Have you ever wondered why your grandmother kept a scrap of fabric or wrapping paper but threw out her school records? Or why your parents saved your baby booties but not your bassinet card from the hospital?
As we research and scour high and low for records and documents, we’ve all come across possessions our ancestors and family have saved that makes us go “Hmm”. These kept items are indicative of what they thought really mattered.
Why keep a school report card? They knew what grades they made in school. And if the grades weren’t that good, why would they want anyone else to see it? But the fabric came from a dress Grandma made for her daughter or niece. The object would eventually be outgrown and either handed down or disposed of – perhaps never to be seen again. However, there might be a photograph of the child wearing the dress so if you keep the piece of fabric with the photograph, you have a record of sorts. That wrapping paper? It came from a wedding gift from her parents. Whatever it was wrapped in meant a lot to her, and she wanted to save the paper for posterity. Your baby booties and not your bassinet card? Your parents knew your name. They knew how much you weighed and how long you were at birth. They knew all that information. But someday, try as they might, they wouldn’t remember how small your feet were. The booties are a tangible reminder of that.
This holds true for us in the present. What have you saved over the years? A flower from your prom pressed in a book. The program of the high school play you appeared in – even in a minor role. The rock you found when you and your buddies hiked a trail deep in the forest. The seashell along the beach at the location you spent your honeymoon. Are they labeled as such? When someone else looks at these objects do they know the significance? Now is a good time to round up all those things and make sure they are documented – who, when, where, why, and what.
These objects might not be official records that tell us maiden names, dates of birth, death or marriage, or the full genealogy of our ancestors, but they do give us a glimpse into their minds. These things tell us what really mattered to them.
This picture (from my post, X Marks the Spot) shows a few items I found in a box my dad had kept and given to me. He gave both of these handkerchiefs to his mother – one he sent her when he was stationed in Iceland and the other he gave to her as a young boy. However, I would not have known that if he hadn’t told me or written it down.