Hail to the Queen Family Historian

Marie Sullivan

May is Personal History Awareness Month and what better time to be reminded of recording your family stories before you say, “IF ONLY I HAD DONE THIS SOONER!” So often those words are spoken when it is too late to remedy the situation. In my case I deeply regret waiting too long to videotape the life story of my dear 98 year old cousin, Marie, officially my “second cousin once removed.” Six years ago I traveled to Ohio to visit with her in a nursing home where she was cared for and was only able to share minimal stories with us. She passed away two weeks later.

Marie had been the “Queen Family Historian” in this branch of my family tree. Fortunately, I met her a little over twenty years ago, and she gave me a vast amount of information and stories of my ancestors who settled in a small town in Ohio in the early 1800’s. She loved being the family storyteller of the Roquet, Roquette, and Rockey clan.

I have another cousin, officially my third cousin, who also knows the importance of Keeping Your Memories, and she has records that she has shared with me also. Marie’s crown as Queen Family Historian has been passed on down to us. My hope is that there will be someone in our next generation to be in line that will continue the interest of our ancestors as to where they came from, what they experienced and where we are headed.

If you have a family member who is the King or Queen Family Historian of your family and has endlessly told the same family stories at every family gathering, NOW is the time to get them recorded and begin Keeping Your Memories because one day when you are finally interested in those stories, IT WILL BE TOO LATE. If you are unable to find the time to do this, check out my website www.keepingyourmemories.com, and I will be able to assist you in preventing what I experienced.

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Preserving Memories of My Dear Father

Sifting through a box of pictures I found a few that best depicted my dad in honor of his 92nd birthday today. He simply was a provider, encourager and loving father.

A picture he took of their backyard in 1970. He was a hard worker and loved working in his yard and took pride in it. He also enjoyed taking pictures and often tried different angles.

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Dad bowling at Stardust in Hammond, Indiana wearing his typical attire in 1996. Dad and Mom both enjoyed bowling and often had the grandkids bowling with them.

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Dad at the kitchen table eating lunch and watching TV with a grandson while Mom is at her traditional location at the kitchen sink in 1997. This is another traditional picture that each of my dad’s grandchildren can place himself or herself in as they remember sitting at the table eating with Papa. It also shows the cabinets that he refinished and the light over the kitchen table that he installed. On the counter is the coffee pot and food processor that my mother used daily.

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Mom and Dad at Indiana Dunes in 1998 with Dad taping his grandkids on the beach with his video camera. They frequented the Dunes in every season warm or cold. They loved hiking and enjoyed the tranquility of nature.

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Dad in their basement blowing at the candles on his 76th birthday cakes. This picture is a true depiction of what was constant in their life. Mom by his side as usual. Dad’s pen in his pocket. And the traditional style that Mom always used when hosting her family dinners: a white table covering unrolled and cut for the long tables, the traditional white paper plates for cake and the same clear glasses that she always filled with ice for pop.

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Dad has physically been gone from us for eleven years but memories flood my heart with the pictures and cherished memories that we have. And with recording these memories for others to read after we are long gone, he will be known for future generations.

What memories of your dad or mom come to mind when you think of them on his or her birthday? Grab a paper and pen or open up your laptop and start Keeping Your Memories of your father or mother.

  • What is your favorite childhood memory of your dad or mom?
  • What is the best advice you got from your dad or mom?
  • What do you remember most about your dad or mom’s appearance?
  • What pleasant smells do you associate with dad or mom?
  • What sounds do you associate with your dad or mom?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

 

That The Next Generation Might Know…

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My Grandma and Mom – 1969

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My Grandson – 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend I have the mixed emotions of sadness and joy. Sadness with missing my mother who passed nine years ago and joy with the birth of my first grandchild who was born nine days ago. Mom would have been 89 years old and Carson is nine days old. Mom died in her home on January 20, 2009 and Carson was born in a hospital on January 12, 2018. Mom would have loved this little guy.

It was amazing to see this tiny 5 pounds, 9 ounces body emerge into my world. Since this precious bundle arrived five weeks early, he was placed in NICU to further develop and be monitored. He is doing well and will be coming home soon.

With not being able to see Carson, I have been concentrating on the time when my daughter and son-in-law bring him home. I am looking forward to holding him and loving him endlessly. As a grandmother now, I think of how my mother and maternal grandmother influenced me.

Grandma listened to me, and I remember her speaking softly. I hope to do the same.

And as Mom let my children retreat to her home for time to themselves, the door will always be open for my grandchildren. I’ll always have popcorn in the cabinets and paint, glitter, glue, crayons, markers, drawing paper, colored paper, felt, and scissors in the closet. He will be free to run through the hallways in the house, and he can help me in the kitchen during the holidays when I’m baking cookies and fruitcake.

I look forward to spending time with this little boy when he helps me pull weeds, plant flowers and rake leaves. We will have endless fun outside tossing a wiffle ball for Carson to hit with his wiffle bat that we will keep on the porch. It will be fun again to have colored chalk and outline his little body on the driveway and let him chalk in facial features, hair, and clothes to it. And when he learns to ride a bike, we will have an extra one here for him.

As he grows, I will share with him the stories of my parents and ancestors. I hope to influence him to start journaling with drawing pictures at a young age and advancing to short sentences when he gets older. Most importantly, I will share with him my endless faith in God.

My mother has physically been gone for nine years but her spirit is with me daily, and I cherish her dearly. She, along with my grandmother, will never be forgotten because as my grandmother and mother loved their grandchildren and taught me by example, it is now my privilege to do the same.

Do you have special memories of your parents and grandparents?  Now is the time to open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of them to pass on to the next generation in your family.

  • How close did your grandparents live to you?
  • What kind of home did they live in? Describe the house and rooms.
  • What special food did you look forward to when you were at your grandparents?
  • What one-on-one activity did you do with your grandparents?
  • What chores did you do for your grandparents when you visited?

 

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

 

In Memory of Delainey Belle

Whenever I see a butterfly, I say hello to Delainey Belle.  My grandniece, Delainey, was born November 15, 2010September Delainey Belle Picture. Sadly, she left us five years ago. Time moves too quickly.

My memories of this beautiful little girl began seven years ago about this time. I was introduced to her in the NICU at the local hospital where she was born. My heart melted when I held this beautiful little girl with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes for the first time.

This sweet little girl was born with Trisomy 18, a chromosomal abnormality, and had major obstacles to face. Although Delainey had a physical abnormality, I prefer to focus on her above normal spirit of perseverance, strength and love.

This girl had the will to withstand numerous hospital stays and the strength to endure the poking and prodding from strangers and endless tests.

She magically sprinkled love, togetherness and unity whether in her home or wherever her mom and dad took her.  She brought her Mommy’s and Daddy’s friends and family together.

We felt a wise old soul inside her small body as she communicated her love, joy and understanding through her eyes.

Thankfully Delainey Belle has never totally left us, and she will forever be remembered. My favorite pictures of her are when she is speaking to us through her eyes.

 

The Priceless Gift of Your Life Story

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My passion for recording life stories was shown this past Saturday by my willingness to travel two hours to Indy to meet five other people who carry the same passion.  We were to share what created our passion. I used that two hour drive to reflect on what ignited my passion.  In retrospect, I believe it was ingrained in me to go this path.

I wrote stories when I was a little girl. I journaled since I was 14. The first semester of my freshman year I took Journalism class and wrote for the high school newspaper the next seven semesters.

The summer of 1976 my vision expanded when I attended Indiana University’s Journalism Institute as managing editor of my high school newspaper. The guest speaker, Elliot Wigginton, was a high school educator and oral historian in the Appalachians in Georgia. He shared how he didn’t connect with his unsettled students until he began teaching in a non-traditional teaching style. They didn’t want to write traditionally so he had them interview their grandparents and other elderly people. The students took off on this and with the stories written from the interviews they compiled them into a magazine and later into their first book, “The Foxfire Book.”

The seed was planted during this session when he sparked my interest to interview everyday people and preserve their stories for future generations to read. In the introduction to his first book he wrote about the passage of a generation of grandparents who have stories to tell but don’t record them on their own because they feel future generations wouldn’t be interested.

The issue was that these grandparents were from an oral society and their stories were verbally shared generation-to-generation. Eventually these stories could be lost.

He shared, “When they’re gone, the magnificent hunting tales, the ghost stories that kept a thousand children sleepless, the intricate tricks of self-sufficiency acquired through years of trial and error, the eloquent and haunting stories of suffering and sharing and building and healing and planting and harvesting – all these go with them, and what a loss.

If this information is to be saved at all, for whatever reason, it must be saved now; and the logical researchers are the grandchildren, not university researchers from the outside. In the process these grandchildren (and we) gain an invaluable, unique knowledge about their own roots, heritage, and culture. Suddenly they discover their families – previously people as pre-television, pre-automobile, pre-flight individuals who endured and survived the incredible task of total self-sufficiency, and came out of it all with a perspective on ourselves as a country that we are not likely to see again. They have something to tell us about self-reliance, human interdependence, and the human spirit that we would do well to listen to.”

The seed was watered in 1981 when I visited my 86 year old paternal grandfather in San Antonio, Texas. He was the family historian that journaled. He  knew the importance of identifying and dating pictures. He shared with me names and critical dates of his ancestors. He enjoyed telling me stories of his life as a young man and stories of his family. I went home and purchased blank genealogical record books that I could use to hand write all the names and dates that he had proved me and continued to add to it as I talked to extended family members. My grandfather died at the age of 94 in 1989.

The first stem broke through the ground in 1985 when I audio taped my mother, and she shared her experiences as a child in the 1930’s. About that time I also began corresponding with my grandfather’s 80 year old cousin, Marie in Ohio, and she gave me valuable information regarding my grandfather’s family.  I met Marie in person in 1995, and she took me on a tour of where she grew up and my ancestors settled and gave invaluable stories regarding our ancestors. Fortunately, I was able to interview her one last time before she passed at the age of 99 in 2012 and compiled her stories and letters into a book.

Today I have a garden full of life stories and genealogical information and it is my turn as family historian. All that my grandfather and Marie shared, all the interviews that have been recorded with family members I have put into print. I have pictures and life stories recorded for future generations to read.

It was encouraging to be with these other personal historians last weekend who share the same passion and feel the same importance of preserving the life stories of everyday people. They all concurred it is a priceless gift to leave for your family, friends, community and future generations.

Do you have a family historian in your family? Are you the family historian or is it time for you to start? Now is the time for you to open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your ancestors’ and have their stories recorded for future generations to read.  Where do you begin?

  • Who is the oldest ancestor that lives closest to you?
  • Is he or she willing to set up an interview?
  • Decide what part of his or her life you would want to focus on during the interview.
  • Have questions compiled to get him or her started on their story
  • Allow him or her to be silent to compile thoughts and let speak when ready.
  • Have him or her look at pictures and describe events and memories sparked from the pictures

www.keepingyourmemories.com

Pictures Simply Capture the Memories

My cousin, Susie, was born September 26, three months and one day before I was born. She was born in Missouri. I was born in Indiana.

Our first pictures of us together – Susie was 13 months old, and I was 10 months old – were taken with an 8mm camera at our grandma’s home in Missouri.

Our last pictures of us together – forty-eight years later – were taken with a digital camera at her home in Missouri on Memorial Day 2008.

I cherish all of the pictures taken of us in between.

Susie passed on July 3, 2008.

 

 

 

There’s No Place Like (My Own) Home

Grandma and Grandpa Madden - 1006 Nelson Street

Recently a friend and her husband moved into their first home and their excitement of their new homestead rekindled my memories of how I also felt over 30 years ago when I moved into my first home.

Those memories of the first home are powerful because despite renting or owning or the size or simplicity of that first home, no one forgets the satisfaction and attainment of having your own place. And I might venture to say that this has continued for generations.

Soon after I moved to my first home, my mom, who is now deceased, shared with me the story of the first home that her parents owned:

“Back in the early 1930’s when I was growing up, my two brothers, Murice and Dewey, and my two sisters, Jo Ellen and Priscilla and I were living with Mom and Pop on Nelson Street in Webb City, Missouri. My other three siblings had already moved away from home. Mom and Pop rented that house until the time I was married in 1948.

It was a very drab one bedroom home. It had a big kitchen and living room. I don’t recall how we slept then. We might have slept on the floor in the living room.

In the winter we sat around our wood stove and kerosene lamps to keep us warm. We didn’t have any electricity until I was about eight, and we were one of the first families in town to get it. But there was only a light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

We had an outhouse. In the winter we’d run out there barefoot in the snow. When dishes had to be done, there was always someone who had to go. We used old Sears’s catalogs or newspapers for toilet paper.

When Mom and Pop first moved into this home, they rented it for $6.00 a month. Then because the landlords felt a bit kindly toward them they let them buy the house at $6.00 a month. I think they paid a total of $600 for it.”

My mother’s parents were always humble people but in this picture I see them as sitting proudly in front of their home, and I’m fortunate that my mother recorded the memories of their home.

Keeping Your Memories of your life and the homes you lived in will be enjoyable reading for your great grandchildren years from now and they will learn from you how you were able to support and maintain your home.

Open up your laptop or grab a pen and paper, find a picture of that first home to add to your story, write the address and start recording your home life experiences for future generations to read. Start with these questions:

• What made you fall in love with your first home?
• Were you living by yourself or with someone?
• Did you have many possessions to move with you to this first home?
• What special events occurred while living in this home?
• What were the sounds of your home and neighborhood?

www.keepingyourmemories.com