Monday, April 21, 2014

Family Tree . . . The Next Generation

I wrote a blog back in 2011 about how my brother and I were inspired by the 1977 mini series Roots, by Alex Haley, to do research on our own famiy tree. It was a great hobby and we learned a lot. After working on it for a good couple of years or more, we reached a dead end. When I married my husband in 1983, we picked it up again. My husband wanted to try and find out what he could about his family too. We wanted to do it to share all we could with our own children when they were old enough to appreciate it. If we hadn't taken the time to collect documents and oral history much of it would have been lost today because our parents and their generation are all but gone.

The past two years, my older daughter has picked up where we left off. She has been subscribed to ancestry onine, checking cenus records, old newspapers, and looking into any resource she can find for any new pieces of information. She has also become slightly obsessed with collecting all the very old family pictures and scanning them into a computer to later save on flashdrives for everyone in the family so they will never be lost. It's a monumental project to say the least and she devotes much of her free time to gathering and preserving information. This past Christmas she asked for gifts all related to this new passion of hers: books, folders, file boxes etc. She enjoys the detective work and discovering things we didn't years ago. She found a picture of her great grandfather's model ships that were on display back in 1940's on Long Island. We knew his hobby was making ships out of tuna cans because my mother in-law had told us that when she asked her a million questions. Her father worked for a tuna company and I guess he had access to the cans they were packaged in.

My mother in-law also told us she was engaged to another man, before she married my father in-law, who had been killed in the war in 1944. My daughter researched his military records. She cross references information she finds in the census records with the little information we have, to dig for more information. One day she was looking through some things my mother in-law had saved and she came across something very odd. It was a picture of my mother in-law, was wearing a wedding dress, posing with, who we suspect, is her "fiancee." She was shocked and I was speechess. All I could tell her was that no one I ever knew of posed with a fiancee in their wedding dress for pictures . . . maybe they were married and she never said anything about that to us? It definitely peaked our curiosity. My daughter noted that she was wearing the same wedding dress as the one she married my father inlaw in, but the veil was different. We still don't know what to make of it. My daughter has been trying to find out if there is any record or proof of a marriage. This may remain forever an unanswered question and mystery. We also had a picture of my husband's uncle, who was a well known priest. He had an usual name and my daughter was abe to learn some things about him. One day, a church contacted her. They had seen the blog she was writing about her journey "Tracking Them Down" and her post about this priest. They asked her for his picture, they needed it for something they were preparing to honor him. Of course she told them they could use it.

You just never know what you are going to turn up when you start digging. You can interview your relatives until you are blue in the face, somethings will never come out. I remember we questioned our inlaws about both sides of the family. They had stories to tell, names, dates, a few old pictures. My husband sent away for death certificates, birth certicates and even baptismal certificates, like my brother did. We got the death certificate on my husband's grandmother. It turns out that my father in-law's mother died of asphixiation. She committed suicide by leaving the gas stove on. No one ever mentioned it, even decades later. She had been depressed. We would have never known had it not been for that document.

I'm glad my older daughter has picked up the torch and is carrying on the research. For one thing, all of our work from almost 40 years ago wasn't in vane. She appreciates what we were trying to do. For another, I know she will do a great job organizing and preserving our family history for the present and future generations of our family. She is trying her hand at colorizing some pictures and removing the age worn creases and cracks in an attempt to restore others. It will take her years to accomplish all she would like to do. I just hope her future children will take the same interest and appreciation in all of it that she has.


My daughter is journaling her experiences in her own blog, "Tracking Them Down" which can be found at

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