Friday, October 28, 2011

Genealogy Serendipity Moments - The Moment I Knew and Grandma Zella

Earlier this week there was a post by Lynn Palermo, of The Armchair Genealogist blog, about "The Moment I Knew", with regards to her getting started in Genealogy. Then she challenged fellow genealogists to post their experience in getting started. This is a thought that had crossed my mind during that same time period, so I decided to accept the challenge. This moment was certainly a defining occurence in my life, as I was all of fourteen years old. Now over forty years later, I feel very contented with the path that I have taken in genealogical research. Many experiences lead me to be a better genealogist.

The moment I knew I was to do genealogical research not only for myself, but others as well, occurred on May 25, 1969. On that day I received a religious blessing that would provide direction for my life. So, for me this was a spiritual experience, as well as a direction for me to follow. From that day forward I held a desire to know my ancestors in ways that few of us really appreciate. Yes, family members show some passive interest unless they are also afflicted by the genealogy passion. As a teenager the concept of doing family history was a foreign element. As I opened myself up to the experiences of discovery of the lives of my ancestors I knew that this was a life long interest for me.

The key person to nourish this newfound interest was my grandmother. While she was not of the same religious persuasion, she also felt this passion for the history of her family. Zella Alice Straw was born the 20th of July 1903 in Independence, Iowa. Her mother died when she was almost five. When we visited she could still remember the last time she saw her mother. She remained with her father in Iowa until she became a rebellious teenager, and then she came to live with her Aunt and Uncle in Oregon. This is hard to imagine, as by the time I knew her she was a very soft spoken, generous and loving person.

She married my grandfather on the 6th of November 1926 in Sherwood, Oregon. They were both living there at the time and met at church. He was sporting casts on both arms and she had a leg in a cast. They went on to live in Linnton, Oregon and raised three sons. Not having any daughters and her sons having little interest in the family heirlooms in her hope chest, she was delighted to share its contents with me. She knew her Tidd family relatives well, which was her mother's side of the family. At the death of her uncle she was given many of these items. The sharing of these items is what cemented in me the love and respect for my ancestors.

Grandma Zella had only two remaining relatives of her Tidd family, her cousins who lived in Oregon. She was especially close to Annie Hosmer Sherk, who also lived in Sherwood. We went together to visit Annie before I was even out of high school. It was a wonderful visit, which I recorded both in audio and pictures. Of all the projects I have worked on since this time, this experience is clearly my favorite. Annie died a few years later and Grandma Zella died on the 7th of May 1996, about twenty years later.

Zella was a very important part of my life. She even came to live with me for six months after the death of her husband in 1979. We dearly enjoyed this time together, I as a young mother with a newborn daughter and she as a doting great grandmother. When she moved into her own apartment it was the first time in her life she had ever lived alone. She never drove a car, but took the bus whereever she needed to go. Being raised on the farm she had a love for animals and the great outdoors. All those moments with her certainly have impacted my feelings about family history and the research that I do, whether for others or myself.

So, now I pass the challenge on to you to share your, "The Moment I Knew."

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