Have you ever wondered about your family’s origin? Where your family came from or who they were? Many people have been curious to know. I never gave it much thought until I stumbled upon some interesting photos tucked in my parents attic.
On a Friday afternoon in late November, I found myself inching my way through my parents’ crowded attic, squeezing past ancient boxes and odd remnants of furniture in the search for warm clothing. Winter was approaching, and even in North Carolina that meant that temperatures became a bit chilly. Mom wanted her thick sweaters and Dad wanted his warm blankets, but neither was capable of climbing up into the attic to search for the winter gear that had been packed away last spring, so I had volunteered for the task.
Making my way carefully around an aged bureau stacked with boxes, I noticed that the top box was filled with photographs. I stared down at a black and white picture of a young man in military uniform who looked particularly solemn. Other pictures of similar age showed young couples with children enjoying big family dinners, men on horseback, and groups posed in front of farmhouses. Who were these people? They were presumably family, but I suddenly realized that I had almost no knowledge of my ancestors. Until now I had given them little thought, but these pictures brought them unexpectedly to life, and I began to be curious about what kind of people they had been.
I brought the box down to show Mom, and asked her about the first picture I had found, the one of the young man in uniform.
“Oh, that was my uncle Tom. He would be your great-uncle, I suppose,” Mom explained. “He served in World War II, and was taken prisoner by the Germans for two weeks before he escaped. I remember that my parents were so relieved when he came back alive.”
I had no idea that I’d had relatives who had served in the second world war. I asked mom about other pictures, and she seemed happy to reminisce, telling me family stories that she remembered from her girlhood. I was really fascinated by these tales, and found myself driven to do more research. I thought too how nice it would be to be able to give my son a sense of his heritage, and to build up a genealogy that the rest of the family might appreciate. I decided to do some digging.
My first resource was the internet. Today, so much information is online that I was certain that I would be able to find at least some relevant names and dates through, and indeed websites, particularly the U.S. Census bureau site, proved very helpful. However, online searches didn’t give me all of the information I needed, so I did some old-fashioned sleuthing.
Our family had resided in the Houston area for decades, so it occurred to me that at least some important records must be stored at the local courthouse. I waded through documents, finding marriage and birth records going back nearly a century. I could now ask Mom about even more names!
The best find, however, came from my Aunt Vivian. She was living in my grandparents’ old house, and remembered seeing my grandmother’s journal stored away in an old trunk. When she heard that I was doing research on our family, she dug up the diary and gave it to me. Reading my grandmother’s journal, I was transported back to another world, one in which my great-aunts and uncles and distant cousins lived, and became personalities rather than mere names. I discovered a great-aunt who had been an actress, and a second cousin who had participated in the march on Washington in 1963. I had never known that my family was so interesting!
In the end, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed my little project. It was a lot of work, but I learned far more than I had imagined that I would, and was pleased to discover that the rest of my family interested themselves in my project as well. It even inspired me to begin keeping my own journal, so that my great-great grandchildren would know something of their family history!
A good resource to refer to in your search is the Harris County Texas Genealogy and Family Resources website at http://www.kindredtrails.com/TX_Harris.html.
- Family History Search (tfollowers.com)
- Getting Started with Your Research (gagenealogy.wordpress.com)
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