For years, my grandmother kept track of all sorts of trivial yet important tidbits in a little notebook. I used to call it her “little black book.” That label would work, except for two problems:
One, that term has since taken a decided turn for the worse, and
Two, it isn’t black; it’s brown.
Though the book was never kept by a man, and though the thing in no way implied untoward behavior of those whose records it contained, it was the repository of names, addresses and details that I’ve since mined countless times for genealogical connections.
My grandmother, a southern lady reigning over a northern household in Columbus, Ohio, kept in touch with far-flung family and social connections through the information stored in this book. She operated in the midst of an era which, though introduced to long distance phone calling, still preferred the old fashioned approach of letter writing. Tucked away beside the addresses were reminders of shirt sizes next to notes of birth dates, or the date of a relative’s surgery for a get-well follow-up. A delightful hodgepodge of newspaper clippings and hand-copied poems rounded out the collection.
I was delighted, years ago, when her daughter—my aunt—decided to pass the tiny family relic on to me. The more I perused the entries enclosed in this magical record, the more I uncovered about the family connections it outlined. Over the years of genealogical research, what once passed (to my uninitiated eyes) as names and addresses of strangers took on the tantalizing form of sought-after relatives.
Now that I’ve finished my last, year-long research project on my husband’s Tully family line and turned my attention to my mother’s maternal line, this little brown book is coming back into position as a key player in my research. This is a handy resource to launch me in the right direction, for it is this specific line—if any in my family—that will yield me an entrance to the lineage society known as Daughters of the American Revolution. My maternal grandmother, known to me as Ruth McClellan Davis, in turn had a maternal grandfather whose ancestry had deep roots in the southern soil of this country.
Of course, it’s the paperwork that will prove the tale. Along with the other goals I’ve outlined yesterday, this project will take my full attention for quite a while to come. I’ll start by describing, step by step, some of the struggles I face as I pursue this goal—the first of which will be to rectify one small detail: that of my grandmother’s real name.