Friday, April 6, 2007


by Rett MacPherson

It has occurred to me that genealogy has been sort of the cornerstone of many other interests that I have. I love photography, and I originally learned to use a camera because I wanted to copy original old photographs of my ancestors. (Back then they didn't have these neat little machines that you could scan and make copies, or scanners on a computer. If you wanted a copy of an old picture you had to send it off to a developer and they charged quite a bit, and people weren't to keen on letting go of the only photograph of Great, great Grandma.)

I got interested in scrapbooking because I wanted to put my family history into a format that my children would find interesting, not just names on a chart. Since then, the scrapbooking has taken over the house and I've made scrapbooks of vacations, recipes and my offspring's childhood.

If you've read any of my books at all, you can see that they're about a genealogist, so even my writing has blended with my love of genealogy. Last but not least, are quilts. My paternal grandmother was a quilter and I grew up snuggling under blankets she'd made for me. I also remember watching her quilt and her walking through the house with pins in her apron, fabric in the pockets and a template or pattern stuck in her mouth. So, I started out with a healthy respect for quilts and quilting. But there were some letters that her mother had written back in 1899 that speaks of "having quilting here today" that made me curious. So, my grandmother and great grandmother were quilters? Just how far back did this art of quilting go?

Then one day when I was at mother's house, she was putting away one of her quilts (a gift from my grandma) because it was beginning to tatter. I looked in her trunk and there were the quilt tops that my grandma had left for me. And they were just sitting there because nobody in my family knew how to quilt them. What a shame. This was something that meant a great deal to my grandma. An art she'd learned from her mother, and they were just sitting in the cedar chest, not being used because nobody knew how to finish them. That was it. I bought some magazines and some books and began making my own quilts. My theory was, I'll learn on my quilts so I can finish grandma's some day. That was 15 years ago. Quilting has become an obsession.

And as is normal for me, I had to know the history of quiltmaking, not just the craft. Once I started reading the history of quilts and patterns and fabrics, I couldn't help but learn about women. It helped me understand what life may have been like for those elusive female ancestors. Quite often you'll end up with a lot of information on you male ancestors, but only a first name and a birth year for your females. Quilting helped me remove the grime of modern day on my looking glass and allowed me to see life for women, seventy years ago and even a hundred and seventy years ago.

I came across this quote when I first started tracing my family tree. "He who knows not where he comes from, knows not where he's going." There is truth in that quote. The more I learn about my family's past, the more it opens up my own world in the present. Gee, that hadn't been my goal when I started hunting down my ancestors, but it's been a nice little perk.


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