As genealogist and family historians it is imperative that we become better preservers of OUR family history. I believe that preservation has to start with us. WE must become better keepers of OUR family “STUFF”.
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I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked family members for information (stories, pictures, documents..anything) only to be told…girl, I don’t have any “stuff”, or honey I just don’t remember any of that old “stuff”, or (my favorite) child, I don’t know what happened to all that old “stuff”. I’m sure you’ve heard similar responses to your requests for family information. Well, that “stuff” was/is your family history. We can’t get angry with anyone but OURSELVES if WE don’t start taking better care of OUR “stuff”.
I remember calling my Auntie Ruth one day and asking what she was doing. She said “just throwing away some old stuff.” This is my aunt on my paternal side, my father’s sister, so of course I was very curious about this “stuff”. “What kind of stuff” I asked. She replied “oh just some old pictures and things.” “NO” I screamed. After some back and forth, I convinced her to dig the pieces of “stuff” out of the trash and save it all for me. A few days later, I received an envelope in the mail. Inside that envelope was some very precious family “stuff” torn into pieces. I was able to piece together and save a picture of my grandmother, and a photo of my father and his brother taken about 1925 when they were little boys. There were also a few pictures of my Auntie Ruth in her younger days. A special piece of “stuff” was my aunt’s high school diploma-torn in half. My aunt had told me the story of how when she was in high school she gave herself a middle name because everyone had one except her. So now I have the high school diploma for Ruth “Louise” Taliaferro. I am so happy that I made that call at that time and saved some of my family “STUFF”.
For the majority of African Americans our ancestors’ stories were never told, recorded or preserved. It is an awful and frustrating reality. However, it will be even more awful if we do not stop the cycle of indifference and disinterest in our own family history. Let’s all do a better job of telling our ancestors’ stories-of keeping and preserving our family history. Let’s all do a better job of preserving, recording, documenting, and sharing our “STUFF” for our ancestors, ourselves, and more importantly, for our future.
So, my question to you….Where’s YOUR Family “STUFF”?