Family history: faded photographs


I saw this image and… well, got a little dusty-eyed.

My father passed away in 2002.  My mother, in 2011, and while she did get to see her first grandchild, she was already in the grip of dementia.  My daughter, of course, doesn’t remember her.  (I have a great picture of my mother holding my daughter, with my wife standing by the nursing home bed… which I entitle “Three generations of Hunt women.”)

Of my own grandparents, I only truly have solid memories of my maternal grandmother and, had we had a second daughter, she would have been named after her.  Of my father’s mother I have vague memories of an old lady in a blue dress in a wheelchair… I remember a glass bell on a table top… and remember my father weeping after she passed (I was so young I didn’t really know what “death” meant; somehow I thought she’d been turned into a totem pole).

I am older; not old, certainly, but I look at my own children and wonder if I’ll make it long enough for my grandkids to sit at my feet as I tell them stories – not only of things I’ve done and places I’ve seen – but also my own memories of ancestors further back.

Write down your memories of your parents and grandparents, and other notable relatives.  Ping older relatives for family tree details.  Get them to go through and label pictures of them – and what they were doing – as well as anyone further back.  I have boxes of pictures from my father’s side… and I don’t know who most of these people are aside from “ancestors somehow.”  Fortunately, I got my mother to label a couple of bags of pictures of her own youth before she died, and with the help of some older relatives identified another bag discovered afterwards.  (If I could have, just for one day, my father back I’d have him play with his grandchildren… and then we’d stay up all night going through all those pictures.)

These are precious things – family lore, understanding your roots, and just knowing what people did who came before you.

Don’t let the chain of your ancestors get broken.  You can, with research, construct black-and-white images of your family tree.  But the stories, the experiences… those are the color.  Don’t let them fade into dry images of meaningless faces with names.

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