We recently met distant relatives of my husband who reside in Australia. They have spent several decades researching the family tree and wanted to ask details about our branch. I pulled out a couple of shoe boxes containing photos collected by Phil’s Aunt Joan who died five years ago. While we recognised many people from their younger days, there were plenty we didn’t. We appealed to my father-in-law to help solve the mysteries and not only learned their names but also their stories.
When Aunts Joan and Wynn were alive I loved hearing their tales of wartime New Zealand. They were in their late teens and would get dressed up and wait at the end of the driveway for a lift to dances held at the American bases. An army truck would cruise the neighbourhood collecting girls from the farms keen for a night out of dancing. Wynn even fell in love with a young soldier but at 16 her mother wouldn’t allow her to move to the U.S. After the war Wynn, then Joan traveled to and around post-war Europe. What a thrilling time it must have been for them!
Ray also gave us more detailed background about the immigration of his grandfather. We have a large black and white photo of Grandad Panko hanging in the entrance. He looks like the sort of man you’d like to sit down with over a whiskey. There were long held family secrets and tragedies, but what struck me the most was how much of history was entwined with the stories. The world has changed so dramatically in the last 150 years and the stories of those changes are being lost.
We both have family trees but they only contain the names of ancestors. Now I’m inspired to record the stories behind the names and faces. Chatting with Ray reminded me of the times with my Uncle Lou hearing about the joys and struggles of my Italian immigrant family. They’re all stories that lead to the present and I wonder at where they will lead in future. For now, I’m happy that I can scan and save these photos and easily record and share the stories of the past.