How I wish I could scream that out to the present and past generations. Those newspapers, menus, boarding passes, bills, bible, calendars, bank and business records, the insurance, health, land, and travel documents. All these things and so many more can help to build the story of someone. Yet they often end up in drawers, boxes, bags, banks, attics, basements, old cars, barns, antique shops, walls of Cracker Barrel, etsy, eBay and horrors….the trash bin.
What you may think is boring and irrelevant, to a family historian and genealogist it is a treasure without value.
When my mother passed away 10 years ago, I would not let anything be thrown out until I could go through it. I still have two boxes left. Here are just a few ways I found treasures in her stacks of bank statements, old checks, insurance papers, loan documents, deeds to houses and sales of houses, receipts, letters, post cards, etc….
- From her bank statements I chose several to keep to show how through the years my parents paid bills and what they paid. With the canceled checks I was able to pull out several to show not just the bills she paid, but the gifts she bought, their favorite restaurants, travels, donations, and many other expenses.
- With the bills, I was able to pull out utilities and other monthly bills to show the cost of living for her and the family from the early 1960’s until her death in 2002.
- With my dad’s paychecks, Army, Air Force, TWA, I am able to show his earnings, and where he worked, when he worked there and other great facts.
- With the medical bills I can show the progress of mom’s illnesses and even her death. This can be of great help to future generations who may suffer the same diseases or disabilities.
- Her address books dating back to her marriage in 1955 allow me to follow where my family moved from and to and she wrote down births, marriages, deaths and moving dates there as well.
- Her calendars! What a treasure trove these are! I have them dating back to 1962! I can tell not just birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, deaths and main events like that, but mom also wrote down when they visited people, where they ate (even what was spent), when the grandchildren spent the night, what field trips my brother and I went on and so much more. These are like her diaries and the story of my childhood recorded in excellent details!
- Legal papers and tax papers are also a great find.
- Correspondence to and from her father & step-mothers (2 of the 3) and other family members. Even letters my father wrote to her family while in the Army/Air Force
- Just some of the calendars from mom
- paperwork for the house we had in Falls Church
- more records, a box full of things like this
So I say to all you hoarders and hiders…..go up to the attic, down to the basement, out to the banks and find those items that are locked away and either go through them yourself to discover more about your family history or donate them to a local historical society, museum or library. Just DO NOT THROW AWAY until you have thought it through, can this be of use to anyone else???
**If you are not keeping these paper yourself and decide to donate or sell, you should not share personal information of living members of your family, without their permission, better to let them do it.