A Way of Gathering “New” Information

For many years, my parents would send out an annual Christmas letter, sometimes with pictures or a calendar, capturing the focus of each family member’s life throughout the year. Through this type of correspondence, my grandparents, and previous generations of extended family who practiced this same yearly tradition, left their posterity a wealth of information. These cherished items tell the story of not only family events but fill us in on the lives of the people. They supply the content of our living family and ancestors’ lives, not just the names, dates, and places so typical of genealogy.

My mother, Libby, who was an extraordinary genealogist, was an advocate for gathering the living. Capturing current information by way of annual Christmas letters, wedding & birth announcements, and funerals notices, became a habit as she would tuck them away in a family correspondence folder. My mother also knew it was an opportunity to reach out and catch up on the entire family.

Libby encouraged me to keep in touch with my relatives not only through letters and holiday cards; but by creating and maintaining a family address book. The effort has drawn me closer to extended family and helped me become acquainted with many of my second, third, and even fourth cousins. The bonus of this has helped us share our family stories, some which were lost to my direct family line. It made it possible to see our ancestors lives from different perspectives. Thus, keeping in touch has made it possible to gather memories unknown to each other, thus expanding the content of our ancestors’ life story.

Perhaps this holiday season, you could set aside some time to gather those old Christmas cards containing annual family letters and search them through to pull out the life events they contain. By doing so, you just may discover forgotten details, the content, of your family member’s lives needed to tell their whole story.