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Family History Research and Two 1917 Poems

Updated on June 19, 2014

Family History Research is a Journey

When Ma is Sick

When Ma is sick she pegs away;
She's quiet, though, not much t' say.
She goes right on a-doin' things,
An' sometimes laughs, or even sings.
She says she don't feel extra well,
But then it's just a kind o' spell.
She'll be all right tomorrow sure,
A good old sleep will be the cure.
An' Pa, he sniffs an' makes no kick,
For women folks is always sick.
An' Ma, she smiles, lets on she's glad—
When Ma is sick, it ain't so bad.

—Scoville Bulletin, 1917.

(Author Unknown)

Be sure you scroll down after you read this hub, so you can see how different things are when Pa is sick!

The first time I saw the poem, When Ma Is Sick , and the poem, When Pa Is Sick , was in my Great Aunt Edith’s scrapbook which came into my possession in the 1980’s. Since that time, I have searched on the world wide web for an author of each poem, but I only find the notations that the authors are unknown. (If you find or know differently, please contact me.)

Aunt Edith was born in 1885 at Lumsden, Saskatchewan. That’s in Canada, folks. It’s one of the prairie provinces in the center of Canada. It’s beautiful there in the spring, summer and fall. The winters are harsh, icy and white.

Aunt Edith lived a good, full life. She married, but not too young.

I enjoyed looking through my Aunt Edith’s scrapbook many times during the 1980s. Even though she had not written anything in her own handwriting, I could sense some aspects of her personality through the items she chose to place in the scrapbook. She was especially fond of flowers. She had several floral postcards taped onto the pages. She had pressed flowers within the pages, too. They crumbled like ashes as I turned each page.

The poems entitled When Ma is Sick and When Pa is Sick were clipped from a newspaper in the 1920’s. In those days, newspapers did not have the resources they do today to get world news. So the editors put in all kinds of folksy things such as poems and commentaries. Another mainstay of newspapers in the 1800's and 1900’s was the use of biographical sketches of families in the locality of the newspaper. Today these biographical sketches can be very useful to both amateur and professional genealogists. The biographical family sketches are not completely accurate because they are not based on primary records such as a family Bible or government birth, marriage and death records or photocopies of church records, but still, they can hold some very good clues. These clues can be a starting point for genealogical research of one's family.

Pansies Bring to Mind Memories of my Grandmother

Photo courtesy of My grandmother's garden was beautiful.
Photo courtesy of My grandmother's garden was beautiful.

The Search For Information on a Lineage is Exciting

With so much genealogical information available online these days, much of what we need is at our fingertips. We can do our sleuthing from the comfort of our den or livingroom. For example, the world's largest repository of genealogical records is in Utah under the Granite Mountain. The records are available for research to anyone in the world. The records are being digitized by many thousands of volunteers and you or I can look at the records online. Have a look by going to and then in the middle of the screen, press on See Prototype for Searching Millions of Records . The total digitization process of all the records will take another few years. However, the records that are not yet digitized can be ordered on microfiche through any meetinghouse library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Members and non-members are welcome to do research at the family history libraries throughout the world.

Three decades ago, when I was searching out my Canadian-born ancestors, I contacted the Public Archives of Canada. Nobody had computers in those days. Correspondence was sent through the Canadian Post Office. It was exciting to wait with anticipation and finally receive a reply with hundreds of names and dates I needed.

The Public Archives of Canada held all the records I needed to get started -- including biographical sketches, land records and copies of letters. Soon I was able to use the clues from the Public Archives to know where to search -- which corporation, government office or church to contact. My searches eventually led to the knowledge that some of my great-great-great-great-great grandparents had been early settlers in the 13 colonies of early America. Working backwards on those lineages and also my mother’s lineages, I found that my ancestors had hailed from diverse cultures in England, Ireland, Belgium, Prussia, Russia, Germany and India.

The scrapbook of my great aunt’s was given to me by my father. Soon he became interested in helping with the genealogical research and for at least twenty years he carried out very analytical and successful searches on a few of our ancestral lineages.

All my Great Grandmothers and Great-Great Grandmothers Had Gardens

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

I wish my great aunt had left some journal entries for us. She could have written about her daily life, the ups and downs of marriage, the culture around her; anything and everything that interested her. Still, I am grateful that she did at least keep a scrapbook so that I could look through it, read the various articles and poems, and let my imagination take me to the time and place where she lived in Saskatchewan.

That’s the wonder of it all. When we delve into learning whatever we can about our ancestors, we gain a love for them. We don’t necessarily need the material or physical things they left behind such as a scrapbook. We can feel a closeness and an understanding of them. We can appreciate that they lived life – as we have to – and they probably did their best -- most of the time. I look forward to meeting every one of my ancestors one day.

Some of my favorite verses in the Bible (King James Version) are the last two verses in the last chapter of the last book in the Old Testament. (Malachi 4: vs 5 and 6.)

I love to learn about my ancestors: who they were, how they lived, who they loved and how they served. This is my introductory hub to the subject of the exciting things we find and the sacred feelings we experience when we search out our kith and kin.

They have only gone ahead.

Postscript: I think Great Aunt Edith liked these two poems -- When Ma Is Sick and When Pa Is Sick. When I read these poems, I can't help but chuckle and say, "Ain't that the truth?"

When Pa is Sick

When Pa is sick, he’s scared to death

And Ma and us just hold our breath.

He crawls in bed an’ puffs an’ grunts

And does all kinds of crazy stunts.

He wants the doctor and mighty quick!

For when Pa’s ill, he’s awful sick!

He gasps an’ groans an’ sort o’ sighs.

He talks so queer an’ rolls his eyes.

Ma jumps an’ runs an’ all of us

An’ all the house is in a fuss.

An’ peace and joy is mighty skeerce.

When Pa is sick it’s somethin’ fierce!

(Author Unknown)

What reminds you of your grandparents?
What reminds you of your grandparents? | Source
Flowers and bushes, vegetables and fruits remind me of my paternal grandmother.
Flowers and bushes, vegetables and fruits remind me of my paternal grandmother. | Source

© 2010 Pamela Kinnaird W

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