Monday, November 27, 2006

Doing Family History

One part of my tracing my way from birth that I haven’t mentioned is my researching my family history. It began eleven years ago. My aunt Tempy, my father’s youngest sister, had given me my grandmother’s diary perhaps 20 years ago. I had looked into it, but it was like many diaries of the time, filled with the day to day, mentioning names and places I had no knowledge of, so not too interesting. Someone has said that reading a diary is like walking into a room full of strangers.

Eleven years ago, Bill and I went on an Elderhostel in Belfast Maine, and part of the course was a trip to the Penobscot Museum, near where my grandmother grew up. I became interested in the area and in my unknown family.

My grandmother died when my father was three. All that he remembered about her was once being brought into her darkened bedroom. She was dying of TB. I never heard any stories about her or her family, and that is odd because my father and my aunt were great storytellers. The sad irony of my search is that if I had begun it when his three older sisters were still alive, I would have been spared some of the work.

I went back to the diary, read it, and decided to type it so that my cousins could have a copy. Bill typed it while I read the cramped small writing on the brittle paper. As we progressed, we got intrigued by the characters – who were they? Where was this place? It is astonishing how much of the puzzle of family history you can figure out. The hunt is what grabs people, what makes genealogy such a captivating activity.

More anon of what I found.

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