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Confessions of a Genealogist

[Editor's Note: IDG welcomes guest blogger Wendy Malinowski. Wendy blogs regularly at Our Lineage.]

 

Wendy Malinowski, Our Lineage, talks about Grandma

I have been thinking about my grandmother, Eva Zielinski Morgan, a lot lately.  She died in April 2011 at the age of 101+.  She would have been 102 years old that June.

As I was thinking of all the family information she had told me over the years (and taking my walk down memory lane), that is when it hit me:

 

I screwed up.  Big time.  What was I thinking?

Will my family ever forgive me?  Will I be able to mend my evil ways?

Oh, the guilt I have this morning!

I realize that the first thing that I must do is confess my genealogical sins.  I didn’t write most of the stories down. Yeah, I can hear the moans and groans as you are reading this (I know, I know).

Don’t get me wrong – I wrote down names and dates when I got them and even worked on the family history with my aunt – but the stories?  She told them at random times and I just thought I would remember them.  In some cases, I dismissed them. They seemed uneventful or not very colorful to me, so out of my mind they went.

Until now.

I used to talk to her every week (she lived 5+ hours away).  While talking on the phone with her was frustrating for most family members (because she couldn’t hear them), she had no trouble with me.  I guess the tone of my voice was not a problem for her and I also didn’t shout to be heard.  During the last 8 months of her life, we moved her to another facility.  This facility did not have phones in their rooms, so my contact with her was limited.  One evening, I received a phone call from my cousin stating that my grandmother was hard to wake up over the weekend, but that she seemed to be fine at the time of the call.  I saw this as a warning sign, as my grandmother was only a few months shy of 102!

The very next day, I drove to see her and spent a week with her.  It was one of the best things that I have ever done.  She was blessed with being in pretty darn good health and being very sharp for her age.

I had a distant cousin send me an e-mail during that time, trying to find out who a certain woman was in a picture.  I recognized the woman as also being in an album of my grandmother’s.  I didn’t hesitate the next morning:

“Grandma, who was ‘Gusty’?”

“Dusty?”

“No, Gusty, with a ‘G’ as in Grandma.”

 

She proceeded to tell me who she was.  I realized that the picture was taken about 1920 and that Gusty was a 2nd cousin to my grandmother.  All this at the age of 101+.  Amazing.

That is why I am confessing.  She was alert and sharp until she died.  I missed a tremendous opportunity.  I should have known better.  I am the keeper of all things family.  I’ve been doing this a long time.  I had 16 years to write all this down AND she liked to talk about all this stuff (usually)!

How stupid.

Well {sigh}.  It’s never too late.  I am changing my Family History Writing Challenge (FHWC) goal and writing down all the stories that I can remember.

In fact, I think I will start right now…

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4 comments

  1. “I just thought I would remember them” – yes, this resonated. guilty of this myself to great regret.

  2. I’ll bet you can remember a lot of these stories, once you get started. I know what you mean about family stories seeming uneventful or not colorful at first. Today we’re all so used to heart-pounding movies and TV, that family anecdotes seem pale by contrast.

    Ten years ago I interviewed my first cousin once removed Eckard Lee, who at 94 years old “held” all the family’s stories in his memory. I thought they were maybe a little amusing or odd. I taped our interviews, then later wrote the stories down anyway. Over time, they kind of made a pattern that showed me what our family valued and what they scoffed at or didn’t care much about. The funny thing is, I remember them all now, without out even looking them up.

    That’s a really nice picture of your grandmother! She looks happy and like she’s enjoying life!

    • Thanks, Mariann – she was very happy. That was taken one month before she died. She didn’t look almost 102, did she? She was happy and upbeat through the end…just fell asleep, like her mother did.

      I do remember most of the stories, just not all. I didn’t write them down. Now I am, but when I want clarification on anything, well, there isn’t any to be had. That is where I screwed up. Fortunately, my aunt kept a binder of everything she researched.

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