In an extreme example of the perils of letting household filing pile up, I found my grandfather’s birth record over the weekend.
Over the last few years, I’d put some effort into figuring where he was born. It was mysterious to me because the census records said he was born in Oregon, yet his residence was always Washington. My father, his son, had no recollection of any family history in Oregon. Two years ago, I blogged about it when I discovered a birth announcement in a Portland paper. At that time I said I had written away to the state archives for a copy of the birth certificate. Alas, I received a letter from the Oregon Health Authority saying that no birth record was found.
Fast forward to October 2015. I decided to stop ignoring a pile of household filing that had been sitting on top of the file cabinet for a long time. They were mostly paid bills, some records of home repairs, things like that. I file pretty consistently, I had just let this pile happen slowly over time when I had items that would take a little extra effort to file. I’d gone without touching it for some time. It had become part of the landscape.
I set my timer for ten minutes and filed. Some of the items had aged out, so I could just throw them away. It took four or five ten-minute sessions over a couple of days before I reached the bottom and, to my embarrassment (I’m a professional organizer!), I realized that the items at the bottom of the pile were set there in 2007.
Among them was a file marked with my parents’ address. In it were some documents I had snagged when cleaning out their file cabinet in 2007. I remember that epic file-cabinet clearing. My parents had saved decades’ worth of certain paid bills. There were home purchase documents and some fun records, like the hospital bill for my birth in 1962 ($261.30), which was also in the file in my filing pile. But the real gem was a certified copy of my grandfather’s birth record, issued in 1944. Apparently there was never an actual birth certificate, since this copy was based on “affidavit and documentary evidence.”
In 2007, when I saved that document from being shredded with the rest of my parents’ old records, I was interested in genealogy. But wasn’t working on it properly or seriously. I knew enough to save that birth record, but I wasn’t interested enough to file it away properly or even remember ever having seen it.
Needless to say, I was delighted, if a little chagrined, to find it. I’ve added it to the source list in my family tree software. I’ve scanned it and filed it electronically and filed the copy among my paper files. It’s now safe and sound where it belongs.
Are there any piles or files in your home that might reveal some genealogical treasures? It might be worthwhile to catch up on your filing!