6    May 201318 comments

Family History: A box of secrets

Every family historian has at least one story or event on which hours have been spent, trying to unravel the truth.

What would happen if there were a knock on the door, you opened it and a box was delivered into your hands. Inside, you would find documents, photographs (labeled!), journals and other records.

What would you like to see in that box?

For me, that's an easy answer. One of the last family members to arrive in the US from Belarus brought with him a 300-year-old family history. The few people who saw it described it as a sort of book, compiled of different kinds of papers, different calligraphies, many different languages, all bound together.

When the family member died in Florida in the 1950s, his daughters were already living far away in different states. Everything in the house was thrown out, including the priceless family tree, compiled by many generations. As far as we know this was the only copy; very few people had seen it.

I've spent more than 25 years trying to reproduce some of what might have been in those documents. We'll never be able to complete it all. Well, not until someone invents a viable time travel machine.

Those papers would reveal when, why and how the family moved to different countries; where they settled, their occupations, the names of generations and - I hope - much more about our ancestors.

That's what I'd like to see in that box.

I would hope that information on my maternal great-grandmother's mother would be in there, as well. What was her first name? Why did no one ever speak about her? What was her maiden name? What is the truth about her disappearance, for that's what happened. Her daughters never spoke about her, or at least never told their own children. When I started asking questions, the answers were always the same, "We don't know."

That's what I'd like to see in that box.

I'd like to see the unraveled information on my mother's paternal grandmother. What's her connection to Bialystok, Poland, where everyone claimed she was from, and how did she wind up in Suchastow, Galicia (today, Ukraine). What about her likely two marriages, and her last husband's three marriages? Would the box reveal which of the children were hers, his or theirs? Even with some amazing resources online for then-Austria-Hungary in the mid to late 1800s, the records are still murky.

That's what I'd hope to see in the box.

Going back to Catalunya, Spain, I'd hope the notarial land records were in the box for our probable ancestor, listed in a 1358 document. He was a wine-maker, so where was his vineyard? What else is there about his family? I'd hope that we'd be able to add to the handful of index and document appearances of our rare surname in a very small geographic area.

That's what I'd really like to find in that box.

What would you like to see in the box that you might receive?

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Comments (18) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Pictures of my great-grandparents.
  2. My great grandparents had thirteen children and they were all born in the house in Tipperary that we are restoring. One died as a baby and I know what happened to another three of the children but there is no trace of the others in the area and I don't know where they went. I think some emigrated to the States but it was a big family and they seem to have disappeared without a trace. I would like to know more.
  3. An interesting project!
  4. Schelly
    In my little town, for a decade there was an auction gallery owned by a firm that cleaned out people's homes. Each month they auctioned off hundreds of items, from the most valuable to the least. By 1AM they reached the items numbered in the upper 300's. This is was the hour reserved for the truly priceless items. Not the valuable china, paintings or fine furniture that sold earlier in the the evening, but the $5 boxes of letters, old family photographs, and other ephemera of lifetimes past. Like you, I would give anything for a box from a grandparent, and knowing that most others I knew felt the same way, I made it my mission to snap up these mislaid boxes and save them from the dumpster, and to return them to the one person in each of these families who I knew would treasure them. And indeed, there always was one such person in each family, and his or her joy at the discovery was the only compensation that I ever required. The auction house closed a number of years back, and I have often wondered, who is saving those treasures now?
  5. to know just where it all started be cause i will never know where it ends
  6. Thanks, Adam, for your comment. That is an interesting project for researchers: to find similar organizations in their own towns who might be doing the same thing. Doing good deeds is always rewarded in genealogy!
  7. I hope, Sylvia, that someone knocks on your door with your box of secrets!
  8. We were lucky, Mary, as a relative had a photograph of a painting of my maternal great-grandparents. The painting was in a very humid US state, was stored improperly and was disintegrating every day. At least the relatives who had it had taken a photograph of it, so we have that!
  9. Hi, Emily - so true! Our stories never end, but we need to preserve as much as possible - as much as we can learn - for future generations!
  10. The correct spelling of the town they came from in the "old country!"
  11. My current goal is discovering my paternal roots that go back to Romania. My great grandfather Daniel Aronovitz was born in 1873 in Dorohoi, Romania and immigrated to the US in 1907.
  12. Hi, Diane. That is always a big help. We need to remember that many areas in numerous countries were previously part of another country and today may be under another government. So variations in name places (either as written in different languages, or spelled according to different languages, or merely translated into a different language) all impact the "correct" spelling. So maybe it isn't the "correct" spelling, but the "correct spelling WHEN?"
    Good luck!
  13. This is a nice blog, Schelly. I wish that I could have the information that goes back much farther, say from the early 19th century on back to when we were expelled from Spain. I want to see those alleged 5 Jewish families who are the ancestors of us all today, how they intermarried, what the names were, etc. That would be truly delightful.
  14. I'd like to see the pedigree of my maternal and paternal families charting our history from the USA back to eretz Israel.
  15. I'd like to find the information on my paternal grandmother's siblings. She was born on Brody, Poland, as well as her parents and probably her siblings too. I am told no Jewish records exist beyond 1861 from Brody. Perhaps some day they will turn up so that I can find living relatives of hers.
  16. THIS IS A CORRECTED VERSION to My Original Comment. The Original Comment Contained The Date 14th February, 1899 ...
    .. It should have been 14th DECEMBER, 1899.

    That is a wonderful story.
    I know of a Story similar to Adam Brown's Story. I only heard this story on the Radio, so I know nothing of the Family personally.

    It goes Something Like this . . .
    . . A lady was rummaging through boxes of Old Photographs at a Junk Shop. She came across a Photo of one of her Grandparents (or Great Grandparents - I can't recall exactly). She asked the Shop Owner if he had any more Photos similar to what she had in her hand.
    "Sure Have," he replied, "There's More Boxes Out In The Back Room! Through That Door Over There".
    She thanked him and went to check them out, and proceeded to rummage through many more boxes of Photos.
    After some hours, she had found Photos of Virtually a Whole Generation.

    I hope Your Dream Comes True; and One Day, You'll Find What YOU Are Looking For.

    In regards to what I'd like to Find In Such A Box ..... Well, at present, I'm Researching A Family Tree with a Cousin of mine. actually, she is 2nd Cousin (Once Removed): Her Great Grandfather on her Father's Side, and My Grandfather on My Fathers Side, were Brothers. She has been Researching for over a Decade. I joined her Efforts when she contacted us for Information on Our Direct Family around 2009-2010. Until that time, I didn't even know that she existed.
    We have discovered parts of the missing Branches of The family through our Joint Efforts since then. I have never met Amy in Person, but since our first (Phone) Contact, we have been in Constant Contact via E-mail and Facebook.
    There is one particular Branch of the family that we have hit A Wall With. he was my Grandfathers Brother, and All Contact with him was Lost over 60 Years Ago. We know nothing of him since he walked out on his Family, and Disappeared. We don't know anything of his life after that: Not even the Date of His Death.
    We only know of his Marriage and the Children of That Marriage: unfortunately, his Children are hesitant to discuss him. As far as we know, they know nothing of him since he left them, either.

    That's What I'd Like To Find ... Something To Fill In The Missing Gaps ..... At Least The Date and Place Of his Death. And Hopefully the Location Of His Grave.

    YES! ... " What Ever Happened To Leo Alphonsus Madden, Born 14th DECEMBER, 1899, in Forbes, New South Wales, Australia? "
  17. It would be better than winning the lottery. We have lost my Gt Grandmother don't know when she died or where. Was to have left Norway around 1902, but there is no trace of her. My sister lives in Peotone, ILL and she was at a local antique shop and found boxes of old photos, but the shop keeper wanted an awful lot for the pictures, she got so pissed at him, I think it was around 3.00 each. I'd love to find a box like this.
  18. I would just love to find my Gr-Grandfather, as the only thing I have as Proof is that he was living in 1900 Census in Marrs Hill Twp. Age 55 & another in 1910 Hico, Benton Co. Ar. age 72, both census say's his parents are from Scotland, I'm unable to find nothing forward or backwards on him, they (meaning) wife Mary had 3 children, that I do know which I have all three of their records, and I do have Mary's info. yet I am at a dead end with Benjamin. That would be my dream just locating his grave site, Is that Possible ???? Thank you for letting me sound off.

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