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25 December 2010

Mary Mettler's Best Christmas Gift Ever

Mary Mettler shared this story of her best Christmas gift ever. Thanks, Mary, for a great story and another idea for where to look for information about ancestors.

Two years ago, I was puttering on my computer, when I received an email from my grandniece, Anna Lindemann, then a senior at Yale. “Aunt Mary, go to this website and find seventy-nine pictures I took for you. You have two weeks to download them. Merry Christmas!” I have no idea how long it took her to locate and take pictures of 79 documents in the Yale University Archives, all of my father who is also her great-grandfather and a 1915 graduate of Yale. These were a treasure trove of information!  I never would have thought to look for anything other than the University yearbooks; however, Yale, and probably other universities, kept a close watch on their graduates and have rich archives of information.

There were birth and marriage announcements for him and his children, newspaper clippings, pictures, a history of the class of 1915 reunions, a questionnaire given to the graduating seniors, and questionnaires for most years from his graduation to his death in 1955. The senior questionnaire was really fun! I learned that he coveted a “Y” in track more than a Phi Beta Kappa key, had the Scott-Hurtt scholarship, loved to watch football and to participate in track, had been to twenty states and was nicknamed “Monty.” (He was born and raised in Kalispell, Montana.) His favorite prose writer was Rudyard Kipling; his favorite poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson; and his favorite historical character, Julius Caesar. It also included where and with whom he lived each of the four years, what classes he had taken and much more. The annual questionnaires showed every address change, each job and job title he had, the dates he served on various boards, what his sons did in World War II, what charitable work he had done and even the charities to which he donated. 

I doubt that I will ever receive a more memorable Christmas present! My father died, when I was seventeen; but I learned so much about him from these documents. Even if you don’t have relatives attending colleges of your ancestors, please do add college archives to your list of valuable genealogical sources. Thank you, Anna, for the best Christmas present I ever received!

Image from Yale University Archives courtesy of Mary Mettler.  

Copyright © 2010 by Kathryn M. Doyle, California Genealogical Society and Library