ancestor story, treasures

My Great Grandmother the Genealogist

Estelle Maffit Duval
Estelle Duval, my great grandmother

I was born 14 months before my great grandmother lost her battle with cancer.  At the time of her death, I was her only great grandchild.  I have no memory her, and yet her impact on my life has been significant.  Among other things, she was a genealogist.

Long before the days of personal computers, genealogy programs, and the internet, my Grandma Duval worked to preserve her family history through her amazing photography and through several different typed records.

Grandma Duval had two children, my grandmother and a son.  For each of her children she created a lovely little book about their family history.  I say lovely, but the reality is that they are just a handful of typed sheets taped together at the top.  Each book is about 12 pages and includes information for just a few generations.  What makes them lovely is the information she included and the handwritten notes in various colors that she added over the years.

I ended up with both books in the collection of items my grandmother gave me.  The last few weeks I have been corresponding with my cousin, a child of my grandmother’s brother, and am about to mail her the book created for her dad.  Before sending it, I scanned each page.

As I scanned this sweet little book, I was once again overcome with emotion.  I felt so much gratitude and love for my Grandma Duval.  I am particularly grateful for her genealogical work.  It’s from her records that I have found so many clues that have helped me understand the additional records I find.  It’s from her notes and photos that I find that extra special something that helps me know my ancestors more personally.  It’s because of the records she left that I knew where to look at all when I got started.  I can’t wait to give her a big hug one day and say thank you for the treasures she left for me to find!


I have included just a few pages of the book my Grandma Duval made for her son.  I blurred or removed the personal details about my great uncle to protect his privacy as he is still living.

Francis Duane Duval Book Cover018

Francis Duane Duval Book, page one019 copy

Francis Duane Duval Book, page two020

Francis Duane Duval Book, page four022


25 thoughts on “My Great Grandmother the Genealogist”

  1. This is sooo awesome. Love seeing old handwritten family treasures like this. And you know what? She’s waiting patiently to give you a hug as well….

  2. Amberly, I have always been glad that Grandma got to see you before she died. I remember holding you when you were a baby at their house in the front room. I am sure there is a photo of it somewhere. When I was 7 or 8, I went to Camp for a week in the summer, Grandma wrote to me everyday I was there. I still have the letters and treasure them. She was a neat lady and the glue that held the family together. Things were never the same after she passed. I was only 13 when she died, but my fondest childhood memories are of the times spent at the Walton home.

    1. What a treasure to have those letters! She had such beautiful handwriting. I love to look through the things my grandma saved and passed down to me. One of my favorites is a little scrap of paper with a story about my grandma deciding to change her name. I’ll have to find that and post it – it’s very sweet.

  3. What a blessing! To have something handwritten by a great-grandparent is itself something to cherish, but this is even more so, given its content.

  4. First of all, unbelievably beautiful and effortless handwriting. I assume it was a fountain pen? If so, I myself used them until my late twenty’s. I’m sure you know the schools may stop teaching cursive shortly…

    Secondly, what a treasure for you and your family. Grandmother Duvall had tremendous wisdom and foresight. Poignantly, we today rely so much on electronic records; they are not as permanent as Grandmother Duvall’s fountain ink. Can you imagine what would have happened if our Constitution was written with a ball point pen?

    Lastly, she has so much information of your family members in just this one “book”. Incredible. You are indeed fortunate.

    1. Thank you! I’m not sure what type of pen she used but I am so glad she chose to continue to update her book. I love that her additional notes are in a variety of colors.

      It’s so alarming to me that schools are beginning to abandon the teaching of cursive writing. I taught kindergarten and spent several years substitute teaching – much of it in 3rd grade where they teach cursive. It will be such a shame if we reject that practice completely. We’ll have a society that can’t read historical documents. I also think there are so many educational benefits to teaching cursive.

      I feel so fortunate that she created these little books. They really are a treasure.

  5. It was my maternal grandmother who got me started on this life long genealogical passion. She couldn’t write anything down, but told me lots of stories, many of which turned out to be true.

    1. I love that! My paternal grandmother always told me stories and looked through albums with me from the time I was teeny, tiny. Because of her special interest and attention I have always loved Family History.

  6. Lovely photo. Did you hand color it? Also, your Great Grandmother had beautiful handwriting. Have you considered getting the pages professionally bound? This would ensure that in the future they all remain together.

    1. Thank you, I also love the photo. My great grandmother hand colored it with oil paints. That was one of her specialties.

      This particular book is being mailed to my cousin but the book that was created for my grandmother I had scanned and professionally reproduced and bound for myself, my children, my mother, and my siblings. They turned out really great. I had them printed on thick cardstock that matched the color of the paper of the original book and then used a spiral binding at the top so that they can be handled extensively and still hold up well. My grandma’s book had a blank back cover that she played M.A.S.H. on when she was a young girl. I made sure to include that in the copies as I found it so delightful! 🙂

  7. A true treasure! I inherited the two Books of Remembrance that belonged to my grandmother. They are full of photos and documents as well as pages written by her. She loved genealogy too and I’m grateful for her hard work preserving precious family history treasures for her descendants.

    1. How blessed you are to have inherited those Books of Remembrance! My grandmother made one for each of her boys. I had possession of my dad’s for a few years so I could copy everything and then I returned it to him. 🙂

  8. Hi Amberlyn
    I would love to get copies of those scanned records, they would be cool to add to my file. I am sure you remember but Estelle and my grandfather Dale were brother and sister. In case you don’t still have it my email is If you have any other pictures or records you haven’t posted here let me know what it would cost to get copies from you to add to my record. I think I have told you this before but if you would like info or photos of Dale, my mom Arden or my brothers and I let me know. I think in my written files I have more info on Dale’s other children and his other wives after my grandmother I can work on digging out. Slow going adding everything to my computer records. I know I do have a few photos of the other siblings of Dale and Estelle from when my mom was younger.

    Again I so love I have found another cousin 🙂


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