“Home Is Where Family History Is,” Ensign, July 1993, 73
As I listened to Lydia, an elderly relative, tell stories of our ancestors, I knew I had come across a vein of gold. But when she led me to a spare bedroom, I found the mother lode. Lydia had turned the room into a small museum. It had oil paintings by family members hanging on the walls. There was a cobbler set and a brass bed that our pioneer ancestors had brought across the plains. The closet was filled with pioneer clothes, and several drawers contained important documents and photographs.
I decided to follow Lydia’s example in my own home so that our heritage would be an integral part of our family’s life. We didn’t have an extra room, and I had few items to put into my family history “museum” when I started—but my collection is growing.
In two bookcases, I display all of my family history books and records. These records include family journals and biographies, my mission scrapbooks, my personal-history audio- and video-cassette tapes. I have about fifty items. I display family mementos here as well. When one of our children makes a gift for my wife or me, I put it in a place of honor for everyone to see.
I also have boxes that I have divided into two categories: distant past and recent past. In the distant-past chests are items of interest from our extended family. These include my mother’s roller skates, my father’s catcher’s mitt, my grandfather’s World War I doughboy helmet, and the police whistle Grandpa used as a deputy sheriff in the early part of the century.
In the recent-past chests, I have mementos from my life: my first baseball mitt and bat, a stuffed doll my grandmother made of socks, and my first toy gun and holster. Each of my children has his of her own chest; we add special items as he or she outgrows them.
I display the finer items in my collection in various places throughout our home. My ancestors had two main homesteads—one in Payson, Utah, and the other in Dedham, Massachusetts. Both homes have been depicted on china plates, in drawings, and in oil paintings. I have our plates on display in our dining room. I hung drawings of the homes on the wall in our family room, next to a sketch of my great-grandfather John B. Fairbanks that was drawn by his artist son. In my living room are two prints of oil paintings by John B. (who was one of Utah’s first native-born artists), and on the bookshelves in my office I have my grandmother’s sewing machine and my grandfather’s hand-crank adding machine.
I want to use my “museum” to share with my children as much knowledge of their heritage as possible. I want to give them what I wanted as a youth—a tie to my past. I want them to feel the excitement I felt when I walked into that spare bedroom long ago and found Lydia’s gold mine of family history.—Martin Fairbanks, Salt Lake City, Utah