Last Saturday, six women converged in a one bedroom apartment in the outskirts of Monticello, MN with the goal of discussing one thing: Family. Five of these six women were the daughters of three sisters; Mabel, Gladys, and Deloris. As for the sixth, that was me, a granddaughter of Deloris. We each came armed for discussion either with photos or documents or stories. The conversation flowed easily as everyone contributed what they knew.
One of the gifts that comes from these gatherings is the sharing of photos and documents. My great-aunt Gladys had not only compiled a photo album filled with photos reaching back over 100 years, she even labeled the subjects. It was with this photo album that I got to see the face of my Great-Great-Grandfather Norton, a man who lost his wife and newborn baby in Canada, dropped off his two boys with shirttail family in Minnesota, and moved out to California for the last 30+ years of his life. I was eager to see his photo, perhaps believing that seeing his face would give me an explanation for his actions. But instead I was even more at a loss after I saw a respectable photo of a handsome man.
The photos also lead to stories. I’ve written before that genealogy is so much more than names, dates, and places. In these groups, I relish in the opportunity to hear the stories of my ancestors. In the 1920 wedding photo of my Great-Grandparents Norton, I noted that Great-Grandmother Norton was wearing glasses, an accessory that was more unusual then than it is today. My mom’s cousin stated that the glasses were due to an eye injury, she had been struck in the eye by a cow’s tail. Another cousin thought that she had been kicked by a cow. Other than a cow being the perpetrator, the exact circumstance of her injury was not concluded in the end. However what made this story special was the fact that I was not the only person learning this information. My mother now knew another story about her own grandmother.
While the conversation swirled around the history of family, the beauty of these gatherings is that the present did come up as well. Very much like this blog, stories from our family history easily related to and transitioned into stories and happenings of our family in present day. Not only are these gatherings invaluable for learning about the past, they are a great way to keep in touch today.