Sunday, June 3, 2007

Source 51

When I was a teenager, I sat down with my maternal grandparents, Gagee and Gramps, along with my own parents. We sat in the living room of the house I grew up in down in Warwick, Rhode Island. My Mom was in and out because she was trying to get dinner on the table for us all. I asked them to give me the family tree. I sat with a pad of coarse, beige sketch paper and wrote down everything they said, as best I could. I knew very few genealogical note taking conventions, so there are narrative bits mixed in with rough trees made up of names, dates and connecting lines and arrows!

In the intervening years, my sister Karen and I have done research and continued to do what we can to keep adding twigs and branches. Coincidentally, Chuck has been doing lots of research on his family as well. Today, Karen called to say she had a hot lead to fax to me. What arrived was information on our maternal great great grandfather’s family. Karen thought this family of six belonged to us, but some of the information was throwing us off. I pulled out my yellowing sheets of sketch paper and sure enough, buried among the lines and arrows were the little gems of information that allowed us to be absolutely sure these were our peeps!

While Chuck was listening to my side of this very excited and animated conversation with Karen, he pulled out the laptop and began entering information into Reunion. He has been a prince of a guy in re-entering all of my family’s information which got left behind in a PC death a few years ago! Gradually I read off details as he digitally hopped from one relative to another. That’s how today, those notes from a family conversation some three decades ago, became “source 51” in our family tree!

:: I can’t encourage you strongly enough. Ask the questions of the oldest generation. Write down the answers. Enter the information into a database. Tell the stories to the younger generations. Everyone deserves to be remembered. No one wants to be forgotten...


Roo said...

I agree, and I can't recall who I recently mentioned this too, but it's interesting too to find out where people where buried etc, as it adds a little full stop to each entry.

My brother and one of my sisters have been working on ours for some time.

barbie2be said...

i wish i had done this when i was younger. my siblings and i are the only ones left on both sides of the family. :(

Pink Granite said...

Hi Roo-
It was to me in the comment you left on my May 26th post! And we have been including burial locations for eveyone we can. Not only does it provide a "full stop", but it can provide valuable clues as well.
We've also been adding a list of all the home addresses we can find to the memo section of each person's entry. It can tell a social/family story as well as helping with census records.
- Lee

Hi B2B-
I'm so sorry you didn't have the opportunity to talk about family history with the older generation before they passed.
Sometimes, during the course of the search, I'm struck by sadness and regret. Regret over the questions I never thought to ask or the things I have forgotten. Sadness over the family members I never knew or about whom I can find so little information. In those moments, I try to think of the research as a way of honoring their memories. I find that helps.
Also, writing down everything you and your siblings do remember will give you a surprising amount of information to work with.
- Lee

Nana Fi said...

I can't agree with you enough. I was very fortunate that my son had to do a family history when he was in grade 8 and luckily, although my mother had passed away, her sister in Scotland had the most amazing stories to tell about their upbring, something that my mother, who was very chatty, never really spoke about. However, there are still things I would love to know now and I think that will always be the case no matter how much you think you have asked.

Pink Granite said...

So true Nana Fi.
I'm glad your son prompted such an outpouring of stories from his great aunt!
Perhaps it's the unanswered questions that allow our loved ones who have passed to maintain a bit of mystery and privacy - while at the same time keep us searching!
- Lee

Tonya said...

so true. love the story.

Roo said...

Lee - the memory ain't what it used to be!

Pink Granite said...

Thanks Tonya!

No worries Roo!

- Lee