Question: How do you torture a family historian?
Answer: Ask them to pick a favorite photo!
But seriously, this challenge was really hard! I love them all! I think photography is the reason why I have spent so much of my life thinking about the passage of time... how it is linear and why we can't go back. How the people in those old black & white photos experienced their surroundings and their sense of time in the same way that I do now. The only way to capture our own experience it is to take a picture, or make a recording. This may not slow time down, or allow us to go back, but it does allow a return trip through our memories, or, for those who were never there, a brief glimpse into the past.
I have to admit that I spent way too much time on this challenge. I have been in and out of my genealogy files, the photos on my computer, and even the Facebook pages of my siblings looking for just the right photo. There were several contenders! I finally went with the one which brings me to tearful laughing every time I look at it. Behold:
I can't tell you how much I love my siblings. My aunt says that we were like a pile of puppies back in the day, which is pretty spot on. We had a great time growing up, and, as you can see, we are still game for a little fun. The original photo was taken around Christmas in 1983, just a few months after we moved from Texas to Utah. We were in our basement, sitting on what we called "the lion rug" which was a giant, stuffed, lion-shaped patchwork pillow (note the various colors of shag - beautiful!), which my mom made. My brother and I were wearing knitted slippers made by a woman named "Grandma Aamodt," who was my dad's uncle's mother-in-law. I didn't realize it then, but my time as the tallest sibling was already ticking.
I was able to be home with my family the winter of 2013, so we decided to recreate the photo, 30 years later. Ha! We had so much fun with the recreation - just that photo alone brings back great memories. I'm the shortest one now, by far - my "baby" brother is now 6'5"! I'm grateful that my parents took so many photos of us while we were growing up. Knowing how much their photos have impacted my life helps me to remember to stop and take pictures of my own children. Who knows what they will be recreating 30 years from now?!
I've decided to give the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge a try... deep breath! I have really enjoyed reading posts by others who are participating, so now that the challenge is at Week 2, I figured "better late than never!" I think it will be a great way to kick off this blog by sharing some really excellent family stories with all of you.
The first week's assignment is to start with yourself. At this point in my life, it's hard to know which direction to go... forward in time, or back? Do I talk about being 100% descended from Utah pioneers? Do I start with me as a baby, as the first child of my parents? Do I tell you the good old days with my three siblings? Or do I move forward in time, sharing details about myself as a young adult, and my professional pursuits? Or marrying my handsome husband? I spend most of my time parenting my two children, who are now 13 and 9 - should I delve into that? Ultimately, I've focused on my journey as a genealogist, which unites all of these facets of my life.
I have been fascinated by family history ever since I was assigned to interview my grandfather for an 8th grade social studies assignment. This powerful experience forged an unbreakable bond between us, and was the reason why he asked me to speak about his life at his funeral, decades later. I loved listening to tape recordings of my great-grandmother (his mother), recalling her adventurous childhood in Mexico. Whenever I visited my maternal grandparents, I would sneak into their sun-soaked library and paw through biographical sketches, surrounded by the smell of old paper. I remember hand-typing pedigree charts and family group sheets as a teenager, and the thrill of transferring this information onto my first genealogy computer program. These experiences shaped me, and inspired me to study history at Smith College, including a year of study abroad at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland.
I even thought about becoming a genealogist straight out of college, but didn't think I was old enough for anyone to take me seriously. I decided to shelve my interest and focused on my other loves, growing plants, and nurturing my community. I loved living in Salt Lake City after college, and it continues to hold my heart. I knew that I had roots there, but it is only since I moved to Michigan that I have learned how deep those roots reached. One of my great-great-great-grandfathers worked on the foundation of the Salt Lake Temple, and several other buildings in the city. My great-grandparents owned a house in the same neighborhood where I once lived. Another great-great-great-grandfather quarried red sandstone from Red Butte Canyon, where I led nature walks for children during my time at Red Butte Garden.
Raising my two children has brought renewed interest in sharing and preserving family stories for the next generation. I began researching my husband's family history, which is fascinating and so different than my own, and then circled back around again to my family - only this time I have been able to see birth, marriage and death records in their original form. The advances in technology which have been made in recent years have greatly enriched my research and made it a whole new experience. Gone are the days of the typewriter! The ability to virtually follow migration paths with mapping tools, and to view and share original documents like census records, vital records, photographs and land records is so very exciting to me, and don't even get me started on DNA!
It has been an incredible journey so far, and I am still only just beginning.