Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sentimental Sunday: The Family Treasure That Always Gets Me

There was a moment when I understood in a very visceral way the importance of saving family history and felt the great depth of sorrow at the loss of it. On one hand, I’d never missed the heirlooms that might have gone to others in the family after someone passed. I just figured that someone else was more entitled to them than I. My cousins have grandmother’s aprons and that’s great because they love them. I rest easy knowing that my other grandmother’s china is in her glass cabinet and is living with other cousins who has grand kids. Wonderful! All of those beloved objects are still cherished.

But I just about lost it when I heard that Aunt Edith’s son threw out all of her papers! My guts tied themselves in a knot, and that felt awful. My sense of loss was deep and anger followed.
I don’t know where I get off being in a twist about Aunt Edith’s son dumping her stuff. He lived with her, he took care of her and was entitled to do as he pleased. And it wasn’t as though Aunt Edith didn’t have control over the disposition of her possessions as she had her wits about her and other children to whom she could bequeath her treasures, such that they were. I wasn’t even that close to her. Maybe I saw her two or three times in my life. And she’s not my direct aunt; she’s my Dad’s aunt, and my grand aunt. So we were just not that close because she lived in Miami and we lived in Cleveland. Where do I get off being that upset?

I’ll tell you where. If Aunt Edith hadn’t given my Mom a truly treasured book containing the story of the Myers line back to the Revolutionary War and beyond to a man known simply as Indian Fighter Myers, I’d not know about Nehemiah Newens, my fifth great grandfather. I wouldn’t have known his story and the story of his son and his son’s family and most important, his life’s story from Derbyshire, England, on to the Revolutionary War, and finally all the way to the frontier in upstate New York.
I can’t help but wonder what else might have been thrown out over the centuries, treasures that ended up unceremoniously at the town dump, or burned in the old trash fire behind the house. Sometimes on a cold and rainy afternoon I grieve for those lost mementos and feel sad for the ancestors’ faces staring out from old photos whose names are unknown.

I just simply want to do better and capture what can be collected now so as to preserve it for anyone who might care down the line.

Aunt Edith Kelly Condry, front right.
My grandfather John "Lee" Kelly in the middel of the back row.
(1891 - ????)
For another story about lost treasures and one that was saved in part, watch this video, "Leo Beachy: A Legacy Nearly Lost." It's the story of a truly gifted photographer in Western Maryland who lived and worked for year in relative obscurity, just now being recognized as one of the greats, and how his legacy was almost completely lost!

Sentimental Sunday is a lovely topic from Geneabloggers , and I thank them for this blogging prompt!

The URL for this post is:


  1. My SIL tossed out a lot of my mother's papers when mom moved in with my brother's family. The words she used to describe the papers were so painful. If she only knew. Amongst the papers were supposed to be a German Bible. It wasn't well cared for. But it had secrets that I LONG to uncover. Mom also had china from my Grandma Geiszler. I just wanted to take a photo of these things. In short, I totally get why you felt upset when stuff 'gets dumped.' The stories are gone. I don't need the stuff, I want the stories. So, I'm using a tissue for your heart ache right now.

    1. ohhhh!! Sad, that. But some people don't get how others feel about the stuff. Me too: want those stories!!
      Cheers, Diane