How To Trace And Record Your Own Ancestry Part II


by Frank Allaben and Mabel Washburn
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Old Folk And Family Bibles

Tell about when you were a little girl!" "What did you do when you were a boy?" Questions like these are put to many fathers and mothers, or other grown-ups. Their answers often lead to reminiscences of earlier generations, and happy is the child who, thus, becomes familiar, in the years when thought and knowledge are being welded into habit and opinion and principle and ideal, with the personalities of his forbears.

 He may hear of those shadowy ancestors, always clad, as we dream of them, in the armor of battle, who fought at Cressy or Agincourt, or, it may be, were with Duke William when, landing from the Norman ships (which, only a few years before, had been Viking ships), he stumbled, and fell prone on the shore of England that was to be his kingdom. His quicksilver thought instantly realized the omen of failure, which, as their murmurs of foreboding showed, the accident seemed to his followers.

Swiftly digging his hands into the English earth, he scooped it up, sprang to his great height, and boldly cried: "Thus, do I take seizing of England!" The soldiers shouted back their rekindled ardor, and the swift march began to the battlefield of Hastings and the victorious fight which gave to our English ancestors and to us the splendid heritage of Norse vigor, enriched with the civilization of France. This Norman culture, nurtured by Latin law, Latin science of government, and spiritually deepened by the Latin law, Latin science of government, and spiritually deepened by the Latin concept of our religion, became mingled with the Anglo-Saxon strength, and love of liberty. Fortunate are those Americans of the old stock who have and know their treasures of racial dowry from companions-in-arms of William the Conqueror.

Our grandfathers and grandmothers may tell us the stories, handed down to them for generations, of the dauntless men and women who left their homes overseas to dwell in the America that was a wilderness, and to carve from that wilderness a nation. They may tell us of their own grandfathers who stood staunch at Lexington, or fought in Southern swamps and woods, or hungered in the cold at Valley Forge.

How far more real and vivid will be the history-lessons of those children who, in their homes, have thus learned the story of America and America's background across the ocean. An elderly lady had expressed to the consternation of the present writer, her lack of interest in the subject of genealogy. On the ventured argument that knowledge of our own ancestors' part in historical events made latter stand out more clearly to us, this lady, the widow of a hero in our war with Spain, pondered a moment, and then said: "I believe you are right, Miss Washburn. I recall one day, when the Admiral and I were at luncheon, our little grandson came in and, running up to his grandfather, cried eagerly, 'Oh, Grandpa, I learned all about you in school this morning!" Certainly, to him, Santiago and Manila and San Juan Hill were never to be merely history read in a book, but a thrilling part of his own family chronicles, whose glory was his personal heritage.

The best way to learn all that your family can tell you of your ancestral past is to become a human question-mark. Start the subject at all times, convenient or otherwise, when the elder relatives are present. Ask a few leading questions, and, more often than not, the unraveling thus started some gentle old lady or stately gentleman will pick up the strand, and, almost absentmindedly, go on unwinding the tangled threads of births, deaths, marriages, journeys and battles, romance and enterprise, heroism and comedy, that made up our ancestors' lives as they do our own.

Often, when questions are asked, old people will say they do not remember, and they do not, at the time. Drop that particular enquiry and go on to another, whose circumstances may be related to the first. After a while, go back to the earlier question, and, time and time again, you will find that memory has been lured back by the train of thought evoked by the second question, and the whole subject is now spread clear before you.

It is well to have by you paper and pencil; but do not be too business-like about taking notes. With some elderly people, t his would be disconcerting, and probably it is better to defer your note-taking till the interview is at least suspended by other matters or conversation. Then, however, do not delay in the matter of writing down: the date and place of the interview; your name and residence (for identification in that future when your rough notes may be found and treasured by your descendants); the name and residence and relationship to you of the person interviewed; all the facts stated, together with your questions which brought them forth.

Sometimes you will learn of an old family Bible, perhaps kept treasured in a bureau-drawer, or in the big book-case, or packed away, and sometimes forgotten till your questioning recalls it, in the garret. People do forget that they have these grand old family Bibles, with ancestral records set down, in writing like steel-engraving, on the pages between the Old and New Testaments. Those who made the records must have put genealogy in the high place of importance which the subject was given in the Sacred Scriptures themselves (many chapters of the Bible containing family pedigrees), that thus they made their preservation sure, as our manlier and more womanly (because more God-fearing and God-loving), grandsires and granddames believed, by incorporating them in the Holy Book of God's Written Revelation.

Always copy verbatim the records in a family Bible. Take large paper and write distinctly. Copy also the complete title-page of the Bible. On another paper, write the date of your transcript, the name and address and relationship to you of the Bible's owner, and the complete history of its ownership, back so far as possible.

If you can, have photographs or Photostats made of the title-page and the pages with family records. These should be made the same sizes as the originals.

Whether you make written or photographic copies, it is advisable to take them and the Bible itself to a notary-public, have him compare the copies with the originals, and then certify officially that your copies are correct. His statement of certification should also include your deposition as to details mentioned above, to be set down by you in making transcripts from family Bibles.

Much can be learned from old folk and family Bibles, and these sources of genealogical information should be consulted first of all when you plan to go a-hunting in the forests of your family trees. If you have not grown up in the atmosphere of talk and tales about your ancestors, seeing their stately old portraits on your walls and their quaint silhouettes in your cabinets, using their solid, but graceful-lined, furniture, treasuring their books, their laces, their jewels, to say nothing of their fragile tea-cups and their heavy iron kettles, these conversational and Scriptural quests for family facts will open up to you a new vista of interest in your relatives, and "gatherings of the clan." No longer will you dread the long dinners and dragging conversations of family festivals. Such events will have been endowed with the thrill of possible discoveries, the charm of fields full of posies to be gathered, the lure of hidden treasure to be dug for and brought out in triumph.


Website: The History
Article Name: How To Trace And Record Your Own Ancestry Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY:  How To Trace and Record Your Own Ancestry by Frank Allaben and Mabel Washburn; The National Historical Company-New York; Copyright: 1932 by Mabel T.W. Washburn.
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