Imagine a weekend road trip to a nearby town with your retired parents – after a long winter at home, they wanted to get out and about for a day. Your mother spots an antique store and wants to snoop. She looks at you and asks, “can we just wonder around in there a while and revisit the past by looking at old things?”
After a few minutes inside the antique store, suddenly your father stops and you watch him stare at an image leaning on a shelf. As he stands there with a look of familiarity on his face, he starts to smile. Walking in his direction, he picks up the image, looks at you and points, saying – “this is my sister Lorena and her son Jack, my nephew, your cousin.”
Mother has come over to see what the conversation is about. Then the three of you wonder when and where the photo was taken and how did it end up in this antique store in a town where Lorena never lived?
A thousand miles away, a similar event played out. A young man and his family are visiting a new restaurant to celebrate a promotion. After the food orders are taken, he looks around at the decorations of old tools, photographs, documents and other vintage items. He looks closer at the elaborate marriage certificate framed on the wall above the table they are sitting at and sees his grandparents’ names staring back at him. Looking at his wife, he asked out loud: “how did my grandparents’ marriage certificate end up here.”
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Family history can sometimes be found anywhere but within the family. We lose track of cousins, aunts and uncles who may have had family photographs and documents passed down to them over the years, only to have these heirlooms sold at estate sales when there are no heirs interested in preserving these documents or there is just no interest in the family history. How often have you been involved in trying to determine who gets items after the passing of a loved one? Rummaging around in an attic or basement and finding boxes of old photographs many times, nobody knows who the individuals are, or even if they are part of the family. This is normally when the conversation starts about the family history, only most of the time it is too late to identify people we are seeing for the first time.
Many of us can identify that one individual who is passionate about preserving the family legacies: oral traditions, recipes, photographs, birth certificates, etc., even organizes the family reunion. However, the question is always there; will a child from that family line be interested in carrying all this history forward? Or will all that work be lost once the family historian passes on?
I have been working on my family history for over 20 years, spending time researching the Internet and libraries, visiting family reunions and visiting directly with extended family members to gather stories and potentially copy images or documents once in a while. Originally from Coshocton, Ohio (a small rural town), my wife and I currently live in San Diego, California. When the chance arises, and I get to spend some time in my home town, there is always time made for the antique shops in the area to see if I can find some family treasures, old photographs, documents or even the odd high school yearbook. I also keep in touch with family members through Facebook, allowing me to keep track of new additions to the family.
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This brings us to why we started FamilyStories.Store. I have been entrusted with all the old photograph albums, many documents and information dating back to before 1900. I have a brother and a sister who have children. If the items I mentioned stay in my family line, my sibling’s children and grandchildren may never know about all these documents and pictures. As I grew older, and my mother died recently, I became acutely aware of this challenge.
In response, I started working with a young software developer to create a database that could not only store images and documents, but also stories could be typed into the dialog box about each person and the event that was taking place. All the information can be downloaded and shared with anyone else who has the same database. A search function was included to allow finding specific individuals, events or geographic locations.
Although all my family members might not have access to the original works, they will have access to an archive of the family history and stories that can be passed down and shared through all the branches of our family.