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Monday, March 12, 2012

Destroyed and Lost Records

Most genealogists will come face to face with the burned court house, archive, or home that could have unlocked untold family genealogical treasures.  Recently, I found out I was a year too late in becoming the keeper of my great aunt's research.  Her son, who was responsible for packing up and selling her house after her death, had taken it all to the landfill six months after she died.  I write about my initial reaction here in my blog.  I am trying not to think too much about what has happened, but I am finding it increasingly difficult not to.  All those what-if's have started to consume me from the inside out.
Agness Miller and Tim Brennan with 3 of thier
4 daughters Ruth, Mary Alice, and Helen. 
Margaret was not born yet.  Taken about 1926

Hearing about what happened to the files, from the man who threw them away, was a lesson in control; having to inform my father was heartbreaking.  I think I can now truly understand how my dad’s mom must have felt while watching her mother burn all of her grandparents’ possessions. 

My grandmother told me stories about the wonderful things in their house.  Hand-painted china brought over from Europe, antiques, paintings, musical instruments (Grandpa John and his brother Joe could play anything they picked up), plus letters, pictures, and so much more.  Within a week of his death in 1935, everything was gone.  Her mother, aunts, and uncles had gone through the house and burned anything they thought had no value.  My grandmother could do nothing but watch, and later cry in private as no one understood why she was so upset.  Looking back she would say it was the Depression, and you took what you could to survive in uncertain times.
Ruby Cindonia Taylor,
taken 1910's. Married
George Bennett

Family fires are not unique to my family; it seems that there was a “recent” loss in my husband’s family as well.  In about 1950 his great-grandmother Ruby's family home burned on their farm near Coventry, Connecticut.  Her sister Ruth inherited the farm from their parents, Benjamin and Anna Taylor.  Benjamin’s parents, James Taylor and Nancy Wilbur, had settled there in the late 1800’s after moving from Warwick, Rhode Island.  My father-in-law told us that the fire destroyed all of the antiques, pictures, and family records.  There was only one thing that survived the fire.  The freezer of food his great aunt had dragged from the house while it was burning.

These stories have made me, once again, take up a scanning frenzy.  Before you ask, yes, I am saving the images in multiple places.  I can do my best to not let what I find be destroyed or lost. 

*Digital image of Ruby Taylor given to me by J. Finsilver.

1 comment:

  1. Sierra wrote this comment, and big thumbs me pushed the wrong button on the phone screen.

    "I just scanned a bunch of photos at my mother-in-law's yesterday. She handed me a stack of photos and said you should have them because I will probably just throw them away at some point. I ran home, got my Flip-Pal, and scanned everything in the bunch within an hour. Then we had a discussion in which I made her promise to give them all to me if she wants to throw them away."