Most of what has been uncovered about my mother’s Irish roots is owed to some spoiled potato salad and a sweltering summer day. The irony that most of my Irish ancestors came over during the Great Potato Famine is not lost on me.
Soon after I started researching my mother’s ancestors, I sat down with her father, my grandfather, at a family reunion in Wisconsin. It was one of those oppressively hot, humid days that you don’t think should be possible that far north.
His pride in his Irish heritage was touching. A picture of the Kennedy brothers hung in his house for years. On this particular day, he recounted stories of his father and uncles sitting on the front porch of the “old homestead” smoking their corncob pipes. As to the origin of the family in Ireland, however, he knew very little.
Luckily for me, a swarm of flies descended on a plate of spoiled food at the table where his sister, my great aunt, was sitting. To escape their fury, she moved to our table and was soon sharing her own stories and remembering what she had heard as a young girl. Two hours later I had a notebook of clues that eventually led to the discovery that their side of my family originated in County Cavan, Ireland.
Summer is the time for family events—perfect opportunities for gathering information about your family history. The secret is in the preparation. If you can get people thinking before you see them they are much more likely to recall the information you are looking for.
Send out an email or letter a few weeks before the event. Include a copy of your chart. Bring a photo that might get people talking. Better yet, ask them to bring a photo they can share.
Enjoy your family this summer, and as you create new memories with the people you love, take the time to capture and preserve your family’s past.
Let me know how it goes by posting below or emailing me at email@example.com