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Apr 112015

Today would have been my cousin Rosa’s 87th birthday. We lost her last August but she will always linger near in our hearts. Anyone who has an interest in our family history and roots owes a huge debt to her. She spent massive amounts of time and money digging out records to trace our ancestors.  This was well before the internet made these kinds of efforts so much easier.  She was always generous in sharing what she found and is, in large part, responsible for planting the interest in me.

Cousins Rosa and Max about 1955 at our grandparents' farm

Cousins Rosa and Max about 1955 at our grandparents’ farm

When I was just out of college and working outside of Washington, D.C., I made a couple of trips to places in Virginia to run down some information for her.  During that time she sent me a lot of photocopied correspondence from various state and county officials there.  In those days, there were no searchable databases.  You would generally have to send a letter to a county clerk or other official requesting a search for a particular individual.  If you got lucky, you got a letter back saying they had found something and that for some nominal fee they could make a photocopy and send to you.  That new piece of information might lead to your next search and on it would go.  I can’t imagine the patience and determination it required to keep at it – but she did.


Rosa and Max looking over family photos at her home in St. Louis in 2005

Her research and correspondence exhibited the meticulousness of a librarian (which she was).  I can remember when I was a child, her Christmas presents to my sisters and I were *always* books.  My mother always loved her doing that and looking back, I can see that she had put a lot of thought into her selections.  Quite often they were Newberry Medal winners (for children’s books).  I learned that if she gave me a book, it would be something that I would actually enjoy reading.

I also remember fondly the “home movies” that she and husband, Bill, would show us on their visits to Alabama.  I think they were some of the first folks we knew who had a movie camera and projector for personal use.  I particularly enjoyed the ones of their various float trips along rivers in Arkansas.  They also shot a lot of film from family get togethers and somewhere in their collection (I hope Ellen runs across it) is a film of my grandparents on the porch of the family farm near Ardmore.

Living in different parts of the country, I didn’t get to see her as much as I would have liked.  I don’t think anyone loved and valued her family any more than she did and in later years she would make regular trips to check in on aging relatives.  I’m proud to have been able to share the same family with her.

 Posted by at 1:06 pm

  2 Responses to “Happy Birthday to my favorite genealogist”

  1. Thanks for posting this. I too remember Rosa and her yearly books with great fondness.

  2. Thank you Max for your lovely tribute to Mom. I always thought she had a real knack for selecting books just right for my interests, even when I didn’t know what would interest me. I know the video you speak of . I say video because I know it was transferred to VHS. I also know it’s here somewhere. At the time of her memorial I searched for it. I wanted to show it then. I refer to it as the “Watermelon Movie” and it’s my absolute treasure. I’m very frustrated that I can’t put my hands on it. I have not and will not give up the search. I want to digitize it and send you a copy. Alas, time and money are not my friends. I have many boxes of her research and those old home movies as well. I’ll try to find a good way to preserve them. Thanks again for remembering Mom. She loved corresponding with you and I’m glad we are keeping in touch.

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