Saturday, October 20, 2012


I'm completely thrilled.  Down to my marrow.
    Recently, I've been helping my best friend research her father's family as she recovers from surgery.  It's been a bit of a slog, although I do always find it exciting to search for other people's family ancestors.  In this case, there are mainly single living descendants in the past few generations, or married but no children or only one child, so very very few cousins or others to search out information.  

   Yesterday she started digging into a grandmother's "old box of stuff" that she had carted around for a decade or three.  What did she find? 
  • letters from a great-uncle with historical details: names, dates, places, occupations,  
  • a copy of the first page of the Application for membership in the State Association of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington, which confirms greatgrandparents' names and maiden names, 
  • a meticulously-printed detailed pedigree chart on 4 pages written out very clearly by her father, 
  • memorial cards from funerals of greatgrand-relations, 
  • more details from a grandmother's 'family notes', with listings of births, marriages and deaths from 1700s,  
  • copies of several sheets of a Family Bible, plus a 1980s statement about another family bible of the 'other side' of the family (which clearly a cousin has somewhere).  
Treasure.  Absolute treasure.  For a genealogist or family historian.

"I knew you'd be thrilled," she exclaimed gleefully as I started poring over these sheets with many "oh! look at this!"  and "Yeah - there's his middle name - I knew I had the correct man here - this helps with confirmation!"   Plus of course, as I mentioned anyone's name, she'd remember a little detail about the person... like the place in Washngton where he'd received his law degree.  Or the market in California where her great uncles lived.  Or that her greatgrandfather was a wonderful musician and taught music at one point.  I grabbed paper and started putting all these new details down.  So many stories.  So many memories waiting to be tapped. 

Don't you love the thrill of going through this kind of unexpected treasure?  The fact that it's not even my family is irrelevant.  It's golden.  Wonderful stuff.  I can hardly wait to dig through it all, and do more research with these new details of her ancestors.  We're already talking about putting photos on her family tree, after I showed her my own family tree with photos going back as far as I can go at present with photos.  More wonderful treasure. 

Genealogy Treasure-Hunting 101:  
   If your closest ancestors are not living, find out who in the family has the boxes, albums, and letters etc. in their basements or attics or closets.  Someone has them.  There's always someone with those boxes or packages or envelopes.  You just have to find them before all that treasure gets thrown into a dumpster by someone who isn't interested in family history.  Get started finding that person, now!


Nancy said...

I love this story, Celia. I always think that the ancestors who want to be found are offering help one way or another. Just think, your friend's ancestors were helping her even before she started looking for them!

Celia Lewis said...

They've just been waiting and waiting and waiting... until she had time and energy to want to find them. I agree entirely. Thanks for commenting. I got a big kick out of her pleasure in my excitement!

Jana Last said...

What a great story Celia! How exciting for your friend and for you. Amazing finds in that box!

And I love your advice about finding out who in the family has the genealogical treasures in their attics, basements, or wherever. So vitally important!

Celia Lewis said...

Thanks Jana - it was an incredible "exclamation mark" treasure box. I spent several hours last night ticking off items as I entered them into her family tree. I will be doing more research now, as well as attempting to confirm details, as I found a few tiny differences on several grgreatgreats.

My advice is due to the fact that almost all the photos and documents of my maternal grandmother's side are lost and seem to be gone forever. And since they were rather wealthy and political, there would definitely have been some fascinating stuff. My Terwilliger greatgrandfather's Souvenir Album is almost the only thing I have of that entire side of the family. Thanks for commenting!

Jill Ball said...

What fun, Celia.
You friend is so lucky to have someone like you to make sense of this material.

Celia Lewis said...

Thanks Jill - she has other wonderful skills, but genealogy is not something she wants to do herself! She and her hubby would rather travel etc. Me, I love to dig around searching! Thanks for visiting.

Heather Rojo said...

Sometimes the answer has been right under your nose the whole time. Usually true, just like this story! Thanks so much for sharing!

Celia Lewis said...

Thanks Heather. She "knew something was in there" about their family, but wasn't sure what, nor about which side. Treasure! Because I've been talking with her about genealogy and showing her some of my finds, she knew as soon as she opened the box that I'd be thrilled! A number of answers right there in that box. I wonder if she has another box down there in the basement.... Thanks for taking the time to comment!

Jana Last said...

Hi Celia,

Just wanted to let you know that this blog post is listed on my Fab Finds post today at

Have a great weekend!

Wendy said...

Excellent advice to go in search of the shoebox.

Celia Lewis said...

Thanks for your comment, Wendy. That shoebox, that little album, that packet of old letters and funeral cards... treasure just waiting for someone to find it!


Family, friends, and others - I hope you enjoy these pages about our ancestors and their lives. Genealogy has become somewhat of an obsession, more than a hobby, and definitely a wonderful mystery to dig into and discover. Enjoy my writing, and contact me at celia.winky at gmail dot com if you have anything to add to the stories. ... Celia Lewis