Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Guests

Angels & Ancestors Tree
Every holiday season I invite our relatives for a visit to the Beck family ancestral home that my husband and I have restored.  They all arrived last week, both of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.  Because so many elderly unmarried aunts are forgotten at the holidays, we invite them too, as well as some of our young nieces and nephews.  With all of our pets scattered among them, it is quite a crowd.  I've never actually counted, but there must be fifty or more. 
In case you haven't guessed, our holiday guests arrive as photographs, and rather than finding beds for everyone, I find the perfect place on our Christmas tree.  When we restored the Victorian farm house built in 1899 by my great-grandmother Susan and her son Royal, I decided it needed a Victorian Christmas tree.  I was lucky to find some Victorian picture frame ornaments perfect for what I had in mind, and that was the beginning of our "Angels & Ancestors Tree."  The Victorian theme was enhanced by candle lights and cut-glass globes, and I planned a color scheme of crystle, gold and silver.  Then I began collecting beautiful angel ornaments. 
Aaron & Susan Beck w/ daughter Anna at upper left

The tree goes up as soon after Thanksgiving as I can convince my husband to help me assemble it, and it remains well into the New Year.  Every ancestor from six generations of whom I have a photograph is on the tree, along with other special relatives and all of our past pets.  Our young nieces and nephews are among the relatives on the tree, in hopes that discovering their pictures will encourage them to ask questions about their own ancestors. 
Royal & Lillian Beck w/ Geo. & Theresa Hall upper left
 Although he is not a relative, I wish I had a picture of Isaac to add to the tree.  I would hang his ornament near my Beck and Hall great-grandparents so these old friends would be nearby.  Someplace not too far away I would hang the pictures of my paternal grandparents, both of whom Isaac knew.  In his journal, Isaac wrote about how efficiently young Royal Beck handled a transaction at the post office when his father, the postmaster, was away the afternoon that  Isaac needed to mail important documents.  The only family to whom Isaac mentions having loaned some of his precious books and stereoscope views was the Aaron Beck family.  Isaac was also close friends with the George Hall family.  In his final illness, Isaac stayed with the Halls for a time and would perhaps have been cared for by my 15-year-old paternal grandmother, Lillian Hall.

Larry & Lyn Fenwick
The farm house is filled with memories--not only my own memories but also the memories shared with me by my parents, my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  My genealogy research sometimes makes it seem as if I knew ancestors who died long before I was born.  Even Isaac added to that store of memories in his journal entries about my ancestors. 
I don't really believe in ghosts, but I do like to imagine that the family and friends who shared important events at our farm over the years, both happy and sad, might somehow know that we have rescued the old farm house in which dinners, parties, wakes, holidays, announcements, romances, loud laughter, and shared secrets occurred.  There may not be ghosts in the old farm house, but at Christmas every year, their spirits are remembered. 


Kim said...

What a great idea! Your tree is both beautiful and meaningful. I love Christmas trees packed with memories. Merry Christmas!

Talya Tate Boerner said...

I love this ancestor tree idea!

D B said...

I am sure that I have a bias since my picture hanging somewhere with the rest of the Beck ancestors, but I have thought since the first time I saw the tree that it is a great tribute to family.

The Blog Fodder said...

What a great idea. I love the angels and ancestors theme. In my case they would certainly be two separate categories.