The Gift of Family History

10 Dec

Recording Family History
What a gift Elsie’s diary and letters have been to me. Though they are quite ordinary, and some might even consider them “boring,” for me they are a treasured time capsule of what life was like more than 100 years ago.
Elsie’s Diary entry for today, 99 years ago, was one of the saddest that she wrote. Since high school days she and two very close friends had called themselves “The Triumverate.” One of the three, Caroline, died just before Elsie graduated from Long Beach High in 1907. Ruth, the remaining friend, had been ill for some time with tuberculosis. Elsie wrote:
Dec. 10th, 1914 “A day I cannot forget. I heard the sweet news about my little sister, Alice, and was moved and glad she is expecting. I went to the Women’s club, and in the evening to the movies with Mr. Connor, and dared not open a letter ‘til he left. Then I knew that I only am left of Triumverate. May God be with me. The girls helped. In a snowstorm we took a letter for Alice to the night train.”
What are you leaving behind that reveals something about your heart and life to those who follow? One hundred years from now there may very well be family members that will wonder what your life was like. Our youngest son will soon be 32. He was discussing the other day how much life has changed just during his 32 years. He says many young adults that are just ten years younger than he is can’t imagine a world without technology, cell phones, computers, instant google answers to almost any question. I find it amazing that Elsie when she was over age 90 wrote a poem about computerized dating in the early 1980’s. I recently was tossing papers and came across a financial journal we kept in 1967. I had forgotten how inexpensively we lived. It was interesting to read through that financial list. Other than perhaps a faded photograph, how much do we know about what life was like for our family of 100 years ago?
Elsie was my mother’s mother, and I was privileged to learn much from her about her family history. My father’s mother, Eva Letitia Woods, was a doctor in 1903. I have Eva’s quaint framed medical diploma. There must have been an interesting story behind becoming a female doctor 110 years ago. Sadly I know nothing of that part of Eva’s life. She died when I was 11 and I am sorry that I never asked her about her family history or what it was like to be a doctor in those times.
I challenge those reading this to consider writing a small notebook that will leave a record for those who follow of what gave you joy, what sorrows you lived through and what life was like for you growing up. In fact, I think grandmothers should leave some sort of testimony behind for each of our grandchildren. Record the ordinary things and someday they will be fascinating little facts that shed light on our ordinary lives. “Little House on The Prairie” was just that, a record of what life was like for an ordinary girl. “Elsie” is that sort of ordinary record too, of teaching 100 years ago in the Wild West. EHtriumverateSMtitleweb sz
This photo from Elsie’s scrapbook shows how they signed notes to each other with their 3 initials, C, R, & E intertwined.

2 Responses to “The Gift of Family History”

  1. Rita Covalt December 10, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    Barb, this is a great encouragement to me to get busy on a written legacy. I always enjoy reading about Elsie’s life, even the sad times. They come to all of us.

  2. ritaroberts December 11, 2013 at 12:17 am #

    Hell Barbara, I too enjoy reading about Elsie and your family. I agree with you entirely which is why I also have written a book about my own upbringing in the West Midlands England. My grandchildren have got that book. Thanks for sharing your wonderful stories.

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