My name is Kathleen, and I have been researching my family history since I was a child. I love to go into county courthouses and smell the old books and paper... or is it dust? This blog will focus on the stories I've heard over the years and the research methods I follow. I am particularly interested in data management and cloud genealogy.

Some of my personal areas of interest include Southern Maryland and DC (Robie, Rhodes, Grimes, Lindsey), NY state (Hill, Cookingham, Flynn, Rhodes, Skinner, Wheeler, Mead, Havens, Trotter), NJ (Parcell), North Carolina and Eastern TN (Lynch, Seabolt, Spears), MO (Wilcox, Kiddell), and CA (Simi, Grady)

I am always happy to compare notes or share my experiences, so please leave a comment!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A letter from your great-grandmother....

I recently read a blogpost on about the Oklahoma Historical Society's exhibit on the Century Chest, a 100-year old time capsule that was recently opened in Oklahoma City.  I am fascinated by the very idea of communicating directly with another time, like a message in the bottle.  Last April, I watched via live streaming as this huge time capsule was opened, and was absolutely riveted as the messages from the past were slowly discovered.  But the great news is that the collection has been scanned and is now available online.

My sense is that people tend to submit material for time capsules much as they might prepare for meeting a delegation from a foreign country -- contributing formal, descriptive information about city and state institutions, and producing proclamations commemorating the event.   Predictably, such material is dry and boring and of interest only to historians.  

This time capsule certainly had a lot of this type of material, but also contained wonderful artifacts of 1913, such as clothing, popular magazines and music, appliances, wax voice recordings, and -- most exciting for the family historian -- letters to descendants.   

I read every one of these letters, and was in tears the entire time.  One woman clearly couldn't imagine her four-year old daughter ever being a mother, let alone an "ancestor;" another wrote about her family's moves from North Carolina through several other states before ending up in Oklahoma; and yet another wrote about her descent from royalty.  The one that really choked me up was this one -- you can hear her voice:

I am fortunate enough to live in a historic home -- we are the third family to own it since it was built back in the 1800s.  We created a time capsule when we moved in, which we buried in the foundation. I think the best way to create a time capsule is to put in what you would hope to find yourself, so we added old farm papers and photos that had been saved from the previous owners, our own family photos, and long, personal letters from each one of us telling about our lives and our hopes for the future.  Every good time capsule has to have buried treasure, so we put in packets of flower seeds, bags of coins from all over the world, and old jewelry (nothing really of value today, but who knows in the future!) 

Now, if only I could come back as a fly on the wall when they open it!