I grew up around the corner from my maternal grandparents, Leroy and Donna Barmes, who lived on the southwest corner of South A and 8th Streets in Elwood, Indiana, and at a very young age I began devouring every nugget of our family’s history, those beloved stories that seemed to make my own life a bit more 3-dimensional.
One of my favorite memories is standing on a wooden step stool in my grandparents’ kitchen serving as my grandmother’s sous chef and baker, listening to all the stories of our family from the late 1800s to the early 1960s. I learned about my pioneer ancestors of Boone Township in Northern Madison County of Indiana and committed to my memory all the names and surnames of Clary, Jones, Vinson, Greenlee, Ball, and Noble.
On Grandpa Leroy’s days off from the police department, we’d often drive up to Dewart Lake to visit his dad, Grandpa Virgil. While driving the 90 minutes to the Syracuse and North Webster area of North Central Indiana, I heard the stories of my Barmes and Daugherty families. When Grandpa Virgil and Grandpa Leroy were building the house near Lapel, Indiana, I was a sponge for even more stories from each of the two generations, my grandfather and his father.
For 53 of my current 56 years, I was dedicated to asking questions, absorbing as much as I could, writing down notes, giving out questionnaires to family members to collect their stories, and always preparing myself to prepare something for the succeeding family generations so the stories of our family would always be preserved.
Mother and her aunt, Joyce, my Grandma Donna’s younger sister, my two remaining resources. I continued to ask questions about our family history, especially about those who died before my birth: “What were they like?” “What do you remember most about them?”
Now, both Mother and Aunt Joyce are gone.
I am proud that I’ve been a beneficiary to all these stories and I thought I had asked all the questions to everything I could hope to know. However, as I sit here scratching down notes and outlines, more questions, NEW questions flood my brain. It’s frustrating. In some ways, a bit painful.
I do seem to know more about my family history than so many of my friends. I’ve completed my genealogy down a number of lines, clearing lines to Europe as far back as 1400s. That’s pretty damned good if I do say so, myself.
Still, the questions of “how did so and so meet?” or “when did they move?” or… or…
As a young boy, I had a front row seat to family history and US History, hearing first hand stories of meeting President Theodore Roosevelt, the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, the 1913 flood in Central Indiana, WWI, The 1918 Pandemic, The Great Depression and the many connections our family had to each of these major events throughout the early part of The Twentieth Century.
Some answers I might find through in-depth research but most of the questions I have won’t be found in libraries, on line, or in dusty files. These questions are now out of my reach.
I am beyond blessed to have the trove of stories with which I’ve grown up. Still…
Always that “still…”