Week 22: May 31, 2014
Those Ahh Moments…
From the many penned letters I’ve written to family when I first began researching, I was truly rewarded with family stories and more. Those stories are treasures, some even more than vital statistics. I began logging my correspondence into book form as I researched – which allowed me to search later, as to what had been shared with me and from whom. I also kept non-family correspondence on all lines for future help to other researchers; and sometimes it ended up linking to my family lines.
When you become a researcher – you become a detective as well as a pack rat – and there’s nothing you will want to part with! There’s been days, while going through regular household items, I’ve discovered something packed away in unusual places. While cleaning out a box of my daughter’s baby clothes one day I found a manila envelope at the very bottom of the box – and I almost didn’t open it. I picked it up, then stuffed it back in – but then on second thought, I took it back out. I had to sit down, as I was overwhelmed when I pulled out my father’s birth certificate from the envelope. I had no memory of seeing it before, but long before I began researching my mom took the time to write all she knew of family names and dates and told me to put it away as I’d probably want it one day. I guess she knew me better than I thought – that day had arrived! I was so happy, just sitting on the floor, with that paper in my hand. Of course it was just one of those Ahh moments, your so excited you could scream – and no one to share it with, at least no one that would truly understand! Only another researcher would understand that feeling! I had my father’s birth certificate all along and almost missed it; something or someone had called out to me – to open that envelope.
Over the years I made many copies of my early Bryan ancestors to share. Those photos had been shared with me so I felt it only right to keep them circulating. I was always amazed when someone would share their only picture with me, writing to me to make myself a copy and return the original. Strangers trusted me to return their originals! I don’t even think I would do that today! But it wasn’t easy for them to make copies then and they were of the generation who trusted people.
One of my earliest contacts in Dahlonega, GA was Noma Walker, a spry woman in her nineties who still enjoyed spending time in her garden. When I first made contact with her on the phone, she told me she had early pictures of our Bryan ancestors if she could only remember where she put them. My heart was pounding, but also sank! And one day a letter arrived with those photos inside. Her note said, “make yourself a copy!” I never did get to meet her as she passed away before my next trip to Georgia.
My favorite memory of Granddaddy Paul Bryan was of him cooking BBQ. As I researched, I asked everyone about any pictures taken of when he cooked, but no one had been interested in taking pictures then. I guess I told his brother so often that in looking through his pictures he came across one of him with his brother Clyde chopping BBQ; he sent it to me. That picture meant more to me than anyone could imagine.
Besides the BBQ picture, Uncle Gordon also gave me my grandparents family bible with family information written in as well as their marriage license. If I had never begun researching – all those things would have been lost.
During the many letters and phone calls to Granddaddy’s brother, Gordon Bryan, I learned more than research could yield me. He told me many family stories, and they meant more to me than anyone will ever know.
I wrote and called all the living brothers and sister of my grandfather – they were my only direct link to my Bryan line and they were my start.
One day I received the earliest picture I’d ever seen of my father, about age 3, with his brother and aunt. I had never saw an early photo of my father before. This picture had not been in his mother’s photo album. But from the sharing I’d done on the family line – they took the time to look through their photos and thought I should have this original picture. Another “Wow” moment for me.
It’s the discovery of just the smallest thing sometimes, that means the most to you!