It was 1970 and my mother gathered us together to tell us that her mother had passed away. We lived a few hours away, so seeing my grandparents was a big event and only 1 or 2 times a year. We loved being there, everyone did.
At her funeral there were so many people, they filled every available space in the church and about the same number had to stand outside the church. I was so young, just turned 13, but who were all these people at ‘my’ grandmothers funeral. They weren’t relatives, I never saw them before – obviously this was the first funeral I had ever been to.
Later on, my grandfather had all the girls go downstairs and clean out the trunks and items in the basement. The boys went outside and cleaned items out of the big barn. Grandpa did not want to live in this place without the love of his life, he was so heartbroken, I ached inside for him.
Many items, letters, documents and photos were discovered. None of their children (our parents) knew they even existed. One didn’t go snooping through other peoples things.
Someone started a fire to burn moldy items, but so sadly without asking the other siblings, one sibling, who was known for an overly tidy house, began to throw out those olde things! NO! cried one aunt by marriage and told the others to stop her.
This aunt, had lost her mother recently and they had discovered many unknown treasures as well.
Thankfully, she knew what she saw, and knew the value of those old dusty photos and letters and documents and books. Some could not be saved, but the ones that did are such treasures. The items were divided and my mom volunteered to put all the items and letters and photos in a thin booklet for each of the siblings.
This journey took her some time and because items were scattered to different relatives, some items were never seen again. Not that anyone was hoarding items, but letters and documents read at the dividing were never seen again. One such letter told of a relative that was helping to sew the flag during the American Revolution.
So if my mother was doing all of this, what has that got to do with me? I really wanted to help, but I was the youngest child, one of the youngest of all the grandchildren, and was not allowed to help out, but I did get to hear the stories.
Then one day my mother had a stroke, small ones at first, then after my father passed on, she had 3 major strokes. Since, I had done some family research on my own, I was now the only one interested in and available to take on the family history.
My first task was to put together a family reunion and I asked each family member to bring what they had, if they could, and I would either photograph or scan on a flatbed scanner the items they brought. Then they could take their items home and I gave CD’s of what was shared. Everyone helped me get the pedigree correct and the participation was wonderful!
Later that year I was able to go to another relative’s home and document all that they had and they gave me the items that belonged to my mother. Wow! what a gift that was!
This has been an exciting, disturbing, heartbreaking, heart filling, amazing and tremendously fulfilling journey. It is far from over, the more I discover the more I need to research and discover.
One note to help you all with your journey – Do It Now! write those stories down that you hear relatives share, get the names of those people in the photos and write them on the back of the photos. Too many times I was setting up a time to visit an aunt or uncle, only to get a call they had passed away the week before. Devastating! I waited too long to go visit.
Don’t Wait! Do It Now!
My next Blog I will try to go more in depth in tracing information back to the primary documents. Sometimes it is very easy, sometimes it is not where you would think it would be and sometimes it can take a couple years to find something.
Thank you for letting me take this journey part way with you and Thank you for letting me share my journey with you.