My dear friend and college roommate, Susan, and I share the pursuit of our ancestors. Over the past several years we have scoured small town libraries and courthouses. Visited the state archives numerous times. Traipsed through fields and forests in search of our ancestors’ final resting places. And gained much insight and wisdom from her master genealogist mother-in-law, Bessie.
My heightened obsession for genealogy started with a hockey puck. November 28, 2015, a stray puck at my son’s game hit me in the head and I had a doozy of a concussion. No TV, iPhone, computer, or reading for quite some time. Most of the time I greatly enjoyed the company of my blackout mask, but in my boredom needed something to keep my mind going. Boxes I brought from my mother’s house….that’s where I decided to start. Mom had moved to memory care and I had some things from her home at my house for safe keeping.
One small box in particular held great treasures. It was a brown stationary box. About 8×10 size. Filled with pictures and random papers from my father and grandparents. My grandparent’s house burned down shortly after they died, so there are not many tangible items left from them. They died when I was very young. My father died when I was 16 and was sick for several years prior, so I have a limited knowledge of him personally. This box held pictures of my father during his service in Japan in WWII along with military documents and his dog tags. A letter inviting my dad to try out for the New York Dodgers signed by Branch Rickey and my grandmother’s teaching certificate from the early 1900’s were tucked away as well.
This box led me to scrapbooks from the 1950’s-60’s. My parent’s early marriage and time spent with my dad’s family. Photos of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sister, and parents enjoying their time together. I must admit I felt somewhat jealous looking at the pictures. I wasn’t born yet and missed out on the closeness the pictures portrayed.
Then I started…..my organizational nature came out. Give me a box with a mess of papers and I will make sense of it. My sister’s birthday was coming up and I decided to tell about a period of our Dad’s life to the best of my ability in a scrapbook. I researched archival safe methods and consulted the State of NC archives for the best way to preserve things. The WWII pictures had names on the backs of them. I tried to find relatives of those men so I could share the pictures with them. No success, but I haven’t given up. Perhaps this is a platform to continue the search. A period of my Dad’s life told in a scrapbook. It “started” to make me want to tell more. Those boxes from my Mom’s house contained more pictures and letters. Letters my father wrote to my mother before they were married. He had such beautiful penmanship and wrote with much humor. What do you think I did with those? Yes, put them in chronological order and they now reside in a scrapbook.
Pictures from my grandparent’s youth and my mother’s childhood were stowed away in the boxes. Two more albums took the story of Malcom and Ida through their early courtship and children.
Two large boxes called me from the basement. Large boxes. One box was a Dole banana grocery store box, the other the same size. I knew they contained pictures and documents from my husband’s family. We brought them back with us 21 years ago after cleaning out my in-law’s home. I looked through the boxes 21 years ago, but figured most were a lost cause because they had no name on them. My healing brain got a warm feeling when I opened those boxes. I went to work sorting through the pictures. Searching the faces to find how the young transformed to the old. Reading Larry’s cousin’s published family history to figure out connections. Over many months I worked with my husband’s relatives to determine most of the unknown pictures. His parents aren’t living, but his brothers and cousins were a great help. Larry added to the collection with a trip to his great grandparent’s homeland in the Czech Republic. An upcoming family reunion was my goal. 4 scrapbooks later I told the story of my mother-in-law’s family from the Czech Republic to Iowa.
Pictures and documents start to speak to me after a while. Success, failure, happiness and sadness. Everyday occurrences are fascinating.
A treasured box found in my mother’s attic with hundreds, yes hundreds of letters that my grandparents wrote to each other. Written daily, for almost 3 years in the 1920’s. That’s to start another day.
Many more stories to tell.
It all started with a hockey puck.