As a librarian, I've always been cognizant of the books people display in their homes. It immediately tells me a little bit about what is important to them, and a bit of insight can be very useful. Not everyone owns significant book collections, but almost every household has a little collection of some sort. We are a nation of readers, and books have always been a symbol of education and learning - something we have held to great esteem over the centuries. Therefore, a small collection of books is usually valued, no matter how humble the circumstances.
As I started pulling some titles that looked interesting, I was noticing that some were resonating with past information and mysteries that we had heard about over the years. For instance, there was a book about pharmacy....all sorts of chemical compounds that would help in relieving medical conditions. Inside the front cover, was the signature: Horace Schilling, V.S. I smiled at this one because my grandfather had once told me that after retirement from the railroad, grandpa Horace was a sort of jack-of-all-trades, with one of his side professions being something of a local/amateur veterinarian. He remembered that grandma Schilling completely disapproved of this "hobby" because he wouldn't take payment for his services.
Another couple of titles gave me more clues about a family mystery: White Fang and The Official Guide to the Klondyke Country and Gold Fields of Alaska. One of our family photo albums is a combination album. I'm pretty sure it was my great grandmother Ruth, Horace's daughter, that put this album together. It contains photos from both sides of the Schilling/Daniels families. Unfortunately, not everything is labeled, and many times I am unsure which side of the family the photos come from. There are several large photos scattered throughout the album that are clearly from the Alaska/Klondike region.....from around the turn of the century. They are an amazing collection, and I want to investigate further, but have been very uncertain about which side of the family to research for more information. With these two titles being in grandpa Horace's collection, it points me in a Schilling direction, and to the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800s.
So while you're out there, gathering your family history, don't forget about the books! They tell another story besides the one between their covers. Re-connect with your ancestors by reading one of these old titles, and don't forget to flip through the pages! People stuck all sorts of sentimental little keepsakes inside for safe keeping! Or even chose to record the family history in the most unusual places - like my grandmother Ruth did as a young girl. Also, another family history tip: if the collection is too large to keep together, dispersal of a family library is a way to let everyone in the family have a piece of the historical pie. With a collection of this size, there would be one or two titles that would particularly appeal to the interests of each descendant. For instance, I pulled one for my brother because it was about the Boy Scouts, since he had belonged as a youth. If the subjects vary a lot, each person can take a title that helps them relate in a personal manner to the ancestor that came before them.
My days among the dead are pass'd;
Around me I behold,
Where'er these casual eyes are cast,
The mighty minds of old;
My never-failing friends are they
With whom I converse night and day.
With them I take delight in weal,
And seek relief in woe;
And while I understand and feel
How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedew'd
With tears of thoughtful gratitude.
By: Robert Southey
From one of the books in my personal collection: A Thousand and One Gems of English and American Poetry, 1884