My Uncle Bill Spencer discovered genealogy by chance, when he came across a little black book that his mother, Anna Schumacher Spencer had. When he asked about it, she showed it to him. In the book was all she knew about her family’s history. I don’t know if my grandmother had an interest in the family history, but very little time to pursue it, or if it was passed down to her by someone else. Whatever the case may be, Uncle Bill was hooked on the family history from that time forward…an amazing feat for an 8 year old boy. It was a project he spent serious time on for all of his pre-dementia life. The family history and all the possible information were two things that were never far from his thoughts. His mind was obsessed with it.

The Spencer Family History researched by my Uncle Bill without the benefit of modern computer data assistance, spanned some 80+ years. He worked on it because of his own curiosity, at first. He traveled to spend time in court records rooms, searching for clues. He walked countless cemeteries, looking for the graves of his ancestors. He meticulously documented every picture, every find, and every news article he came across. He talked to aunts, uncles, and family friends, and wrote down their stories. He wanted to know everything…not just names and faces, but who these people were, and what their lives were about.

At some point, Uncle Bill’s obsession became Uncle Bill’s gift. He wanted to preserve the Spencer Family History to be passed down to all of the children of his multi-great grandparents. It was his legacy. He had such great love for the past, and really enjoyed researching history and ancestry. And his plan was to get the family history out to as many family members as he could. I have been amazed at how far it has gone across the United States and probably the world. I have come across a number of people who have all or part of Uncle Bill’s history. He made copies of it for anyone who asked, or showed an interest. These were all done by hand. Although, he did use a copier in the later years. His was a work of love for the future generations, who might find an interest someday, even if they didn’t seem interested now. While Uncle Bill’s mission seemed very much like an obsession, it was really a gift obsession. He was obsessed about giving it away. Few people have ever worked a lifetime on a gift that would be given away to people as yet unborn and unknown. It was a gift than was priceless to the receiver. Uncle Bill had given the very best of himself and poured it into the family history, and I for one feel very blessed to receive Uncle Bill’s gift. Today is my Uncle Bill’s 96th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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