Mother’s Day — Gifts I Got from Mom

Me and mom reading together. Albuquerque, summer 1959.

Me and mom (and my little brother-to-be) reading together. Albuquerque, summer 1959.

I grew up in a family of six, with my parents, three younger brothers, and few relatives. Certainly none that lived nearby. My parents did not share family stories or photos. Not really. There were slide shows of our own family vacations  that we all enjoyed, but nothing historical. I guess they were too busy working and raising us up. It wasn’t until I undertook my first genealogy project, in my 30’s, that I discovered, on my dad’s side, that I am from a long line of Quakers. Including Quaker Loyalists (wrong side of the Revolutionary War, maybe, but fascinating nonetheless) and prominent Quaker ministers. My dad, a Christian minister himself (later a VA chaplain), had no idea, despite the fact that there was only one generation separating him from full-on Quakerism. I guess his family didn’t share much either. (The last generation was largely disowned for marrying outside their faith and such, which is bad, but not as harsh as Amish shunning). Maybe I’ll write more about that for Father’s Day.

My mom was quite interested in my genealogical pursuits as well, offering up unsubstantiated but tantalizing “facts” and bits of lore I’d never heard before in my life, such as:

Francis Robbins went to the gold rush and was never heard from again.

John Hankins’ father’s name was Tom, and his mother was a 4th wife.

Jennie Lawrence was Ethel Robbins’ step-mother and sister-in-law at the same time.

And my personal favorite:

Oh…by the way… Emma Lawrence’s real name was Minerva Jane Kibby.

Say what, now?

Gifts I Got From Mom

My mom loved reading books, figuring out puzzles, and perusing maps – me too! These are ideal genealogist qualities — gifts — that she passed along to me, along with a sense of curiosity and wonder, and a belief in myself and my abilities. Along with a few keepsakes, of course. She was always eager to learn about my latest discoveries, and I am grateful for the two genealogy research trips we were able to take together before she died, ignorant of what was to come all too soon. She loved to travel — me too! — and another trip I am grateful for was our trip to Paris, just us two.

Together we visited libraries, city halls, and distant relatives in KY, TN, IL, and IN… and, on another trip, CT and MA. And we visited graveyards, which meant walking around in nature, which she loved — me too! Graveyards are quiet and often quite scenic. I just noticed I am saying “graveyard” instead of cemetery. I suppose it’s because the kind we visited were often rural and quite small and informal. Like in a cow pasture. No, I’m not kidding.

After she died, I lost the will to continue my research for several years. I also got “downsized” from my telecommunications career of 21+ years, moved to another state, and got busy with my new professional organizing business, which she never knew about, but would have loved, being rather organized herself and generally approving of everything I did. It wasn’t until I’d been organizing for a decade that I became a certified photo organizer, which dovetailed with my interest in organizing legacies, which brought me full circle back to family history research. I am enjoying spending time again on my own research, and have discovered that I love researching for others as well. (See FAQ: What the heck does genealogy have to do with organizing?)

I think she would be thrilled for me to use this photo of us reading together, one of my favorites, to draw attention to my Family History Research Services. Thanks, Mom!

Do you think it’s a little late to be writing about my mom if want to sell genealogy services? Especially as a Mother’s Day gift for your mom? Well, it’s not. Because family history never ends. And I offer gift certificates. And it’s never too late. Well… it’s a great gift for many occasions — birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, etc. —  but nothing is certain. Don’t wait. And it’s also never finished. There’s always a new branch to discover on your family tree!

What gifts did you get from your mom?

Are you curious about your family tree? Are you the family historian? Are there any family mysteries I can help you solve?

Join the conversation by leaving a comment below!

Copyright 2016 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
Social media links directly to this page are encouraged!
Please contact me for other types of reprint permission.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
(Visited 468 times, 1 visits today)


  1. I think this is a lovely gift idea, Hazel! We have a couple of historians in our family, and I’ve been fascinated to learn my history. One thing for sure… I can’t trace my heritage to one nationality- talk about a hodgepodge!

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your mother! I love hearing how she influenced the path you’re on today. Great post Hazel!

  3. Such a sweet post, Hazel. Your mom sounds like she was a wonderful lady. My mother is a pretty organized person and I definitely got that gene. She’s also a dancer and passed down her love of music, movement and rhythm to me. My little guy seems to have gotten that gift as well as he’s always singing! It’s amazing what’s passed down through generations and so important to capture.

  4. Thank you for sharing this post. It makes perfect sense to me that you are from a Quaker background. My experience of you is one of patience, peacefulness, and kindness. Those are qualities I associate with Quakers. Also, I was once acquainted with someone who was a Quaker and you remind me a bit of her.
    Indeed your mother would be very proud of your accomplishments and the kind of person you are. If I met your mother I would tell her what a great job she did. (Moms never get tired of hearing that.) Happy Mother’s Day, Hazel.

    • Awww, thanks, Janice! You would have loved my mom. She would have wanted to chant and eat healthy with you. 🙂

  5. My mom was an only child, but her mother had a very large family, and I think she once told me she had 22 first cousins on that side of her family alone. At one time I asked her to write it all out for me, but unfortunately by then she was in poor health, and her medication was interfering with her ability to concentrate enough to do it. I understand some of my relatives have been doing some research in that area and I intend to get in touch one of these days.

    The best gift I got from my mom was my love of reading. When she was well, it wasn’t unusual for her to read a book a day. One time when I was a teenager I went to the library andshe asked me to pick up a book for her. I protested, saying I wouldn’t know what she would like, and she said it didn’t matter as long as it was thick. I don’t remember what I brought her, but she was delighted.

  6. What a wonderful tribute to your mom! I think some of the gifts I got from my mom include being a strong independent (some might say bossy) woman who can do it herself when needed and a strong desire to bring our far flung family together on a regular basis. Family is everything.

  7. What a lovely tribute to your mom and your family history. I love the discovery process you’ve shared. My mom is still with me, which I’m very grateful for. She’s the only parent left as Steve and I have lost our other parents in these last years. There’s a laundry list of things my mom gave to me…simple things like the love of black licorice and coffee ice cream, to the deeper ones like the importance of family, helping others, gratitude, and creativity. She has dementia, so each day can bring its set of challenges. Some days she is a different person, and some days or moments she is the mom I’ve always known. I am grateful for ALL the moments, challenging and sweet, because I know that there will come a time when only the memories will remain.

Leave a Reply