Researching in Georgia - Taliaferro, Toliver, Lawrence, Brewer, Askew, Dorsey, Jackson, Poole, Butler, Allen, Gilbert, Crawford, Middlebrooks, Gates, Parks, Thompson, Alford, Favors, Guise, and related surnames.

12 September 2009

Where’s YOUR Family “STUFF”?

Once again I am inspired by my genea-friend Luckie Daniels and her recent post on Our Georgia Roots - What Is YOUR Family Story? Learn-Document-SHARE! Luckie challenged all of us to become better preservers of OUR family history. I believe that preservation has to start with us. WE must become better keepers of OUR family "STUFF".

I cannot tell you how many times I've asked family members for information (stories, pictures, documents..anything) only to be told...girl, I don't have any "stuff", or honey I just don't remember any of that old "stuff", or (my favorite) child, I don't know what happened to all that old "stuff". I’m sure you’ve heard similar responses to your requests for family information. Well, that "stuff" was/is your family history. We can't get angry with anyone but OURSELVES if WE don't start taking better care of OUR "stuff".

I remember calling my Auntie Ruth one day and asking what she was doing. She said "just throwing away some old stuff." This is my aunt on my paternal side, my father’s sister, so of course I was very curious about this "stuff". "What kind of stuff" I asked. She replied "oh just some old pictures and things." "NO" I screamed. After some back and forth, I convinced her to dig the pieces of "stuff" out of the trash and save it all for me. A few days later, I received an envelope in the mail. Inside that envelope was some very precious family "stuff" torn into pieces. I was able to piece together and save a picture of my grandmother, and a photo of my father and his brother taken about 1925 when they were little boys. There were also a few pictures of my Auntie Ruth in her younger days. A special piece of "stuff" was my aunt’s high school diploma-torn in half. My aunt had told me the story of how when she was in high school she gave herself a middle name because everyone had one except her. So now I have the high school diploma for Ruth "Louise" Taliaferro. I am so happy that I made that call at that time and saved some of my family "STUFF".

For the majority of African Americans our ancestors' stories were never told, recorded or preserved. It is an awful and frustrating reality. However, it will be even more awful if we do not stop the cycle of indifference and disinterest in our own family history. Let's all do a better job of telling our ancestors' stories-of keeping and preserving our family history. Let’s all do a better job of preserving, recording, documenting, and sharing our "STUFF" for our ancestors, ourselves, and more importantly, for our future.

So, my question to you....Where’s YOUR Family "STUFF"?


  1. Love it, love it, love it! Spread the word San!

    What do they say -- one man's trash is another man's treasure?!:-)

    Interesting, my Mom Geraldine also gave herself a middle name because she didn't have one & guess what? It was also LOUISE!

    Guess great minds think alike!:-)


  2. Hi Sandra,

    This is major!
    As Luckie says, "Spread The Word!"

    We have to inform our people that not only are we 'genealogists' documenting our lineage - we are re-constructing and re-writing our collective memories, our history!

    I cringe when I hear of the destruction of the artifacts of our being. That's what those old photographs, letters, and bibles are, artifacts of our being.

    Our ancestors had EVERYTHING stripped from them. Their families, their countries, their clothes, their cultures, their pride, their dignity.

    When they had the opportunity to RE-BUILD, they did so, one object, one photograph, one bible, one letter at a time.

    We got to hold on to and save every scrap of inference that says we were here, we are here, and we will be here. It is our evidence. And it matters.

    Wow. I just wrote my next post in your comments.
    Thank you for the inspiration!

    "Guided by the Ancestors"

  3. Hey Sandra,
    Thanks so much for this post! I often feel like I'm the only one whose family members seem so disinterested or unwilling to supply any artifacts to aide in my research. I hear those comments about not having anything, or not knowing where it is all the time! Not only that, but as I've mentioned in my blog, I even have a relative who just blatently REFUSES to allow me to see the pictures he has, or to interview him! It's hard for me to imagine why any of our family members wouldn't want to support the work we're doing, but thanks for giving us all this bit of encouragement to press on, and to continue (or in some cases, start) to preserve our families' STUFF!

  4. What a great post - I have to admit I was also practically screaming "NO" when I got to the part about your Aunt throwing out pictures!!

    It's taken some time, but fortunately I'm now well know in my family as the one who wants any and all old "stuff". My relatives all know that when there is a box that they classify as "junk" that they are to call me right away. I have some great stuff as a result of this reputation.

  5. I loved your post and can really relate as we are cleaning out the family home. My family now knows that there are certain things that they had better just set aside for me to go through. Some of those "old rotten papers" have turned out to be pretty valuable from a historical standpoint to our family.

    I think/hope they are starting to get the picture.