Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thank You Grandma!: Forgotten Home Sources

(c) 2012 Gena Philibert-Ortega
There is no doubt that home sources are important to family history research. Unfortunately, not everyone is home source rich. I have friends who have inherited fabulous archives of family materials like vintage photos, letters, and other heirlooms. In my case, I have been lucky to be given a few items.

Home sources can be those genealogically rich items found in your home, the home of a close family member or even a distant cousin. Over 10 years ago I met a distant cousin who had a letter written in the 1800s by one of my 5th great-grandfathers. This letter included information about his children and their birth dates. A genealogy touchdown for sure.

Home sources are elusive  in that they can easily become  forgotten because they are often just a part of the stuff we have in our homes. They may not be archived or curated in a manner that reminds us of the value they really possess.

Case in point is two Air Letters, dated 1960 and 1964, I found this week hidden in my childhood stamp collection. These letters were written to a friend of my maternal grandmothers from a genealogist in England. As I started reading them I realized they provided source information for my maternal line. My grandmother was also a genealogist and would hire researchers in England to pursue sources. These two letters addressed to her friend in care of the Genealogical Society in Salt Lake City (now known as FamilySearch) provides references to parish records  and the name and dates found therein.

So how did this genealogy information end up in my stamp collection? My paternal grandfather encouraged my stamp collecting interest as a child. He and others helped supply me with stamps, including my grandmother who must have given me these two Air Letters because of their sixpence postage stamps. She was probably done with the information and thought I would be interested in the stamps. Because the stamps were not the typical stamp affixed to an envelope, I chose to keep the entire letter whole and not cut the stamp out. Now, what was once a cool stamp given to me is a home source I need for my genealogy.

Home sources can be anywhere. I would have never guessed that my grandma would be helping me with genealogy 20 years after her death.

A funny side note is what non-genealogically information is in the letters. This English researcher would receive requests from Salt Lake and she would go searching for parish registers and then send the information back. From the sounds of the letter she had quite the bustling business. But as all working moms can attest to , it was difficult to balance work and kids.

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega
Seems life for genealogist moms hasn't changed.


Jo said...

Lucky that you didn't cut the stamps out and put the letters in the bin! I have a little leather-bound notebook listing one of my main ancestral lines, going back to a couple who married in 1787 - it's a treasure :-) Jo

Gena Philibert-Ortega said...

Hi Jo,

It was lucky. It was such a nice surprise to find it. I would have never guessed that I had those letters. It's a good reminder that some Spring cleaning might yield some important treasures.

Thanks for commenting and reading my blog!