Goal 5: Work on documenting and preserving family history

This month I got an Ancestry subscription. I just started working on compiling the family history. As of now, my parents, husband, and all of my children took the DNA test along with me. We are still waiting for some of the results. I just started a family tree with my mom online.

It seems like yesterday when I was walking around cemeteries with my grandma. We stopped by the family home of my great-great-great grandparents. I never would’ve figured it out if my grandma didn’t know where it was. We talked to distant relatives and found out that my ancestors were involved in politics, art, community theater, and had a love for cats. Not all that unlike our family today.

It is so wonderful to hear stories instead of just names and dates on a headstone. Next month my grandma will be gone for 10 years. You don’t know how much I wish she was still here.

Now I’ve decided to work on this project with my mom. It is amazing how quickly time flies past. I want to hear her stories and preserve them for future generations. I want to make them living characters in my mind. I want to attach names to faces in the black and white photos. I want to give everyone a story. That would be much more exciting than names and dates.

I want to take the stories I remember and that have been handed down to create a wonderful story for future generations. Today I found out that my 5th great-grandpa was hung. Such interesting stories. Too bad my ancestors didn’t have WordPress!

Ancestry vs DNA

A couple months back I shared my AncestryDNA results.

I was frustrated with it because all of my genealogy records compiled by my great aunt pre-internet, and even the research I did myself, did not match the DNA results like I was expecting. The genealogy records showed a strong German heritage, the DNA results did not.

It was very confusing for me because my records did not match the DNA results. Which records were right then??

Without really realizing it, I had identified with my German roots. After all, I was called a stubborn German by relatives. It’s no wonder why I enjoy German beer and sauerkraut. My grandpa and great aunt spoke to me with German words. Strangers remarked how German I look.

Then when the DNA results came back with 10% German, I felt like I lost part of my identity. It was part of who I thought I was. It was the connection that I had with my grandparents. They are long gone and I am not even me anymore. I lost all interest in genealogy at that point.

Then a couple of weeks back, I received an email from Ancestry stating that my DNA results have been updated. Apparently now I am mostly Germanic European. They were even able to pinpoint the region in Germany from my genealogy records. What??!? How confusing is that?

The good news is that now my records match. Otherwise who would I believe? Science or a long line of family tradition and record keeping?? I was really doubting the family records. There were a lot more questions than answers.

Maybe I’ll dive back into genealogy again. It has been about 10 years since I started digging for my roots online. I bet a lot has changed since then with the information that is available. It would make for a great hobby on a cold winter’s night.

 

 

What’s in my genes

You may remember a couple months back when I told you that my son took the AncestryDNA test…He found out that he was only 7% German and I concluded that he probably wasn’t my son.

After all, my genealogy records put me at approximately 75% German…Mecklenberg…Bremen…Pommern…Germany…Germany…Germany!

People comment all the time that I look German. I love beer and sauerkraut.

Imagine my surprise when my results came back as 10% German. Really??

I am almost a three way tie of British, Eastern European (Polish, Czech…), and Scandinavian.

I am also more confused than ever. Could my genealogy records be inaccurate? It seems like all the research I did was a waste of time.

I knew I was English and EE, but had no clue about the Scandinavian.

Several years back someone asked me if I was Swedish. I laughed it off and said I was German. How did they know?

I was so pumped to dig into genealogy again. I wanted to learn the language of my forefathers. I wanted to travel to the land of my heritage. I wanted to dig up dirt and find my roots. But now I totally lost interest. Things don’t mesh up.

I hate it when one plus one doesn’t equal two!

Something appears to be rotten in the state of Denmark.

I used to know so much before I had so much knowledge.

Now everyone wants to take the DNA test. My mom took it and she has a large percentage of Scandinavian too. I know where I got it from, but where did she get it from??

It does change the way I think about things…I didn’t think it would. Do some of the things I like just reflect who I thought I was?

It’s not a bad thing, just different from what I was expecting.

I thought I would find confirmation, but instead I have more questions..

 

 

 

What’s in your genes?

Last week my son’s Ancestry DNA results came back.

It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. In fact, I don’t think he is my son.

Well, that might be taking it a little far…

My son is only 7% German. According to my genealogy records, I should be at least 75% German. In fact, just last week someone commented to me out of the blue how German I look. My husband even said that he doesn’t know anyone that looks more German than I do. That was before my son got his results back. Now I’m not so sure anymore..

My son is 27% Polish which definitely comes from Paul. He is also 10% Italian which was also a bit of a shocker. I am going to say that Paul is Italian. Both Alex and Paul look a little Italian to me. Plus Paul loves Italian food, music, and wine. My records do not indicate that I am Italian.

Of course, my curiosity got the better of me and I ordered 4 more Ancestry DNA tests for each member of my family. It was the only online shopping I did while trapped inside 3 days during the blizzard. You should be proud of me! Lol. I was tempted to order the ‘how to speak German’ kit and buy plane tickets, but hey maybe I’m not even German.

Now here is the big kicker…My son is almost 50% British. I didn’t know that my husband was British. My genealogy records indicate a small percentage of British blood.

Last year Paul’s mother passed away. He never knew who his father was. His mother told him some very limited details about the identity of his real father. One thing she said was that his dad’s last name was Wilson. The Ancestry DNA results matched my son up with an unknown 2nd cousin with the last name Wilson.

I’ve opened Pandora’s box. Should I reach out and contact this unknown cousin? I asked Paul what his thoughts were. He doesn’t care either way. Is there more to gain or to lose?? I honestly don’t know. What are your thoughts?? I have been tossing this around in my brain a lot lately…especially since soon this Wilson guy is going to be seeing 3 more close relatives that he probably had no idea existed.

I started digging around in my family tree to try to find my British link. I found 2 separate lines going back to England both with the last name of Wilson. Then it hit me. Oh my gosh, could my husband and I be related?? Is that why my son is so British?? What have I gotten myself into now??

I can tell you one thing, this has really renewed my interest in genealogy.

 

 

 

Dark doors

The other day my son asked me why he is so dark.

Immediately I said that it was a part of his personality. Maybe it is something that you could work on. Oh my, did he get that from me??

Then he said, “Not my personality mom, my skin.”

That was a few days after he took the Ancestry DNA test. I told him that we would find out soon. I also heard that the test could match you up with long lost relatives or maybe famous people.

Famous people? Then I got to thinking some more.

Why are my oldest two kids freakishly talented at music? This past weekend my son made it to state as a junior for his graduate level solo and ensemble piece along with 2 other pieces. My daughter was involved in a big singing competition, made it to a difficult level, and earned the opportunity to sing for a big opera star. She was invited to compete at an event in Boston. So far they are the only sibling duo to receive perfect scores at state for music in their high school.

There aren’t any professional musicians in the family. No one had a garage band. Not even one music teacher. Just a haphazard bunch that played an instrument for awhile or sang in the church choir.

Was it because of the early childhood piano lessons? The family involvement in community theater?

This got me thinking some more…

Maybe Paul’s real father is Jim Morrison from The Doors. It makes sense. It was the 60’s and Morrison was alive back then. So it has some face validity. Talking about his face, my son does resemble him a little. They have the exact same scowl.

But, if Paul’s dad is a rock star…why did his mother fail to mention that? This is where my theory gets a little tricky.

I guess we’ll have to wait for the Ancestry DNA results to come back.

What if we find out who Paul’s father is? What do we do with that information? Maybe Paul has siblings? Or a hefty inheritance that no one has claimed?

Or maybe we are cracking open the door to Pandora’s box.

 

30. What I hope to be remembered for

Day 30: List 10 things you would hope to be remembered for.

Do you ever wonder what will happen to Facebook or WP 100 years from now? Do you ever wonder what will happen to all of our old posts, comments, and pictures?

A few months back someone shared a post entitled ‘a picture of grandma’. It showed two pictures side by side. The first picture was a black and white from the early 1900’s showing a women dressed very modestly with her hair up in a bun..then the picture on the other side showed a woman from our modern time..she was taking a selfie in nothing but short shorts and a push up bra with an unmade bed in the background.

At first I laughed, but then I wondered what it would be like to have my great-great grandchildren literally see every part of my documented life.

Generations beyond ours will be able to know everything about us. We are the new pioneers for creating future genealogy records. (Hey, I just found my grandma’s blog). Facebook and WP will probably charge tons of money to grant our descendants access. Have you ever wondered why both are free now?? Ha ha ha. JK!

What will it be like to know what grandma ate for breakfast 75 years ago? I wish I knew more about my ancestors..Maybe not that much info, but still!

My grandma passed away after delivering her eigth child when she was around the age that I am now. I know nothing about her. I don’t even know her birthday. I know nothing about her personality. My mom said that her parents were very happy together and that I would’ve loved her mother. That’s about all.

When I was a little girl, I had 2 great-grandmothers that were still alive. I sure heard a lot of stories about them. I wonder if it was because they were unusual women for their day or if people talk more about the living. Both of my great-grandmas had strong personalities and just happened to outlive the rest of my great-grandparents that I know nothing about.

A decade ago, I got into genealogy to learn everything I could about my family history. I took a class at the local library. I went to several archives. I scoured old records. I found a couple of old newspaper articles. I went to cemetaries. I got a computer program and a membership to Ancestry. I scribbled all my findings onto a family tree.

Even though I got back as far as I could, I could only find birth, marriage, and death dates. Just the facts. What I really wanted to find out was who they really were.

I want to be remembered by my writings. I want my great-great-grandchildren to read my blog and understand me. That is what I want to be remembered for. I am hoping to give what I wanted to receive. I want to be more than my dates on a faded piece of paper.

Life times 

I had every intention of writing yesterday, but things don’t always go as planned. After today, I am done with my spring cleaning. Now we are just waiting for spring. Usually in the middle of April, spring turns on like a light switch. I plan ahead to have my spring cleaning over and done with before it is nice out. 

It has been cold this past week with more days of snow than without. Some patchy snow remains on the ground with another inch of snow and sleet expected this afternoon. Friday afternoon thick snow flakes fell to the ground. Please don’t tell anyone else in WI that I am saying this, but it was very beautiful. Saturday morning the sun glistened making the snow sparkle like diamonds. But now it is bleak and cloudy. All of the babies cried in church. They seemed to take all of our repressed feelings towards winter and let them spring forth like the wailing of the wind that cries out to us today.

Yesterday, I went to the bowels of Hades into our little crawl space to peer into all of the bins and boxes. I was hoping to find the letters my mom wrote to me the summer that she spent out of state in the hospital with Matt. I haven’t been able to find them anywhere. I’m afraid that I may have accidently thrown them out with all of the high school notes that I found. My old school texting! LOL. You know, the notes that I didn’t want my parents to find and now I wouldn’t want my kids to find. LOL. It makes me sad, but maybe they will turn up somewhere yet.  

Also, I was looking for pictures to display for my daughter’s high school graduation next month. Since more than half of my childrens childhood was before the digital camera era, I have 4 big bins and multiple boxes of unorganized pictures and memorabilia. I started to feel stressed that my display of her life would suck. I hate to be unorganized with this since organization is a strength of mine. So I decided to make a display of pictures from all of the shows my daughter performed in along with a couple baby pictures. Then next winter, instead of working puzzles, I am planning on going through all of the pictures. I am going to work with my mom to take all of the old family pictures and back them up online. After my kids are settled as adults, I am going to gift them with a bin of their most precious childhood moments. 

Yesterday we had my parents and Matt over for supper last minute. We spent several hours watching the old family videos that we had uploaded to a hard drive. It was so strange seeing my brothers, cousins, and myself as young children. Then we watched my kids as young children. It was so strange seeing the progression of time all in one day. Time sure flies. Enjoy every moment while you can.

Cabin chaos, part 1

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Back in 1950, my great-grandparents bought a double lot on a quiet lake. The lake has been built up quite a bit since then and is not as quiet as it once was. But it is still beautiful. They built a cabin on the lake. When I was growing up, the only running water in the cabin was two sinks in the kitchen. We had an outhouse with a garage located between the cabin and the outhouse. There was also a boat house, a fish cleaning shack, and a screened in cook house with a long redwood table.

My family originally built a concrete retaining wall with stairs going down to the water in the center. It has since crumbled and shifted over time. The boat house was in bad shape and was torn down when I was a kid. The garage was the next building to go. The roof caved in and it housed bats. Every time that I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, the bats would swoop down at me. I turned on the lights outside in an attempt to keep them away. When I had the lights on, the guys across the road would see me running to the outhouse and whistle at me. It probably didn’t help that I was screaming and flailing about while in little summer nightgowns. If I could make it past the bats and creepy guys, my next fear was always the wasps. How did people survive having to use an outhouse all the time??

Eventually the garage was torn down as well. There was a lot of junk inside. There also was an antique car from the early 1900’s that was in rough shape. A lot of times my family was too cheap to buy new stuff for the cabin, so they took up mismatching plates, silverware, etc..

This summer I am planning on swimming across the lake to prepare for the tri. I will probably not be biking or running up north though because at this time we do not have an easy way to bathe. I am afraid that stinking would be frowned upon and my family would no longer support my crazy fitness habits.

This is going to be a very short series telling some of the funniest stories.

A bright light on the darkest day

Almost a century ago, in a very small town, my great-grandparents started a family business. They opened an automotive garage where they sold and fixed cars. They also had one of those old fashioned gas stations with two pumps and a wrecker service. They built a house next door to their business and had 4 children. My great-grandma passed away when I was five and my great-grandpa and great uncle passed away before I was born.

After serving in the military, Aunt Grace and Uncle Harold being single moved back into the family house to help run the family business. Their brother, my grandpa, moved down the road within walking distance. I never remember the siblings ever fighting.

Aunt Grace did all of the finance for the family business with some help from my grandma. Uncle Harold and my grandpa worked as mechanics. Today, on the darkest day of the year, was Uncle Harold’s birthday. But there was nothing dark about Uncle Harold. He was a very quiet, friendly man that loved to laugh.

Every year Aunt Grace would throw Uncle Harold a birthday party. It was always the same year after year. She would set the table with the best fiesta dishware that were stored behind the glass cupboard in the pantry. Everyone had a different colored plate that was used only once a year for this special occasion.  She would serve steak, baked potatoes, and a vegetable with coffee to drink, even for the kids. She had an old fashioned stove that she cooked on. It required her to put little pieces of wood into a fire on the left side of the stove. For dessert, we always had pineapple upside down cake. Afterwards, Aunt Grace made me help her do the dishes and clean up.

I didn’t see Uncle Harold a lot growing up. He was always working in the garage. I wasn’t supposed to go inside the garage much because I liked to wear shorts which Aunt Grace said was not proper attire for a young lady. But sometimes I would sneak in to buy a large glass bottle of soda for a quarter. My aunt and uncle were always up at 6 AM. Uncle Harold would eat breakfast then go to work. He would come in for lunch and they would both take a half an hour nap. Aunt Grace slept on her couch and Uncle Harold slept in his chair. Then Uncle Harold would work until 6 PM which was always the time that supper was ready. Most of the time after supper, Uncle Harold would go out to work until 9 or 10 at night. When he came in, he coughed a lot. Working 13 hour days in an unventilated garage did that to him. He usually worked until noon every Saturday and took Sunday off.

Uncle Harold was a generous man both towards his family and his community. He offered a window washing job to an illiterate man who was having a hard time without job skills providing for his family.  He paid for my college tuition. He never wanted anyone to know the good deeds that he did. Money was a topic that I wasn’t even supposed to talk about.  I don’t think I ever thanked him enough for the sacrifice that he made. He paid for my school from stocks that he inherited from his parents that someone gave them when they couldn’t afford to pay their garage bill.

That year I graduated from college in May, got married in August, and was pregnant in October. I remember driving out that fall Saturday to tell the family our news. I never was able to tell Uncle Harold the news personally as he was with a customer that afternoon. Then a month later, he died unexpectedly.

Every year Uncle Harold would take a week off to go hunting with his friends. It was on that trip that he had a heart attack. When he passed away, there was no one left to carry on the family business. Of the four siblings, my dad was the only child born and he wasn’t interested in continuing the family business. In the meantime, Uncle Harold had listed me as heir of that stock which we cashed in to start yet another family business.

So on the darkest day of the year, I will always remember the bright light that was in Uncle Harold. I am sad that he never met my children. Even now, his memory is starting to dim. I hope that in some way through my thoughts today the memory of him will shine on.

Gramps, his later years

My grandpa’s life interwove with mine for a total of 26 years. I wish I could weave a story that makes the last half as magical as the first half, but I can’t. Right at the midpoint, the summer of my 13th year, my grandpa developed a rare form of polio. One morning while trying to get out of bed, my grandpa fell to the floor. My dad and great uncle tried to lift him without success. An ambulance came to the house and took him to the hospital where he spent the next couple of months learning how to move again. It was a scary place to go as a child. I saw many people struggling to make simple body movements. The scariest was a teen boy who became paralyzed after a deer went through the windshield of his car. 

After a couple of months, my grandpa came home in a wheelchair. He no longer drove. He didn’t walk and he didn’t leave the house. He spent the early years making Christmas ornaments and clocks.  He also carved fish and ducks. His carvings were so life like that people mistook them for a taxidermists work. Then one day, my grandpa became so frustrated that he told my grandma to put all of his carvings in a box and burn them. She didn’t. I think at this time his arthritis was making it painful for him to continue. It bothered him to not be able to do anything anymore. He would sit in his wheelchair and instruct others how to do their work properly. 

To make matters worse, he needed surgery for prostate cancer, lost his vision due to cataracts, and developed diabetes. My grandma never once complained about being his caregiver. He was very demanding. At times, I would sit with him so grandma could get a ride to the grocery store. He was very panicky if she was not back right away. He wanted me to call the police to see if something happened to her. 

After time, most of my grandpa’s friends and family passed away. The only visitors he got were the Jehovah witnesses. They were kind to him and shared fishing stories. I visited at least once a week. Many times I would sit with my grandpa in silence. After I had kids, he loved to visit with them. He would smile, hold their little hands, and cry. He loved visits with my dog too. 

After 13 years of sickness and struggle, my grandpa went to his final home. He was ready. A few years after that, I was waiting to sing my first solo in church. I saw a man who looked exactly like my grandpa sitting in the back. For a few minutes, I imagined that he was still alive right there with me. I miss our time together.