There are times when the dates we noted in our family tree trigger memories. After all, what does a genealogist do with the details tied to those names and dates? Sometimes, those facts are not just notations in a family history database. They take on the shape of memories which come back to visit us.
We save those family heirloom photos, tucking them carefully in archival-quality folders...then pull them out to compare hundred-year-old baby pictures with the latest niece, nephew, or grandchild. Those relatives' memory lives on, just as surely as their genes, in part, become our own. Different than those ancestors of distant centuries, though, those family members who live on in our personal memories—who once were a part of our own life—can come "calling" when we least expect it.
So it has been, while I sifted through those family photos from Marilyn Sowle Bean's collection which I recently rescued from a local antique shop, that I recalled yesterday that it was her daughter's birthday. Of course, just like Marilyn, her parents, her husband, and even her own son, her daughter has now been long gone. That unexpected loss became part of the chain of occurrences which led to Marilyn's photos ending up in an antique shop.
Even after all these years, though, I can't help but remember those important dates like birthdays for each of Marilyn's family members—at least the ones I knew personally. Seeing a date on the calendar—like one so recently passed—brings back memories anew of family members who have been gone for years. In a way, they still live on, preserved in our memories—a small validation for the work we do as family historians.
To remember. And help others remember with us.
Above: Inscribed in Marilyn Bean's handwriting with a note addressed to "Great Aunt Leona," this portrait of Marilyn's children was taken when her daughter Judy was one year of age.