99 WORDS...AND A LITTLE BIT MORE
May 18, 1907
Our cops and garden are planted. Now we wait for the rain.
The spring wildflowers look lovely in the vase you gave us. They will make a nice addition to table on Sunday when our neighbours come for lunch. I’m making a small cake and wearing Grandma’s broach, in celebration.
Your loving daughter,
A museum plaque beside the letter and broach, read, “Survivors - 1907 Flood.”
The handwriting was identical to other letters she had. The broach she knew from pictures.The cemetery dream guided her to find family beauty beyond their graves.
Having pieces of the puzzle and knowing where to fit them in is the continuing saga of genealogy. From pillar to post we go with tidbits of family history. Hopeful someone, preferably within the family, can provide us wth accurate, plausible, data to confirm what we have unearthed.
I wandered cemeteries in Vermont several years ago looking at grave markers telling stories from a historic world of hierarchy, battles, and sickness. A pleasant outing, that gave me nothing. Nothing, because I did’t know what or who I was looking for.
After spending time perusing the family records I keep, I’m not sure I am any further ahead from the opportunity I was given in Vermont. Perhaps one day, I will make the trek back. This time I will be better equipped with a list of those who may hold the key to our history, and where they might have sunk our roots.
Where I grew up, the local cemetery has been designated historical. The names within its fence are familiar to me, and I know stories about these old timers. It is where I can find our Granddad and my older brother who passed away when he was a baby.
These two people were not a topic of discussion in my younger years; but, grownups talk amongst themselves when they don’t think children are listening. The realization when I got older, I had stories tucked away in my gray matter about our Granddad, was a great find. Unfortunately, the majority of the family or friends who might tell me more, are no longer alive. I berate myself every time I work on our genealogy. Why didn’t I ask questions and record stories when I first became interested in keeping our history? A greenhorn mistake!
Now I have to rely on headstones in far away places to introduce me to those who might be related a half a dozen times removed. That’s okay because who knows when I might travel to an area that can let me visit with relatives from days gone by and possibly those still living.
It is the littlest of things in casual conversations that add to the record pool. Recently I asked my brother if he still had the wooden rocking chair that had been in our parent’s house. He does, but it was his reply that came with it that I knew nothing about. It belonged to our grandmother and the story is that it was delivered to her on the back of a saddle horse by someone. It passed to our parents when she moved and didn’t have room for it. All this time, I thought it was Mom and Dad’s. Knowing full well shipments of this kind was the reality a hundred (plus/minus) years ago, the vision of its delivery still made me smile,
It’s sad the elders didn’t and don’t want to discuss family history, or family in general. I think I understand, yet for someone interested in our history, it’s a hard pill to swallow. They are from an era that did not talk about ‘things’ that were no one else’s business, or might be an embarrassment, or what would the neighbours and community think. Time and time again, I heard, “Best to let sleeping dogs lie.” In other words, what I was asking needs to go to the grave with the person, or stays shoved in the back of the closet, never to be discussed, brought up, or shared.
Grandiose hopes of being more diligent in family history research is still settled in my brain. Unfortunately it is a rabbit hole that will spiral unchecked and consume waking hours I am not ready to relinquish just yet. In the meantime, I continue to snap up bits of this and that I hear or read. I take pictures in cemeteries where I have uncovered the possible route an ancestor might have taken, and keep in touch with those who are like-minded in the family. All just in case, this addition to my cash of family archives will one day keep my brain occupied.
Something I would like to share - be fully prepared for the answers you go looking for. Some might not be as endearing as what has been portrayed; while others might be enlightening in a way you would never expect.