Thursday, June 10, 2010
My Second Family History Trip
As I said in a previous post, a chance phone call lead us (my brother and I) to a visit with my mother's first cousin. She and her mother moved back to live with her grandmother at 2338 W. Washington Blvd. after her father died. It was a very emotional meeting, and we planned to get together for the weekend a few weeks later. Again, my only preparation for the trip was excitement, enthusiam and some hastily scrawled questions. My brother took his laptop with his genealogy files on it, scanner, and his wife to act as the general all round go-fer. He is so lucky to have her! I vowed (and was warned by my brother) not to forget anything this time.
Thanks to his GPS we travelled to her house with no trouble. She ran to greet us with hugs and smiles. A real bonus was that two of her daughters and a granddaughter also came over for part of the visit. We asked about family history information we had collected, and she allowed us to scan every photo and scrap of paper that she had found. She related family stories, and I kicked myself for not having a voice recorder - another item for my Christmas list. I would try to have something by our next visit. I scribbled notes as fast as I could and my brother scanned continously - too bad he didn't notice that the edges weren't scanning until we returned home. We even found a letter she kept from our mother asking for family history information for my brother and our mother explaining that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. We scanned the notes she put together, even those on the back of envelopes. We never found out from whom she got the information. There would be time when we saw each other again to ask questions. We were so happy that we had reconnected after all the years she and our mother had been distant. This connection was important to both of us. The weekend went by way too fast, and we all agreed that we needed to have a family picnic, but we would keep in touch by email until then. She passed on funny jokes, and I asked questions about the family. Then one day, a few weeks later, she didn't answer my email, so I wrote another, and another. Please tell me you are fine but just busy, I asked. She wasn't. How could this happen so quickly? I remember how impressed I was that she walked three miles a day. I felt "fit" when I could do two. We teased her about being a spoiled child with so many Christmas gifts - see photo above - but we knew she had had great heartache as a child.
The next time we saw her was at her funeral only a short time -too short - later. At her funeral we met another cousin of my mother's and exchanged email addresses. We also met many relatives but the names and faces swirl together. Several told stories of our grandparents. It was an emotional day on many levels.
As I read family history blogs now discussing their upcoming family history trips, I have read that a successful trip includes lists, forms, GPS coordinates, with a time schedule. This will always be my most memorable family history trip, and I was utterly unprepared. My advice is to just go . . . . meet your family, enjoy their company, and take a voice recorder so you can visit without notetaking and a camera for the memories.
This was a very difficult post to write. I find that I still cry when I think about it. I wanted to include some photos, but don't want to offend her children. I hope the one above is acceptable.