Genealogically-Speaking: Precious Memories as Vital Records

Here at Digging History there are a couple of tag lines I like to use to convey the site’s purpose.  One quote belongs to Rudyard Kipling:

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

The other is one I use for Digging History Magazine:

“Uncovering history one story at a time”

Both are reflective of what I think history should be — just stories.  Think about it — there’s a story (history) behind everything.  I honestly can’t think of anything that doesn’t have a history (a story), can you?  I absolutely love digging around in old newspaper archives (one of my research specialties), and I write a fair amount of the stories published either in the blog or magazine straight out of those old newspaper accounts.  I particularly enjoy reading newspaper articles from the Victorian era — there’s just nothing quite like old-fashioned Victorian prose.

Nothing, however, can compare to the stories we pass down to our family.   Genealogists are always searching for meaningful records of an ancestor’s existence:  census records, land records, military service and so on.  Sometimes I think we are so focused on those (often elusive) records to the exclusion of missing the stories.

Today I drove my Mom and Dad over to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for a delicious Thanksgiving meal.  Yesterday my Mom asked me to be sure and print a copy of a record she had come across years ago after my grandmother passed away.  Today she had a story she wanted to tell around the Thanksgiving table.

It’s not one of those highly-sought-after records, yet both genealogically and historical significant to me and my family — especially because of the stories my Mom told us today.  The record may not look like anything genealogically significant (click to enlarge).  In fact, at first glance one might wonder whatever in the world is it?

There is, in fact, quite a bit of history on this 4×6 card — especially if you know the stories behind it.  This is a record of about a year and a half of visits to see Dr. Duke, a Littlefield, Texas physician who was my grandparents’ family doctor when they lived in the small farming community of Spade.  At the top is my grandfather’s name.  Although his name was “Roosevelt Young” (named in honor of Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. President in 1902), he signed his name “R. Young”.  However, everyone called him “Bud” (also noted on the card) and his address was Littlefield Star Route 2.

The card is a record of visits and care for Bud’s family, several of which were for my Mom.  My grandmother once said my Mom was “born sick”.  She has experienced lung and breathing issues all of her life.  The first entries on this card (4-42) for $1.00 and $15.00 were for a hospital stay when my Mom (seven years old) was unconscious for three days, her life literally hanging in the balance.  Today she told us the tearfully emotional story of how her mother got on her knees and prayed and gave her daughter to the Lord’s care, after the doctor had told my grandparents he had done all he could do and it wasn’t up to him any longer.  So, as my grandmother prayed, it truly was in God’s hands.

Mom told us today that while she was unconscious those three days she would sing “When the Saints Go Marching In” — the beginning of her “singing career” she now likes to say!  On this Thanksgiving Day the record took on new meaning because we heard the poignant story behind it.  It now means more than just a card with dates and dollar amounts — it’s a precious memory.

If you’re a genealogist, don’t toss these kind of records aside if you run across them.  There may just be an interesting story, or, if you’re fortunate enough, a precious memory.

2 Comments

  1. Sharon, I am always trying to find out when I talk to someone about family history anything they can tell me about relatives’ personalities, favorite things, events, but often these things are barely remembered. My cousin Ima Ruth told me that our Grandmother Westlake always smelled good (I never saw this grandmother, Ellen Priscilla Rupe Westlake, who died in 1940). Also, my cousin said she was told that Grandmother Ellen would not take care of her father-in-law when he became ill with cancer – apparently she didn’t like him. Though these are only two notes I have about Grandmother Ellen, they are more than I have for many others, and I value them.

    Reply
    • Mary, good to hear from you. My mom has apparently started to write down some of her stories, especially since she’s been sick quite a bit this month. She’s feeling better today and we’re hoping this little crisis is past. I’m looking forward to hearing more stories from her (and my dad). I’m not sure if you’ve received the followup emails I’ve sent, but your magazine subscription expired a few months ago. Let me know if you want to re-subscribe. I’m planning on some interesting stories and themes next year. This month’s issue focused quite a bit on World War I and finding records of ancestors during that conflict (and the concurrent world-wide pandemic). Blessings and Happy Holidays!

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