Friday, December 5, 2008

If Wishes Were.....


We all have certain presents we'd like to receive for Christmas but know that they'll probably never actually appear.

In 1986 I made slight detour coming home from business meetings in northern California and stopped in Angel's Camp, California to meet a long lost cousin. When I arrived, I found him teaching tennis to some youth on a tennis court, sweaty, a little winded and extremely busy.

The Diary

My cousin, Gerald Turner, had inherited two precious possessions from our common great grandfather. I asked to see David Lewis Drew's diary. He pointed toward his office and said go ahead look at them. The diary was small, about 4" x 6" and an inch thick. It was filled with entries from David's first year in California during the Gold Rush in Calaveras County. I took two photos of the pages with the little disposable camera I had purchased after my camera died two days earlier, hoping they would turn out and I'd at least have a sample of grandpa's writing. Neither of the photos were readable after the film was developed but the photo of the old secretary was ok.

I thanked Gerald for allowing me to see and handle them. During our closing remarks, I mentioned that I'd love have them if he ever decided to dispose of them and emphasized that the diary was especially precious in my opinion. He said that he'd like to see them stay in the family, shook hands and turned to greet the next tennis class that had just arrived.

Gerald died not too long afterward and I was called by his estate attorney asking if I wanted anything from his estate. I replied that I wanted the journal and would love to have the secretary. The phone was silent for a few moments and then he said that he was sorry, but that neither item was in the estate.

Where had they gone? He promised to look into it but was never able to find what happened to them. I had touched and briefly read pages in the diary. How I wish it would show up under the tree this Christmas. It is priceless to me but probably just junk to almost everyone else.

The Box of Records

While reading letters Gerald's sister, Hattie, had written to my mother, she mentioned that her mother had all of the genealogical records and documents that our great aunt, Julia Drew Tower had collected during her life including items given her by our Tirrill aunts in Stewartstown, New Hampshire.

They were stored in an old box in Hattie's mothers home. When she died the box disappeared. Hattie's letter listed the items in the box and I wished I could see and copy them. I'm sick that they were probably thrown away. Again, they were probably just trash to others, but would be like diamonds to me. I'd be ecstatic if the box and contents showed up under the tree this year. How I wish they would...

The Miracles

Walking down the hall to my office today, I stopped to look at all the large old photos of my ancestors hanging on the walls. I still can't believe that I have them.

When I was about seven, my mother took me with her to my grandfathers house. Her siblings were cleaning 'stuff' out of the old home and tearing down the old barn. The old trash wood from the barn and much of the 'stuff' from inside the home were tossed into a fire so it didn't have to be hauled off to a garbage dump.

Old magazines, clothing, stacks of family papers and other items were quickly dispatched before we arrived. My mother was disturbed that they had been destroyed before she had a chance to look through them for ancestral records and mementos from her youth. We wished we'd arrived earlier to intervene.

When were getting ready to leave, she suddenly had an idea. Maybe something was still left in the attic behind the trap door. Crawling up on the sink in the bathroom, I tipped the attic door open and crawled up into the dusty and dank attic space. I didn't have a flashlight, so I used my hands to feel around to find anything left there.

Mom's intuition was right. There were dusty old framed photos leaning against a rafter brace behind the door that you wouldn't see unless looking for them specifically. The photos were of my great grandparents and second great grandparents. Wow! I found treasure.

When lowering them down though the opening, I saw tears came to mom's eyes. She was delighted that they hadn't been burned. Eventually, she gave them to me, knowing how much I'd treasure them.

Ten years ago, my wife received a call from her great aunt saying that if she would come up to her home over the weekend she would give her some genealogy items that she would enjoy. Once again, good fortune came to our family. She received the same type of large old photos of her ancestors that I'd received years ago too.

Christmas came early when we received our respective ancestral photos. We couldn't imagine gifts of such magnificence. Treasure!

This holiday season, verbalize your own ancestral gift wishes. Some times, if wishes were .... they actually come true.

Start your list today. Dear Santa....... I want .....



A few years ago, I connected with a distant cousin who told me that she descended from the youngest brother of my gg grandfather. She told me that a few years before that the youngest brother's old house had been torn down and nobody had thought to save all the old family records he had "inherited" from various parts of the family. It made the distant cousin sick to recount the tale, and it made me just as ill. Your story of treasures lost and treasures retained, certainly hit home with me. I'm glad your very wise mother was quick witted enough to find the portraits of your ancestors before they too were destroyed. Here's hoping you and all the geneabloggers get their dearest wishes come true.

Bob Kramp said...

You are right, verbalize what you want or what's missing from your family history. When I posted my Father's genealogical web site 8 years ago, I added a page on Missing Persons. Over the years, visitors to that page have responded favorably and postively. One must have patience. Your description of discovery was great. I could sense your exitment as you crawled across the attic toward the framed pictures. Nice story.