Sunday, September 1, 2019

Family History in a Cardboard Box

Pam Schwartz has been assembling her family history for years. Her grandmother, Martha, on her father's side died in June 2018. Her dad's sister, Carol had been taking care of Grandma Martha in her final years. I got to experience one Christmas at her grandmother's home. It was full of tradition, for instance, the men got to sit in the kitchen and eat dinner before the women and children.

Aunt Carol had a large box full of old family photos, documents, and newspaper articles. This was the first time Pam had seen many of the photos. She had never really seen an image of her grandmother as a young beautiful woman. One newspaper article was about couples who had been married for a combined 187 years. Her great-grandparents were the youngsters of the group having just been married for 58 years. Pam took cell phone photos of every photo and document, believing this was her one chance to document this history.

On the plane ride back home she read a long transcript of a court case. It involved an auto accident which killed several of her relatives. Back in 1958, the family was driving home from a party in an Oldsmobile. As they approached a curve in the road a truck was approaching from the opposite way. The truck driver looked down for just a moment. The family car drove off the road onto the shoulder to try and avoid the truck but the the truck slammed into the car on the driver's side. The car had its roof peeled back by the bed of the truck which was carrying dozens of cartons of eggs. The driver (Pam's great uncle) and his wife behind him were instantly killed. Pam's grandmother on the passenger side survived along with her children (Pam's father and Aunt Carol). Eggs broke all over the roadway. The story is that the family was rushed to the hospital but when they got there, Pam's father was nowhere to be found. Police returned to the crash site to find the 2 year old boy wedged under a car seat, cold but very much alive. It is hard to imagine a family bouncing back from such a horrific accident.

Aunt Carol decided to give the box of family history documents to Pam, and she is now tasked with sorting through the thousands of new facts and images. That one box of documents is a genealogist's dream come true.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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