Monday, April 9, 2012

Family Memoirs: A Lifetime of Addresses

Every once in awhile I send an email to my uncles and my Dad with a single question in it. The questions trigger them to record something about their lives. For instance, one question was "What was your first car?" Then I ask them to email me back with the answer. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. I don't worry about it too much (though I would like to get answers back from all of them) because my goal is to get them thinking, remembering and realizing that they should write down and save this information.

A year or two ago I asked them to send me a list of all the addresses they had ever lived at. My Uncle Bob replied with his full list but the others didn't. My Dad still keeps promising me his some day.

The other day I was giving a house history talk at the Windsor, Connecticut Historical Society. After the talk a gentleman came up to me and introduced himself as the president of the Simsbury, Connecticut Historical Society. We got to talking because I'll be giving a talk in Simsbury in a few months.

I happened to mention that I had grown up in Connecticut and lived in Simsbury when I was a child. Of course, the natural next question was which street did I live on.

Do you know what? I couldn't tell him! I couldn't remember. I drew a total blank. I lived in Simsbury only for 5 years from age 5 to 9 so it's not unusual that I might forget. But that was the first time I had forgotten something about my own life.

That was a real eye opener. While it is important to focus on the previous generation (such as my Dad and uncles) it's also important to focus on our own lives.

I think genealogists are particularly prone to neglecting themselves in their quest for previous generations.

Can you remember all the addresses where you have lived? Have you written them down? Take a moment to do it if you haven't done it yet.  Better yet, create a directory on your computer called "My Life" or something similar and start recording many of your memories. Do a little bit each week.

What a shame it would be to lose your own memories! Save them and pass them on!


  1. As hard an effort I sometimes exert trying to track down the various addresses and time frames of various ancestors, I have never thought to make it easy for some future genealogist wishing to do the same for me. Excellent idea!

    1. I wrote them all down, then went the extra step and added GPS co-ordinates. What an incredible thing to be able to see the satellite view of a tree I fell out of when I was 11.

      I would like to be able to GPS all census records so I can see where close neighbours lived in relation to each other, but that's trickier!

  2. Marian, this is an excellent idea... I know a couple of my addresses, but when I went to university I moved twice a year, and when I got married, we lived in 9 places in 13 years, and actually lived in several of those homes for over 2-3 years each (so you can imagine the chaos of my life then). Hmm, just that bit of info gives me more to write about! Thanks again for your thoughtful posts.

  3. Excellent. Yes, actually. My wife (to be) gave me a slide-rule in a leather case for high school graduation. Through the years, I wrote each of our addresses on the flap. 15 addresses in 13 states, as I recall. It was useful for our 50th anniversary to gather photos of each of our residences. Now, if I could just find that leather case. Just kidding! ;-)

    I just sent two letters to my living (elderly) uncles asking about where their parents lived, around on small town, in the first half of the 20th century. So much I don't know about the early years of those grandparents, even though I lived around them for their last 20-30 years! ;-)

  4. Clare Turncliff GunningApril 10, 2012 at 7:22 AM

    Great blog. Good advice. I remember my previous addresses with telephone numbers. But that's right now. Who knows what I'll forget over time. Our genealogy group had a speaker come who encouraged us to write little blurbs each day as they would stir up memories that we might have forgotten. The one little blurb spawned whole stories that the group then related to the attendees. Another tip I've heard is to make a copy of the page you're on when you throw out your telephone book.

    I wish I had older relatives I could write. Sadly the entire older generation is gone.

  5. Excellent advice Marion, I had never even thought of this. Thank you.

  6. Clare,

    That's a great tip about the telephone books. I'm going to have to remember to do that. Funny enough I was throwing out some books just this week. And it will help my descendants because the phone book always writes our name wrong!


  7. thanks for a great post and a timely warning to preserve our own of the reasons I write my blogis with an eye over my shoulder for family coming behind. I have no probs with the houses but the cars are a different matter

  8. The address book I have kept since I was 16 makes interesting reading. I put my own address in the front and each time I moved, the old address was crossed out and the new one entered. It records all the places I have lived from high school,university, first job right up to the present.

    It contains a similar collection of address for the mobile people I have kept in touch with. Some people did not move, so only have one address records. Only one address might also mean that I just lost contact with that person.

    What is missing from the genealogical perspecitve are dates of changes of address, so I have left future genealogists something to do ;-)

  9. Wow, Marian, that does kind of bring you up short! What an excellent suggestion. My address book has everyone else's addresses over the years...I will have to include mine while I can still remember, LOL!

    I hope some day I am in the area when you are doing a house history talk, they sound so interesting!

  10. What a wonderful reminder for all of us! It's so easy in our quest of the past to forget we need to capture our own histories (and those of family members who think we are a bit daft in thinking anyone will care).

  11. Barbara Lass GremplerApril 26, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    Several years ago, I stumbled upon a website with some DIY gifts. One was a journal jar, a quart size jar full of writing prompts to record what you remember of your life. I made one up for my mother-in-law and recently she gave it to me. What a wonderful gift for her grandchildren. Here's the link.