Sunday, January 6, 2008

Home is where your story begins

Do you like sayings? Home is where your story begins. This one caught my eye one day when I was out shopping. It was on a large plaque. I have seen variations. such as. "Home is where their story begins" or "where our story begins" or "where the story begins".

This can be interpreted in many ways. Today, I will focus on one.

As a genealogist/family historian, our research hunt begins at home -- not on the Internet but in cupboards, boxes, drawers and closets. Have you found any gems? Perhaps, you have stumbled upon them while searching for something else?

Here are some of my gems.

1. One piece of paper about 8 1/2 x 14 inches written on both sides. The information is in pencil in the handwriting of my mother. Fortunately, my mother showed me this before I started the hunt for her Johnston connections. It is a listing of names only but forms a rudimentary family tree. One piece of information was very important. David Johnston married Hannah Hemingway. My mother's oldest sibling said that they had lived in Unionville, Ontario.

2. A cupboard with boxes containing wedding invitations, wedding thank yous, birth announcements, etc.

3. My mother kept many things, such as the Christmas lists shown in a recent posting

4. Photographs, not only those taken by my parents, but also those that I have received that belonged to my Great Aunt Margaret and from others are links to the past. The photographs helped greatly to recall past Christmas for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

5. Notes written by my father - He had been asked about 20 years ago, if he would be willing to be interviewed for the Golden Yesteryears Video series produced locally. I don't know if he had agreed to the taping but he had begun to make some notes in preparation. Unfortunately, he died before he had the opportunity to do it.

The following is the preface to the mini-history that I gave my nephews for Christmas 2007. It was an updated version of the work in 2000.

One day, while I was going through the area in the basement that has all the photograph albums, I discovered in my dad’s handwriting notes on his early days in the grocery business. I typed it up so that I could make use of some of the details in the notes field of my genealogical software. Shortly after that, I attended a workshop on writing family histories and the speaker encouraged us to do small projects. In one of my methodology courses, the instructor, during a "chat class", encouraged us to set small goals on our way to our larger goals. As a result, for Christmas 2000, I put together for my siblings, a short work that focused on our parents. I included a brief background of each of their direct ancestors as it was known at that time and a brief introduction to their descendants (that’s us).

I would love to hear if you have found any real gems around your home that have helped you with your genealogical research or fleshed out the family history you are writing/have written.


  1. After my grandfather died my father found copies of letters between my grandfather and a genealogist that had contacted him many years earlier. Grandpa had hand written drafts of his letters so I had both sides of the conversation. These letters really helped me get started on my search even though some of the information that they contained was incorrect.

  2. I have several hand-written 8.5 x 11" sheets of paper from my mother and great-grandmother that have served as "Rosetta stones" for my research. I couldn't get by without them!

  3. Thanks Apple and Thomas for sharing your gems.


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