Time travel as close as your local cemetery.

Relatives can help your genealogical research — one conversation at a time

July 24, 2014 / by davidwalton

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The little guy (me!) who got a thrill out of spending the night at his grandparents’ house.

For those of us fortunate enough to have had grandparents growing up may remember spending the night with them and how fun it was. Some of my best childhood memories revolve around my grandparents. What a thrill it was to be able to spend the weekends with them. I actually kept my suitcase packed so I could be ready at a moment’s notice if I was invited over.

What I liked best were the animals, gardening, my grandma’s cooking and helping my grandma clean.

My grandfather was an avid hunter. Besides his array of shotguns on display in his den, he had a trio of beagles which he often bred. What a joy it was playing with puppies on my visits. He also raised rabbits and on occasion would allow me take a bunny home until my next visit.

Gramps had three gardens as well as an array of fruit bearing trees on his property. He’s the one who taught me everything I know about gardening — from planting to hoeing and harvesting. Because of him, I continue to garden today.

One of the big perks about staying at my grandparents was my grandma’s cooking. Whether it was her special steak and gravy special, fresh green beans, biscuits made from scratch or homemade ice cream, the aroma coming from the kitchen would cause my stomach to do somersaults.

Grandma Bea and Grandpa Richard

Grandma Bea and Grandpa Richard

After dinner, I would follow my grandpa into the living room or onto front porch where he would smoke his pipe and listen to sports on his portable AM radio. I was always trying to figure out what was going on in my grandpa’s head. He could be quiet and reserved, but in a split second he was making a wisecrack or hiding behind some doorway waiting to scare me. He was a real character.

My grandparents’ house reminded me of a museum filled with family heirlooms, antiques, andframed family photos covering all the walls and tables. There were seven children in my mom’s family so my grandparents had to make sure everyone was represented. I thought it was cool, even as a kid, to be surrounded by so much of my family history.

The best part about my stays at my grandparents was learning about my relatives — both living and dead. As a kid, it was neat to hear stories about people I never knew and would never meet. Even more intriguing was hearing about marriages, divorces, affairs, sicknesses and death.

I especially enjoyed hearing about these relatives’ qualities and traits. I’m always trying to figure out where I get some of my more prominent DNA traits: personality, ambition, faithfulness, impatience, creativeness and a zest for life. But unless you are provided this information by relatives, there’s no way of knowing what any of your deceased relatives were like.

That’s why I’m always asking my mom and others what they can remember about their ancestors in hopes of learning who passed their traits onto me.

What are some of your best childhood memories? I’d like for you to share not only these memories, but also, perhaps, some of the information you learned about your ancestors from your living relatives. Also, have you been able to recognize your traits with those of your relatives?

Until next time…


One thought on “Relatives can help your genealogical research — one conversation at a time

  1. RayJ says:

    I have a few, fleeting memories of my maternal grandfather who was a feisty, WWI pensioner blinded in one eye by an unfortunate encounter with mustard gas. He smoked roll-your-own Bull Durham cigarettes made from tobacco that came in little cloth pouches. It was in one of those pouches where I kept the quarter-a-month allowance I got monthly from him. It seemed like a lot of month in the early ’60s and I always appreciated it. Gramps passed away when I was only eight years old. I wish I had asked him more questions and learned more about his life–and his relationship with his father and grandfather. Today, I have eight grandchildren of my own. I am very close to the oldest, a young man, who has spent many summers with me at my home. We have a very close and loving bond and I am trying to develop that same bond with the others. I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to live up to being a “Gramps” or “Popo” they will love and fondly remember when I’m gone. A special thank-you to my Gramps for the time I spent with him. And a special thanks for the male-pattern baldness. I’ve always heard that comes from the maternal side of the family and Gramps had little hair.

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