I got to speak to a cousin this weekend I hadn’t talked to in forever. Carolyn is Uncle Bill’s daughter. He was my mom’s younger brother. Carolyn is tracing the family history and has found so many wonderful things.
We talked about the tons of pictures Mom and Dad had in shoe boxes in the attic. I come from a long line of pack rats and I've been trying to scan in the old photos, letters, newspaper articles, etc. and put them in some kind of order. Here is one of her at a long ago Christmas:
Carolyn is a few years older than me, a breast cancer survivor and a proud mother. My cousin Melinda and I spent a week with her family when Dad had surgery at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, back in the 1970s. Here’s a picture of us at a petting zoo:
Carolyn was horrified having to spend time with her younger cousins, but I have good memories. We’ve only seen each other since then a few times, at a party for an aunt and at her mother’s funeral, then her father’s.
Her brother came to my parents’ funerals. It is sad we’re at the age where we usually only see family and some friends at life events like that.
I was jealous she got to visit with another cousin a few months ago I haven’t talked to in years. We keep talking about a family reunion, but no one has done anything about it. There was a family reunion in the 1960s at my parents’ house. Here’s a picture of us kids:
We talked for well over an hour, with me filling in some blanks and telling stories and Carolyn talking about the Ohio branch of the family’s research. Among our relatives, was an engineer great uncle who had a thermal physics equation named after him. We also had another great uncle who marched with Martin Luther King Junior and was friends with Rosa Parks. Pretty funny that my dad’s side of the family had friends who were members of the KKK.
So, we come from a long line of smart people. There were also some odd coincidences. This picture of women from the late 1800s brought up some interesting information. In my novels, two brothers marry two sisters. Two of the sisters in this picture married two brothers.
And how cool was that?
One relative was an author on Jewish history and quite famous in Germany. I wrote one of my characters as Jewish in 2009.
The family was descended from a Baron and had a castle on the Rhine River. Another cousin recently retired from teaching German and made many trips to Germany and I made one of my heroes a member of the French royal family, with a castle.
Another relative was a hero in the War of 1812. I had one of my heroes reading a book on that topic. Again, amazing.
I was concerned that I had two coincidences that brought my hero and heroine together in my first novel. There is a third at the end that ends, shall we say, badly. But, with so many in my life, I think the literary gods are watching over me and smiling.
So, I know we hear all the time about writing what we know. I say we should write what we don't know and find out by research and listening to old family stories. There are too many that have been lost, too many pictures that were tossed because they weren't labeled and no one knew who they were. Take the time to seek information out and be sure to back up and share it. I sent Carolyn several empty flash drives for her to fill with her newly discovered treasures.
Are you the family archivist?