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  • Writer's pictureDiane Mague Stanley


My first family history documentation circa 1990

I wonder how many genealogy journeys begin at funerals? Mine was one such journey that began in the early 1990’s at my grandmother’s wake. After the services, family and friends adjourned to the local American Legion Hall. My father, Harry E. Mague, had always been interested in family history the way he was interested in everything. With a beer in hand, myself peppering him with family origin questions, and my husband scribing, it was a perfectly natural setting to find out more about my paternal side. There were ample siblings and cousins within shouting distance to fill in the details where Daddy was stumped.

I am not sure why I grabbed for the tiny notepad in my purse that day, but the result was a simple transcription of my father’s family knowledge which became the seminal document for my decades-long pursuit of family history. The information gathering step was, before long, repeated for my mother’s side. As valuable as these names were to a budding genealogist, it was the act of writing it down that I remember; the symbolic opening of the family history door.

The simple scraps of paper with hastily written surnames have remained with me for almost 30 years; first they resided in my wallet where they almost had the status (to me) of identification papers, as if I was waiting for someone to ask me who my family was, and I could whip out the scraps of paper to prove it. When I finally realized the significance of the scraps, they immediately graduated to my genealogy file cabinet. While the information is embarrassingly basic, the silly scraps are the first shreds of genealogical documentation that I collected.

I have not looked at the scraps for a few years, but I will pull them out for a quick photo to accompany this post. As I do, I will be reminded of my father and his love of history (family and otherwise), of the family’s sad gathering for my grandmother’s funeral, and of how there was a time when all I knew about my family fit on a few scraps of paper.

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