I grew up in a family of six, with my parents, three younger brothers, and few relatives. Certainly none who lived nearby.
My parents did not share family stories or photos. Not really. We enjoyed slide shows of our own family vacations, but nothing historical. I guess they were too busy working and raising us up.
Discovering family history
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 prominent Quaker ministers. My dad, a Christian minister himself (later a VA chaplain), had no idea, despite the fact that there were only two generations separating him from full-on Quakerism. I guess his family didn’t share many stories either. (The last generation was largely disowned for marrying outside their faith, which is bad, but not as harsh as an Amish shunning.)
Mom was invested in my genealogical pursuits, offering up unsubstantiated but tantalizing “facts” and bits of lore I’d never heard before in my life, such as these:
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
Mom loved reading books, figuring out puzzles, and perusing maps – me too! These are ideal genealogist qualities — gifts — that she passed down to me, along with an appreciation of nature and music, and a belief in myself and my abilities. She left me a few keepsakes, too, of course. And Mom’s Boxes (all 33 of them).
She was always eager to learn about my latest discoveries, and I am grateful for the genealogy research trips we were able to take together before she died, ignorant of what the future held in store for us. She loved to travel — me too! — and another wonderful memory was our mother-daughter trip to Paris, my treat. (I’m not bragging, I’m just saying we were not a family who normally could afford to do such things until I was an adult with a good job. I’m glad I was able to give her that gift.)
On our last trip together we visited libraries, city halls, and distant relatives in Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and Indiana. Another time it was Connecticut and Massachusetts. We visited graveyards wherever we went, which meant walking around in nature, which we both loved. Graveyards are peaceful 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!
Reconnecting with my love of genealogy
After Mom died, I lost interest in my research. 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. She was rather organized herself, and generally approved of everything I did. It wasn’t until I’d been a NAPO member for a decade that I joined The Photo Managers and got more involved with photo and memorabilia organizing. This dovetailed with my interest in legacies, which brought me full circle back to genealogy. I am enjoying spending time again on my own research, and have discovered that I love researching for others as well.
I think she would approve of me using the photos from her albums to promote my Family History Research Services. Not to mention, she would have been thrilled with my book, What’s a Photo Without the Story? How to Create Your Family Legacy, and the family photo stories I chose to include as illustrations.
What “gifts” did you get from your mom?
Are you curious about your family tree?
Are you the historian and photo-keeper in your family?
What family mysteries I can help you solve?
Join the conversation by leaving a comment below!
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