Hi friends! I hope you have had a fantastic week! It’s pretty warm in this part of the country!There are record temperatures all over the map, so we are keeping it cool and staying inside. This girl is very appreciative of having air conditioning!
So this past weekend, my husband Troy and I celebrated our 35th Anniversary! It is quite a milestone! How did 35 years fly by like that? We had a lovely dinner and traveled down memory lane, and did some dreaming for the future. Special times!
So this week I wanted to share about something I absolutely love to do! I love finding out about family history! I’m that person who is always taking pictures at family events… whether its a few of us going out for pizza or a big family gathering. I’m not the only one, but you can count on me to “nudge” a picture (right now anyone in my family that is reading this is saying, “boy you got that right!”) Hah!
I love to listen to people tell family stories even if I have heard them before! Those are like pure gold to me! I’ve shared many of them in my blog posts in the past because they fascinate me. It’s like I get to know personally these people I’ve never met and yet their blood courses through my veins. It is thrilling to find out about their lives, their dreams, their challenges!
That picture at the top of this blog is of my family a few months before I was born! I love imagining that story… a family of 5 was about to become a family of 6! (And two more came along after me!)
Storytellers have been a part of our history since the beginning. People would gather and tell the stories of their family and community history at special celebrations, or they might write it down and record it. It could have been written in letters to loved ones so it wouldn’t be lost. Photography came into play and all of a sudden we had such a gift to capture an image of what someone looks like! And of course now we can send pictures and videos and do a live face to face chat anytime we want! All of these things bring us closer together, from our past, to our present and helps us plan and prepare for how to share with future generations!
So today I am going to share some of the precious things I have learned and maybe you can get some ideas for how to research and preserve your own family history! I warn you, it is a passion of a lifetime and once you have been charmed by it, you will be hooked! Because this is our own story! It’s thrilling! So let’s begin!
You can see I have a few family pictures! I love each one of them! So how do you go about getting family pictures if you don’t have any? Well, first contact your relatives, starting with the oldest and ask them if they would be willing to sit down and tell you a little about their lives growing up. Ask if they have any photos they could show you, and tell you about. Bring your cell phone or a camera along and as they begin to share with you, snap pictures of their pictures. Several of mine in the above photo are just that! And if they will allow you to scan them or take them to have copies made, even better!
If you are anxious about what to ask a relative, I feel it is always easy to ask a question like, “What is something special you remember about your grandpa?” or “What is something your mom was really good at?” Those kinds of questions will trigger some great conversations that you can then ask follow up questions.
If you have some family photos, it is really helpful to take a pencil and write lightly on the back of the photo who is in the picture and any other details about the photo that might be helpful. My memory needs all the help it can get! And for sure, future generations will appreciate it! If there is a family history buff in your family already, ask if they would be willing to help you begin to track the family history as well. In my opinion, the more the merrier!
With all of the DNA testing going on to find out where your heritage is from, it has brought a really strong interest back to tracking genealogies. Many Ancestry sites like Ancestry.com have ways to use that data and find people who have close matches to your DNA. I have not done a DNA test, but I have a few family members who have.
There are so many awesome things about online based genealogy research companies. I am a member of Ancestry.com, and one of the cool things about it is if I am researching a family and someone else is as well, they may post an article about or photo of that person to their file, and it is a way to share information! You can also keep your files private if you prefer. This photo below is one I found on Ancestry.com, and it is of my father’s maternal grandmother.
As I was researching about that family, I connected with a gentleman I had never met before. He remembered my father and his family coming up to their house for family gatherings! They were 2nd cousins! Since that discovery, I have had several phone conversations, emails, and have even met up with him a few times! It has been such a delight to share family research with a relative I had never met before! So this woman in the picture above is who connects us in the family tree.
She had 7 daughters! Can you imagine? Her last two daughters were identical twins… my father’s mother was one of those twins! I look at her tiny waist and i think “Oh my stars! She had 7 little girls!” What I love about her is that she brought so much life and energy to that house! She wanted each one of her daughters to be confident and have something they could do to sustain themselves. So she made sure they were well educated. Music was also a big part of their lives too, they had a piano in the parlor, and they would have friends over, pull up the rugs and play and sing and dance! And she wanted each of the girls to have a portrait made of themselves that she would hang on the wall. That was important to her that they see that in the home to help them know they were worthy and valued.
She became ill when the twins were only 4 years old. The doctor let them know she did not have long. One of her older daughters was engaged to a gentleman, and they decided to move the wedding up, foregoing all of the big celebrations, they held the ceremony two days before Christmas next to their mother’s bed so she could be there. That says something to me about the love in that home! The two pictures below on the right, those are the twins!
But I only know that story because family members shared it, and because I was asking to try and get to know a little more about this family. Oh am I glad I did!
Below is another cherished picture, my mom Joyce Elaine and her sister Mary Jane. Aren’t those the sweetest faces ever?
These little lambs were growing up in the Great Depression. But their mama made their home a happy one. She made all their dresses, she could make even the simplest meal taste delicious. A little later, they had a 3rd precious angel in the house, another little girl named Linda. I look at this picture and my heart just melts! Oh how much joy they must have brought my grandmother!
Speaking of my grandmother, this below is a picture of my Grandma with her own little buggy and her little horse “Queenie”! I remember Grandma telling me that one Christmas morning when she was a little girl, she came downstairs and her father surprised her with that tiny pony inside the house by the tree! Imagine! She really got a pony for Christmas! I often think of how that spoke volumes about her father that wanted to make that magical moment happen for that little girl. She and her father were very close. She adored that pony! She told me she curry combed her every single day!
This is her below as she got a little older. She had a beautiful singing voice and had the starring role in the musical “Carmen”. I know because she told me and there was an article written about her in the paper, clipped and kept in an album. These things are precious to me!
We have seen the softer side… now take a look at this strapping young lad below! This is my father’s father, Lankford Ashby Shanks, but he went by Jack. He looks like he is all boy, doesn’t he? So how did he get that name?
Names are marvelous, they always have some kind of a story. Lankford Ashby was the youngest of 9 children. They were living in Kentucky when his mother was expecting her 9th child. And one day, everyone was gone doing something else, her husband had gone hunting, and she went into labor, alone! Two itinerant salesmen were walking down the road and heard her. They rushed in to help her, and they delivered that baby and took care of that mama, and oh was she grateful! She asked them their names. They replied, one was Mr. Lankford, and the other was Mr. Ashby. And that is how she chose to name her 9th and last child, “Lankford Ashby Shanks”. Is that a great story or what? But it’s because someone shared it and they shared it with someone else and so on and so on.
My husband also is interested and researching his family history. So we decided to create two tubs to keep them separate (it’s much easier to keep it organized that way). Inside are old albums and books and papers that all tell a little more about our stories.
Anytime you get a wedding announcement or if you go to a funeral for a family member, tuck away the little paper tribute they have on your dear family member. If there is a wedding invitation, birth announcement, graduation picture, obituary, any of those types of things, keep them somewhere in a large envelope or folder. That information is a precious reminder of a moment in that person’s life. And it can be so helpful for future generations who want to know and understand your family better. Even little handwritten notes about family members, if it helps paint a picture or give details that might be helpful, just hang onto them. I have a few family members on various sides that have written out charts of family history and made copies for family members. Those are priceless and will last for generations providing wonderful clues about your family.
Below, that rather plain brown book with black trim is a book my great grandmother on my mom’s side kept all kinds of recipes in.
But she also kept things like obituaries of family members she clipped out of the newspaper. And other family history she just jotted down in there. Honestly, her molasses cookie recipe was on one page and not far after was my great great grandmother’s and great great grandfather’s obituaries. These would have been her parents. Tucked right in there with all sorts of things from her life. I actually love this! It kept them close at hand for her. It was her system and it worked for her!
You just never know what you are going to find… it really is like a mystery that unravels. Do you remember in the movie, “National Treasure” when they kept finding another clue that led to another clue? That is what family history can be like! And its your personal story!
My Aunt Linda has made some beautiful keepsakes using older photos. She makes cards, she is so talented and artistic. This below is a picture of one she sent to my mom. It’s a birthday card she made for my mom. That baby is their mother. Isn’t that the sweetest thing? What a lovely keepsake!
All of these photos just flood my heart with so much love! I adore these people and many I have never met! But I have heard their stories!
Let yourself fall in love with the people who are your ancestors. Ask for stories and details from people. Trust me it will be well received. Write down everything you know, and every now and then go back and review it, and share away!
One thing I love to ponder is if there are any common threads I can find in the many faces and stories. I have found that many of them had to face incredible challenges, and very difficult circumstances. There was much love but there was also tragedy. And yet in every instance of hardship or loss, the family would come together, “circle the wagons” so to speak, and cry together but hold each other up. And with great strength and courage they would take the next breath and the next step forward. And together they would come through those difficult times. And equally, every bit of good news was celebrated and treasured throughout the family! New weddings, new adventures, and every new baby was cherished as a beautiful miracle!
When you look back and learn about these people who had hopes and dreams, and lived and laughed and loved even under adverse circumstances, it makes you feel a real sense of strength and stability. They call it a “family tree”, and I have always loved that because I think of how deep the roots grow, and I am a part of that tree! That fills me with a confidence that comes from a legacy of holding each other up in love as the highest priority. We all have that legacy! And that truly is the richest family treasure we could ever ask for!
I hope you have a fantastic weekend!
I’ll be back Tuesday for another Tasty Tuesday!
I have 2 quotes today as I felt they both had a place at the table this week!
If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. ~Pearl S. Buck
There is a fine line between a packrat and a serious family historian. ~Unknown.
Incredible family stories! I just loved this post! I got teary when I read about how your paternal grandmother made her children feel “valued and worthy”. Thanks for sharing another touching post, Amy.
Thank you, Christina! I marvel that is was such a passion in her, as though she knew all along that time was precious. She passed away at the tender age of 47. She poured everything she could into those girls, a life of love! A great example for me to do that with my kids!
Amy what a wonderful post and those photos are amazing. I have very few of my mum and dad as children and only one of my grandparents on both sides. Thank you for sharing. I loved reading about your ancestors.x
Oh Hilda, thank you! I’m so glad you have some photos! If you reach out to any other relatives, they might have some they could share!
Oh, Amy. It was so wonderful to learn about these people that are basically a part of you. You should frame those photos and create a gallery wall. It would be a story unto itself.
Thank you, Jodie! I just love learning about these people! It makes them so real!
This was such a great post Amy. You have such a rich family history.
I know very little about my ancestors and have no photos of them. My neice has recently been doing doing some research and has uncovered some interesting facts. It’s very exciting.
I love your suggestions on gathering and preserving the family history as well. ❤️
Oh I am so happy your niece is taking it on! You can help her with your favorite stories too! I bet there are some real treasures in your family!
Wow! That’s quite a photo, memorabilia collection and you are quite the family historian! Impressive! Thanks for the ideas.
Thank you, Kristine! I love them all, and am excited to discover more great stories, and to make some as well!
Wonderful trip down memory lane, Amy! Just imagine all the hopes and dreams of all those precious little girls! I agree, we have to ask questions, listen, record stories, save information, otherwise it may too easily be forgotten. Now that my parents, their first relations and my sister are gone, I wish I’d asked more questions! ❤️xo
Thank you, Barbie! We are caretakers of many of the memories and it’s so good to share them! I agree, I think of those girls, the older ones ended up caring for the twins when their mama passed. They were only 4 at the time. But they knew how to do it because they had the example of their mom!
I need to pull out my boxes, albums, shoe boxes, baskets, files…..Very nice post.
It is really such a treat! I’ve had them spread out all over my table for about a week and just loving it!
Amy this is a wonderful piece. Knowing where you originated is very important to me as well. My mother is the last of her 7 siblings and she is now living in a elderly care facility so all of the family pictures are with me. But like you, I loved hearing all of their stories when I was growing up. My father was one of 13 and all of them are now gone. I don’t have quite as many stories but a cousin shared a book with me that traced our history back 5 generations. I treasure it. Because I didn’t know all of them personally as I did my mom’s family, I sometimes have trouble connecting the dots of who belonged to whom, but it is fun trying.This was fun. TFS
Thank you so much, Clearissa! It is like a treasure hunt and any little hints of what you get to their hopes and dreams are just pure gold! I am so glad you are the guardian of the family pictures! It’s always nice if it is someone who really loves them!
Amy, this is exactly what I needed to read today. The loss of my sister has been so hard. She was our historian and I will be inheriting all of her documents. I loved reading about your family and seeing the photos. Warmed my heart. Thank you.
Loretta, I would think of you so often while working on that post, I am so glad you will have those pictures. You can tell their story to the rest of the family better than anyone on the planet.
Beautiful photos and stories that you’ve shared. I have almost no connections to my past anymore, so I love reading about those who do.
Oh I am so glad you enjoyed the post! I understand, and I really appreciate your encouragement.