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My father left home when I was an infant. My one memory of him? My fourth birthday at my grandmother Minnie's house, his mother. He brought me a fuzzy chicken toy, picked me up, stayed for a while and was gone, never to surface again. There went at least one version of my family story.

This story could apply to millions of people in this country. Endless discussions have taken place around why and how families break up, but the fact is they do. At the time I saw my father, I had no memory of a mother, only my Aunt Bert, my father’s sister, my grandmother, and a man named Duck who lived with us. My two older brothers, Bill and Bob, lived at my grandmother’s with me, and then they were gone.

Years later when I was reunited with my mother, and my brothers, I never plied them with questions about our family. Today, they are all gone; it's too late. I have tried to piece together some of my family history, but it's lost forever.

My hope, in writing this guide, is that I can inspire others to begin the process of gathering that important family history before it's too late.

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