What’s in the basement? Inquiring Personal Historians want to know. Please share your best discovery, thanks.
See Association of Personal Historians Discussion
There were two mice, different generations, two different houses, three hundred yards apart… more on this later.
At the recent Association of Personal Historians (APH) Conference – Steve Roberts described asking his mother… do you have any else for me? Her response… (Something like) yes I do son, and then produced a box with hundreds of letters between her future husband and herself. This was great original source material for a personal/family history book.
Two other Personal Historians described finding a 1,000 letters mixed in with a few boxes of family photos. These have or will be converted into personal histories.
My best experience thus far was discovering my client had a file drawer with various “family materials” in the basement during my “pre-interview” first visit.
Good news: after we finishing talking I went down to look and discovered it was a treasure trove of background material for the next interview, included family genealogy, etc.
Bad news: my client who was then 102 and banned from ever walking down the basement steps again, followed me down the stairs as I was looking in the file. But maybe that’s why he lived to 104, hmmm…
Good news: I later discovered his high school journal, a family history project he did in college with first person descriptions of characteristics of his ancestors in great detail going back to the early 1800s, what they died of, how long they lived, a pedigree chart and so much more.
Sometimes though personal historians are surprised at what they find in their own extended family basements… (or attics…)
- A colleague recently described discovering that not only had her mother kept a diary for many years, but also her grandmother had kept a diary, independently the colleague had started her own diary a few years ago so now she had three generations, a 100 years of diaries and diarists to write about in her own family.
- So back to my story… There were two mice, different generations, two different houses, three hundred yards apart… (Did you guess this was about my Mom? You may not want to share this with her, thanks).
About 1959 my Mom and Dad were expecting their third child and moved into a newer (well at least it was newer to them) house on a hill in the geographic center of our town. My grandmother owned the farm that bordered the house on two sides. The third side bordered the stone house and in front our house was a paved road, though there was another farm field just on the other side.
Well, perhaps during the first, second, or third week after moving in, my Mom went down into the basement to do the laundry. It was exciting to have a newer home with a washing machine; I am not sure whether she had a clothes dryer. I know there was the requisite clothes line out back.
Anyway, my Mom soon discovered there was a mouse in the basement.
- The good news is it gave her four sons something to talk about for well over fifty years since then.
- The bad news is she was deathly afraid of mice.
- The good news was that her oldest son was three years old – a big, strong husky boy who thought it was great fun helping Mom with the laundry. I was only one at the time, but I was also recruited at an early age to take on errands in the basement, “could you go down in the basement and bring up some cans of vegetables for dinner?”
- More good news, she had a third and then a fourth son to share “could you go down in the basement” chores.
That basement was a great place to play hide and seek, it had an exterior door to get to our backyard, and we had lots of toys and games, our friends and cousins enjoyed coming over and spending time in the basement. Not surprisingly, my Mom never felt she needed to supervise our play when we were in the basement.
So we learned how to be useful, doing chores for Mom. We learned how to be independent and self-entertaining and we (mostly) learned how to keep the family secret – Mom’s afraid of mice. Despite this small handicap, she was a pretty great Mom.
Now about the second mouse… that’s another story. Until then – What’s in (your) basement? Please collect and share your family stories.
Thanksgiving is a great time to explore and record family history, or to a bit of exploring in the basement, you never know…?
Have a great Thanksgiving.
Bruce Summers – SummooseTales