Most of the genealogical 'treasures' I've collected over the years have been historical documents - census records, birth, marriage and death certificates, draft registrations, and the like. One of the non-documentary treasures I've come across is the set of photo albums my grandmother owns, with about 800 pictures taken and/or collected by her mother, Rosie Wagner, over the course of 40 years. It's been amazing to go through those old photos and get to know some of my relatives that have long since passed away. It's also shown me where I get my 'shutterbug' drive, as my mom calls it - the desire to take lots and lots of pictures.
But the treasure I want to talk about today is an unusual one. It was never actually owned by my ancestor, as it was created a couple years after his death. But it was held by people who knew him, that served with him in his regiment in the Civil War. And the fact that it's now 111 years old (eleventy-one years, as Bilbo Baggins would say) makes it by far the oldest object in my house. The object I'm referring to is this:
It's a ribbon commemorating the 18th annual reunion of the NY 115th Infantry regiment that served in the Civil War. My 4th-great-grandfather, Alexander Blood Shute, was in that regiment from the time they mustered in early 1862 to the end of the war. He would have seen a lot of battles, and was even captured by the Confederates early on at Harper's Ferry (if I remember the regiment's history correctly). He died in 1897, two years before this ribbon was created. But his fellow soldiers would have met, and maybe shared stories and remembrances of him, at their reunions. And it just hit me that people that probably knew him better than I ever will owned this ribbon. So getting to own this helped me feel a little more connected to this somewhat distant ancestor.
Eventually, I'd like to get something to commemorate all the military heroes in my ancestry - my great-grandfathers Jack Bergstad and Jim Harris who served in WWI and WWII respectively, my grandfather Fred Gibson's service in WWII, and my dad's service in Vietnam. My great-grandfathers have both passed, so I can try to look up info on their service records. But my grandpa and dad are still alive, so I'm not sure how to approach them and ask them about their service. Do you have any ideas or tips on how to talk to living relatives about their military service? If so, please share! I'd love to hear what you've done to find out more about family's military history.