History and Family Records

A few years after my grandmother passed away and my grandfather decided to move in with my aunt and uncle, I was given a large box containing Grandma’s belongings.  In the box were several binders and papers in loose folders containing her writing. Grandma loved to write.

Grandma was a woman strong in what she believed, grounded in her Christian faith, and never afraid to speak up when she thought someone was doing something to hurt themselves.  One of the things I loved most about her was her love of life and her ability to make delicious lemonade out of the rotten lemons that life sometimes delivered.

This week while on vacation, I have had the opportunity to archive Grandma’s writings, all 500 or so pages.  One volume contains her typewritten memoirs about growing up in the twenties and thirties.  Her biological father died when she was eleven months old, leaving her mother to try and raise Grandma and her siblings on her own.  In Memories of Past Times, my Grandmother wrote:

My father built the house we lived in, which sat near the river in Georgetown, Illinois.  He was a carpenter and also worked on the railroad repairing tracks.  He made all the furniture in the home.  Each piece was done with tender loving care and finished just right, as it was a gift to his family.  He also made the cradles we slept in as babies.

When my father passed away, my mother lost the house my father had built because of back taxes, and had to go to work in a second hand store to provide food, clothing and shelter for her family.

In addition to pages of her memories, my grandmother left behind two wonderful treasures.  The first is an undated handwritten letter titled To all our Grandchildren.  Even though I had perused these same writings when I was first given her writings, this was the first time I actually saw this soul-revealing letter.  She talked about the difficulty of her own life and her spiritual journey and then provided her own advice to living a good life. I transcribed this letter and today sent it to all my cousins.

The second treasure has to do with a story my grandmother told her children while they were growing up.  From what I understand, it was a serial story that she spread over several nights, maybe even months.  My aunts all loved to listen to Grandma’s adventure and were disappointed that she never wrote it down.  Well, just yesterday I found a faded handwritten copy of Leilani in the Jungle. It is difficult to read but I think I can transcribe it for future generations.

When I was asked to be the family historian, I was not sure how to organize our family history.  Now, I have created a small library containing stories, poetry, and Grandma’s genealogical research, as well as other things that were special to her.  I hope that my family will find as much joy from reading her memoirs as I do.

12 thoughts on “History and Family Records

  1. Hi Susan, I've seen your query struggles on AW. (I've had plenty of my own.) How fabulous that you have such extensive writings from your grandmother! I only have a few pages and they document a life none of us grandkids knew about. And there's no one left to ask questions…


  2. Andrew,

    My grandmother was an very interesting person, as well as sweet. Thank you for the nice compliment.

    I took a peek at your friend's blog and will read more soon. I note the entry you linked me to is about her grandmother as well. 😀


  3. Hi Lacy,

    Oh gosh, I am really struggling with my query letter now, but I think I am getting it down. I suspect once I “get it” that writing future query letters will be easier.

    I can't say how happy I am to have writings from my grandmother. Many were no dated, but the earliest date I did find was 1970. I love her stories about when she was growing up.


  4. Hi Susan,

    I like your site, you have some interesting posts. My site http://www.myperfectpitch.com compliments yours, consisting of interesting articles from a published author, and a free writers yearbook with over 1000 book publishers currently accepting submissions. Keep up the good work.

    Regards, Brian


  5. Brian,

    Thank you for stopping by The Write Life and for leaving such wonderful words. Love your site! Very informative. Good luck on the sale of your book, treasure hunting has always been one of my favorite activities.


  6. Your blog is still nice. And yes, try to rewrite some of your Grandma's writing. She sounds sweet person. If only you had met mine. She was great too. She knew I loved her, and I sensed she loved me. She passed soon twelve years ago. I still miss her, so it is not any wonder you miss your loved ones too. I mean those of your loved ones who have passed.


  7. Mystery Knitter,

    Thank you for the nice compliment. I would love to write and edit some of Grandma's stories and compile them in to a PDF for family Christmas gifts. I'm not sure if that's a reality right, now with all I have been doing.

    It is difficult when loved ones pass. I was 49 when Grandpa died last year, and I can't think of a time he wasn't around. Even when i was a kid and he and Grandma lived 41/2 hours away, we saw each other often.

    I know what you mean about missing your mother. Mine has been gone 26 years, but if she were alive she would be seventy. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if she were around now, how she would have changed and grown over the years. I can only wonder, though…


  8. How much easier it makes genealogy if we find an ancestor's writing as you have. Perhaps we all should write a letter to our grandchildren or more likely – to our great grandchildren.


  9. John,

    I am very lucky that I have Grandma's writings, because otherwise I'm afraid they would have been discarded. I love some of the stuff she has written. Written history which is kept within the family is priceless.


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