The ways my grandparents kept their files over the years was different - my grandmother made albums, labeled them pretty well, and they've been a relatively user-friendly resource over the years. Today, my grandfather pulled out this binder and a pack of college-ruled filler paper, and started showing me letters and photos off the top of the stack from some of our relatives in Slovakia, mostly from the 1980s. So we read letters handwritten and typed in Rusyn and Slovak, and looked at pictures, mixed in with photos of his parents, grandparents, and cousins, obituaries, commemorative prayer cards, and other newspaper clippings. Instead of being accompanied by a label, every piece has its story - which begets another story. For example, those of you who know Svidník and that horrible old rusted-out former hotel - looking at a photo of the funeral of his aunt with that building in the background caused a short and parenthetical discussion of the current bedbug epidemic the world is experiencing. In the meantime, Aunt Nell's in the background, mischievously taking advantage of me sitting and yelling into his good ear to quietly provoke me into asking him the right follow-up questions to get the whole story.
Aunt Nell: Maria, ask him to tell you about his Aunt Helen Zukovich.For a while, I've been thinking about how since Our People are separated by an ocean (and the Schengen Agreement, which is almost as bad), we've always used the best technologies that were available and affordable to communicate and record our lives to share with our far away families -- it used to be letters and photographs, now it's Skype and videos (and still letters and photographs!).
Self: Hey Grandpap, what's the story about your Aunt Helen Zukovich?
Grandpap: She was half crazy! No, she was completely crazy!
Aunt Nell [in the background]: She was alright!
Letters and photographs are what my grandfather has left of his grandparents and parents and most of his relatives and friends. I can also have video to pass along to my potential future offspring and theirs, إن شاء الله, and those photos and letters. Unfortunately by the time he realized I was recording, he wouldn't let me record any more, even as he was telling me about who these people were and how we're related, which is information that will almost certainly die with him.
In the meantime, I'm often fascinated by people's hands, and in this case by the deliberateness of action, as my grandfather creates his/our "archives" with Scotch tape and college-ruled filler paper. I post this, not because I think we're special because we really aren't, but to encourage you to take this sort of action in your family as well.
So after all that introduction, here's the video: