Family sitting at table with grey haired woman serving a turkey

It’s unfortunate that it isn’t until we grow older that we wished that we had asked our parents, before they passed, for more information on their family history. Why is that? In this post, I’m returning to my list of 19 things to do now if you are a caregiver of a loved one with dementia. Specifically, I’m talking about getting your family history. You can see the other suggestions by clicking on the link below.

Family History i wish i knew more about

My mom kept this book where she would record random thoughts. She called it “Bob’s Olio.” In one of her entries, she mentioned an Aunt Ollie and Uncle Doc who were around when she was younger. When my mom was a small child, Grandma moved Mom and her brothers from Mississippi to a small town in Ohio where this couple lived. I guess this Uncle Doc helped my grandma out when the going got tough.

Early in my mom’s dementia journey, we ventured out one day to the city where she grew up. There’s not much left of the city if you could even call it that. Its heyday was in the 1800s and the population has decreased since then. My goal was to find the cemetery where her grandfather was buried. It didn’t take long to find the cemetery and then the stone for my great grandfather.

searching and putting puzzle pieces together

Fast forward probably 5-6 years and thinking that I wanted to capture something out of Mom’s fading memory while she was still with us, I decided that it was time I tried to find the last name for this Aunt Ollie and Uncle Doc.

Mom and I went back out to the cemetery. We found my great-grandfather’s stone again and this time I took pictures. While Mom stayed at the stone pulling up weeds and the grass that was all but swallowing the stone, I went up and down the rows looking for some name variation that Ollie could be short for.

Lo and behold, I found it!

Gravestone with the names Olive and Dr with their respective birth year and dates of death

The community where Mom grew up was such a small one that I was pretty positive I had the correct couple. The caduceus on the stone helped along with the fact that Dr. was etched on the stone and the woman’s name was Olive.

Why am I telling you about this and giving it as 1 of my suggestions to do NOW? Especially during the holiday season.

Because I want you to be able to tell your children and grandchildren your family history. 

Record it now, while you have family gathered together during the holidays, so it is not lost or you have to piece it together. Because even though I found that gravestone, I still don’t know if that couple was somehow related to my grandma. Was there really a family connection which would explain why Mom called them Aunt and Uncle? At least now I have names that I can research.

I don’t want you to have any regret as I do. Why couldn’t I have been interested in my family history when I was younger and when Mom had a better memory?

other reasons to know your ancestry

For medical purposes. You want to know if there’s any family history of diseases, cancer, any chronic conditions, or any other health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Any history of mental health problems? For your deceased relatives what was their age and cause of death?

What countries did your relatives come from? This is important for medical reasons as well but it also gives you a sense of your identity. Who were your ancestors? What did they do? What was their life like?

Photos of family gatherings during the holidays with historical family photos

Act Now, Don't Put it Off

If you are a caregiver for a loved one with dementia and if you haven’t done this already, start asking for information on family members of the past. Either write it down or record it.

Label those Family Photos As Well

While you’re at it, don’t forget the family photo history. Make sure those are labeled. Don’t be like me and end up throwing away lots of photos because you didn’t have information on them and your parent wasn’t around any longer to help provide that info.

You can find out what I did, here in this post, with many of my old family photos. It was sad. 

Other sources of information: