My Grandfather…the Personal Historian

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My paternal grandfather was born 121 years ago on December 19, 1895 and died nine days short of 94 on December 10, 1989.

I never had a close relationship with him when I was a young child partly due to the hundreds of miles between us as he lived in San Antonio, Texas and I lived in Northwest Indiana. In the early 1980’s when I was in my early twenties, I began to visit him on my own. I’m so fortunate that I came to know him better because he opened up a door for me stirring my interest in my family lineage.

My grandfather introduced me to my ancestors and to my heritage. I became intrigued with his oral stories and family pictures he had of his family. He shared with me his journals that he kept. He showed me the paper with his father’s writing recording the day that grandfather was born. He also show me the genealogical notes that he had on his family. He was a personal historian himself.

I went home after that first visit and started recording my ancestors’ and immediate family’s dates and facts. I began to interview and record family stories. Little did I know it at that time, thanks to my grandfather, the personal historian in me was born.

In 1974 he wrote about his service in World War I: “I was in France, Company F. 360 Infantry 90 Division, American Expeditionary Force. It was Sunday, November 11th, 1918 and we were advancing under heavy fire from the enemy. We had orders to take ‘Metz at all costs. We already had taken St. Michiel where the French lost 40,000 men. In that fighting we lost some men including two lieutenants and my captain was wounded. Many of our men were wounded too.

At 11 a.m. on that cold, rainy day of November 11th the War came to an end. Week later we went to Luxembourg for a rest of two weeks. Then to Berncastle, Germany. Stayed in Germany almost one year. So 56 years have passed since. I was almost 23 years old. So today the 11th day of November, 1974 I give thanks to our Lord Jesus for all the blessings I have received all those years of my life.”

And I give thanks that my grandfather recorded his memories and lit the fire in me to continue his mission as the family historian.

It is said that after two generations family stories can be lost if not recorded. However, there will come the day when I have a grandchild or a grandniece or grandnephew come to me with questions about their heritage, and I will be able to tell them about their ancestors as far back as the early 1800’s because my grandfather shared it with me. And hopefully there will be one in that next generation that will become the next family historian.

What priceless story from your grandparents can you preserve? Now is the time to open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of stories that your grandparents had shared with you. If your grandparents are still with you, take the time to record their memories.

www.keepingyourmemories.com

Mom – I’ll Love You Forever

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My mom is gone but her memories are still with me. It was in 1985. I was at Mom’s home with the plan to record some of her stories using a cassette tape recorder. When I arrived, she was in her usual place…the kitchen. She was fixing lunch for dad and once all was prepared and Dad was settled, we went into the living room and Mom shared about her childhood in the 1930’s, her parents, her siblings and Dad.

In 1985 her mother…my grandmother…had been gone for seven years. And today, January 20, 2016 my mother has been gone for seven years. Just as my heart and writings are filled with memories of my mother, she too had her heart filled with memories of her mother. I now understand how my mother felt with the love she had for her mom. Today Grandma would be 118 years old and Mom would be 88 years old.

She shared, “Mom made our clothes and our coats.  She also worked and did housekeeping for the Elder’s and Smith’s in Webb City, Missouri.  And people would give her their old coats, and she would make them into coats for us.  And she made really nice coats.  She would use scraps to make quilts, and she would put them together with yarn…comforters.  She would use flannel sheeting for the underneath side.

She’d still be working when I got home from school.  I don’t know how old I was when she started working at the Miller Manufacturing Shirt Factory in Joplin, Missouri.  It might have been while I was in grade school.

When she came home from work, I didn’t often show her what I had done at school that day, but when I was in the fifth grade I started learning fractions.  Every night we’d sit down there, and I had to teach her what I learned.  I taught her how to use fractions because she had to use fractions at work, and she didn’t know them.

We did a lot of spelling too at home.  Mama liked words, and she needed to learn it for herself.  It wasn’t that she spent time with us, but she needed to learn it for herself; it was more for her sake.  She was only able to go to school through third grade. But it was good because we both learned more that way.  The spelling must have been just because she enjoyed it.  But maybe she was learning too.”

It is delightful to read how despite Grandma’s formal education ended when she was nine years old, it never stopped her desire to learn. And I’m delighted that my mother recorded these memories.  Now is the time to pull out your laptop or grab paper or pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your mother.

  • What are your earliest memories with your mother?
  • How much education did your mother complete and where did she attend?
  • Was she a stay-at-home mother or did she work outside the home?
  • Did your mother have a favorite saying you can remember him repeating?
  • What do you realize about your mother’s life that you didn’t understand when you were growing up?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

Finding an Unknown Link to My Past

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For the past ten years we have driven that one and a half hour journey on I-65 from Northwest Indiana taking my kids back and forth to Purdue University in West Lafayette. We  attended first year orientations, moved them in and out of dorms and apartments, cheered at football and basketball games, and proudly attended and cried at graduations.

Little did I realize that in all those travels how close we were to a part of my past. Little did I know that  over 180 years ago my ancestors worked, raised families and traveled only twenty miles from where I often visited. I only knew of the majority of my ancestors, including my parents, who were originally from Missouri and Texas.

Earlier this year I learned that my great-great-great-great-grandparents were buried near Delphi, Indiana which was only 20 miles from where we had been traveling to all these years.

So this past summer when we drove down one last time to help my youngest son compile all his belongings into a U-Haul and move home after his graduation, we decided to find this cemetery and pay honor to these folks that were part of my ancestry.

Fortunately, this cemetery was small enough that it was a short search for the gravesites. I was excited to stand near the graves of these great-great-great-great-grandparents who died in the mid 1800’s. I was amazed by the fact that I was standing near the grave where my ancestors were buried 160 years ago. Would they ever have imagined that a descendant  – a granddaughter – would be standing there?

I have found stories of these ancestors that have been recorded by others. I don’t know if they ever journaled personally to preserve their own stories. I would love to know how they commuted, did they travel much, how did they spend time with their family? Were they anything like me or was I anything like them? It was an odd feeling standing in this cemetery in the middle of farmlands knowing that part of me was here.

How far back have you been able to trace your ancestors? Find A Grave has over 138 million grave records and is an excellent source for finding information and leads. Pull out your laptop or grab a pen and paper and start Keeping Your Memories of the stories you have heard your parents or grandparents share with you about their grandparents. If you don’t have many of those stories, record stories of your grandparents for future generations to read.

  • Do you remember any special stories your grandparents told you?
  • Where did your grandparents live?
  • Where were they born?
  • What circumstances brought them to the place where your parents were born?
  • If your grandparents are still with you, are they able to tell you stories of their grandparents?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

Show Me the Facts Plus the Stories Behind Them

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I’m amazed at the extent of genealogical data I can retrieve from the internet. As a paid subscriber to ancestry.com I can enter names and an array of data pops up. And this past week when I opened up a weekly blog, “The Legal Genealogist” I was ecstatic to find the link to Missouri Digital Heritage because in minutes I was able to find and print death certificates for my Show Me State ancestors.

This is such a major change from when I started collecting genealogical data thirty-five years ago. At that time I was excited when I got information from family members who are now, sadly, deceased. Or I had to write and send checks to various Records Clerks in county court houses requesting birth or death certificates hoping I submitted the correct information. Fortunately today, in minutes, I can get even more details and can easily retrieve records to back up my facts and numbers. I was able to add a vast amount of information to my family tree in a few hours which thirty-five years ago took me months.

However, I am still searching for the birth certificate and death certificate of my maternal great grandmother. From searching the internet I’ve seen her name listed as Gertrude Ella or as Ella G. and learned she was born on September 18, 1868 to Solomon and Eliza Hanna and died June 10, 1897 at the young age of 29.

What is not in the data is that Ella’s passing left my grandmother, who was at that time only five years old, separated from her father and siblings to be raised by her grandmother. My mother had told me that part of the story after my grandmother passed away in 1978. If only I had learned about that before she had passed. I could have asked her more about that and her childhood. I do have my grandmother’s letters published in a book and my memories of her in writing so she will forever be remembered.

Sadly in regards to my great-grandmother we have nothing. We do not know anything of her lifestory. If she had recorded her personal history, I would know her likes and dislikes. I would know what joys and obstacles she faced. I would know about her childhood, her parents and siblings. Did she cook? Was she happy with her marriage? What were her interests? Could she read? What were her dreams and ambitions?

Don’t make your great-grandchildren wonder about you. The best gift you could pass on to your family is your recorded lifestory. Now is the time for you to pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your life. Even from the simplest parts of your life to the more complicated parts that helped form you into the person you are today. The reflections you make on your life will be cherished by future generations.

  • What special stories did your grandmother or grandfather tell you?
  • How did the Great Depression affect your family?
  • What was your favorite holiday? How did you celebrate it?
  • What was your highest level of education? What was your favorite class?
  • Can you remember a historic event that happened when you were in school?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com