Mar 5 2013
My mother was born in Hawaii. Her mother died when she was born; she was the last of 14 children. When she was about six months old she was brought to California with her Uncle and Aunt and was raised with her 4 cousins as her surrogate brothers and sisters. Her siblings remained in Hawaii.
Mom spent a lifetime looking for and developing relationships through letters. She always dreamt of what it would be like to live in Hawaii. Her brothers and sisters wrote her, and she wrote them back. As a child the family relationships were too exhausting for me to figure out.
She kept all those letters and also her address books of people with little notes in them. When I was first handed the box of genealogy that she left me, I was overwhelmed. I almost tossed the address books, never thinking they could be a source of great knowledge. Little did I know, the old addresses could be used to verify census records. Sometimes she left hints, like Great Aunt or 2nd cousin. Those notes, when you’re first starting your family research, are the greatest things. I now do the same thing for someone, so they may benefit someday.
One of the other things she did was mark when some one passed away, giving the date. I can’t tell you how easy it was for me to use those notes to glean information that would have taken me forever to figure out on my own. The names of people that you don’t recognize are sometimes found on a census with your family. Suddenly, it all makes sense. You can’t underestimate the value of the addresses and places that are recorded.
I had no idea what a wonderful tool I had received in three old address books. There was even one from the 1940’s! What a treasure.
By the way, while reading all those hundreds and hundreds of letters my mother wrote, I learned the character of her sisters. I, also,
found marriage dates, the news of babies that were born, and how much love can come from snail mail. I was fortunate to have mail from her brothers during WWII. These were all hints that helped develop the character of her family. Even my cousins enjoy those war time post cards. They get to see the writings of their father to my mother. It’s charming and it demonstrates how much love and dedication it took to keep those relationship together in hard and unusual times.
Don’t overlook the little things that can make the history of your ancestors come to life. Genealogy isn’t just names, it’s about stories. If you know the history of what was going on in their lifetime, you have a small glimpse into how your ancestors lived.