by Ruby Coleman
Recently I purchased a gardenia scented candle along with gardenia scented room spray. Both smell like the real thing. Lighting the candle and then giving my genealogy room a poof of spray, I settled back to work on some of my genealogy files that now, in the 21st century, are conveniently all on the computer. My mind began to drift back to the summer of 1962 when I visited Aunt Belle in Little Rock, Arkansas. I realized that I was conjuring up memories of that visit because of the gardenia scent in my room.
Her enormous house, complete with pillars and rambling verandas and floors of rooms and antique furniture, was impressive. Outside her parlor window was a large gardenia bush in full bloom. The stifling heat and humidity seemed to suck in the fragrance and permeate our conversation.
With those thoughts I clicked on the computer file for Aunt Belle. I retrieved her name and that of her husband and children, along with dates and places. She died at age 95, nine years after my visit. I had neve r seen her again, yet that visit was memorable not only because of the fragrant gardenias, but her impressive home and surroundings, as well as family stories that she told me.
I soon realized that I should have written this down at the time of my visit. Becoming lost in a multitude of records to prove the vital statistics, I had wandered off the path of human reality. My fingers began to type letters and words on the computer, spelling out the visit, the smell of the gardenias and the stories that I could remember that she told me. I described everything, then documented it as the visit in the summer of 1962 that I should have recorded when I was there ... with pen and paper.
Perhaps objects, stories, scents and places conjure up things that come to your mind about relatives and your research. The scent of honeysuckle always brings to mind my Aunt Sylvia in Tennessee. My cousin and I would walk a few miles down a country road to visit her, but most importantly to breath deeply of the honeysuckle vi nes growing profusely over her garden gate.
I have no stories about Aunt Sylvia that readily come to mind except the journey to get to the garden gate. She lived a common life as a farm wife and had seven children, going to her reward at age 92. Ironically she passed away the same year as Aunt Belle, but in different parts of the country.
When my aged father passed away last month, my son delivered a tribute to him at the funeral. It was his grandfather as seen through his eyes as a youngster growing up around "grandpa." Not only did it include facts along with a time frame, but it also included how various things made an impression on my father's grandson. I wish my father would have known this before he passed away.
The stories, accounts and life-happenings all make our genealogical research more meaningful and worthwhile. Try selling a genealogy book without details and you will be poor forever. For a family best seller, include family memories, along with your own stories, tributes and remem brances about relatives. These might be visits or things you have heard or been told about them. When you are visiting relatives and asking questions, include that information, but also include your own summary of the visit and what you saw and observed. Those small details are priceless in the journey of genealogical research.