she died, my mother would give me a Christmas block of Velveeta and one half dozen thin nylon socks. This rapacious ritual continues as I splurge every Christmas for a two lb. package of the yellow composite. I still have a few of those thin, slippery socks so there is no need to replenish them.”

    • Ann Edall Robson

      It’s wonderful to add personal touches from our lives into our work. Even fiction becomes more meaningful. Allowing us to incorporate detail that hearsay and research cannot master. Eventually letting you tell the story as only you know how it should play out.

    • Charli Mills

      Viva la Velveeta!

  6. Sherri Matthews

    It is a wonderful gift isn’t it, exploring our family heritage and history? I love that you are keeping your Western heritage, lifestyles and traditions alive, Ann. I love it! I moved to California as a young mum with my little boy then three and raised him and his two siblings there for almost 20 years. I made it my mission to give them equal measure to their American and British heritage. American, in their case, meant Spanish and some Native American. I took on American traditions like Thanksgiving and was able to give my children English traditions like Bonfire Night on November 11th when we moved back. When we visited my family in England in the summer, I took them to as many castles, musuems and historic buildings as I could. I am proud to say that all three (all adults now) have a love for history. I loved talking to my Granny about her life at the turn of the century as a Baptist minister’s daughter and living in Australia for 7 years and my mother enjoyed telling her grandchildren about her experiences as a girl during the second World War. Stories of my Granny making tea on a bunson burner in the bomb shelter at the bottom of their garden…my grandfather in the Home Guard. Stories I need to document. Thank you for the push, Ann, and for your lovely, warm post. Just what we need today 🙂

    • Ann Edall Robson

      As you well know, Sherri, splitting traditions is not easy, and I take my hat off to you for gifting your children with their whole history to do with as they saw fit. Yes, you do need to document. Perhaps it is you who needs to talk into a recorder and then sift through your words at a time that suits you. What fun it would be to have your children talk about their traditions growing up. Never miss out on an opportunity to get all that you can to keep the history intact.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Wise and inspiring advice, Ann. Thank you!

  7. Pastor Cathy

    Words resonate

    archived knowledge.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      This is so true.

  8. Charli Mills

    I still have family on ranches in Nevada and Montana, and I’m always open to collecting stories. Sometimes I’ll get a story from my dad about his grandfathers. One was a moonshining rapscallion who could outswear the teamsters by the time he was seven, and the other was a buckaroo and bull-rider. His father ranched on Mount Diablo in the late 1800s. They past down knife skills for making rawhide — lariats, reins, and decorative buttons. Nowadays I can whip out a knife and peel potatoes in seconds flat because of learning how to rawhide as a kid. I see people at horse shows wearing buckaroo gear who have no idea of the heritage behind it — the Vaqueroes who mingled with the Portagees, Basquos, and Scots. I’m not interested in writing down those stories but collect them to inform my fiction. Danni, my current protagonist, is from that heritage. It would be fun to take you to the outfits in Nevada and the big spread near Miles City. You’d have a field day with your camera. I love your photo of the cattle drive!

    • Ann Edall Robson

      The personal knowledge we use in our writing lends to our credibility on the subject. My wish in my prose is for people who do know what I am writing about, nod their head, and keep reading. Hooked to read more because of the injection of plausible information. And maybe, just maybe, others can be drawn in by their need to learn more.
      My camera has become an extension to my writing, or maybe it’s the other way around. It’s considered to be my technical research assistant, and the old saying a picture says 1000 words holds true for me.
      A road trip with you would be a treat. I know one thing for sure, there would be a lot of “Whoa, back up, stop” moments.
      Keep gathering your stories, Charli. Danni needs them and so does the rest of the world.

      • susansleggs

        My memories of the road trips last summer in Vermont are high on my list of the best ever. It would be a treat to make more.
        Anne, I think others would like to know what a whoa, back-up, stop, moment is. I long to see your section of Alberta. Your wall art was so enjoyable to peruse. Thanks for sharing.

      • Ann Edall Robson

        Thank you, Susan, for suggesting an explanation for the “whoa, back up, stop” moments.
        Through the years of traveling back roads and highways with my husband as the chauffeur, he became used to these urgent words. He never questioned why, all he was certain of was that I had seen something that required him to find a safe place on the road and “whoa”. Usually, he would then need to “back up” until I hollered “stop”. I would take pictures and we would be on our way.
        It has now become part of a trip planning conversation when I travel with others.

      • Charli Mills

        Ann, we’d both be saying, “Whoa, back up, stop!” I love that you see your camera as an extension of your writing. It certainly is a modern storyteller’s tool. The word “plausible” is one I aim for with historical fiction. As you know, women rarely make history books and they are sparse among primary source documents. Often writers have to root out those first-hand stories, journals, cookbooks, and scrapbooks to catch glimpses. Then we rely upon our own experiences and family history to help guide what would be plausible to tell the story and create the emotion and action.

      • Charli Mills

        Susan, I still dream of Vermont’s backroads. I’d also love to travel Ann’s gravel roads, and share the ones I know out West.

      • Ann Edall Robson

        Any time, Charli, any time.

  9. Marje @ Kyrosmagica

    We have a mix of traditions in my house. My mum’s heritage is Chinese Malaysian, so we celebrate Chinese New Year, and we talk about food all day long (especially my mum.)! My dad is Scottish so we do Auld Lang Syne when the mood arises, Scottish Country dancing and the like. I have a fascination with dragons (my Chinese roots,) and the Lock Ness Monster! I eat just about anything from Mince, Neeps and Tatties to spicy curry. But, I’m not too fond of haggis. Lol.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      An interesting and excellent blend of traditions and food, Marje. My only wish is that you have all of these recipes written down. As year fly by, and they will, it becomes hard to replicate food tastes without the knowledge of all of the ingredients that went into the dish. I don’t blame you on the haggis, yet there are those that indulge with gusto.

      • Marje @ Kyrosmagica

        Yes I should do so Ann. My mum even makes a fabulous macaroni cheese. Not so creamy as the usual one but special and Oh so tasty. She’s an amazing cook

      • Ann Edall Robson

        I have all of my mom’s cookbooks and other recipes written on every kind of paper imaginable. I love reading through them and her handwritten notes. Often that is where I find what it was exactly that made her rendition of a dish special.

  10. H.R.R. Gorman

    Nice post, and I look forward to more! Your pictures are fantastic, too.

    For myself, I’m from the Appalachians, and the culture there is (as one would expect) quite distinct. Something I remember very distinctly were our hymnals with shape notes. Shape notes aren’t very common anymore, but they use shapes to denote the pitch rather than using the typical staff. The hymnals were very old because shape notes aren’t common anymore, but my church kept scanning, re-printing, and gluing in sheets because a new book wouldn’t “have the blood in it” and there would be no more singing.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      Their conviction to keep the old book intact by whatever means they could is commendable. A world without the old songs, I fear, would become dismal.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        It’s an admirable course. I’ve heard shape music is making a comeback due to historical study, so maybe there will one day be a re-print of these books.

    • susansleggs

      I’ve never heard of shape notes. Another tidbit to add to the “look this up” list. Thank you for sharing.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        They’re around, but pretty rare. In America, at least, they were used to teach the “white trash” how to sing.

    • Charli Mills

      I would love to know more about my Appalachian roots, H. Thanks for sharing the tidbit on shape notes.

  11. susansleggs

    My mother was 42 when I was born and I had no grandparents past the age of 8. I have no memories of “the old folks” telling family stories and no understanding of why when my grandfather was one of seven boys I only knew my father’s sibling’s children. We had a large family Thanksgiving when I was little but that stopped with my mother’s death 50 years ago. I feel I’ve missed out on an important slice of life. My sister has done some genealogy, but lists of names don’t make up for personal interaction. My husband’s family has lots of history and stories that I enjoy knowing.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      I agree a name is hard to get acquainted with if you have not had the opportunity to meet the person. Even old pictures can’t give the material to fill the void. When looking at old buildings, homesteads, and roads that have grown over in time, I often wish there was a way to extract the stories they could tell. You are lucky to have your husband’s family history and stories. If you haven’t already, maybe it’s time to record them so other can enjoy them as you do.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a big hole in your backstory, Sue. Stories are like gold, but sometimes they pop up in strange ways — meeting a distant cousin through genealogy research or finding snippets in Newspapers.com. I have a subscription if you ever want me to search names for you (it’s my treat to get lost in the old print).

  12. Norah

    Interesting post, Ann. You’ve made me think about the traditions of my family. There were many as I grew up, of course, as one of a big family, but I carried few over into my own family. Perhaps I’ll have to think on that a little more and consider whether there are more than at first it seems. I find the stories of the past interesting, but am not particularly interested in the names, dates and places other than as relevant to the story.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      I get excited when the names, dates, and places I have recorded elsewhere somehow now intertwine with the history of someone else. That thread might take me on a journey to confirm the history and traditions I have been searching for. Ultimately, it adds to the fuel and credibility of my writing.

      • Norah

        Writing history is complex. You need a keen and curious mind.

  13. Marsha

    Even if you ask and have pictures, it’s still so hard to start putting stories into words and the words into a memoir. I wish I’d had the technology to record my mom talking to my brother and me about the ancient ones in our family when we were kids. Love your post, Ann.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      I hear you, Marsha. There are many times I have chastised myself for not taking the time to get the ‘whole’ story down.

      • Marsha

        We don’t appreciate or understand enough when we are young. I’m glad you are encouraging young people especially to keep track. ????

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