Genealogy Tip o’ the Day: Don’t forget the pets!
Dogs, fish, gerbils, parakeets, ferrets, ducks, rabbits, and more. We’ve had them all at one time or another in our household. Some came and stayed for only a short time, but many stayed a lifetime and became just like family. Well, perhaps I should rephrase that and say ‘became family’!
Indeed, often times our family pets become so tightly integrated into our families that they seem to become more than just a household pet.
These animals can also take on almost mythical proportions as the stories of their feats and foibles continue to be related between and amongst family members and families.
So it was with all these thoughts racing around in my mind that I happened across an old family photo. You can see it below.
I immediately fell in love with this picture, not only as a period piece but for all the relatives sitting around the pool. I was tagging the photo for inclusion in our electronic family tree I keep on MyHeritage.com, when I noticed the dog. At first I thought it was my dog, Skippy, but then realized it was too large and too light. After a bit more thinking, I realized it was my cousin’s dog. They had him for ages and he was as much at home at our house as he was at my aunt and uncle’s home two doors up the street. It took me even longer to remember his name and oh, how I was determined not to miss adding that name on that photo.
The more I struggled to recall that dog’s name the more I realized how important it was to me to remember it. He must have live almost a quarter of his life at our house, joined us on family vacations, and much more. As I ruminated on this name, I began to riffle through other photographs on our tree and noticed that in only one instance had I noted the name of a family pet. It surprised me. Here were dozens and dozens of photos of family with their precious pets included and I had missed the opportunity to add their names!
It got me thinking of another time I had realized the power of pets in our families.
It happened during a recent family holiday gathering. I had occasion to talk with a very reluctant elder of our family who believes ‘the past is the past and who cares?’ I told her, I care! But all my effort got me was nowhere fast. This had happened on several of our previous meetings as well.
Then this time, I struck on a new idea! Rather than ask about old family members I asked her about family pets! Did she have any? What did she have? What was her favorite? Did she have any funny pets? Did her folks like her pets? How about her siblings?
Kaboom! The floodgates opened and the stories poured forth. It was awesome. And you know what? Every story, while focused on a pet, held untold wonderful anecdotes and stories about the people involved too. It was marvelous.
This all came together and convinced me to begin being diligent in documenting and recording family pets.
So now, while they might not have a place in our family tree equal to the humans there, I am making space and time for our wonderful pets.
They, and their stories, deserve to be remembered too!
Oh, and just in case you were wondering. My cousin’s dog’s name was Laddie 🙂
Onward To Our Past®