A Day in the Life | Finds We Make in Our Family History (Episode #6)

Family history can be filled with surprises. Good ones, and some not so good ones. Finds we make in our family history often prove or disprove something we have believed for years.When my mother died in 2001, we found so many surprises among her personal belongings. Who would have believed she’d kept every card she’d ever received from our dad and many of their friends? Every last one of them.

We couldn’t keep everything we uncovered, but one thing I was certain I would bring home with me. Handwritten facts of my mother’s early life with a list of grandchildren, her siblings, nieces, and nephews. Facts revealed I had never heard or read before.

Lately, while editing and revising my memoir, I dug out these notes and began to fact check againstthem for dates, names, and more. Yesterday I came upon something rather surprising.

As I was working with my manuscript, I picked up Mama’s notes to do some more fact-checking.  I’ve gone through life believing my name was given to me for no clear reason or relative. You know–a “just because” name. However, I am wrong!

Right there in her notes. In Mama’s own handwriting it reads:

Family History from Mama's Things in 2001
Family History from Mama’s Things in 2001

After her arrival, we named her Sherrey Alice. The Alice was given her for an aunt of mine, Uncle John’s wife. My mother always told me that Aunt Alice was such a sweet person, and I said if I ever have a little girl I’m going to name her Alice, so I did. Her Daddy put the Sherrey with it.

Now, I want to search through family photos and see if there is one of Aunt Alice because by the time I would have been old enough to know her, I believe she had passed on.

So now you and I know where my name came from, and you also know why that crazy email address reads like it does: “salice78@comcast.net.” Well, you almost know. But there’s more to that email address for another day.

Do you have letters, journals, or other family items, such as scrapbooks, etc., that hold family history? Have you used any of them in writing your memoir or other works? 

16 thoughts on “A Day in the Life | Finds We Make in Our Family History (Episode #6)

  1. Sherrey – another treasure unfolded. I’m sure this brings some comfort in that even though she was most often harsh (to put it mildly) with you, she saw something precious in you.
    Regarding writing, I have so many of my mother’s stories from before I was born. Someone once encouraged me to use them in fiction writing. Someday I may write a historical novel and interweave true stories within.

    1. Yes, Joan, I see that element of love in several items I’ve uncovered, and now I know why she was the way she was, I love knowing these little tidbits.
      I too am considering a historical novel when I finish this project. I have some of my dad’s history from the orphanage where he started out at age 4. I would love to be able to write something historical about orphanages and their way of treating children centering around his life and what he did with himself once he “graduated.” You’ve got a good start with your mother’s stories. 🙂

  2. How exciting for you! Adds that extra flavor to your memoir. Like discovering an object of value or personal nostalgia hidden away in an old attic. It also gives you more insight into the way your mother thought.

    1. “It also give you more insight into the way your mother thought.” Pennie, these words ring so true of my feelings the other day as I worked on my manuscript. I have an entire section devoted to the “other woman,” the one I didn’t now. Things like this fall into that category. Thanks for dropping by.

    1. Shirley, I am so uplifted by the little “epiphanies” along the way. And yes, I keep going back to the manuscript to decide where to include each one. You have been such and inspiration and encouragement to me!

  3. Isn’t it funny the treasures we find left behind that we weren’t aware of before our parents pass. You’ve found so many wonderful things Sherrey. It was different in my case. I found nothing from my mother, nothing except a letter I wrote her while traveling Europe at age 18. She kept one letter. I got no response from any of them. All my memories come from a journal I kept and interviews with family members. 🙂

    1. My heart aches for those who have nothing, and to be honest, I expected to find nothing. That is little I knew of my mother’s interests, likes/dislikes, and more. Treasure that journal you kept, and make sure someone knows where it is kept so the history you’ve kept will be continue on.

  4. As you know, I have tons of artifacts but no diaries. Wish I did! The photos, cards, letters and object unearthed from clearing out Mom’s house have fueled my blog posts and now my memoir writing. I’m taking a writing class now “All the in the Family: Uncovering Your Family History” and discovering the art of digging deep into what all this means. Along the way, I’ve found a “Wowser” Hallowe’en card with terse advice from Aunt Ruthie about my unraveling love life during college. Watch for it soon!
    I like Sharon’s tweet-y anecdotes.

    1. No diaries? Do you have one you have kept? Your blog posts have been most enjoyable with your personal vignettes of life growing up and your family history. Your current writing class sounds intriguing. I want to take something like that, especially before I begin the book on my dad’s family history. Family history, as you remind with the words “digging deep,” is akin to archaeology. Can’t wait to hear what Aunt Ruth has to say next!
      Yes, Sharon’s “tweet-y anecdotes” are fun. You know she’s moving closer to me. Not that close but closer than she is now!
      Thanks for sharing today, Marian.

      1. Yes, I have diaries – many with quotes, observations. Since I retired, I have two diaries: one, a gratitude journal and the other one a book to rant in. Nice balance, don’t you think?

  5. What an exciting discovery you made Sherrey. Those old diaries, letters and notes truly are a treasure, and what a thrill to find the source of your names. Wish I knew mine!
    I have a diary my grandmother kept in a tiny field journal in 1920, the first year she was married. Entries sound like tweets in their brevity. My father was born in December, a year and some days after their first wedding anniversary. The day he was born she wrote “Monday. Took sick 2:30 a.m. Baby born 2:25 p.m. Mrs. Carl and Edna sat up with baby all night. Had Dr. Phelps and Dr. Taylor for baby in evening. Named baby.” She never does say what they named him.
    The next day she wrote “Tuesday. Ben bought announcements and phoned Mamma. Baby much better. Cried at 9:50 p.m. Mailed announcements to parties out of town.”
    She does not say who attended the birth, obviously at home, or what afflicted the baby, requiring two doctors. I’m surprised that town HAD two doctors! And that “Cried at 9:50 p.m.” statement — was that her or the baby? All her life SHE cried at the drop of a hat, LOL.

    1. Isn’t it exciting, Sharon? I’ve read these notes several times, but it’s the first time my eyes (and my brain) took in her words so distinctly. Another piece to my life’s puzzle.
      Oh, the things left out of some of our family diaries! We have Bob’s dad’s Naval journal from WWI. Some pages never written. Others in, as you say, Twitter-like brevity. And a detail or two left out here and there.
      As I was reading about your grandmother’s diary, I asked all the questions you mentioned in your next paragraph. I guess you could say we are of the “inquiring minds” generation.

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