Recently I was tasked to find the perfect gift for another Griffith Grandchild Special Event—a college graduation. It was necessary for me to once again get creative and put my sentimental nature to work. This time family history and genealogy were fresh in my mind because I’d just acquired Dad’s research and had started perusing what was there.
Dad became interested in genealogy in the mid ‘60s. He realized that he was the last in his family line—no cousins, no brothers, no sons—no more males to pass on the family name to future generations. So genealogy became a passion for him to find out where and who he came from.
When my sisters and I were kids, we heard the names—Benjamin and Angeline, James and Rebecca, David and Margaret—in everyday conversations. Those grandparents were as real to us as our living relatives. I loved the stories!
This was long before the Internet, so all research was done by actually going to sites and looking through documents. It was a treat for me to tag along with Dad to county court houses where he scrolled through microfiche—although that made me dizzy—and he looked through huge, dusty ledgers—which made me sneeze. He had to prove a marriage or a date of birth or find a death certificate or a land deed for farms his ancestors owned. Plat maps are wonderful—I can still peruse them for hours! He always made copies of the official documents so he’d have them. Then we’d tromp around cemeteries, finding headstones and taking pictures. Many people are spooked in cemeteries—I think they’re fascinating!
Anyway, in Dad’s collection I found volumes of papers, letters, notes, and pictures. In his Family Tree Maker computer program, he recorded 50 years of research. There are 463 names listed—all are related to us in some way.
There is so much info in fact that it’s easy to get lost. But I figured out a way to compile Dad’s direct ancestor tree into poster format—to outline the results of his original goal, finding out where and who he came from onto one page. I’d never seen the info in this form before. I’ve pored over the books he put together years ago, but they are a little hard to follow—for instance, pg. 36 refers back to pg. 4 and pg. 120 refers back to pg. 36, etc. So seeing it all right there in front of me gave me chills. It was incredible!
Aha! I’d found the perfect gift!
I prepared posters for each grandchild and in an accompanying letter asked that they think about the hours of research this information represents, “Picture your papaw sitting at his desk or digging through archives or wandering around cemeteries—completely in his element— discovering and reminiscing and recording.”
My hope is that someday we’ll make more discoveries so that we can fill the empty boxes in this tree. I also hope that all of these grandparents will become as REAL for the grandchildren as they are for those of us who watched Dad’s process!
I love this stuff!!!
Tell me your family stories. I’d love to help your ancestors become real for you.