I met a kind, elderly gentleman many years ago. He came to the library where I worked with a box of papers and explained that he was the last person in his family line. His collection of family records had grown from generation to generation, handed down for almost one hundred and fifty years. He thought these materials might be of interest to others since they documented changes to his hometown over time.
“I don’t know if you want these, but my family has deep roots in this area,” he said to me.
His box included letters written home by a great uncle who served in the Civil War, and there was another great uncle writing home from the Gold Rush. He also had the papers of an aunt—a prominent educated business woman at the turn of the twentieth-century, when society discouraged women from being such things.
“It’s okay if you don’t want really want these—they’re just my family stories.”
As an archivist, I hear these words often. “No one wants my stuff,” they say. “My kids don’t want it and no one outside of my family has any interest in it.”