My dear friend Kim suggested I offer special Holiday Heirloom Gifts, research on a favorite ancestor with a client supplied photograph and background facts, and the research, documents and report supplied by me. At first it seemed curious, but after some thought, I think she might just be right. A snapshot of research as a present for one of your parents or grandparents, a slice of history, an historical teaser, a bit like a movie trailer to the life of one of their ancestors, could make a nice lasting gift.
Buying presents for parents is tough especially for dads, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays and if you and they are blessed, their anniversary. Some fathers are known for buying things for themselves, if they want or need it, they will get it, even if it is the week before Father’s Day. Knowing that, it’s easy to buy another blue, brown or gray sweater or red tie. It feels easy to pick a sweater or scarf for your mom, but it’s not the right knit, nor exactly the right color, not the perfect sleeve length, it looks great with her eyes and blah with her coat or vice versa. Worst case, you have inadvertantly given her a chore to exchange it. Nobody needs more chores especially those that involve driving, parking, and standing in line in the snow or slush – not a good plan, not a good present. A better present would be a great parking space to do all the chores….
Present buying for grandparents can be even harder. One of my grandmothers had a hall closet, in which she stored the most amazing linens, sweaters, soaps, potporri, wallets and stationery she received over the years. Every once in while she would take something out, but most times when that door was opened, it was to add something. She also had a spare closet in the guest room filled with dresses with the tags still on, gifts she had never worn, but didn’t want to return. When I realized I was helping stock a closet instead of giving her pleasure, I started sending perishable treats from Swiss Colony. She might have enjoyed a study of one of her parents or grandparents, an Heirloom Gift, including the first federal census in which she appeared, or decades of census work, and a discussion of what that all means; a two page story with illustrations of each census might be a meaningful present. I’m glad I stopped giving her things she stored and didn’t use, but I wish I had given her the gift of history. Grandparents might be interested in a family history of their descendants. I could have done it.
I just finished a four generation history of the descendants of Jacob and Margaret (Gerber) Breitenstein. I am trying to publish it on lulu.com. We will see how that goes.
Three to four generations back is just about all any one can truly remember. I wish every immigrant would sit down right now and write a short summary about his or her parents, grandparents and great grandparents in the old country, whichever one that might be. After the story is written and handed to all the descendants, I wish the writer would put a copy of the story in the files of the local historical or genealogical society. I wish Jacob Breitenstein or his wife Margaret (Gerber) Breitenstein had done this after they arrived in the United States in 1847. Neither of them did.
I have friends from Argentina, Australia, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Germany, India, New Zealand, Peru, and Scotland, most of them now citizens of the United States. How wonderful it would be if each and every one of them took the time to write or type on one piece of paper, their parents, grandparents and great grandparents and where they lived, which small villages or which part of the great cities they came from and why. What I would give to know, why Jacob and Maggie left Bavaria, were they engaged when they left or did they meet on the boat, did Balthaser Henritze travel alone from Alsace Lorraine to Pennsylvania or did he and two cousins start out together and split up at the departure harbor on to two different ships. What it would mean to me to find in their own words, the where and the why of their stories. I have after years of research found the who and when, dates and the ships, but to know the where and why…. what a gift that would be. Yes, Gabi and Rajiv, this means you.