My New Year’s resolution for 2010 will be to work on a family research project involving my parents, and both sets of grandparents and great-grandparents. The experience will require me to be more of a detective than archivist, since the evidence is so incomplete, scattered, hidden or lost. The record will be part fact and part conjecture.
I will need to collect the various bits available–papers, photos, random treasured possessions–and see if a puzzle portrait begins to emerge. I am searching for clues to who they were, what touched them, and what shaped their lives. I know our relation, but who were they as people?
I have thought a lot about putting photos and research online–and someday I might–but I’m going to start with a notebook for each individual.
My idea of using a notebook to record each family member’s history was sparked by looking at hundreds of old photos and tintypes at flea markets, estate sales and antique stores. Most were anonymous. Even more than knowing their name, when I held the photo and looked at the man, woman or child I wondered what was going on in their life when the picture was taken, and what became of them?
Each page of the notebook will begin with a photo or memento. Shortly before he died, my dad shared some memories of the Marines in China. A have a number of photos of him on the Great Wall or in a Marine camp in the countryside. Some of the stories he told wouldn’t have made it into a history book. I will write down the stories he told me in the notebook.
There are also family mysteries to solve: one of the most treasured possessions of my great grand-father, a ship’s carpenter from Norway, was a picture of Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show! I wonder what the story was behind that!
The notebook will be handy to tote around as I do my research and jot down memories as they occur to me. The little scraps of paper and torn-off pages I normally use to write and then convey to a computer get lost too easily. A notebook will hold all my research in one place.
Photos, documents and mementos are important, but what I find most interesting and all too often is lost, are the little stories people tell about themselves that go in to making up their life.
Anyone have any thoughts, ideas to share, about capturing family history in scrapbooks and notebooks?