Monday, July 28, 2008

Documenting Family History with VoiceThread – A Project in Progress

As some who might read this know, my father, who I was very close to, passed away about 14 months ago. He was 63 years old and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on April 6 and died just 7 weeks later on May 24. It was devastating loss for my mother, sisters, me and our families. It has made me look at a lot of things differently over the past year. It feels at times that life is about hurt and that the best we can do between the times of sorrow is do what makes us the happiest.

Last week, I attended my husband’s family reunion at The Moors Resort on Kentucky Lake. Family reunions, as a rule, are not all that unique, but this family has been getting together almost annually since 1986. I have “been a part of the family” since 1994 and became an “outlaw” in 1996 when I married into the family. I have attended several family reunions, but my husband has the distinction of never having missed one reunion. The die-hard family reunion purists in the group are quick to point out that, here and there, a couple of years were skipped, but essentially, the Richardson Family has been gathering for the past 23 years. There are three generations of family members who attend the reunion each year. As one outlaw commented this year, “Most people are surprised when I tell them we get together for more than a backyard picnic every year.”

Over the years, I have done my share of fussing about having to go to the Richardson Reunion every year. There have been times when a week of vacation has been spent at the reunion, when we spent five days or when we were only able to spend three, but it is always part of every summer’s vacation plans. I have started to see things differently for the past two reunions since I lost my dad. This is what life is all about and it is important to take time and spend it with family.

The core group of first or eldest generation Richardsons include my husband’s mother, Elsie (Aunt Elsie to most, Grandma to us), her sister Frances (Aunt Fran), there brother (Uncle Allan) and their three spouses, Uncle (Grandpa) Francis Montgomery, Uncle Loyd Wicks and Aunt Marlene Richardson. The six meet every year for the entire week: the weekend before through the next weekend when the entire clan gathers. I should also mention, there was another brother, Jim, who has been deceased several years. Although there are a few other cousins and relatives belonging to the first generation who sometimes attend, the families of the four Amos Richardson siblings are the mainstay of the reunion goers each year. The venue isn’t always the same. Some years it’s Kentucky Lake, some years it’s Branson, Missouri. Reunions have been planned in Wisconsin and Georgia, too. But each year, a nucleus of family members and a few others come together.
Richardson Siblings">
The second generation is composed of the first cousins and their “outlaw” spouses. Any given year one, two or three children of each first generation siblings will pack up their cars and travel to the reunion. Together, there are 11 cousins who have continued to attend regularly for many years. In 1986, they were in their 20’s and 30’s; now they are in their 40’s and 50’s. Looking back at the old photographs from reunions past, you can see how much things have changed in 23 years. In 1986, there was more hair, fewer wrinkles and a flock of very small children.

Those small children make up generation number three. These are the second cousins and with the exception of my daughter, who is 10, they have now grown into their teens and twenties. Reunion photographs from the early years feature children, toddlers and babies. It is sometimes hard to figure out who was who or remember that so much time has passed.
Who Rules?
My mother-in-law a.k.a. Aunt Elsie brought photo albums this year with photos from every Richardson family reunion in chronological order. What fun to look back at clothing and hairstyles from the past 20+ years! Wish I had them digitally!!

Some of the annual reunion traditions include special reunion foods like Aunt Marlene’s spaghetti or Aunt Elsie’s ham or the wonderful selection of cookies baked by Aunt Fran and Aunt Marlene, the reunion dinner on Friday night when everyone has finally arrived, the golf tournament, a white elephant auction and the family photos. Each year also brings new stories, new events and new family fun. There are sayings and expressions that carry from year to year and fresh ones created that may or may not stand the test of time. In the evenings and late into the night the Richardson cousins (and second cousins) talk and laugh and drink a few beers.

On the last night this year, conversation turned to the past: the activities of the first generation a long time ago before the second generation was born. Who did what? Who moved where? When was the family house in Steward, Illinois built? It dawned on me as this conversation based on guesses and speculation continued that this was a perfect VoiceThread project. I am planning to borrow photos from the photo albums and upload them as well as scan and upload some of the very old photos of the Richardson ancestors. I hope to have all the photos put together in the next few months and then starting with my mother-in-law, add the history and the comments about where the family came from and who is pictured in the old faded black and whites. It is something I can leave for my daughter and the rest of the family. I’ll keep you updated as the project progresses.

1 comment:

Tobias said...


Babel Fish


Karen Montgomery is the author of Gomeric Hill. The opinions expressed herein are mine and not necessarily those of my employer.