Friday, October 20, 2017

Day Twenty: "F" is for Family

Where does a month disappear to? We're already two-thirds of the way through October, and I can't say I've made quite as much progress in the Fall Cleanup as I would have liked. This project has been more of a triage exercise: deciding which file folders yield projects that must go on life support immediately and which ones can survive without attention long enough to be lumped together into a subsequent project.

The "F" file looks like it will be worth a long trajectory. Full of folders with information on immediate family, it merits sub-projects of its own.

Like this one: the file was labeled "Family Christmas Letters." For all of you just primed for that cozy holiday season in the offing, imagine your family Christmas letters coming back to haunt you, years after you wrote them.

Yes, I am that relative.

Every year since I don't know when, I took every family letter enclosed with the requisite holiday greeting card and stuffed them inside this file folder. Every new child, then every new grandkid, complete with birth dates, first steps, first tooth, first missing tooth—they're all in that folder. Just in case I missed transferring any of those important firsts into my digital genealogical database, I need to go back through these kept records and make sure I didn't miss a detail.

Actually, I'm thinking of transcribing the letters. Or maybe scanning them. Or both. After all, as one computer whiz once told us—about our then-new 128 megabyte purchase, incredibly enough—"you'll never run out of room on this computer." I should have space to squeeze in at least all these letters. Right?

This puts the "family history" back into Family History. It's probably the closest I'll come to having diaries to transcribe from the words of my siblings, in-laws, aunts and uncles.

But it will be a project that will take a lot of time to complete. You can be sure I won't blog about it; grunt work like this seldom makes for scintillating reading. It will be a labor of love worth having, however. Just think of all the possibilities that can grow out of a database like this:
  • Facebook post to nieces and nephews: "In this Christmas card from 1978, your mother bragged about victory over dirty diapers."
  • Tally, per year: how many greeting cards included announcements of new arrivals.
  • Treasure hunt: How many holiday family photographs can you find which include missing members who were photoshopped into the scene?

As it turns out, my year-after-year discipline of saving Christmas letters extended to include all birthday cards, anniversary cards, graduation cards, and other messages which contained information about the family. I have a lot of family details to compile from this decades-old trove.

Final verdict on this folder: set it aside for future transcription. New year's resolution: get to this project a.s.a.p.

Above: "American Homestead Autumn," undated Currier and Ives lithograph; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I think if I tackle this same work, I'll give myself more time--maybe two months. ;-)

    1. Good point, Lisa. Actually, two months would be more realistic for me, as well. It really depends on how long a researcher has been at this work, and how deeply in love a person has fallen with paper.

  2. I did that project last year. I made copies for each grand of the letters their Mother's had written even before they were born:) I kept way too many letters but I have them in three ring binders...I never thought to scan them ...that would solve a storage problem:)

    1. Sounds like a neat project, Far Side. And yes, scanning might solve a storage problem. But you know me...I'd have them scanned but then decide I couldn't bear to part with the originals. I mean...what if something happened to the scans??? (Aren't I impossible?!)


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