17 October 2017

Living History

 As I've been working on my heritage album, the thought has occurred to me that perhaps no one else will care about the work I'm putting into it or the finished product I hope to create. As an only child, I'm used to doing my own thing so that doesn't really concern me. This project is important to me, regardless of who else may be interested in it. 

Not everyone enjoys family history. I get that. For some, it seems to be a dry subject with little application to current life. I guess I see it differently. Perhaps it's BECAUSE I don't have much family that I am drawn to learning more about those who came before me. Perhaps it's because I've lost so many people that I feel compelled to honor their place in my personal story. Whatever the reason, I know that if I don't take the time to pull together the puzzle pieces, no one else will.

If you're still here, let me explain. :) These folks are my paternal great-grandparents, Pete and Emma. My great-grandfather passed away many years before I was born, and I can only remember meeting my great-grandmother Emma once when she was in a nursing home. I've been told that she was the kindest soul ever. I wish I had known her.

 Here she is (with the purse) in her later years. Even though I never knew her, her blood runs through my veins. And I've come to believe that part of understanding myself involves learning a bit more about her and all the others in my family tree.

 My family tree now includes over 100 people. Will I research them all? Definitely not. But I will try to find out as much as I can about those in my direct lineage -- in other words, all of my grandparents going back as far as I'm able. Just this week, I've learned that one fought in the Civil War and another was a barrel maker (called a cooper).

 Through Ancestry, I've been able to gather information about all of Pete and Emma's children (one of whom was my grandpa), where they lived, and the type of farming they did.

 As I've collected and verified facts, a story emerges -- a very readable, engaging history with maps and pictures. Naturally, this information helps bring to life the photos that I'm including in the scrapbook.

  Prior to starting this project, I wouldn't have known who these people are and how they're related to me. Now I know that this is my great-grandmother Emma's family. She is shown at the left as a young girl, seated next to the dog. I can also see that she had four brothers at the time (the hired hand is standing in the distance), but I've only been able to learn about one of them so far. I now regard this as one of the most special pictures I have, but it meant almost nothing to me before I started this project.

  This photo is of my grandpa (on the left) and his siblings. I absolutely see my dad in his face. A photo like this could have easily been discarded. But now I treasure it, because it's the only picture I have of my great-grandfather with his brothers and sisters.

  Learning this history also helps me better understand and give context to the heirlooms I've been given. I somehow (fortunately!) ended up with my great-grandma Emma's Bible.

I can tell that she had this Bible as a young woman because she wrote her maiden name in it.

She also wrote that "Pa was born in Germany on May 16. In early age united with Lutheran church. At the age of 22 enlisted in the army of his country, served 4 years. The third year, 1866, fought battle with France. Passed away April 21, 1921." This information is consistent with what I've discovered on Ancestry for Emma's dad, my 2nd great-grandfather.

 I'm also the keeper of great-grandma Emma's beautiful dresser which my parents had restored for me. Knowing more about her home life and the things she enjoyed brings more life to this piece. I've learned through her obituary that she enjoyed sewing so I guess it's appropriate that this dresser is filled with hand-sewn family heirlooms such as dishtowels, aprons, lace, and more.

She must have loved and appreciated beautiful things because after all these years, great-grandma Emma's pedestal compote (which I'm told traveled over very rough terrain to reach Iowa) is still in perfect condition. Turns out I love beautiful pieces like this, too.


So on I go in my quest to learn more about those who came before me and in so doing, hopefully more about myself. If you're interested, I hope you'll stay along for the ride.

14 October 2017

Heritage Album: Detective Work

 I've spent a few evenings working on my heritage project, and I must say I feel like a detective! Accuracy is really important to me, so I'm trying to be very careful about identifying people, places, and dates. It's very easy to make mistakes!

The more I work on this project, the more amazed I am by my grandma's genealogy work. In her younger days, nobody got more done than Grandma. She prided herself on being efficient, and I can see that skill really paid off in her genealogy research. But while Grandma and I talked about it frequently, I wish I had spent more time with her working on her genealogy. Especially in her older years, I should have taken a more active role in helping her keep up with her filing. But I guess she knew that I'd take care of it when it fell to me, and I'm so glad she entrusted me to be the keeper of her books.

I have no idea how she navigated her books without tabs. I now have tabs along the sides and the tops of each binder.

As I started putting her books in order (the photo above is one of four humongous binders I now have -- two for each side of the family -- plus several smaller "supplementary info" binders), I have had a sense that those binders contained all of the answers to my questions about my family history. And so far, that has largely proven to be the case.

So as I've approached all of the unidentified photos, I've been hopeful that -- like a detective -- I'll eventually solve these mysteries. Many of these pictures have obviously been glued to poster boards at various family reunions, and in removing them they somehow all ended up dumped together -- both sides of the family mixed. I didn't even realize they were so mixed up until I started studying them more closely.

So time and again, I've gone back to the big tub of genealogy stuff looking for any clue that might help me. Each time I delve into it, I "see" different things, even though the contents of the tub have not changed. This week, I decided to look at these books which were written by my grandma's cousin about their family's history (how cool is that?). I hadn't paid much attention to them, assuming that since they were written by a cousin they might not be all that relevant. (That was a mistake in judgment: Back then, cousins tended to spend a lot of time together so they shared many experiences.) Although I'm not working on that side of the family right now, I opened the books and was surprised at what I found.

As I looked through the books I discovered pictures that I know I do not have but would like to add to my album, such as my great grandpa and great grandma on their wedding day.

This is one of the few photos I've seen of my great-great paternal grandfather.

But even better -- for where I am right now in the process -- these books have helped me identify some of the "unknown" pictures I'm working on. As I thumbed through the book, I immediately noticed that many of the pictures were similar to the photos I've been trying to identify.

Check this out! Now I can identify the girls in the white dresses and the little girl on the horse.

This is enormously helpful in at least sorting the photos into the correct side of the family! I feel very, very lucky to have this information. AND IT HAS BEEN THERE ALL ALONG, just waiting for me to find it. :)

As I've worked my way through Grandma's boxes, I've also found some pretty special memorabilia, such as this wedding certificate for my paternal great grandparents. I assume this document found its way to Grandma since she was also the keeper of the family history for Grandpa's family.

It feels great to put that certificate safely with the photos in my album -- I can't really explain it other than to say that making these connections gives me an "all is right with the world" feeling.

 Other very special items include my grandparents' marriage records...

...and my dad's baby book! There is so much information in this little pamphlet that I can't help but feel they're clues my grandma has left for me. 

So with more questions answered I've been able to make a few more pages for my scrapbook, this one with photos from my grandpa's childhood. I am pretty sure that I'll have more once I finish identifying the pile of unknown pictures.

I found a great picture of my grandpa in his late 20's or early 30's and enlarged it.

And I've made two pages using pictures from my dad's childhood, with many more to come.

Progress is slow but steady, and I feel good about the work I've done so far in putting this album together. It's great to see a clearer picture of my family's story emerging through this process, and I know Grandma would be thrilled to see this album coming together. I truly owe her a debt of gratitude.

10 October 2017

Care Boxes

 Recently a woman in one of my classes told me about a mission project she works on each year with her friends. I don't know all the details, but they pack boxes of special goodies to send to needy children in various countries around the world. Our church has participated in a similar project in years past, so I was familiar with the general idea.

On the day we spoke, she said she was looking for gently used hair bows. My ears perked up instantly, thinking of the BOXES of my daughter's hair bows and barrettes that are still in our house -- largely because I haven't been able to part with them. That evening I asked her if she'd be OK with letting a few of them go. Of course, the answer was a resounding...YES! MOM! Why are you keeping 24-year-old hair bows???

As usual, Daughter was right. So I dumped them all out on the floor and picked out several to donate to this very good cause. Naturally I couldn't get rid of them all, so I put the remaining bows back in the drawer for safe-keeping. At least for now. :)

I also gathered up some other goodies which will bring cheer to kids who have very little. It was so easy to find things that we no longer need tucked away in closets and drawers, and it's gratifying to know that they'll provide a bit of joy, something which is so badly needed in this world!

08 October 2017

Back in the Saddle: Heritage Album

My poor, neglected scrapbooking projects. We've been busy around here for the past few weeks/months and some things just haven't had the attention they need.

As for the scrapbooking, I vowed this year to catch up on some long-neglected projects, and I have/had been doing pretty well with that. Then I took a break to make two "non-essential" albums which were also on my list, although not as important as my family albums. I considered both of those projects "low-hanging fruit" -- in other words, easy to finish up in a short amount of time. I also knew that completing them would reduce the amount of project-specific clutter which had amassed in my craft room.

Long story short, I did finish those projects (YAY!) but didn't get back to my other projects as planned. (If you're interested in the Harry Potter album or the summer camp album, you'll find them if you scroll back through recent posts.) This past weekend, I finally carved out a day to spend getting back to my heritage album(s). I'd been away from this big project so long that it took me a bit to figure out where I needed to start!

I have a wonderful, wonderful resource in my grandma's genealogy albums, which are now in much better order. I'm making scrapbooks for myself based on the information contained in her albums. I could not do it without her books. I still can't believe how much time and effort she put into them -- and without the aid of the internet!

I had also neglected my family tree on Ancestry, so when I finally got back to it there were many new "clues" to evaluate. I can't tell you how helpful it is to have a family tree to refer to with this type of project. Eventually I'll add the tree to the albums.

 As I've organized Grandma's albums, I've sorted through tons of loose papers. I've run across really valuable information like this narrative compiled by a long-lost family member. There are lots of details in a piece like this which can bring to life an otherwise "dry" family history album.

So now I'm at the point with this project where I'm trying to identify the really old photos (pre-1920).

 I have stacks of pictures that haven't yet been identified, but I feel fairly certain that with enough study I can figure out many of them. Every so often, I find a photo with a name or date, and I have used that photo to identify others. I've also been able to identify context clues, such as houses or buildings, which help me connect one photo to others.

 I made quick tabs for each decade to do a rough sort of the pictures that are dated. As I identify/date new ones, they go into the box. This makes it easy to pull out a few for scrapbooking.

 Since I'm using a binder album, I can easily move pages around as needed so I don't have to have all the identification done before making pages. Over the weekend, I finished a few easy pages with portrait or event-specific photos.

 And now that I'm back into this project, I'll get out the magnifying glass and see how much progress I can make on the not-so easy photos! This is where the real fun begins! :)
It's really good to be back in the saddle again!

06 October 2017

Feline Friday: Muffin Mania!

 When our daughter and boyfriend visited this summer (oops, I haven't shared any photos of their visit!), they came bearing homemade blueberry muffins. I froze most of them to enjoy one at a time.

As everybody knows by now, Lily loves her baked goods, so nobody was happier about these muffins than Lily. I smuggled one upstairs to my craft room, thinking I could eat it in peace but of course, she followed me.

 As soon as I plunked the plate down on my desk, there she was. Now, I'm more than willing to share but if left to her own devices, she'd eat the whole thing! You cannot leave Lily alone with a muffin alone for even 30 seconds!

 Once she knew how tasty it was, a battle ensued!

Whenever there's a treat involved, Lily gets a Zombie look on her face. Seriously, her eyes sort of glaze over.






She'll go to most any lengths (or heights!) for a sample!
Which, of course, she got. :)

29 September 2017

Feline Friday: Sock Model!

Daughter has been making knitting like crazy lately.
(Did you know that watching Netflix and knitting at the same time = KNITflix?)

Her knitting skills have grown by leaps and bounds, and it's fun to see what she's making come to life! She recently made her first pair of baby socks for a Christmas gift. Guess who was the PURR-fect sock model?

While I'm told that a sweater for Rory is in the works (shhhh, don't tell her!), it's clear that she needs her own matching socks! :)