From about the time, I was 12 years old, my Great Uncle Ira and Great Aunts Christine and Julia gently aimed me in the direction to be the family historian and genealogist. Being the oldest great grandniece helped with their choice. Our family’s weekly visits with them also gave them a chance to tell me stories.
Uncle Ira told interesting stories because his life was full of experiences. Ira would talk about our ancestors, what Ohio used to be like, the redwoods in California, and how it was important to see the world. I always looked forward to reading Ira’s collection of National Geographic magazines and dreaming about visiting the places in the pictures.
When I was about 14 years old, my father would drop me off at Christine and Julia’s house on his way to work. This became a regular Wednesday occurrence during the summer. The three of us discussed family history in the morning, have a brunch, then walk 6 blocks to the county library to conduct research. Aunt Christine had been a teacher, so I learned a lot about researching in a library. Christine and Julia were close to their mother’s family, so I learned about the Morford side of my family.
My family history mentor was Mabel Ord. Mabel was my paternal grandmother’s first cousin. Mabel was a teacher, genealogist, and historian. Mabel spent most of her life in Dubois, Nebraska. She interviewed members of the Collins and Fry families and wrote their stories. Because of her work, I knew members of my Nebraska and Illinois families that I never met. My family visited Mabel many times. The last time I saw her was in 1972. Mabel spent a lot of time with me on that visit. She prepared a huge ancestral chart by hand. After hours of instruction, Mabel handed me a box. The box held a china doll that once belonged to my great-grandmother. I had recently turned 17 years old, and Mabel knew I would care for the doll. Mabel died about a year after our visit. How lucky I was to have that last visit with her. Mabel has always been an inspiration in my work.
Working on the genealogy for my paternal and maternal families took a backseat during my education and career. I think of those years as preparation to make me the genealogist and family historian I am today.
Deb, 11 January 2021