Friday, September 7, 2007

Random Thoughts of a Family Historian

“You not my best fwiend anymore!”

That’s what our 3-year-old grandson told his grandpa, as we drove back from what had been, up until then, a successful excursion to the Mad River Railroad Museum in Bellevue. Papa Al had been doing what grandfathers everywhere are known for doing – teasing grandsons. While I chuckled under my breath in the front seat, Grandpa Al was a bit taken aback by the comment. How devastating to find out you were your little buddy’s best friend, only to have this special designation taken away from you in the very same instant. I’m sure the little guy had overheard the statement from one of his two big sissies, each a sparkling personality in her own right, and each, I am sure, perfectly capable of putting an errant friend in their place.

The 3-year-old’s comment was one of those delicious moments that are woven into the fabric of family relationships. Too often, these are the kind of moments that are lost forever when we go to our final rest. It’s all very good to find names and dates when we are researching the family tree - these are the skeletons of a person’s identity. But we can never truly understand who the individual was without something more personal in nature.

Though locating names and dates are often difficult, locating personal stories are much harder, much rarer. So, what should you do about it? Well, resolve right now, today, to interview your parents, an aunt, an uncle, or, if you are lucky enough, a grandparent and write down those family stories. While you are at it, be sure to include those stories that you know about firsthand.

For the baptism of my youngest nephew, I put together a notebook filled with pictures and a few stories about his mommy, his grandma and grandpa, and his great grandparents. I wrote in great detail about the story of a hot summer day when my dad, his grandpa, wearing a snoopy hat and rubber banded pant cuffs played bee killer. “Who kissed the mirror,” a longstanding family mystery also found its way into the book. Silly anecdotes, I’ll grant you, but ones that give a flavor and identity to the people involved. (Although, I’m not sure how mom liked being memorialized as navigationally challenged, nor am I sure of my sister’s feelings on including the Bloody Mary/white pants incident – both very good reasons to write your own story!)

The reality of the human condition is that every person reading this blog will someday pass from this life. We are now living, what will one day be, the genealogical research of another. A hundred years from now, do you want the only things that your descendants know about you to be, your name and date of death?

It’s just a thought. I have to stop now. I must go and console my husband who recently found out he lost his “best fwiend.”

Until next time – Happy Ancestral Digging.

Note this post first published online, September 7, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online http://www.thenews-messenger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=BLOGS02

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