Winter is the time for visiting with anyone we can find -- relatives, friends and strangers.

As we visit, there is a warmth unequaled by good home heating, a warm fireside or that soft down comforter. Yes, we even talk and hear about the "old days" when times were good or not so good. We talk about how we enjoyed the good times and even how we managed through the hard times. We laugh at the fun times and marvel at how we endured the tough times.

In visiting, the magic of times gone by are laughed about and shared with each other. That's how histories were once passed on -- by the spoken word! However, much of history was lost because it was not written.

My mother's ancestors and family were wonderful about writing about their lives and family times, and these are treasures beyond imagination to me.

I was born and raised in Denver and always knew my grandfather Harry Baldwin was taken into a cornfield 51βΡ2 miles from Lawrence when Quantrill burned the town. He wrote about how his mother held his hand and pointed east saying, "Quantrill is burning the town and killing the men and boys."

I knew this because he wrote the story of his life for his family.

I always wondered where his father, Henry, was, and later, I discovered Henry wrote about his life and of his days in Kansas. But none of my family was aware of it.

Once I located my great-grandfather Henry Baldwin's writings, I read of his early life in Connecticut. It also told of how he and his brother, Andrew, had come by a two-horse wagon to Bleeding Kansas in 1854.

Henry fought in the border war and helped defend Kansas from the terrorism by the Missouri ruffians on the early settlers and their homesteads. He also wrote of the fraudulent elections and the struggle for statehood for Kansas. The words caused my heart to swell with pride and wonder.

My great grandfather, Henry, then met Anna Cosley who became his wife in 1859. She and her family arrived in 1854 with the Ohio Delegation to help settle Kansas as a free state. I found a letter she wrote to the Xenia, Ohio, newspaper in 1855 about the dread and fear of the border ruffians on the early settlers. It was very graphic about the scary times in Douglas County.

These writings are so very important to me, but that is not the important message they send.

What of the unwritten story of your family and their lives in earlier times, or even in these days? Family treasures might be kept, but every family has a wonderful treasure in the story of their past.

Just in visiting, I have heard some fantastic stories. This is the history that comes alive for those who follow in generations after us. If they are not written, they are lost, and they are important messages for those who come after us.

We might say, "My story or my family's story is not important enough to save in writing." But it then falls into a big pile of stories that will be lost forever.

At family get-togethers, when grandma or grandpa talk about the "old days," record their conversation (with permission, of course) and later write it up or at least save the recording. They might say "Naw, it's not important," but it is.

Tell them, "Aw, come on, I want to keep it." They'll probably agree. After all, you know how to talk Gramma or Gramps into anything.

We have so many ways to write with modern technology, but we have to keep in mind the technology we have now can change and become unusable down the years. The good old written word on acid-free paper still is unbeatable. I admit computers are a tremendous help, but only if we use them in savable ways.

There are so many resources at our wonderful Hays Public Library as well as on the Internet. But the very best resources are those memories that are talked about and shared with each other.

The only way to make them last through the years is by committing them to the written word. If we feel our ability to write is not good enough, that really does not matter. What matters is we save the stories each of us have, so it can be passed down to future generations.

Our spelling and proper English usage is not the most important factor. Just writing it is. Otherwise, it goes into the heap of lost stories.

Share the past so it will not be forgotten.

Ruth Moriarity is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.