Please Post Your Comments
January 19, 2009
Dear Stewart Descendents,
As you may already know, I have embarked on an aggressive project to map out our family tree and document our family's footprint on this earth. I hope to publish a “Family History Book” about our family within the next several months. I have already asked you if you know anything about our family. Very often the response is "I don't know" or "I don't remember anything". That's OK. You may still be in possession of items that prove to be invaluable to our genealogical project. Please take a moment to look at the items below. These are just some of the items that would be extremely beneficial in our quest to document our family's place in history.
Many families used the family Bible to record births, marriages and deaths in the family. A family Bible may often be the only source for birth, marriage and death information which predates the time when such events were officially recorded in the locality where they lived. Take a look at the front and back pages of any bible you have that has been passed down. There may be some valuable information there. In addition to the pages where the birth, marriage and death dates are, there are often pages that have notes, photos and other valuable information stuck between them. You may not even know that you have a Family Bible. It may have been passed down to you as "Grandpa's Bible".
Official Records & Legal Documents
These include records such as birth, marriage & death certificates, baptismal certificates, naturalization papers, wills, patents, military enlistments or discharges, etc. These records can be invaluable because many copies of such records have been destroyed in record offices and archives through fire and/or neglect. What you posses may be the only surviving records. These records provide us with important information about our family as well as lead us to new records. If you find that old will in a box in the attic, it may lead us to an entire folder full of estate and probate documents at a courthouse or archives.
Diaries and Journals
Some of our family members may have maintained a diary or journal that was used to narrate a family members personal history, telling us what they found in life important enough to write down. They are an invaluable source of clues as they will usually be full of names and dates.
Information contained in newspaper clippings about family members can very greatly but often offer clues for where else to look for additional information. Almost everybody clips newspapers when they find a family members name in it. Clipped obituaries are particularly useful, but other clippings help put together a person's chapter in our family history book.
Obituaries & Death Notices From Newspapers
Many people will collect and stash away obituaries of family members. Obituaries offer a wealth of information about our family members. They have important facts about the deceased and important dates that we can use to piece together clues about our family history.
Many people feel obliged not to throw out mass cards. They could be stuck in an envelope in that old desk drawer of yours. They may even be in that family bible. Mass cards almost always indicate a first, middle and last name of a deceased relative and usually indicate the dates of birth and death.
Scrapbooks can provide a delightful window into the lives and times of our ancestors. A scrapbook will often contain newspaper clippings of marriage banns, obituary notices even family triumphs and scandals. Other items often found in scrapbooks include wedding invitations, funeral cards, birth announcements, diplomas, award certificates, recital or concert programs, school papers, ticket stubs, dried flowers and other important mementos. These may be valuable for the information they provide (names, dates, etc.) or just because they are a little piece of our past.
Letters & Envelopes
Letters are valuable for many reasons. They can provide us with valuable clues of where to look next. Sometimes a nickname is mentioned, other times a return address is important. They can provide us with those missing pieces of the genealogy puzzle that can't be found elsewhere. But what is most enjoyable is finding out more about the personal side of our ancestors. These letters are often the only way to learn more about a persons values and or beliefs. Almost every letter that I have seen offers some kind of genealogical hint. These letters also play an important role in our future family history book.
One of the longest surviving and best cared for genealogical sources of information are pictures. They depict our ancestors as they were, which makes them of great value. On the backs of some photos we may find important names and dates. Many early photos are printed on cards with the name and location of the photographer which can tell us where to look for our family in official records.
Address books often contain the names and addresses of relatives. Take care not to discard them accidently. You may think that they are no longer of any use because the people have all passed away or moved, but they may prove to be invaluable. If you have any of these items I would love to be able look them over. I promise to take great care of them and will return them to you in the same condition that you gave them to me. I'll pay for shipping and insurance both ways if shipping is required. If you prefer, I'll keep them with the rest of the family heirlooms that I have already collected and proudly display in a family history room of our house. Family members are always welcome here and I would love the opportunity to share with you a bit of family history. Otherwise I will promptly return them to you as requested.
Bruce Maddox Stewart