A few days ago I was challenged to think of inheritances — and what mine will be.

Money? Not a concern. The few dollars left after settling the estate may pay for a lunch out for my siblings and I.

No, my inheritance will be the fragile photos currently stashed in boxes, and jealously guarded by mom. A few are originals, fragile, and one-of-a-kind. Others in black and white, or in color of most recent family members, events.

Dozens of folders, categorized by family names and filled with the results of her paper trail, stored away in a chest-of-drawers and in a dresser.

My mother is a hoarder and this penchant for having it all spilled into her genealogy. Years and hours spent at the local genealogy centers, mailing requests for the information she cannot sleuth for, census forms, family trees in triplicate and quadriplicate.

Overwhelming. Confusing. Intriguing.

So what is my inheritance? The more time I spend with my mom, the more I see what a rich inheritance I will gain from her — in appreciation of family and the past.   She has collected so much information, it bewilders even me, the historian.

So many familial branches, so many people, and things to keep figured out. But I love the challenge –even as she does. The searching for the small details that not only tell the birth and death dates such as the great great great grandfather who lost his wife and their youngest daughter to tuberculosis. The documents don’t tell of his broken heart, but a letter to his brother spells out his desperate decision to snatch what money he could from their family inheritance and bring some of his remaining children and a new wife to America. Where he hoped they would not die of tuberculosis.

The detailed family line that spells out our connection to the throne-seeking launcher of the Battle of Hastings and to a descendant who was born on the wrong side of the blanket. Illegitimate, in other words, and that fact got him kicked out of the royal family line up.

Pictures of a cheeky 14 year old, my great grandmother whisper of our Native American inheritance. Censuses that spell out where families lived and what their occupations such as “farmer” and ‘homemaker/at home” were in a given year.

Another record that shows a Quakeress ancestor jailed for her faith before being allowed to emigrate to the United States.

So many rich, telling details. Mom’s passion for possessing”it all” has created a rich inheritance indeed, Some day I will serve as its curator, and as a writer/historian wrestle the thousands of details into a book for future generations to keep.

(C) 2016 Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

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