Genealogy research tip: Write down the quotes you want to remember

Credit: Special

Credit: Special

When I look back over my six decades of doing genealogical research, some statements made by people have stuck with me for years. Sometimes, it’s worth it to write down some memorable lines you’ve heard or read.

At cemeteries, I’ve always stood on grave markers to avoid snakes. Once, a woman drove up and said, “Why are you standing on my father’s grave?” That was how I met a cousin. I can remember my grandmother bringing me a message from her three older sisters about their grandmother. I had been searching for family records in courthouses for a while. “Quit looking for grandma’s marriage record,” the sisters advised me. “Grandma never married anybody.” When I asked my grandmother once about one of her aunts, the only comment she made was, “She kept a clean house,” which, to my grandmother, was a high mark, but something one does not find in an obituary or eulogy.

The author Harnett Kane dedicated one of his books to an ancestor he described as “the only private in the Civil War,” since everyone claimed their ancestor was a much more elevated rank. Recently, a professional genealogist reported that her client told her, “Don’t clutter my family tree with documents,” clearly not being interested in verifying whether the compiled information was accurate. Many reported that when relatives left this area and went West, they often posted on their doors: “Gone to Texas.”

After I helped a group get their town cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the chairman wrote me and said they were “rolling on the waves of glory.”

NPR’s Life Kit

Go to the National Public Radio website at and search for “Life Kit.” Check the program I heard on establishing an “ancestral altar” with treasured objects from your family. Searching the main site for “genealogy” turns up a lot of articles on DNA and how it has been used in finding people.

Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

If your genealogical or historical society has any special interest groups (SIGS) related to genealogy, let this columnist know. Knowing about a helpful SIG might be an incentive for someone to join a society.

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P. O. Box 901, Decatur, Ga., 30031, or