Triumphant End of a 40-Year Genealogical Journey

Suzy Hopkins
By Suzy Hopkins June 15, 2010 20:32

Blanche Aphecetche has completed a remarkable genealogical trek that spans several continents and countries, and details the lives of the lives of hundreds of relatives from Shakespeare’s time to the 21st Century.

The result: five huge volumes of family history with an astonishing level of detail, recounting the life histories – including many of the joys, trials and travails – of numerous generations.

The project involved thousands of hours of research and writing, multiple trips to distant states, and quite a few replacement keys for her sturdy Smith-Corona typewriter, on which all five books were completed over 40 years.

Those were among the happiest years of her life, thanks to her marriage to her second husband, Louis, and the many new friendships she gained from her cross-country research.

“It’s my legacy to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” says Blanche, 85, eyeing living room bookshelves laden with her historical volumes and photo albums. “If I hadn’t written it down, all this history would have been lost.”

She was born in 1925 to Alvin John Morton and Laurine Keeler-Morton in Lake Chelan, Washington. She graduated from high school near Spokane and worked at the U.S. Army’s Spokane base during World War II.

She married Cloyce Preedy, had four children, divorced, and moved to Palo Alto in 1965. She worked as a secretary at Stanford University when she met and married French-born Louis Aphecetche in 1966. They traveled to his Basque home in the Pyrenees in 1967.

In 1970 she began to explore her family history, both on her mother’s side – the Kingsbury and Keeler families – and her father’s side, the Wrights and Mortons. At San Francisco’s Sutro Library, she quickly hit pay dirt: Books from the early 1900s by distant relatives who, like her, had felt compelled to trace and record their lineage.

Now, she has bolstered the historical record with her own five books, including her autobiography. Three of the books  have been purchased by the Hardin County Historical Society in Tennessee. She also sold about 50 copies to family members and genealogy buffs.

The books are rich in detail that brings history alive: immigration, wagon roads,  Cumberland Gap, the scourge of polio, Indian treaties, weddings, homesteading, early day schoolrooms, religious awakening, soldiers’ accounts of war, life during the Great Depression, and so much more.

Hundreds of photos and letters are included, along with maps, interviews with elderly relatives, newspaper stories and more, gleaned from visits to libraries in seven states in years of traveling with her husband, who died in 2006.

She dedicated the books to her children, Charlene, David, Jack and Beckie, and hopes they will be read long after she is gone. A member of the Tuolumne County Genealogical Society, Blanche is also deeply religious. She describes a spiritual kinship with those relatives who began this work a century ago, and finds great satisfaction in having helped preserve their shared heritage.

“I’m tickled to have gotten it all done,” says Blanche. “I always thought, who’s going to do it if I don’t?”

Suzy Hopkins
By Suzy Hopkins June 15, 2010 20:32
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