Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I was contacted the other day by a cousin - maybe a second or third cousin - I really don't know yet. He is very much into research of his family tree, and had come across my name and email address somehow. I am very interested in this subject myself, but it has been some time since I made much effort in that direction. I had first started it when my husband died, thirty-four years ago, and I was concerned that my youngest child, only six at the time, should not be allowed to grow up without knowing her family history even though most of the older generation had passed on.

I started at that time with my husband's family, collecting as many photographs as I could. We couldn't get very far with his family. He was first generation American, and the aunts and uncles who were left seemed to have no interest in and not much knowledge of past history. We tried contacting sources in Italy, to no avail. Many records had been destroyed by fire or flood.

Then I turned to my own family history. There was quite a bit of information available on my father's side. Many members had attempted to keep records over the years. My only problem was that my memories of stories told when I was a child were often flawed and somewhat confusing. My father was deceased long since, and my mother had become a victim of Alzheimer's. But we did have many photographs.

Two photos that I no longer had were supplied by this cousin's pages. I was delighted to find this one of my grandfather with his nine children. It had been used as a Christmas card at some point. I had seen it before, but no longer had access to it. My father is on the far right, back row. My grandmother was deceased, and my Aunt Frances (standing next to my father) raised the younger ones.

Another that I remembered was this one - badly deteriorated of course, but dear to me. The older boy is my father. The younger, one of my uncles. They are seen during a summer vacation in Cape May Point, NJ, where the family had a summer home. This spot is near my present home. The Cape May Lighthouse can barely be seen way back on the horizon.

My youngest daughter, Kathryn, is also very interested in family history, and was pleased to receive this new information. She also sent me this poem which she found on Writers' Almanac.


my ancestors surround me
like walls of a canyon
stone hard
their ideas drift over me
like breezes at sunset

we gather sticks
and make settlements
what we do is only partly
our own
and partly continuation
down through the chromosomes

my son
my baby sleeps behind me
stirring in the night
for the touch
that lets him continue

he is arranging
in his small form the furniture
and windows of his home

it will be a lot like mine
it will be a lot like theirs

"ancestors" by Harvey Ellis from Sleep Not Sleep.

© Wolf Ridge Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission


Dianne said...

it's exciting and life affirming to learn about those who came before us

the poem is lovely

the photos are treasures

Daryl said...

How wonderful.

When we were cleaning up the FL condo after our parents passed, my sister and I found some very old family photos (from my mother's side of the family) but there is no one to ask who is who ...

Anonymous said...

Wonderful photos. It's hard but a rewarding experience to learn more about our ancestors and family. Very nice photos.


Lisa (Mountain Photog) said...

Lovely post, Bobbie and a beautiful poem. I grew up with many great aunts and uncles and family history was always an important part of who we were. An uncle of mine has traced our ancestry all the way back to 1535 France. Knowing where you come from and what the lives of those who came before you were like is very enriching.

If you do more digging I'd love to hear more about what you find.

Sylvia K said...

I have to admit that my cousins have been much more into our family history than I ever was. I was never close to either of my parents and kept myself isolated from most relatives until the past few years when I reconnected with my father's side of the family. And it has been intriguing to learn so much of the family's history. I love your photos and I love the poem. Thanks, Bobbie, for sharing them.

Enjoy your day!

Sylvia said...

Bobbie, your family photos are beautiful!
I also think it is wonderful that you have this blog and share your personal stories. It is something your children and grandchildren can come visit whenever they like, not to mention your fellow bloggers! It really is a neat thing when you think about it, you are documenting a bit of your family history every day you write your blog.
& the poem, Wow!

Anil P said...

How wonderful to learn about your family.

With each effort one usually wishes that more was known for, as much as we look to the future we can only do so when anchored to the past.

Rambling Woods said...

How nice that you cousin found you and I do wish I had old photos. But the photos were in the care of my mother and two house fires later, there is really makes me sad... Michelle