When it comes to genealogy, there can’t be enough emphasis on writing down information while elder family members are still present. Today’s technology makes it even easier. But whether by pen and paper or by computer, the effort must be made to gather and save precious family information.
If you are one of the more “mature” members of your extended family, you don’t have to wait to be asked for this valuable information. Pick an afternoon and haul out a box of old family photos, and go through them one by one. Wherever possible, write down who is in the photo, where the photo was taken, and if possible, an approximate date. A seventy year old photo of a group of children in front of a barn won’t mean much to most of your family, but as soon as you write down that the children are Uncle Joe and Uncle Louis and Uncle Mike, and the barn was one that Grandpa built from wood milled on the farm, the photo suddenly becomes a precious information resource.
As you go through your photos, there might be some that you want to set aside for the family historian. If you want the originals, ask someone to make prints for their research, and return the originals to you. You know who among your relatives will take an interest and guard these treasures for future generations. Seek them out now, and share what information you have. We have all heard about people who pass away, leaving boxes of old photos that are largely unmarked and unidentified; the photos don’t always get to the family members who would appreciate them, and sadly, get tossed away. That is history lost!
Also, you might want to set aside certain photos for certain nieces, nephews, or grandchildren. Again, be sure to record who is in the photo, the location, and the date. Certain photos will mean more to certain family members than to others, so don’t feel that one person has to receive every photo. Disperse others for keepsakes.
Once you have finished with your photos, move on to any old letters that you may have saved. Even letters that you might consider “ordinary” can be a fascinating picture of life forty, fifty or sixty years ago to someone in your family. And in this modern age where e-mails, Skype, and texts are often replacing actual hand-written letters, your old letters will be even more of a novelty.
Other ephemera that might seem unimportant to you can be very interesting, a “picture” of daily life in your family. Old receipts, old bank statements, old newspaper clippings, old catalogues are all part of your family’s daily life. Imagine showing someone an old receipt stating that you once bought a set of silver for $12.99 from Eaton’s… or a new suit for $8.99. Fascinating! So go through your things, but with the intention of passing them on to help preserve precious memories in your family. Your relatives will thank you.
The next meeting of the Yorkton branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogy Society will be held in conjunction with Heritage Day at the Western Development Museum on Sunday, February 17. Our meeting will be at 2 p.m. The theme of Heritage Day is “Good Neighbours: Heritage Homes and Neighbourhoods”. It will be a great day, and everyone is most welcome!
Every family has a story: discover yours with the Yorkton brand of the Saskatchewan Genealogy Society! For more information call Dave at 783-1093 or Glenn at 782-7969.