I have been working on our family genealogy and wondering about all those photos with no names and all those names without faces. A friend asked me once, “Why?” Why do I spend so much time and put in so much effort into past lives. These are people I never met. So why do I care? But when I look at the photos of their lives, I see a glimpse of what these people cared about, about what made them happy or sad. Ultimately, I see what the events were that they felt needed to be remembered and shared. Someday my own life will be reduced to photos and bits of paper that my children or their children will look at and wonder about. I realized that I have been careless with my own bits of ephemera. To me, each photo holds a memory. To anyone else its a picture without substance. Who truly wants to look at a photo I took at age eleven of a trip to the zoo or Disney World. Without the story that goes with it, it is just a mute, emotionless image. So, I look at these ancestors and wonder, what were they thinking and feeling.
Here in this safe place I will explore some of the faceless ancestors and what the bits of information tell me. Here I will try to understand the faces (some without benefit of a name) and see the world through their eyes. I have boxes of stuff from 1890 to present just waiting to be explored. Letters, certificates of birth, death & marriage, wills and enlistment papers all wait patiently. I have photos of children and pets, weddings and funerals, and all the bits that these predecessors wanted to mark and share.
Maybe, I’ll begin the task of put some meaning to my own treasured bits of paper. Why do I still hang on to photos of the zoo?