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The Box

Beginning when I was a teenager, I have amassed a tremendous number of genealogy-related books and papers. My home office contains several file cabinets and bookcases filled with materials I use to pursue my research.

A lot of it I inherited a few years ago when my father’s 93-year-old cousin passed away. She, too, was an avid researcher. Her family did not want her library or her work, so I offered to give it a home.

After some time has passed, I have integrated much of our two collections. I am always amazed at what she discovered about our family in the years before the internet. She never used a computer, and all her work lies in paper folders and notebooks. I love digging into them to see what she already had collected when I begin investigating an ancestor.

One of her large boxes, however, remained untouched. Filled with miscellaneous papers, the contents do not fit easily into either of our filing systems. I have kept meaning to empty it one day, but the task seemed daunting. I continued to put it off.

Finally, I have become tired of looking at this box and receiving its silent rebuke. I can no longer procrastinate on the task of cleaning out this box.

I have decided that each evening I am home, I will take one item from the box. Each paper will go into a new or existing file, into the to-do tray, or into the trash. I began this week.

One of the first papers I removed turned out to be a little gem. It was a long-ago letter from a cousin. She was writing about our mutual great-grandfather, Samuel H. Reed (1845-1928), and his activities after his 1904 divorce.

She said he had acquired land in Sayre, Oklahoma that he thought had potential for oil. Fearing that a woman with whom he was involved would make a claim on it, he conveyed the property to some of his grandchildren. Unfortunately, my dad would not be born for another decade, so he missed out.

Following the clue in the letter, I learned that Sayre is in Beckham County, Oklahoma. Family Search has their deed index online. Sure enough, I found my great-grandfather’s name on the index, both when he received the property and when he passed it on to some of my father’s cousins. The public records verify the story told by a relative, and I can request copies of these deeds from the county.

Who knows what else the box contains? At the rate of a few papers a week, it will take me a long time to find out. I hope will find some more treasure in my cousin’s box. Now I have some motivation to clean it out.

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