The first Genealogy Lady was not really a genealogist but my Aunt Helen (Melat) Steffee who I credit with igniting that genealogy spark within me. I don't remember the specific date, but I must have been about 11 or 12 years old--which would be around 1976. During one of her visits to my Grandmother Melat's house, Aunt Helen began recounting this story about our family being connected to William Mallet who was with William the Conqueror when he invaded England in 1066. She talked about a castle that belonged to William Mallett located along the English coast, crumbling into the ocean. I was hooked! (Of course I would eventually figure out that William Mallet and the castle had absolutely no connection to my family. For the record, Aunt Helen was only recounting what she had been told by cousin and family historian Benava (Melat) McAneny. Speaking of Benava, it is a good time to give credit to her and another cousin Mabel (Melat) Manson for their efforts in gathering information on the Melat family decades before I started. Their work provided a solid foundation for all the research I would do on this family--except, of course, for the story about William Mallet and the castle.)
With the spark ignited, I began talking with family members, particularly my grandmothers Kathryn (Hoffman) Melat and Ethel (Redmond) Reese, about what they knew about the family. They endured my pesky questions with a lot of grace, even though most were not the least bit interested--in fact both had family stories they would rather not talk about (subjects for future posts). Since my effort began before I could drive myself I had to rely heavily on the generosity of my mother to take me to visit family, cemeteries, libraries, and courthouses. (I should also take this opportunity to offer an apology to her for my relentless pursuit of genealogy--I am sure there were times when she took me to my destination just so I would stop asking!)
|Oil City Library, Oil City, PA|
|Franklin Library, Franklin, PA|
|Venango County Courthouse, Franklin, PA|
It would be disingenuous of me not to mention that there were also "Genealogy Guys" who helped me along the way: Dennis Armstrong, a fellow family and local historian, taught me the importance of knowing the local history; Bill Poulter, a fellow researcher who volunteered with me on Saturdays in the Heritage Room at the Oil City Library; and Gary Edwards who has been a faithful volunteer at the Heritage Room over the years.
I will remember Mrs. Morrison and all of the Genealogy Ladies (and the Genealogy Guys) fondly and with great respect. They all took the time to help, engage, mentor, and respect me despite my age. And to that end I dedicate the Speaking of Family website and blog to all of them.