by Pam Pacelli Cooper
President, Verissima Productions
I was born less than 70 years ago. What if I were to tell you that I carry with me memories that are 200 years old? Read on to find out how that became possible.
Two weeks ago, I responded to Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge to write about one ancestor a week for 52 weeks with a blog about my great grandmother, Isabel Hero Bradshaw Parker, whom I credit with my love of history.
This week, I am responding to weeks 2 and 3 (your favorite picture and Longevity) together with a picture of 5 generations of my family and with one of the women in that picture—Mary Ann Hamilton (1805-1910)—who lived to be 105 years old.
My great grandmother is at the top, represented as the great grandchild of Mary Ann Hamilton Boicourt. Her son, Robert is the great great grandchild of Mary Ann.
Mary Ann went to live with her daughter Katherine Allison Boicourt in Kansas in 1897, right around the time that my great grandmother was a young bride, living with her Mary Ann’s granddaughter Mary Louise Boicourt Parker. Five generations living near one another in Kansas!
By the time I knew my great grandmother, she was near 80, but when she talked about Mary Ann Hamilton, she spoke as if she were still in her 20’s. Her voice was filled with awe, as she described this woman who knew every Methodist prayer and hymn by heart, who spun her own cloth, who moved from Virginia to Indiana, to Illinois to Kansas in the span of one lifetime. Great grandmother was politically aware, too, and mentioned the anti-slavery stance Mrs. Hamilton Boicourt had taken, with three of her sons serving in the Union Army.
Thanks to great grandmother, I now hold these stories in my memory bank, and through beginning to do genealogical research, I am now able to corroborate some of what my great grandmother told me through census records and newspaper articles.
Here are two quotes from her obituary in The Ottawa Evening Herald, Saturday March 10, 1910:
When the war came, three of the boys enlisted in the army [Union]…Governor Yates, the war governor of Illinois, paid a personal tribute to Mrs. Boicourt for her patriotic service in sending her sons to the Union cause…
Mrs. Boicourt was endowed with a splendid vitality and a most remarkable memory and was familiar with and able to recount stirring events not only of Kansas history but of the pioneer life in central Illinois which was a wilderness at the time she located there. Mrs. Boicourt recalled incidents of the War of 1812 and had a vivid personal recollection of Abraham Lincoln whom she often met [as a young lawyer in Illinois].
As memoirists and personal historians, we often despair when an elderly person passes away, their memories unrecorded. What we often forget to do is seek out the younger person who listened to the stories of their elders. We can record them. Then, with the ever-growing genealogical resources available to us, we can prove or disprove, prune or enhance, those stories.
Stop and think: Do you carry stories from an elder’s memories that you have yet to record? Do you know someone else in the family who does? You can still save them. The memory bank of your family is probably much deeper than you think.
Verissima Productions will be happy to help you record your memories or the memories of your elders in video or print. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org