Thursday, November 29, 2012

Learning about history from photos & papers

I love old photos. My second cousin, who owns a shoe store in Kearney, NE., has a collection of family photos from the Beavers side of my mother’s clan on display around his store. Let me tell you, some of my ancestors had pretty interesting mustaches  and one of my sisters tells me I bear a strong resemblance to our maternal grandmother, who I think looks remarkably like HER maternal grandmother.

Too many of us don’t label our photos and now that digital photography is all the rage, we better hope Flickr and Facebook stay around forever because that’s where the bulk of our photos reside. Take some time and have your best photos printed. Then label them as to what they are so future generations know. And if you have photos of others that don’t have meaning for you any more….or you need to clean house….send them the photos rather than toss them out. You’ll be glad you did.

My father’s family for years had a family letter and if I get my act together we’ll have another one. I’ve been promising to start it up for a number of months now so perhaps this blog post will spur me to action. Each person on the family list writes a letter and sends it to the next person and on and on. When the envelope full of letters comes back to you, you remove your letter (and hopefully save it!), put a new one in and send the packet along. It’s a really interesting way to stay in touch with distant relatives and it is a bit of history that can’t be duplicated any other way.

As I said in a previous post, I keep scrapbooks. The ones about my husband’s career all have items glued in them, but for my son and myself, I’ve taken to using plastic sleeves that I can simply slide information into. Gluing takes a lot of time—I have about six year’s worth of Tom’s things to put into the latest scrap book—but the versions with plastic sleeves are easy to use AND to retrieve items from should you wish to photo copy them.

The History Center has been “gifted” with a number of scrapbooks over the years and they are wonderful additions to our collection.  Nellie Bee Maloley has been keeping scrapbooks about the Festival of Gingerbread for years and this year donated them to the museum.

Our exhibitor, Randy Elliott, and I were talking about high school yearbooks yesterday and I made the comment that for some reason many yearbooks in my hometown were thrown out over the years and thus it became necessary, when our high school alumni association decided to collect items about the history of the school district, to go hunting for yearbooks. I still have mine on the shelf beside my desk thanks in large part to folks from my past popping up on Facebook. I still look like I did in high school. Why don’t they?

Over Thanksgiving, my husband’s aunt pulled out a file of papers and photos of family members and events to pass along some information to him. I don’t know if there was rhyme nor reason to how she had these things filed, but that accordion file was a plethora of information about the past. I found out Tom’s uncle bore a striking resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio when Jim was in high school and that he’d been editor of the yearbook. Tom is researching Archbishop of Canterbury William Sancroft’s sister, from whom Tom’s family is descended, and so much of the research that Kate, Tom’s mother, had already completed and passed onto her sister was in the folder also. Tom’s second cousin, also Kate, was interested in genealogy while still in middle school and spent some time as a teenager researching family. She was able to fill in a couple of gaps in the material and it was interesting to see the connection between two people 40 years apart in age as they talked about their ancestors.

As much as I love my computer, and couldn’t live without it, there are limitations to keeping everything “on line”. Make a New Year’s resolution NOW to start collecting and preserving family history.  You’ll be glad that you did and you’ll have a great gift for someone one day.  

1 comment:

  1. Myra Mae McFarlandThursday, November 29, 2012

    Wonderful blog post, Nancy. I would only add -- make copies. I experienced a burglary 20-some years ago in which two boxes that held only worthless (in dollar terms) items were stored. These items included high school yearbooks, childhood scrapbooks and family photographs. I had no snapshots of my parents. I wrote to the few people in my hometown who were friends of my parents (and still alive!) and asked if they had any photos they could share with me. They scoured their photos and I received three or four photos. The one I prize most shows my parents dancing at what appears to be a New Year's (?) Eve party and looking none-too-sober! Keep the copies on a disk, in the "cloud" or printed on paper, but keep copies.