I never heard of a genealogy party until I was invited to Jerry’s. Jerry is my cousin Theresa’s husband. He has been doing genealogy research and working on his ever expanding tree for many years. He was making trips to the New York City Archives when I was just learning research on Ancestry.com. So a genealogy party made total sense when I got an Evite invitation for Jerry’s birthday. As I read the invitation, “in lieu of a gift please bring an old photo or a piece of your past…,” I thought “great idea!”
We were all talking about what to bring. Some people were bringing pictures, others records. In the meantime, Jerry had gotten a box of photos and stuff from our Uncle Bob. Our grandmother was a genealogy dream! She had neatly written who the people were and when it was on so many of the photos. In preparation for the party, Jerry scanned many of the photos, putting them in his file, and making a copy to spread out on the dining room table. He figured we could take copies of the ones that interested us. Little did he know he would be getting more very shortly.
As we came in, he greeted us and eagerly showed us the pictures on the table and said we could take what we wanted. He introduced us to cousin Roberta, who I might have met once a long time ago, and her granddaughter Zia. We said our hellos and meandered around the table, commenting on this picture or that. I hadn’t seen many pictures of my father or his family when they were young, so it was a real treat.
After most of the guests had arrived, Jerry was surprised for sure when we all yelled surprise and his family gave him a birthday hat. After that we started giving him the things we brought. Now we had a second round of looking to see what the new pictures were. Seeing a picture of my grandparents, my father and aunts and uncles on the beach in Atlantic City made us all smile. There were lots of smiles at so many pictures, some memories, and some stories.
My sister and I had talked about what to bring, and she brought our father’s navy papers from WWII. I had seen a copy of his discharge papers, but there was also a little plastic envelope. In that envelope there was money from countries my father had been to during the war. One bill was covered with signatures. They must have been men he served with. It felt like a connection with him and that was nice.
I brought our grandfather’s birth certificate. When I had originally located it through familysearch.org, there was no first name. I had known the parents’ names and the area so I only searched for a last name and a date. Out of curiosity a few months ago, I contacted the clerk in the town and she looked it up. A first name had been added to the book later, so I was able to request a certificate with a name. Jerry and I had discussed that, so my contribution was a birth certificate copy.
Over the years Jerry and I have had quite of few genealogy conversations, sometimes solving a mystery, and sometimes beginning a new one. He was the first person I knew who was really into genealogy and he has definitely helped me over the years. Theresa laughs if I call because she knows I am too excited to wait for email to share some new discovery. It’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off, to work together with each other’s strengths and to break new ground with.