Have I referred in previous entries to how stories - and the assembly of stories into books - keep coming at me? I must have done. The phenomenon is most peculiar. I see a piece of family history and it starts calling me, telling me that it wants me to make it accessible to the extended family. This is why my list of family history projects seems never to shorten: for every project I finish, two more pop up.
I know I have mentioned arranging with the Saskatchewan Archives Board to have copies made of many of the Hinde Family memorabilia, documents and pictures which were donated to it by my father's sister and sister-in-law. My sister Mary and I did this several years ago, and while I made immediate use of some of the material in the books I was working on, or the material itself demanded its own book, several other items were simply put aside. And now the put-aside items are surfacing, making their own demands. One of them is a little notebook given to my uncle Leonard by his grandfather, my great-grandfather, in 1900 when my uncle was seven years old. This is the great-grandfather, Henry Thomas Wake, whose book I completed, printed and bound only weeks ago...
Clearly, from its content, that little notebook was used by several people over the course of a number of years, starting with Uncle Leonard who in a childish hand entered the names of all the flowers he knew, or saw, or identified. A younger, scrbbling hand overlies some of the entries, with "Harry" in rough block letters. Leonard's brother Harry was born in 1902, so this puts his "entries" at perhaps 1905. On the last pages there is a list in the same childish hand of birds, this time very heavily scribbled over by a much younger hand. There is a list in an adult hand of chores, tasks to be done. When he was about eight, Uncle Leonard was at boarding school; this list seems to have come from that time. There are pages of the English addresses of several of Uncle Leonard's relatives, evidently written in 1911, shortly before Uncle Leonard and his older sister Edith came to Canada,a year ahead of the rest of the family. There are lists of expenditures made by Leonard's younger sister Elsie when in 1923 she visited her sister Winnie, travelling from Saskatchewan to Iowa, and lists of gifts for the family when she was heading home a year later.
And there is more. Every page speaks of the life of a family a century ago. Every page requires footnotes to interpret what is written. When I started transcribing the notebook I thought merely how nice it was to have this evidence of Uncle Leonard's childhood. Now I see that it is a document of family history in its own right, filled with intriguing evidences of that family's life.
And so it is that an innocuous child's notebook becomes yet another project. Last week I exchanged emails with a granddaughter of Uncle Leonard, my first cousin once removed. She keeps a Treasure Chest of her parents' and grandparents' memorabilia, and asked for an attachment copy of the Henry Thomas Wake book which I send her yesterday. Now I will tell her that in due course there will be more to come - her grandfather's notebook, first written more than a century ago.