31 Days to Better Genealogy – Day 17

31 Days to Better Genealogy – Day 17

I’m taking Amy Crow’s challenge for 31 Days to Better Genealogy and blog Amy’s questions, with my answers; I plan to make one blog post, adding daily. Hopefully by the end of the 31 days, I will learn how to better solve some of my genealogy questions. If you haven’t signed up yet, just click on the link below… never too late to catch up!

31 Days to Better Genealogy by Amy Johnson Crow gives you practical steps to make your research more productive. Whether you are just beginning to climb your family tree or have been doing this for years, you can adapt the tips and methods in 31 Days to Better Genealogy to suit your needs.


Day 17 – Interview Yourself

Amy’s tip today… write your life story, a memory… just in general share stories about yourself. As much as, we as genealogist, chase down stories on our ancestors, what are we leaving behind of ourselves? I have written many life stories in a booklet called “Growing up Southern” – stories from my memories of growing up in the South!

I love stories, but it’s been my mother who has the best remembered stories – stories of growing up on a Southern Georgia farm. For whatever reason, I just never have remembered my early life. Maybe I really do remember, but as mama has told me so often… I question whether I remember, or just remember what she has told me. My husband will tell me that he remembers vividly at age 4 and 5 – then I think to myself – why don’t I?

Holiday memories… I have none – why? When I read other’s recalling Christmas or Thanksgiving memories, I can’t recall any… I don’t know why… was I an unhappy child?

I know I wasn’t deprived of anything being an only child, and an only grandchild. Maybe because we didn’t live near our family and our family was small. My mother had no siblings alive and my father’s only brother lived in another state – so I had no close cousins, aunts or uncles.

The only memory I have of Christmas is how I would sneak under the tree and unwrap my gifts and wrap them back up. One year mama wrote daddy’s name on one of my gifts, and after I unwrapped everything, she handed it to me… that typewriter was a surprise as I knew what everything else was. Now why did I do that, guess I just couldn’t wait to be surprised.

Everyone has a story, as I so-named my blog… and even though I don’t think I have stories…. I have stories!

Amy mentioned “living memories” – the memories that make you feel good and sometimes bad. These are the ones so imbedded within your head, that if they aren’t written down… well once we are gone… they are gone!

As I am presently visiting my mother in Georgia, I’ll share memories of coming home!


When I see this sign – I know I’m home!

I visit my mother usually twice a year since I have moved away, and even though it’s not the same town where I grew up, it’s still like coming home to me… my roots, the sights and the smells… all that makes me feel like I am home. Sights like the “Welcome to Georgia” sign as I cross the state line. Even the air down here feels different when I arrive in October; it’s still feeling like summer still here; when we left CT., it was chilly…. I had even put the heat on a few nights before leaving. I know I’ll need it when I get back, but for now…. I’m enjoying the last hurrah of summer in Georgia.

If I still lived here in Georgia rather than Connecticut, I probably wouldn’t pay as much attention to things as I do now when I come down. I’m sure I take things for granted at home – not looking at them the same way I do while here at mama’s.

We stopped at a flea market and as soon as I smelled “boiled peanuts”…. I just had to have them…. and couldn’t wait to get to the car to dive into them. It’s a Southern Thing!

What I enjoy while visiting mom…
listening to mama tell stories
visiting cemeteries
taking more photographs than I know what to do with
eating all my favorite Southern Foods

I’ve racked my brain trying to ask myself what would someone ask me… probably “why do you research dead people?” My mother told me that from a young girl I always asked where did our family come from? I don’t remember asking or even thinking that, but I’m not going to dispute her! Years before I even began searching for my roots, mama had written down all names she could remember – I filed it away; when I began my search, I was excited to find those papers because they gave me my beginning.

But what really pushed me to start family history was the death of my husband’s grandmother – she knew all the family stories – and I had enjoyed hearing them – and I didn’t want them lost… so I took the job upon myself of writing his family stories. Living so far away from Georgia, I didn’t think I could even research my family, so I first began working on his.

I don’t remember writing any stories when I was young, although I did keep diaries… and sadly threw them in the trash before I married. Whenever I think about that, it makes me very sad. All my teenage years were documented in those diaries; what I wouldn’t give to read them now and laugh at all my silliness and boyfriend escapades. That’s probably why I threw them away!

I’m sure my descendants will look at me and either shake their head or thank me for all the family history and stories I’ve written. If any of my five granddaughters take up genealogy, hopefully they will be very thankful of what I’ve done – if they can make heads or tails of it. That is the hardest part – keeping it in order.

I do have some early journals, and have tried to get back into that on a regular basis, but I just haven’t found time. What I do have is a journal of “Conversations with Mom” that documents life events as I try and tell mama about the girls. I also have a Conversation journal with my husband and document our life events and memories he shares; in a way, I’m documenting stories along the way in those journals.

Besides researching, I enjoy photography and I’m never without my camera, especially when I come to Georgia. Often mama tells me, “what are you doing, taking a picture of everything in Georgia?” I guess in a way, I am… but I do try and photograph things that have meaning to me and I want remembered.

A few memories…

Summers were the best, I was out of school and what did I want to do – Play School! I could be teacher all summer, and give out homework and give tests! We lived in front of the high school and those dumpsters, after school ended… well they yielded some great finds. I don’t remember how we got all that we did out of there, but we came home loaded with papers, books, and even school photos that weren’t bought. One year I even found a class ring; mama worked hard to find its owner. I can remember how us girls would lay out a quilt and set up school early in the morning; we were busy all day. I’ve always like pens and paper – and even today I can’t pass up a sale on notebooks. A girl can never have enough notebooks to write in. I carry one in the car all the time and always on trips… never know what I might need to write when a thought comes in my head.

nancy-drewAnother summer memory is going to the town library… every summer I joined the summer reading program and never failed to fill up my chart with stars. Every book I brought home to read – mama read too before I returned it. I think I read every president’s biography and most of the inventors too. Besides going to the library, I had a bookcase full of Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins and Trixie Beldon in my bedroom. I coveted my Nancy Drew books and never loaned them out except under dire pressure from my mother. I usually got a new one whenever I went with her to K-Mart; I made a bee-line to the book section while she shopped, and it was always a hard decision on which one was coming home with me. I sure wish I had kept my favorites… wonder whatever happened to them? I tried to get my daughter interested in reading Nancy Drew and bought all my favorites at tag sales, but she never found them interesting. I saved them – maybe the granddaughters will enjoy reading one day.

Sometimes it’s even a photograph that will spark a memory. In one of mama’s photo’s I discovered granddaddy’s barn way in the background; it’s the only photograph I have of his barn, and even though it’s only a barn, it’s his! I have many memories of playing in those barns while at the farm. There was no one there to play with, so I entertained myself by exploring. I thought his corn sheller was the greatest – just put a dried ear of corn in – turn the handle and all the kernels ran down the chute. The floor ended up looking like someone had opened up a bag of popcorn by the time I left; I kept those barn-mice well fed. Granddaddy probably came behind me and swept it up – I think he fed the chickens with the dried corn.

There weren’t many animals left on the farm when I was growing up, just chickens, his treasured fox hound dogs and a bull – why a bull? I never thought to question that, but I remember tempting him by walking inside the fence wearing the color red as granddaddy had told me not to wear anything red; that bull never payed me any attention. I don’t remember any cows there either at that time, but when mama was young he had several milking cows.

Under the car shelter was another favorite spot for playing – it was my doodle bug site because it had a sandy floor; wherever you find sandy soil, you’ll find doodle bug holes. Have you ever looked for a doodle bug? To search, you take a stick and swirl round and round on the inside of the hole they have made, while saying… “Doodle Bug, Doodle Bug, come out, come out, your house is on fire.” I know it sounds silly, but it’s a Southern Thing!

Hopefully I have a good start on recording my memories and hopefully someone will enjoy reading them and remembering my life through those stories.

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© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in 31 Days to Better Genealogy: Ver. 2.0, Daily Writings and funnies... and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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