Pay It Forward

I’ve mentioned before that I like to frequent estate sales.  There are always interesting items to be found and as I wander through the sales I often wonder what the person who owned the items being sold was like.  I’ve brought D1 and most-wonderful-mother-in-law to “the dark side” with me and they have begun going to the estate sales as well, sometimes with me and sometimes on their own.  More often than not we leave the estate sales with nothing.  Occasionally we’ll find things we can use and sometimes, just sometimes, we discover a little bit of treasure.  D1 has gotten very good at helping me look for treasure to use in my genealogy or on my blog.  My second post for the blog was a treasure discovered at a sale and I’m currently working on researching another discovered not long ago.  I hadn’t brought most-wonderful-mother-in-law in on the game of find-the-genealogy/blog-treasure.  It just hadn’t occurred to me since she and D1 always went together and D1 knew to look for items I could use.  But she has proven to be good at discovering treasures for me without even trying.

About a week ago we stopped in at a special sale one of our favorites had advertised.  It was being held in an old assisted living facility and I’d been told it contained a hodge-podge of items belonging to the facility and possibly belonging to the former residents of the facility.  The sale was huge.  There were rooms upon rooms of…stuff.  Medical beds sat next to tables of books which sat next to boxes of records and on and on throughout most of the first floor of the facility.  D1 told me the day before the sale had been even bigger.  I was shocked with how much stuff was for sale.  Most of it was nothing useful in my world.  We spent a couple of hours there each of us finding a little bit of something.  I’d decided to purchase an interesting homemade scrapbook (which I plan to post about at a later date) and was considering a very interesting CPT Pilot Rating Book.  The rating book belonged to a Robert Price Hays.  I have to admit I wish it belonged to one of my ancestors.  What a great piece of history.  It showed his progression through his pilot’s training, complete with comments about him and his performance and signatures of his instructors and Mr. Hays himself.

While I was taking time to consider whether to purchase the book or not I was looking through a box lid of pictures and other paper items and we were talking about genealogy, my blog, “lost” pictures and genealogy items like the ones we were looking at and how sad it was that those items might never be reunited with interested parties.  This wasn’t the first time I’d gone through that box and I kept coming back to a couple of newspapers that were in there.  I was looking at one of the papers when most-wonderful-mother-in-law discovered a nice little treasure.  In between a couple of pictures she discovered a souvenir marriage certificate.

It was when she found that marriage certificate that something clicked and I realized there were some connections within this box…and also to that CPT Pilot Rating Book.  The newspapers I’d been reading were from the area the bride and groom were from…

…and the groom was the same person who had owned the rating book.  And while I was intrigued, what cinched my decision to buy the group of items was the date listed on the marriage certificate.  The couple on the certificate had gotten married the exact same day D1 and I had gotten married…67 years earlier.  I couldn’t leave it there after making that discovery.  I knew I just had to buy the items I could identify as having belonged to Mr. Hays.  I grabbed up the two newspapers, the marriage certificate and the rating book and began looking at the pictures in earnest, hoping to find a picture to go with the treasures I had so far.  Alas, many of the pictures were unmarked and there were so many I couldn’t justify purchasing them all.  None of the photos could be identified as Mr. Hays or anyone related so we left the sale with our treasures.

So what to do next?  I had these items that didn’t belong to me.  I knew people had been reunited with items of genealogical interest by others but I’d never thought to do it myself.  I had plans to go to the Midwest Genealogy Center the next weekend so when I went I took the information with me and sat down to see if I could locate someone who might be interested in the items I’d discovered.  But where to look?  I decided to check out to see what I could find on there.  I hoped to locate a post on one of the message boards or a family tree which I could use to contact someone but for all I knew it would be a longshot.  I hadn’t had much luck finding information on Mr. Hays himself.  I’d tried Find A Grave with no luck for him or his wife.  But one of the newspapers had an obituary for his father and that’s where I decided to look.  I entered my search terms and Ancestry spit a number of hits back at me.  Among them were over 5,000 family tree hits.  WOW!  I opened up the search results and was completely overwhelmed.  How did I know which one would be the right choice to contact?  I began clicking through the trees to see if I could find a direct descendant of Mr. Hays’ father when one tree in particular stood out to me.  The tree owner wasn’t the direct descendant but was close enough that I felt comfortable contacting the owner to see if they were interested in the pieces I’d purchased.  I posted a message to Mr. Hays’ father’s entry on the tree and hoped for a response.

I didn’t have to wait long.  The next day I had a message in my inbox from a very excited genealogist.  I’m happy to report that I’ve made arrangements to send the tree’s owner the documentation I purchased from the estate sale.  I can’t help but wonder what Mr. Hays might say about this situation.  I like to think he’d be happy to have his personal items reunited with his descendants.  Everyone wants to leave a legacy after all; everyone wants to be remembered.  It’s a good feeling to be able to reunite these documents with the family they belong to and I’m now on the lookout for my next genealogical find.

Pay it forward baby!

About Danni 116 Articles
Join me on my genealogical journey where I hope my experiences, discoveries, mistakes, and successes will help you on your journey. We'll throw in some bits of history for a little flavor and that is what makes up Talking Box Genealogy.

1 Comment

  1. Outstanding act of kindness!! It's such a great feeling to be able to give someone a piece of their own family history, especially when they do appreciate it! Great story.

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