Just start somewhere
I’ve joined a challenge from Amy Johnson Crow to post about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. I love a plan and a program, and I’ve been looking for something to get me blogging again, so here we go. The prompt for this first week is “Start.”
My interest in genealogy started with two different people, but in very similar ways – they both died and left me with their family history!
In December 2005, in the course of some redecorating, Don and I encountered his dad’s collection of loose-leaf binders containing his pictures and assorted other memories. Dad had passed away the previous July, and none of us in the family had given much thought to Dad’s notebooks. We all knew he was a great picture taker, and he never could get rid of any – no matter how unflattering. We also knew he faithfully kept a journal and also liked to keep copies of letters, newspaper clippings, church programs and other random bits and pieces.
But what we didn’t realize was how his collection had grown. Our awakening occurred, however, when we moved 140 loose-leaf notebooks from their garage to our basement.
We lined them up on the floor of our family room and, totally overwhelmed, wondered aloud what we would ever do with all of them. We did a quick and very surface initial inventory, combined a few, and reduced the count by maybe 10! Still overwhelmed.
I began to feel a real pull to these notebooks and the family history that I knew was inside. I knew I could not leave these family members in the garage or basement, uncared for and virtually ignored. I wanted them to be safe inside our family circle. I was drawn to sort and label and organize and create a family history from these 130 notebooks we had stored on shelves in my sewing room.
On January 28, 2006 I left my job to devote my time to family history. After the initial sorting and organizing, I began blogging the Butler family history.
In the middle of that experience, my mother passed away in December, 2007. The following July I returned from a visit with my dad with this in tow – my mother’s genealogy files.
All of my mother’s genealogy research and information was filed in this box, categorized by just a few broad labels like “Roberts” or “Pratt.” Mother had been researching her ancestry for years (I found several letters of inquiry dated in the 1960’s) and she had accumulated a wide assortment of documents. Dad was happy to see the box go; he had no plans to continue the research on the Pratt/Roberts side of the family, and I think it made him feel good to know that even if I never did anything with the information, at least I had it available and he didn’t have to store it.
I rifled through the files and decided that I probably had a treasure chest of genealogy information, but many of the names were unfamiliar to me. I knew I had heard “Buker” before, but I had no idea what family line that name belonged. “Benoni Pratt” kept turning up, and I finally realized that name belongs to two different ancestors – my great-grandfather and his grandfather. I wasn’t really sure how to make sense out of my inheritance, and I was very overwhelmed, so I did the natural thing and ignored the box for several months.
One day when I couldn’t ignore the hodgepodge any longer, I read about a filing system that made sense to me. So armed with file folders in 4 colors – indicating my four direct lines – I sorted and filed. Going into this project, I was very afraid that my need for organization coupled with my ignorance and inexperience in the field of genealogy could result in the loss of valuable information. So as a precaution, I threw almost nothing away, which is highly unusual for me. I simply filed every document where I thought it belonged, knowing that I would have to do some rearranging later. And then I jumped in and began to study and research those family names. Some of that information I’ve shared on this blog.
Through the last ten years, I’ve learned a lot about genealogy and my family members. I’m excited to share those discoveries through #52ancestors. Stay tuned!