Friday, April 12, 2013

Lost in the Family Archives

Some people get the enviable/unenviable position of family historian. I have now become that person. On the one hand, I enjoy the role and on the other — well it is a lot of stuff to haul through life.

Yesterday, I readdressed the task. The "task" has been sitting in the corner of this very room, and under the bed, and in the trunk, and in the antique tool chest and in the attic for these several years now. I really need to get a handle on it and decide what to do.

Mostly, I have been shredding, shredding, shredding. Three bags full. Then, I've also been re-finding little treasures like the one you see below.

The first time I became aware of this newspaper clipping was one morning a few years ago when the pastor had stopped by to visit Nan. They were visiting in the back room while I worked on a blog post. I heard the pastor reading something that sounded interesting and walked down the hall to snoop. He was reading this newspaper clipping to Nan and she was soaking it all up with her face wreathed in big smiles. Oh how she enjoyed that morning!

Until this morning, I had no idea where that newspaper clipping had gone. I did two things: 1. I typed it up 2. I posted it *here* just in case you'd be interested in reading it. Posting it back there seemed like the most logical place.

Then, just as I was feeling all smug and satisfied, I tucked everything back where I found it and stumbled upon this.

< insert thud >

That's right, Nan's parents' wedding invitation. How far is this going to go?

Here's a picture of my great-grandparents. They made quite a cute couple I'm sure, but why are there no photos of them together? (None of my grandparents together either for that matter.)

~Alice Maude and Fred (Nan's Parents)~

~210 East Main Street Gloucester, Massachusetts~

Here's a photo of Nan on her Grandmother Corliss's porch along with said grandmother and Nan's mother.

So, are you the family historian? If so, you have my sincere sympathies. ☺

Love Vee


  1. What an adventure it must be to dig through bits and pieces of your families past.

  2. It is amazing, and this was reinforced for me last Saturday, how little my first cousins' know about our grandparents. One cousin was asking me how one of our aunts was such a phenomenal cook (she never married). She was the family caretaker and missed many opportunities. I said from Grandma. He looked at me and said, All I know was that grandma was always blind. SMH Usually to be a family historian, the love and interest has to be an innate sense, I think. xo

  3. How special! It is a heavy responsibility to be the family historian. But such an interesting task it is. I think you are a terrific "family keeper"!

  4. Oh I am, I've been digging into my families history and it is not easy. I realized that both my sets of grandparents have only 1 photo of them together...that I know of anyway :) I'm going to go and read the post you did and linked to.

  5. I'm not looking for the job, but I fear that if I don't take it on a lot of information will be lost. Family histories are convoluted things, taking on a life of their own, revealing surprises along the way. Some of the things I know are not things I want my children to know, yet am I denying them family information?
    My sympathies as you go through all these papers.

  6. You have some very interesting treasures from the past for sure!
    Oh dear. Fortunately and unfortunately there is hardly anything from either of my parents about their parents except for a few random photos. Not much was salvaged on their escape from Russia and their immigration from Iran to the States. My father has tried to verbally give us some history that we've written down. On Dear's side his mother has a bunch of papers that I suppose we should go through...oye. All in our attic...
    Have a wonderful weekend Vee.

  7. Oh that is just too neat, Vee!

    Actually my older sister and my eldest daughter are the family historians, sis on Mom/Pops and daughter on both sides pretty much as far as research and archiver.

    Neat post. You are a gem of a gal to do that, it's difficult.

  8. Yes. Me. I am. Well, I signed up for Ancestry websites for my mother, because she wants look for relatives. Hmmm. Only she doesn't want to do it herself. So, I end up spending hours trawling through lists and delving deeper and suddenly it is 4am and I can't stop because I can't remember how I got there in the first place and i am not going to waste the money either. Groan.

  9. I am THE family historian and have been for ages. Nobody on either side of the tree has ever bothered to gather information over the years, so it came down to me. There are photos and papers in the file cabinet which is now over-loaded. was a huge help and last fall I was able to connect some lineage from distant cousins.
    Putting all this into a book (or many books) is a daunting task, for sure. Haven't gotten that far yet, but at least my charts are filled in!
    We should get together and compare note!

  10. Oh, the treasures you will find. Have fun!

  11. What wonderful treasures you have found Vee. My sister out west and I both have a lot of interest in our family history and we both have bits of papers, clippings etc. I have some wedding invitations too and many old photos. I should have them scanned (some are) and documented on a disc together. Oh dear. Now I need some sympathy. What a job that would be. Our cousin on my Dad's side has a lot of history as well and we shared some really interesting articles last summer. What fun we had reading about our 'wealthy' ancestors as we wondered where all the 'dough' had gone. We figured the evils of drink and some bad business deals put an end to that 'empire'. It was all so interesting though. I love looking at the old photos too. Thankfully other family cousins have done full geneologies of our families and they are in books now! I don't envy you the task but with today's technology you don't have to handwrite everything down. Type, scan, document, file. So much easier. Have fun! Maybe some skeletons will pop out of the closet! Yikes!! Enjoy the weekend.
    Hugs, Pam

  12. Vee,
    Doing some catching mom gets to be the does my BIL.
    I hope you are feeling better, and soon! Chronic pain is NO fun.
    Wonderful photos and treasures you share today.

  13. I did as far back as I could with my father's family - his parents were first cousins so that helped. An aunt sent me a few newspaper clippings and when my father passed away he still had an invitation to a special dinner in his hometown when 'the boys' returned from WWII. It was in perfect condition so after a few emails, found the proper place to donate it to, along with a couple of other related items.
    There is very little information on my mother's side; they were a family that wasn't close and didn't keep in touch.
    The fact that you have a good paper trail is enviable Vee and someone down in the future will be very glad you kept things and made family records.

  14. How interesting this will all be! I love family history! However, we don't have anyone really doing this in our family...sigh. Everyone just has bits and pieces. I think someone is charge is a wonderful idea! You will no doubt do a GOOD job! Have a good week-end Vee!

  15. Once you find something, you're bit! I love it.

  16. I love family history! My Dad has gotten into tracking down the family line,and one of his aunts was a collector of information. She did a family newsletter every year for the whole family.

    What a treasure you've found! I love reading the description of the wedding and reception. Reminds me of something Hessie Mayhew (from Mitford) would have written!

    Too bad those chests of silver and oil paintings are lost....


  17. I'm not and I don't think anyone in my family is. My family is so fragmented that I don't really know much history of my family at all.

    How nice that you know so much of your family history.

  18. I am not the family historian, I guess that would be my mother and one of my sisters. It sure is fun though to look back through the family papers. Thanks for sharing these pictures Vee, I enjoyed them. ~ Abby

  19. Well you may guess I have become the default family historian, although I do love it. I feel burdened as to where it will go after me, but I did recently learn a first cousin once removed is interested in family history at 21. Neat! My house is basically a museum of family heirlooms and everyone is very interested and wants nothing thrown away, but also very happy that its at MY house, stuffing the closets, under the beds, filling my attic, etc. Both of my parents' families, and there we are. Burdened but blessed I guess.

    My cousin did get all of my grandmother's photos albums and over a long time scanned each photo in to his computer and gave each cousin a cd of all of our grandmother's photos which are mostly of our fathers growing up. A very nice gift.

  20. Vee, you have such treasures there! I have nothing dating back that far except my Grams (dads side) wedding photo. My mother was the youngest in a very large family, she did not get the treasures. The stuff then went to the children of those aunts and uncles that I dont know. They are all in Pennsylvania, mom moved here when she married dad and did not encourage relationships with the cousins. Sad isn't it? Treasure your treasures.

  21. Ooooh, that is way cool.

    For now my Mom is the historian. One day it will likely fall to me. I can't picture my brother taking it over.

  22. Hi there, Unfortunately or fortunately I am not the family historian. My sister, when she was living, was and now my brother. We also have cousins, on my side, that have done wonderful family trees and my hubby has one sister who has written books on his family. I think it that way! I have enough other projects that I need to work on without thinking about this. Great job-what treasures you have. Enjoy!
    Hugs, Noreen

  23. When went to visit my sister, she has been doing some digging into our family past I collected some information on our history but has come to a brick wall so I 'm getting some help from our next door neighbour who does research in her job so far nothing but I will keep trying.

  24. I don't know much about my father's family, obviously neither did my mom (they married in middle age). She thought his parents came to the States fairly recently and when my son-in-law traced the family history, it turned out Dad's family had been here since the American Revolution.

    My oldest sister is the family historian. As the eighth child (and the only one from the second marriage), I was fortunate to even get a couple old pictures! But I don't mind, especially after reading what you're going through. ;)

  25. Oh, it must be quite a responsibility to be the family historian. As the oldest of two, I will probably inherit that...come to think of it, I have many of our family's documents already!
    Equally daunting is responsibility for the "stuff." I am beholden to keep every (every) item that has ever crossed a relative's past. "But it was so-and-so's," I am told. (I'm afraid the attic has become a holding place for lots of stuff...and I have lots of stuff in use!) It's a balancing act, isn't it?

  26. Wonderful treasures and memories. My mother's roots have been traced to the early 1600s in the Netherlands. You have quite a task ahead!

  27. Wonderful finds. Sadly, I am the family everything - computer genius, DVD repair person, photographer, new purchase researcher, vacation planner, money manager etc. I am the only person in the family capable of taking good photos, so after every event, everyone emails me and wants my photos, wants me to make photo books, etc. I am so far behind....! Not to mention making photo books of everyone who ever died in the family. I could quit my job tomorrow and be busy for a year on this crap.

    xo T.

  28. Well, yes I am. And not only for my birth family and my adoptive family, but also for all of my husband's extensive material. (He was family historian for his family.) Some material I have for my own family goes back to the 1500s, but most is early 1700s. Figuring out how to organize and identify things is monumental. Also deciding what to keep and what not to keep! But it is also a fascination and a joy.

    Nonetheless, you have my empathy!

  29. I am pretty much it for my family. I have compiled pictures and stories and I started a scrapbook of old photos and tin types but that all fell by the way side when Mary was born. In a few years maybe I can get into to it again and Mary can help me. I love seeing your old photos, so beautiful. History of families and history in general is so interesting to me!

  30. Oh Vee what spectacular pieces of family history you have. Yes, I am the keeper of the family paper trail too. At least you have a connection, stories, and can even identify who are in your photos. I have a ton of stuff that was passed to me that I have no earthly idea who the people are or how they are connected and I fear tossing out what could be great aunt so-and-so or uncle thus-and such. I have some fantastic tin types that I only wish I could identify and hang them in the proper place on the family tree. Sadly there is not anyone else in the family who knows who they are either.

  31. Oh, do have family history...1903....amazing.
    My cousin, just a few years younger than I...well, 12 yrs., to be exact, is the family history buff in our family. He keeps up with everyone. I, being of a certain age, am the oldest cousin left and I have contributed a lot of pictures, letters and memories to his files. He has a web page with lots of family photos and history. He is amazing and I really appreciate all his hard work.
    Sure enjoyed your history is so valuable.

  32. Just stumbled across this after visiting Coffee, Tea, books & Me. I have been doing this since the 70's with my Mom and when she passed away I inherited it all. mountains of old photos, mementos etc. Though I can be found grumbling about it at times, I really have come to appreciate the history and perseverance of all the people and backbreaking work that has led down through the years to me. Tidbits of ancestors who were in the Civil War & Revolutionary War, covered wagons across the plains to settle in a territory that became Iowa and a story told to me as a child by beloved grandpa about his ancestor who was hung in the Salem Witch trials, that I found out to be true. Oh My! A whole new appreciation for family. Your children will one day thank you for organizing it all. Thanks for the post, will stop by more often.

  33. Quick and easy: do just like you are doing. Scan the papers, post and add whatever seems needed to put the scan into context. Anyone wanting the info in the future will google for bit and up it will come! The problem of putting papers into books and albums is that hardly anyone can access them. I know my husband's distant cousin owns the family Bible from 1870-1920 that has loads of details and other documents from that time; he shared one photo and that was that. Drat.

  34. Oh yes, I am the family historian...for both sides! I have a house full of stuff waiting to be dealt with. I retired from my public school career last June, and am chomping at the bit to get started. However, life keeps getting in the way! We're caring for our 93-and 95-yr-old dads, so the stuff will have to wait...

  35. Wow, Vee, I read the newspaper clipping about your grandmother and grandfather's wedding on the link you provided. They really had an illustrious wedding! I think it is fabulous that you have so much information about your ancestors. I have very little and would have loved to have a trunk full of info and would gladly have become the family historian. I find genealogy fascinating.

  36. Vee
    It's wonderful that you have so much family history at hand.
    To actually have the old photos, the paper clippings, and even the wedding invitations are such a blessing.
    BTW,I'm wondering if anyone has ever told you that you resemble
    your Nan before. I definitely see a resemblence!

  37. I love the old photos...and connecting all the dots...and so I suppose I am the 'unofficial' family historian. You have some wonderful bits and pieces from the past! Love the 'front porch' picture. :)

  38. I love this! What a great treasure!!


Thank you for commenting! If you ask a question, I will answer it here in case anyone else was wondering. Reply boxes are provided so that you may feel free to interject a thought on any comment. I do love good conversation!