danuv: (repose)
[personal profile] danuv
I've now lost an entire weekend down the ancestral rabbit hole. Found a new site that I want to migrate my genealogical records to so I spent hours and hours on my bed hunched over my laptop typing in names and dates and then looking up census records, death indexes, grave sites, marriage licenses and pictures and am almoooooost through my great-great grandparents. I got slowed down because as soon as I start doing anything with records, chances are good that I'm going to find some new clue to chase down. I'm also emailing people I haven't talked to in a decade to get permission to post photographs they've sent me. This has led to long conversations today with a second cousin of my mom's that I never met about my great grandmother's photographs and that entire family.

Mom brought over three boxes of her grandmother's photographs and two big boxes of letters from World War II, mostly correspondence to and from my grandfather and his family and friends. I spent days going through the pictures, organizing them by size which I assume relates to either the camera or processing method, and then by camera rolls where possible (many were stamped with numbers on the back) and then tried to organize it by decade where I could. There are pictures from the teens to the early 60's and I also have my grandfather's photographs which cover from the 50's to the 80's. Then I sorted all the letters by date.

I feel this enormous responsibility to figure out the best way to preserve all this material and not just to preserve it but to make it accessible to the people who are interested in it. So many people have contacted me over the years with photographs of my relatives and ancestors and I'd love to be able to do the same. It feels like keeping these people alive in some way. So many of them are just gone and forgotten but when I look at a picture like this: https://www.flickr.com/photos/danuv/16289496417/ I want to know who that fellow was. His name is on the back but right now I don't know who his parent were. Did he marry? Did he have kids? Are there grandkids or great grandchildren out there who have never seen a picture of him? Was he a troublemaker or a laid back sorta dude? How was he related to me? Why do I have his picture now? What kind of life did he lead?

I have dozens and dozens of pictures that make me go through the same thought process. I have to get all of this stuff scanned in and figure out some way to organize it all, not for posterity but for my own sanity. I already feel like this makes me kind of a crazy person... or totally a crazy person. Pretty much 95% of the people I end up corresponding with about these things are 70 and up. I always cross my fingers when I email someone I haven't talked to in years because I know someday they won't be able to write back. Do they have children or grandchildren who want to hear their stories? Do they write them down? I wish I'd done better about that when my grandfather was alive. He loved talking about these kinds of things but I trusted my ability to remember too well and didn't even think about him being gone until it was too late.


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January 2016

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