Christmas and the Family Genealogist – A Time to Remember

Genealogy Research Christmas gifts

He’s making a list

And checking it twice;

He’s gonna find out

Who’s naughty and nice

Santa Claus is coming to town.

Santa Claus may make a list of those who are naughty and nice, but where does he keep all the addresses of the homes he must visit on Christmas Eve? Santa must have a truly awesome address book. Professional genealogist Joan Shurtliff also has an awesome address book. . .but it’s not for listing the naughty and nice. . .it’s for knowing and remembering people in her youth and in her parents’ lives. Joan shares her ideas about how to use old address books as valuable genealogical research tools to learn more about her family through those people they knew – even their children and grandchildren. It’s not naughty at all. In fact, it’s rather nice to take a sentimental journey through our address books this time of year.

Photos courtesy of Joan Shurtliff

The brown address book is old now. The binding is completely broken. The edges are worn. Some of the inside pages are dog-eared. Several Christmas cards from long ago holidays are tucked between those pages. There are one or two yellowed newspaper clippings telling about events gone by. A couple of bulletins from long past church Christmas programs peak out. And there are one or two cards announcing a move and a new address. Many of the names are familiar to me. Others are not.

This is the address book of this RecordClick genealogist’s mother. It brings back some special memories. I can only suppose that Mom got it soon after she and Dad were married. I don’t remember a Christmas without it. Sending out Christmas cards was one of my mom’s jobs. Being a former English teacher, she had the good handwriting. Maybe in later years she typed a Christmas letter that was copied and included with the cards, but I remember letters and notes that were handwritten on just about every card.

Then there were the pictures. My folks were into including a Christmas photo of us kids in the holiday greetings. There are a few of those – both of our family and from other friends – in the address book, as well.

RecordClick genealogist uses address bookFinally, there are the addresses. Mom wrote most of them in pencil. Even when she wrote them in pencil, though, a new address did not mean erasing the old one. A line was drawn through the old information, and the new address was written on an adjacent line or elsewhere on the page.

I know that many of the friends in the book are gone now. A good many of the family members of Mom’s generation have passed on. But the battered book has value. For the genealogical researcher there are many clues in the names and addresses. Of course there are family members. I can find the addresses of the cousin who was a Methodist minister and moved on a fairly regular basis. Additionally, there are friends of my parents. High school classmates, some who stayed in the community and others who moved on. Church friends, many who had children about the same age as my siblings and me. Neighbors whose lives intertwined with ours.

A genealogist needs to be aware of other resources when researching their family. What can be closer than the names and addresses in the old address book? I’ve talked to a couple of the people in the address book about my parents when they were in high school. I keep in touch with a couple of the cousins – not second cousins, as was the case with my parents, but their children – my third cousins. I know that I am fortunate.

That little brown book is a treasure and is going to remain in a safe place as long as it is mine to possess.

Most families have an address book or an old diary or ledger. The clues are there to help you find out more about relatives, friends, and business associates. They, in turn, can help you find out more about your family. If you need some help or advice, the professional genealogists at RecordClick are ready to assist you. Our network of researchers may be able help you be a detective and fill in your family tree.

This holiday season the staff and researchers at RecordClick wish you peace, hope and successful searching.

Photos courtesy of Joan Shurtliff