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With genealogy, you learn about your family tree through names, dates, locations and, sometimes, occupations.  You usually do not learn about who they were as individuals; their personalities, obstacles they faced and overcame, travels, interests, education, etc.  It’s unfortunate, because those experiences influenced their choices and decisions, which flowed through that family tree to ultimately impact how you were raised and how you reached your current perspectives on life.

Imagine yourself listed on a family tree in the distant future, indicating only your name, birth and death dates.  How sad it would be for your descendants not to know who you were as a person; your life experiences, so they could better understand themselves.



As a personal historian, I constantly and consistently witness families looking at one another with renewed appreciation after reading a relative’s life story.  They see their parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles as unique, interesting human beings, with whom they just happen to be related.


The holidays are fast approaching.  Do yourself and those you love a favor.  Take advantage of your time together by asking questions regarding their lives.  It can be lighthearted (e.g., What were your favorite toys or games when you were little?) or insightful (e.g., What was the best advice you ever received?).  Record them.  Transcribe them.  Save them for the future. 

Don’t forget to make notes of your answers as well.  You, too, are an important part of the family history.

What questions do you wish you could ask your ancestors?

You Are A Classic

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cabin frontEvery summer, my family would spend a couple of weeks in a cabin in an abandoned logging camp along the Ten Mile River in Mendocino County, just north of Fort Bragg. There were a couple of other cabins there as well, and there would be cousins of all ages to visit. For us kids, it was the best playground ever, because we could run all over the place, making trails, chasing chipmunks, searching for deer, and yell across the river to the log truck drivers to, “Blow your horn!”

In addition to the cabins, there were campers, tents and sleeping bags spread out everywhere.  One year, my great-aunt Mary passed around a guestbook and we counted over 300 names! 

I’ve been told that when I was two or three, I decided to just take off when no one was looking.  Dozens of relatives looked for me everywhere.  Couldn’t find me.  So, my great-aunt Rena took matters into her own hands.  She and her brother Cub (real name Alfred) were both trackers.  So, she literally tracked me down, following my intermittent prints in the dirt.  She found me a mile and a-half down an old logging road, rapidly approaching an old, broken-down train trestle that crossed the river.  I think it was fitting that Rena was the one who found me, because she loved to just take off, too, up into her 90’s.  (In the early 1910’s, she and a friend hitchhiked from Fort Bragg to Eureka, with just a bedroll to sleep by the side of the road.)

Behind each cabin was a fire pit, and behind our cabin was a self-standing bar (made from leftover wood from the mill) in a circle of redwood trees.  There was a record player, and to give you a sense of time and place, records included Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and the Rolling Stones’ “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”   

SawhorseJust outside the entrance of the bar, were a couple of sawhorses with saddles on top for the kids to play on.  Until, of course, some kid fell off, then the horses rode away. 




bed swingAbutting the back of our cabin was a bed swing, behind which were a row of sword ferns.  We kids loved to lie back on the bed, grab and pull a fern to rock ourselves back and forth.  The gentle sway would quickly seque to wild abandon until the bed would slam against the cabin, causing my grandmother to slam out of the cabin yelling at us to stop.  So, we would.  Until we’d do it again.


A cousin created a tree swing with simply a rope tied around a sawed-off branch. He even built steps up a tree, leading to a platform. You’d carry the swing up with you, and either jump from the platform sitting on the swing, or jump onto the swing mid-air. It was fantastic.

Julie, Brenda inner tubeMy great-uncle worked at the lumber mill, and he’d borrow a CAT to create a swimming hole for the kids. Someone built a raft, and there was a rowboat and a few large inner tubes.

Camp at river

I’ve been thinking about how my life has come full circle. I find myself returning to similar simple pleasures. When I hike with friends, I am once again enjoying nature, laughter and conversation. A cousin tells me that when she meditates, she imagines herself back at Camp Ten Mile, re-visiting the redwoods, good food, hugs, comfort and joy.

Those childhood summers were gifts, for which I will forever be grateful.

What summer childhood memories do you embrace?

You Are A Classic



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