If you are new here, you might not know that this beautiful woman is my maternal grandmother. Her name was Hermila Lidia Salinas Alba, affectionately known as Guelita to our family.
How I loved Guelita. I still do.
I don't know what first started Guelita's interest in family history, perhaps like me the stories of her ancestors was part of her everyday life. Perhaps this drive started after the murder of her beloved father when she was thirteen years old. (you can read more here: a simple notebook and then here: the importance of writing your history). She loved her father and maybe in the grief of his death, she poured over his possessions which included a simple black notebook in which he wrote the important birth and death dates of his family. No matter the reason she seems to have been driven to document the genealogy of her ancestors at an early age.
She started by recording the information she knew about the people whom she loved and remembered. Then she started filling in other family members information. Her steno notebooks seemed to be an extension of her as she always had one, perhaps in case, she happened upon new information. She was known to have searched out the records in a church and write down all the information of the people who had the same last name. Not knowing if they were directly related, but knowing that this might be her only opportunity to get the information in this place. She would then puzzle through the names and dates putting families back together again.
She spent countless hours in the family history library pouring over microfiche and microfilms searching for the missing child of someone. I can remember hearing her excitement as she would tell me about someone who had been lost and was suddenly found. I didn't know who she was talking about, but I knew it was important to her and she loved them. I also had no understanding why finding a date was like winning the lottery for her.
Guelita would then sit at fill in the information into family group sheets. She would tape handwritten notes to certain papers. I wish I had asked her more about it when her mind had not be ravished by Alzheimer's. I wish I had cared more when I was younger, I have so many questions for her now. I remember her sorting families and pages. I remember her talking about the who and why, but I didn't really listen. She was trying to share with me the importance of the one, the individual, but I was young and had more important things to think about or so I thought.
When I look at this picture and think about all the hours and hours search and organizing, I wonder at all that she accomplished without the aid of a computer. Can you imagine what she could have done with FamilySearch as it is today?
My growing up was filled with temple cards; family members would come and ask for some or she would ask others for her. How she kept track of who had what cards was amazing because there were temple cards all over the country with cousins, aunts, and uncles. She would be so happy when they were returned with the work completed.
Guelita taught me that temple card were more than just names. They were people, people who were special to Guelita. She not only knew their names and how we were related, but she knew their lives. She was connected to them in a way I am just beginning to understand.
A couple of years before my grandfather died, Guelito, her biggest champion, and supporter, she asked me if I could take a picture of her genealogy closet. She had one large closet filled with her life's work. Over 25,000 names, people's lives filled the shelves and books in her closet.
Even as I took the photos, I didn't comprehend the magnitude of what she had accomplished. See for Guelita family came first. She was always there for us. Each of her many grandchildren knew we were her favorite. Genealogy was part of her, but like everything she did her motives were about love.
It is that same kind of love that has driven my parents to digitally import all the information on her family group sheets. Countless hours poured over the names of our family and as mom and dad added the information they have been able to fill in and find the missing information about our family that we thought was lost forever from fire or floods.
This newest FamilySearch record release of the 60 million Mexcian records (you can read more about it here and here) has been invaluable to my family. Missing families have been found. Holes that we never thought would be filled are now being closed with the help of these records. To say that this is a blessing is an understatement. I couldn't imagine that we had much more work to do, but my parents alone (this doesn't include that work that uncles and aunts are doing) are finding more people and filling in our tree at a pace that we can not keep up with the temple ordinances. We release names into the temple system on a regular basis.
So those of you who have helped to make this possible thank you.
I thank you when I see the signature of one of my ancestors for the first time.
I thank you when I get an early morning text from my mother saying she couldn't sleep, so she followed a record hint that leads her to cousins or an aunt.
I thank you when I get a message from an aunt sharing a recent discovery from one of the records.
I thank you when I sit in the carpool lane, and through the family tree mobile app, I can learn the stories of my ancestors from the records that I search.
I thank you for Guelita.
Can you imagine what she could have accomplished with the click of a mouse and all these new records?
I thank you for my children and grandchildren.
I am the record keeper in my family, and a new chapter is being written.