Friday, June 12, 2015

The Daily Lives of Our Ancestors

My mother was given some things that were in her mother's home when she died. None of it is particularly valuable but the insight it provides into the daily life of my grandmother and great-grandmother is amazing.

My grandmother kept a daily diary for years and my mother was given three of them. She loaned them to me so I could scan them in digitally to be shared with my cousins. I hope to obtain some of the others and do the same with those. If you are an aunt or cousin of mine that has one or more of Elizabeth Menke Panther's diaries, please let me know! I'd like to scan them in and I'd get them back to you as soon as possible.

These diaries don't contain any deep dark family secret, at least that I've found so far! They do, however, show the daily thoughts and activities of my grandmother from 1975, 1976 and 1980.

It was interesting to find the entries noting that she sent my mother the Christmas package of cookies and candy, packed with her own real popcorn as packing material. My brothers and sisters and I always looked forward to these packages and remember well receiving them each year.  I also found where she notes when one of her many grandchildren came to spend the night with her. I'm hoping that at least one of these years is a year that my family came to visit. I can't wait to find her diary entry where she noted that we arrived or her thoughts on the large family get-together that always happens whenever our family visited. See, my family was the only one that moved away. All the rest stayed near where they were raised. Since we only visited every one to two years, it was a special occasion that demanded a gathering of all the relatives.

Beginning to look through the diaries, I find the entry on the day that her brother, Joseph Menke died. She made very simple entries "Joe passed away at 1:30" and "Joe's funeral at 12 noon" in the entry three days later. You can read simple descriptions of how she's feeling so you can relate to her as a real person, not just an ancestor.

I blurred the names of living people on these pages.

The other thing my mother received that I just love are the old spoons. These spoons are just your basic silver plated large tablespoons. What makes them interesting is that they show, plain as day, their daily use by my grandmother. My mother says that they were probably also used by my grandmother's mother. I believe this due to the wear. When I commented on the obvious wear, my mother said, "Remember, she probably only had four spoons in her house."

You can see that the spoons were actually eroded at the angle my grandmother and great-grandmother held them while stirring food or  whipping cream. I love these old spoons as they show the many years of the daily meals made and served by my grandmother and great-grandmother.


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