thegenealogygirl


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Major Milestone Right Here!

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Last week I filed and filed and filed letters.  Do you know what a treat it is to open letter after letter and see your grandparents handwriting?  To touch the pages they touched?  To hear their sweet and enduring love for each other?  It was completely joyful for me.

I am soooooo happy to say that I filed every single letter for the 5 1/2 years they wrote to each other!  Ten Hollinger boxes filled with letters.

(Of course, I still have the letters from the 1960s when my Grandpa was in graduate school.  But we won’t even think about those yet.)

As soon as I finish scanning Aunt Vera’s scrapbook – these letters are next on deck for scanning.  I think they deserve their own blog.  Maybe this fall.  😉

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These four boxes were mostly full on Wednesday when I started.  They look so beautiful empty, I might just leave them on my table for a day to enjoy their tender place in my heart.

 

Happy Monday, I hope you conquer a special genealogy project sometime this year – it is an incredible feeling!

 

 


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Photograph Showcase: Grandma Margaret and her Violin

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This beautiful photo of my Grandma was found amongst a bundle of negatives from her collection.  Because it was a negative, there is no information about the photograph.  I know that it is my Grandmother, Mary Margaret Ellis.  She played the violin and the piano.  She also had a beautiful singing voice.  I love seeing her here as a young, and clearly dedicated, musician.  Isn’t she darling?

What a treasure!

 

ps – I will be in letter sorting heaven for the next few days while most of my family is on a boys only adventure.  Would it be rude to put a Do Not Disturb sign on my front door?  😉

 


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The Price That We Pay as the Keepers of the Memories

PETERSON, Grandma and Grandpa with Kent kids, 1987

My siblings and I with our grandparents – Ronald and Margaret Peterson.  1987

The first time I read The Giver by Lois Lowry, I was in my late teens or early twenties attending college.  I was instantly struck by the lack of true joy that existed in the community because of the absence of historical knowledge and freedom of choice.  The stripping away of freedoms, the complete control of the environment – even the weather itself – eventually led to a deterioration in all that makes us human.  No one chose their own career, spouse, number of children, what to eat.  They took daily “vitamins” to control their sexual urges.  Children were bred and then placed with families.  Members of the community were instructed in every way.  They even lost their ability to see color.

But there was one community member who was the “Keeper of Memories”.  This community elder was tasked to contain all knowledge of the past.  He held the memories of snow, music, dance, colors, taste, love, fear, courage, war, death, hunger, and everything in life that has the potential to bring pain.  He alone could advise the other village elders on matters they did not understand.  He alone kept the memories of humanity.

Jonas, the main character of the story, is selected to be the next “Keeper of Memories” and begins to meet with the man for whom the book is titled.  The Giver slowly pours memories into Jonas.  He begins with pleasant memories.  As time passes Jonas learns all that has been taken from him and his community members.  He learns that joy and pain are two sides of the same coin.  That the deeper we love, the deeper our loss when death comes.

Genealogists are also Keepers of Memories.  Memories of family members and their lives.  Memories of facts and stories.  Memories of how our family members fit into history.  We research, archive, write, analyze, preserve, store, share, and most of all – we tell.

Genealogists may be the Keepers of Memories for their families.  But they are nothing like Lowry’s Keeper of Memories.  We tell everything we can, to everyone who will listen.

We pay a price for our role as Keepers.  We give up time, money, space in our homes and hearts.  We have rooms filled with boxes, photos, albums, records, and artifacts.  We pay far more than we would ever admit for supplies, trips, education, books, records, and subscriptions.  We spend more time than even exists in a normal person’s week on our work.  We fill our hearts to overflowing with connections, memories, and love for people – many of whom we have never met.

There is another price we pay.

It is sharp, gut wrenching pain.

Pain that comes when we open a death record for a little baby and read that they died of measles in their infancy.  Pain we feel again when we hear people refusing vaccines for their children.  Because we know.  We have read the records and seen child after child in the same family die of diseases that are preventable today.

Pain that comes when we learn that some ancestor was intentionally harmed by someone.  Or even worse, when we learn that a member of our family chose to cause harm to someone.

Pain that comes when we doggedly chase lead after lead after lead, hoping to find that one record, that one fact that will finally poke a hole in our brick wall only to face disappointment.

Pain that comes when we have some simple daily reminder of how we lost someone that we love more than we can possibly say.

That happened to me this weekend.

I was watching something from my DVR.  An old episode of Long Lost Family that I hadn’t watched yet.  When it finished and I clicked delete, the TV went right to the channel it was on and a commercial began to play at that moment.  The moment I clicked the off button was the exact moment I heard “…cures Hep C…”.  I instantly turned the TV back on and sobbed as I watched a commercial for the first time, advertising a new wonder drug that can cure Hepatitis C in a few weeks or months with a 95% cure rate.*

My heart immediately ached for my Grandpa Peterson.  A man that I loved with my whole heart.  A man who was good and loving and selfless.  A man who always had time to listen and help.  A grandpa like no other.  A grandpa who spent time with me – lots of time.  He was a Mormon Missionary, a Marine, a University Professor, a Psychologist, a Church Leader, a Marriage and Family Therapist, a School Board President, a good neighbor, and an outstanding son, husband, father, brother, and grandfather.

He died about the same time that I first read The Giver.  I was 20 years old when he passed.  It was a punch to the gut.

He died of complications from Hepatitis C that he contracted from a blood transfusion in the eighties.  Near the end, he had Congestive Heart Failure that was so advanced he slept in a wooden rocking chair most nights.  He tried everything the doctors suggested.  He tried Interferon treatments that left him even sicker, much like chemo treatments.  He was on a no salt diet and meds for his CHF.  Nothing was working.  As a last ditch effort, he had heart surgery.  There was a slim chance he would recover and then they could give him a liver transplant.  But he never left the hospital.  He died two weeks later, three weeks after his 71st birthday.

As I watched the commercial, I sobbed for the years that I lost with my Grandpa.  And I thought about how we, as our family’s Keeper of Memories, can’t help but connect everything we see, hear, read, and experience to some part of our family’s history.  I’m not the only member of my family who remembers how we lost Grandpa.  There are plenty of others who share in the same pain.  But there are so many other parts of our family story that are kept only by me.

I am my family’s Keeper of Memories.  I pay a price because of that.  But it is a price I would pay again and again because the joy, understanding, and connections that come, outweigh the price every single day.  Even on the days when a TV commercial reminds me of one of my greatest losses.  The depth of my pain only exists because of the depth of my love and the joyful memories of a grandfather who loved being a grandfather – who loved me completely and let me know it.

I treasure my role as Keeper of Memories for my family.  I don’t need that red sled.  I’m staying in this role until I know it’s time to pass the torch.  I will keep telling everyone in my family who will listen, the precious tid-bits about our past.

My Grandpa is one of the reasons I embraced this role that came to me.  His memory should never be forgotten.  I will do my best to make sure it isn’t.

 

What joy and pain have come to you as your family’s Keeper of Memories?

 

 

*I’m not sure if I got the numbers from the commercial exactly right.  That is what I recall.  I didn’t want to find it and watch it again.

 

ps – I believe that Families can be Forever.  This belief means that the flip side of my pain in missing my Grandpa is the joy of knowing I will see him again.  I treasure that knowledge.  His death was the first that I experienced in my family.  (Not counting great grandparents who I didn’t know nearly as well.)  That, and the manner in which he died, and the strength of our relationship, have made his loss more painful than many others I have experienced.  Which makes my gratitude for Eternal Families even deeper.  You can read more about what I believe here.


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Memorial Day 2017

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Memorial Day 2017 with my family was really wonderful.

 

Part One:

 

While driving north to begin our adventures, we talked about the origins of Memorial Day, our cousin James Boles and his life and sacrifice, and where we were headed.

Part Two:

 

A picnic lunch with my 4th great grandmother, Maria Amanda Dolby Skeen at Lehi Pioneer Cemetery.  This sweet little cemetery is just a grassy park surrounded by trees and a flowing irrigation ditch.  There is only one marker sharing the history of the cemetery.  We know that Maria is buried there.  She was the mother of 9 children, 4 who pre-deceased her.  She died in 1854 at the age of 36, leaving her husband with 5 young children.  Maria and her family were Mormon Pioneers who experienced extreme persecution and were driven from one place to the next, finally traveling with the saints to what is now known as Utah.  A few short years after their arrival, Maria passed away.

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Part Three:

 

A few hours in the American Fork Cemetery.  We had a list of ten of my husband’s ancestors to look for, and 16 little star shaped flags to post on any veteran’s graves that had no decorations.  This year I couldn’t find actual flags so I had to make do with my Dollar Store find.

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This little darlin’ was so fascinated by everything about the cemetery.  He wanted to know all about every headstone he came upon.  He was searching for “soldier headstones” and “B-E-C-K”.

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He was so happy when he found his first “B-E-C-K” headstone.  Of course I missed his huge smile and caught his explanation instead.  😉

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Jacob S and Elizabeth H Beck, my husband’s 2nd great grandparents

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With my camera in hand, I obviously had to photograph any headstone that caught my eye.  I have a bundle to add to findagrave.

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It was a lovely cemetery visit, to a beautiful cemetery, in a fantastic setting, on a perfect day.

Part Four:

 

We made some new family memories exploring the beautiful Cascade Springs.

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Even the drive home was picturesque.  The summit took us to an elevation of 8060!

It was a Memorial Day to remember.

 

Happy Wednesday!  I hope you preserve a special memory today.

 

 

ps – Why do 15/almost 16 year olds insist on being ridiculous in photos?  Sigh.  My 19 year old recently told me I need to lecture his teenage brother and tell him to just smile for photos.  Haha, he was the scowler/face maker not so long ago.  A normal phase I suppose…

 


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Memorial Day Tribute – James Boles

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My marvelous middle child, Memorial Day 2014

Today is Memorial Day in America.  A day to honor those who died in service to our country.  A day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

For many, it has become the kick off to summer – a day for barbecuing and playing outside.  I suppose that even those who fail to remember the price that was paid for their freedom, are still a tribute to the bravest among us.  The whole idea behind defending liberty is so that there can be a peaceful place for families to live and work and play together.  A place of freedom.  Freedom to remember or not.

Today, I choose to remember.

Earlier this year I discovered another family member who died during military service.

James Boles.

James wasn’t an American.  He was born in Scotland.  At the tender age of three, James left his homeland bound for South Africa with his siblings.  He and his family were seeking a better life.

As a young, unmarried man, James drew up a will.  In simple terms, he left everything to his parents.  James was heading back to Europe.  This time it wasn’t to improve his own life.  It was to fight for the freedom of others in the Great War.  James was part of the 4th South African Infantry.

On the 13th of April 1918, James was killed in action in Flanders.

Today, I honor and remember my cousin, James Boles.

James, thank you for your service.

 

James Boles – my 1st cousin, 4 times removed.  Born – 11 October 1887 in Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland to John Thompson Boles and Christina Montgomery.  Brother to: Agnes, James, Isabella, Christina, William, Helen, Elizabeth, John, Agnes, John, and Alice.  Died – 13 April 1918 in Flanders.

 

Rest in peace dear cousin.  I will think of you today as I post small flags on the graves of veterans close to home.

 

H - Memorial Day 2014

My Littlest Sweetheart, Memorial Day 2014

 

 


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Photograph Showcase: Trusting Parents

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Ronald Skeen Peterson holding his sister Janice Peterson

My Grandpa was the oldest child.  Here he is with his sister Janice sometime during the year 1929.  Janice lived to be 87 so I know it all worked out just fine, but doesn’t it look like one good wiggle would send her flying right off of big brother’s lap?!

I love that my Grandpa is wearing striped socks.  I often put my youngest in striped socks.  That detail makes me smile.  I also love Janice’s little bonnet even though it looks terribly uncomfortable.  😉

 


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Photograph Showcase: A Rare Moment

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Naomi Skeen with her son Ronald Skeen Peterson.  Janice Peterson in background.

When I found this photo amongst my Grandmother’s collection I gasped with delight.  It was the first photo I had found with Naomi and Ronald when Ronald was grown.  It made me realize that I don’t have many photos of myself with my children once they reached their teenage years.  They just don’t like the camera much anymore.  So this lovely, and rare, moment with my Grandpa and his mother feels extra special when I compare it with my own experience.

As an added bonus – I love the unintentional photo bombing of Ronald’s sister Janice.