Capture your history

The first evening I was in on the coast this week,  the survey crew had the privilege of meeting Jamie Roscoe’s dad Jim.  During the course of our visit, he shared many wonderful stories about his family and the history of the Mattole.

During our conversation he mentioned that a descendant of A.A. Hadley, one of the area’s first pioneers lived right over there, pointing at a distant ridge, and agreed to try to arrange for me to meet him. I drove home yesterday thinking excitedly about the visit.

Sadly, I open the paper today and see a picture of Leland Hadley in the obituaries.    He apparently passed away on Aug. 13, at the age of 91, and Mr. Roscoe just hadn’t yet heard the news.  Another connection to our past is gone.

A lot of my mental energy has been directed on trying to articulate the value of history, especially this early history with so many sad events.  Hadley’s death prompts me to come a little closer with the  question and the value of family history.

My grandmother stayed unhappily married for many years and I often wondered why.  As I was growing up my mother discouraged me from asking questions, so I didn’t know much other than my grandmother had grown up in an orphanage.

Later, when I started doing genealogy research, I did ask questions. I discovered that my grandmother’s mother  had been married at least five times (in the 1920s and 1930s) and would leave my grandmother and her brother with neighbors or commit them to the Denver orphanage whenever she met a new man.  I have a letter from one social worker describing how my nine year old grandmother showed up at an old neighbor’s apartment because the people that were suppose to care for her kicked her out and she was looking for a place to stay.

 My grandmother knew nothing about an intact family, ever, and as an adult, was determined not to follow her mother’s footsteps.  Her history colored her decisions about her marriage, my mother’s childhood in an … interesting household, and I likely experienced effects of this history and pass them on.

History is only the experience of our elders… manifested in their decisions and behavior, which in turn affect ours…

This is so darn hard to articulate!

Ok, simple words.  Talk to your elders, get their stories.  They are important in so many ways I don’t know how to describe but will continue to try.  I will say that a year ago for Christmas, my grandmother gave me a bound book designed to document family genealogy.   Even she, with all the painful memories of her past, recognized the value in recording our history. I hope the Hadley family was able to capture their history before the loss of such an elder.


14 Responses to Capture your history

  1. Kym says:

    As your post illustrates, talking to older neighbors is a great idea too. I keep meaning to interview the descendant of one of the first local settlers here in the Creek but I never seem to have time. I just need to make it happen before it is too late.

    • lynette77 says:

      Actually talking to neighbors are a great idea and I get the feeling that people want to share stories, but aren’t often asked….
      Others probably don’t speak up and share because they are introverts, or don’t want to appear rude or pushy. We just need to ask.. Physical things can often be replaced where the knowledge and memories in someone’s head are priceless !

  2. Kristabel says:

    Thanks for this reminder, Lynette. I’ve wanted to write stories of my grandmother’s life for years now and haven’t found the time to do it yet. She’s almost 90, and I’m so afraid that I’ll wait too long. Hopefully this will inspire me to get moving.

    • lynette77 says:

      I’m glad you’re inspired. I have to admit that maybe part of my post came from the fact that I just learned that my grandmother is ill. It is a scary time and makes me realize how fleeting our time is with anyone…. We just never know what might happen. Please feel free to share your experience with your grandmother here. Perhaps it will inspire others to do the same.

      • Kristabel says:

        Thanks. Your work is truly inspiring. My grandma’s in the early stages of dementia, so I have to make this time now. There are so many things about her life that I only know bits and pieces of – like she spent a good chunk of her childhood in the t.b. hospital in Eureka – even though she didn’t have t.b. – because her mother had died and the county social services wouldn’t let her live with just her father and brothers. What am I doing? I’ve got to get to my grandma’s house….

        P.S. Do you know that we’re fellow Fortuna High alums?

  3. lynette77 says:

    OK, now I’m sucked in. Please, please, PLEASE go talk to your grandmother ! And let me know when you post something about it, or if you want to guest post here–or both.
    My husband’s grandfather was Yurok and used to do many of the indian ceremonies at the family funerals. He also knew how to make acorn soup and many other important traditions that no one wrote down. Now he’s gone and memories are such slippery things…

    And … um…. Fortuna High? Help me :-0 ?

  4. lynette77 says:


  5. […] Here is the original post:  Capture your history « Lynette's NorCal History Blog […]

  6. oldmanriver says:

    A few years before my mother’s passing my sister and I tape recorded the story and memories of her life. She loved the exercise even when we would have to stop out of respect for not wearing her out. My sister transcribed the tapes into a spiral bound book, with my mothers sister’s recollections. It was a richly rewarding experience, and honored their lives. I was very proud of my sister’s efforts, she used a lot of pictures she had been given, and it just delighted the two Crim sisters.

  7. Kym says:

    Me, too. What a great thing to do.

  8. Hi! My name is Nicole Petersen-Log and I’ve just recently discovered your blog. I know the Roscoe family as well, and have ancestors that were some of the first settlers in the Mattole valley, so it was great to see a post dedicated to it’s history. Just wanted to say hi, and let you know that I’m reading through your old posts! 🙂

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