While the rest of the world celebrates Valentine’s Day with chocolates and roses, here at Family Tree, we’re marking the occasion with a tribute to ancestral couples. Read on to learn why our staffers are sweet on these photos—and our related research tips for gleaning more information about couples in your own family tree.
1. Study military history.
My paternal grandparents, Ralph and Alice (Essel) Stacy, attended Ohio State University in the 1940s, then got married in 1944 just before Grandpa shipped off to the European theater in World War II. I adore this photo of them “studying” together on Valentine’s Day 1943.
My grandfather didn’t like to talk about the war, so I’m trying to learn about his experience through other sources. I recently discovered that his unit, the 99th Infantry Division, has a historical society with a newsletter and a website containing photos, history and more. Your military relative’s unit might have a historical society, too—try a web search on the name of the division plus historical society. And check out our favorite sites for military histories and records.
» Allison Dolan, Family Tree Publisher
2. Separate fact from fiction.
My grandparents Carl and Dorothy (Ashford) Davies agreed about their affection for each other, but never about the story of how they met. Their tale is an excellent example of how you can’t take oral history as gospel — but how it can enrich your understanding of your family’s history. Read my post Family Fact Fiction: Two Sides to Every Love Story to learn how I deconstructed this bit of family lore.
» Vanessa Wieland, Family Tree University Instructional Designer
3. Go to work records.
These are my maternal great-grandparents, Mamaw and Papaw (aka Pearl and Howard Habig), with my young grandfather. Pictured here in about 1930 when they were in their 20s, Papaw sits in a wheelchair as a result of a work-related injury that left him paralyzed. Mamaw was 15 or 16 at the time, and cared for Papaw the rest of her life while he ran a trucking company from an office next to their home. By the time I was 5 years old, Papaw had lost his legs to diabetes, but had acquired a motorized chair. One of my fondest memories was standing on the pedals of that chair while he drove us down the sidewalk from the house to the office, while Mamaw tended her roses in the yard.
Whether they ran their own company like my great-grandparents or worked in a factory, mine, office or other occupation, learning about your ancestors’ jobs can add wonderful color to your family tree. Consult our “Job Hunting” guide for pointers and resources for researching your ancestors’ employment.
» Julie Barnett, Family Tree Senior Designer
4. Get in character.
My grandparents Barbara and Donald Muenchen posed for this picture at a wedding reception in the 1980s. My grandfather died five years before I was born, so I never got to know him. But this picture helps me humanize him. He looks like he’s in the middle of some joke, straightening his tie and thinking he had a couple more seconds before the camera flashed. The two married when my grandmother was only 18, and they raised eight children together.
Wouldn’t you like to learn about the personalities of ancestors you never met? See this roundup of seven resources that can help you learn what they were really like.
» Andrew Koch, Family Tree Books Editor/Content Producer
5. Make marry.
This is my grandparents’ first photo together, taken in 1946 before they were married. Grandpa had returned from the war in October or November the year before, and they met one day when Grandma and her mom were having lunch after seeing a picture show.
Documenting marriages is a key step in building a family tree. The further back in time you go, however, the more forms marriage records might take. Review these 12 types of marriage records to start exploring the possibilities.
» Diane Haddad, Family Tree Magazine Editor
We’d love to hear the stories behind your favorite photos of ancestral couples—post them on our Facebook page or email us. And don’t forget to record those stories for posterity. Our Family Tree Memory Keeper and Story of My Life guided journals are great tools for capturing these treasured pieces of family history that don’t show up in records.