Friday, November 28, 2008 Aunt Gerry

The Day after Thanksgiving has been suggested as a National Day of Listening - you can see the StoryCorps web page with the concept and the opportunities here.

While I haven't done this myself - telling my own memories on audio or videotape - I have written quite a bit of my autobiography on these pages over the past 30 months or so.

More importantly to me, I've been on the "Listening" end of several audiotapes done by my uncle, Ed Seaver, my aunt, Geraldine (Seaver) Remley, and my aunt, Marion (Seaver) Hemphill, all of whom passed away in the last ten years. Since my father died in 1983, before I really started my family history research, I can only find out about his life, and their parents and grandparents, by listening to his siblings.

I can hear my Aunt Gerry say these words, in her beautiful classical New England accent, about her early years:

"I was born on May 18, 1917, in the upstairs bedroom of 290 Central Street where my mother had also given birth to my brother, Edward, who was next oldest to me, four and a half years older, and where we had lived since before he was born, because my father was superintendent of the manufacturing shop which was next door.

"This house, a rather old one and included in the history of Leominster, both Ed and I have seen a picture of it as being located originally in Monument Square in Leominster, it was subsequently moved down to Central Street next to the shop we always called it, Paton's Manufacturing. My father was given the use of the house rent-free when he took this job. It was a wonderful house for he and mother to have, because there were six children and it was big enough for us and the heat came from the shop next door, it was always warm and comfortable.

"I was born into a family of adults, as they say, the nearest one to me was four and a half years older. I was the seventh child, though one brother had died when he was four and a half years old and I did not know him.

"My paternal grandparents who had lived on Lancaster Street, the dates that you have discovered on the gravestones, my grandfather Seaver died in 1922, my grandmother had died two years before that. Her mother, Sophia Hildreth, did not die until 1923. Those two sets of grandparents, the Hildreths and Seavers, had lived in the same house, as I understand it, but Sophia outlived them all. I was only three years old when Grandma Seaver died and five years old when Grandpa Seaver died, and six years old when my great-grandmother Hildreth died, and my only memory of any of them is of my great-grandmother, and I think it is because she is the one that lived the longest. But also when we used to go over there and visit, I can't remember anything about my grandfather, he evidently was a silent man, and only a slight impression of Grandma Seaver, but I have quite a vivid memory of it was always Grandma Hildreth who was kind and sweet and loving and paid me quite a bit of attention."

That is about two-thirds of one typewritten page from the transcript taken from the three audiotapes I have from Aunt Gerry, made in March of 1991. The transcript is 37 pages! The transcript I have from Uncle Ed is 15 pages, and the one I have from Aunt Marion is 8 pages. I am so fortunate to have these audiotapes and the transcripts. I wish I had even more! Needless to say, having these audiotapes, and having reviewed their photograph albums with them, and after talking to each of them for hours (a most pleasant experience!), I have a fine record of their lives and the lives of their parents and grandparents. I just wish that I had done this with my father also.

My plan is to make some of these "memories" available to my extended family (children, brothers, and cousins) by publishing them in the Seaver-Richmond Family Journal - my 16-page Christmas newsletter to the family.
If you have living relatives - parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, distant cousins, etc., I encourage you to interview them and document your interview with extensive notes, audiotape or videotape/digital tape so that you can capture their memories of their life and the memories told to them by their parents and grandparents. It is a good idea to prepare them for these interviews, and ask them to share their family papers and photographs to help their memory and to get the names and dates right.

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