My wife, “MiLady,” dabbles in genealogy from time to time.
Not long ago, she got very upset when she could not find Internet databases for researching in Manitoba. (That’s where she was born and where most of her ancestors are from.).
After she told me her “brickwall,” she offered to help me with mine. I was happy for the assistance, but after an hour, she gave up on me too.
“There’s a problem with your organizing system,” she said flustered.
“I know,” I replied. “It works!”
“No. No, it doesn’t,” she retorted. “Show me: your great-grandfather’s military records are located where?”
“Over there, in one of those,” I pointed, smiling to a column of six apple boxes.
Her shaking head dropped into her hands.
“If you use coloured file folders,” she said, leaving the room in desperate need of a coffee fix, “you’d find them a lot quicker, Silly.”
My eyes followed her curious departure, as I considered giving it a try.
Within the hour, I was leaving the office supply store having purchased four boxes of hanging folders and some clear plastic banker’s boxes, before hurrying home with some doubts that her primary colour idea might not work in my office.
On the job-site, it was a major excavation: [“This ISN’T gonna work,” my organized mind informed me.].
Digging through reams of paper, I soon discovered there were just too many families to sort out. [“This isn’t going to work,” a sing-songy voice sang between my ears. “Try something else.”].
I decided to investigate a little while longer; it had only been fifteen minutes. And upon closer inspection, some of the papers were as old — and a few older — than me, and that didn’t include the photographs!
[I told you, this wasn’t gonna work, Dum-Dum!” — the sweet singing voice was gone now — “Will you try something else, already?!?”].
Ignoring the insults, I decided that RED would be assigned to the English lines of my paternal grandfather, “Papa John,” and BLUE would be used for the French heritage of my paternal grandmother, Emily (AKA “Gramma Rabbit”).
YELLOW was chosen for my maternal grandmother Grace’s family, who were also English, and GREEN for the English-Irish ancestors of my maternal grandfather, James.
Within half an hour, I examined the floor. My opinionated mind was right; it wasn’t working. I still had a big problem: instead of six apple boxes full of paper, I had four!
“Yes, Miss, it’s me again,” I replied to the young lady at the office supply store checkout. “I didn’t buy enough folders.”
Back home, I tried again. My mind was not of any help by now. He was insulted that I had been ignoring him, and did a Rodney DANGERFIELD rant, part-complaint, part-whine about not being respected. I rolled my eyes, wishing he would shut up and buried myself deeper into the work in front of me.
Apple boxes #3 and #4 had more scraps of paper, photographs and old letters on my maternal grandfather’s relatives. Three more cartons of green folders fixed that up.
Apple box #5 had Xeroxes from genealogy notes belonging to my late in-laws (late first marriage). UELs, DAR/SAR Patriots and 1837 Rebellion supporters abound in this collection – and who knows what else! My oldest son (Junior) will inherit this information; which was transferred into PURPLE folders.
Now, the last apple box had very little in it. Looking over the contents, I wondered why I kept them, but my younger two sons (Captain & Chef) were curious when they were young and they might be again, so everything regarding the in-laws (former second marriage) was kept for them. And staying with the simplified colour scheme, the ex’s family papers were stuffed into a single, BLACK folder!
Six hours from the time I started, I re-examined the floor. Six sweeping arcs covered the carpet like a dazzling rainbow filled with gemstones: ruby reds, citrine yellows, emerald greens, sapphire blues, amethyst purples … and black?
I admitted everything looked neater and easier to access – provided I would not forget what colour was for whom. (No, black would be too hard to forget.).
But, exiting the room with the empty apple boxes was now a chore — that beautiful rainbow had become a colourful and dangerous minefield! One mis-step and I would be getting better acquainted with my ancestors as I would be lying amongst them buried under falling cardboard.
As I barely escaped the life-threatening disaster area, MiLady craned her neck around the door.
“Those are not staying there, are they?” she inquired.
“No, I’ll put them away, Dearie,” I answered, “I’m just junking these old boxes.”
“So?” she lingered, smiling as she inspected her idea so neatly arranged upon the carpet.
“So what?” I asked.
“What colour is mine?”