My uncle, Bill Spencer has always been a very interesting man, and I mean that in the very best sense of the word. I don’t know what kind of a student Uncle Bill was in school, but he has always loved learning, probably more so on his own than in a classroom. Somehow he doesn’t strike me as a kid who would have loved being in class, but I could be wrong. His passion was, of course, the family history, but Uncle Bill likes history to go along with his family history, and that is where my uncle and I are the most alike. My Uncle Bill worked meticulously and tirelessly on the family history, someday hoping to get it into the hands of the younger generation, which ended up being me and a few others who cared about it the same way he did…and for his hard work, I will be forever grateful.
Much of my uncle’s knowledge about things was self-taught. He learned about antiques, guns, stamps, and coins; and then he incorporated his knowledge into businesses he owned and ran. And he would pass his knowledge along to anyone who wanted to listen. It was Uncle bill who got me interested in stamps and coins, and while I don’t have large collections, I have a few that I like. I think it might have been his love of stamps, coins, and guns that sparked Uncle Bill’s interest in antiques, but I don’t know that for sure. His knowledge of family history and his Dad, Allen Luther Spencer’s ability to make furniture, might have had a part in that too. In addition, the era that my Uncle Bill was born into, did not have the ability to mass produce furniture like we have today, so the beautiful furniture pieces became one-of-a-kind works of art, and not just the useful, but cookie-cutter furniture on our day.
Uncle Bill is getting older now, and some of his recent memory escapes him, but the past remains vivid, at least on his good days. The last time I saw him was a good day, and that made my sister, Cheryl Masterson, my cousin, Pam Wendling, and me very happy. His stories about the old days were vivid and full of knowledge, and any slips in his memory, were humorous and sweet, and still tied to people of the past. His advancing years, make me feel the urgent need to visit as often as I can, and my sisters, Cheryl, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and I hope to make the trip late this upcoming summer for another visit. With each passing year, we just never know if Uncle Bill will still be with us. He isn’t the oldest sibling in his family, but he has lived the longest. Nevertheless, one day, he will no longer be with us. I pray that day is a long way off. Today in Uncle Bill’s 98th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you very much!!
Where my Aunt Evelyn Hushman was the beginning of my grandma and grandpa, Hattie and George Byer’s large family, Aunt Sandy Pattan was the end. Between them were 17 years and 7 siblings. When Aunt Sandy arrived, my grandparents had a disagreement as to what her name would be. My grandfather wanted to name her Sonya (or maybe Sonja, we will never know, since the name lost), but my grandmother wanted to name her Sandra. They simply could not agree, so the decision was made for Grandpa to go home and tell the rest o the children about the birth, and let a majority rule vote of the children settle the dispute. So, Grandpa went home and told the children about their little sister. Then he told them about the name dispute. They were to decide. Trying as hard as he could to make Sandra sound as plain as he could and, Sonya sound like the most beautiful name in the world, Grandpa waited for the decision. He didn’t have to wait long. Almost the split second he said Sonya, the children all said, “Eeeeewwww!! Sonya!! No way!! We choose Sandra!!”
Poor Grandpa. The decision saddened him. He liked the name Sonya. Nevertheless, Grandpa was an honorable man. The name Sandra had been chosen, and Sonya was out. He would accept that. I’m sure Grandma was happy, and my Aunt Sandy has told me that she is thankful, because she doesn’t think she would have liked the name Sonya. Maybe not, but once a name is given, most people can’t imagine themselves as anyone else. People tend to fit the name given, whether it is unusual or common. I can’t imagine having an Aunt Sonya, but then that is because I have always had an Aunt Sandy. That’s who she is, and it’s as simple as that.
Aunt Sandy must have some of the name/heritage gene in her blood, because she is as curious as I am about things like family history, and name history. We like to know if a name came from way back in the family, was made up, or picked out of a book. It doesn’t really matter which one it is, it’s really about the search. Aunt Sandy is a great teller of family stories. She remembers them in great detail. I could sit and listen to her all day. Many people don’t understand the importance of the family history, and people like Aunt Sandy and me, are important, because without someone to keep the stories alive, the family history could die, and that would be truly tragic. I’m grateful to have Aunt Sandy, who is still able to tell me the stories, so that when some of the kids in the family discover their interest, the story will still be there. Today is Aunt Sandy’s 74th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Sandy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Most national days that are designed to celebrate an activity or group, are just another day to most of us, but for me, and for many other family history buffs, Genealogy Day is different. I’m sure everybody has a day of celebration that hits home to them, but I know of so many people who are dedicated to tracing their family history. I’m sure everyone has different reasons for tracing their history…from adoptees finding their parents, to simply wanting to know which historical figures we are related to, many people are curious. Those of us who have begun this journey, find ourselves losing track of time as were research the proof of relationship between us and our ancestors. We get started, and the addiction sets in. It’s like a good book that we simply can’t put down.
All too often, by the time we think about researching our ancestors, any of our family members who might have any pertinent information are already gone. We find ourselves disgusted that we weren’t interested before that point. Of course, by then it is too late for us, unless someone else took the time to ask the questions, and record the information. That is where the family genealogists come into play. If you are blessed, you have a parent or grandparent that you can ask or who has written it all down for you, so you don’t end up in the sad situation of finding that you are hitting a wall in your research. Those of us who find ourselves in the self-appointed position of being the family historian or family genealogist are not sorry that this is what we do. It is exciting to come across an old picture that we never thought we would find, or a military draft registration card that contains the signature of our ancestor. Those things are like striking it rich in a gold mine.
People are busy, and we just don’t have a lot of time to dig through the past, but every now and then, people who happen to have a bit more time start digging around and sometimes find out the most fascinating facts about where their forefathers came from and what kind of people they were. Most people are a little bit curious, when someone brings the information to their attention, but some simply don’t think they care. I find the latter group to be the most sad. They simply don’t understand that they are missing out…until it’s too late.
Keeping track of one’s family lines has been going on for centuries…hence the wealth of information that is out there, but never has the information been easier to access that it is today. Computers, cell phone apps, digital pictures all make it easier to share what one has with another, without losing the treasure you have. In Western societies, genealogy was especially important to royalty, who used it to decide who was of noble descent and who was not, as well as who had the right to rule which geographical area, but I think everyone wants to kind a link to a royal line. The idea that our grandparents might be royalty is an exciting one…even if our royal family will never know who we are.
Genealogy Day was created in 2013, by Christ Church, United Presbyterian and Methodist in Limerick, Ireland to help celebrate the church’s 200th anniversary. For this day, Christ Church brought together local family history records not only from its own combined churches, but also from the area’s Church of Ireland parishes, including the Religious Society if Friends in Ireland (Quaker) and the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormon). The people in attendance could then use the amassed marriage and baptism records dating back to the early 1800s, such as Limerick Methodist Registers and Limerick Presbyterian Registers, to find out about their great-great-grandparents. The idea was so popular that it was repeated for the next two consecutive years and has inspired many people to take a look into their family tree to find out a bit more about where they come from. I think that Genealogy Day is a perfect day to dip your toe in the Genealogical waters, and see what you can find out about your own family. You might be surprised.
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!!
For a number of years, I was out of touch with my cousin Dennis Fredrick, but all that changed a couple of years ago, when we started emailing. That has turned into a true friendship and I think it has been a blessing to both of us. Of course, our love of family history has given us common interests to explore, but there was so much more, because as cousins, we had a lot of memories to share too. I feel very blessed to have my cousin back in my life again. We are currently working together of different aspects of our research…or at least sharing our finds, because that is really what is so exciting about finding new family history information.
One of the things that I found out recently about Denny was that, like his dad, his grandpa, his brother, and nephews, Denny builds furniture sometimes. And he does a very fine job of it. Not everyone has the ability to build furniture, and if we attempt, it often looks like a box slapped together. Not so, with Denny. I think his work looks like it was made in a factory…perfect. The dresser is for his daughter-in-law, Carrie Fredrick, who is feeling very blessed right now. Denny comes by is skill from a long like of furniture builders. Our grandpa, Allen Luther Spencer built furniture, as did Denny’s dad, Fritz Fredrick, who built the baptismal font for the little church in Holyoke, Minnesota. Denny’s brother, Gene Fredrick, who sadly passed away a number of years ago, also built beautiful furniture, as did Gene’s sons Tim and Shawn.
Denny, as we have called him all my life anyway, has a heart of gold, and really wants to be a part of the lives of his family, even those of us who live far away. It’s so easy to lose touch with friends and family, and while we often don’t feel the loss until we reconnect, sadly sometimes that never happens, and when a loved one is gone, we really fell that missed time. For that reason, I am so glad that Denny and I have reconnected while we are both still alive, and young enough to remember and enjoy the connection. I just wish I had more time to stay in touch, because since Denny retired, he is able to focus on the things he loves to do, which would be lovely. Today is Denny’s birthday. Happy birthday Denny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
As this day has approached, I have found it very hard to believe that my Uncle Bill Spencer, my dad’s brother, is turning 95 years old today. I remember the uncle from my childhood, full of life, and exciting stories. He was the man who taught me the game of Cribbage and challenged me to try to beat him. He never gave me the game, but rather made it a true victory when I was able to beat him. He never made me feel like a failure when I lost either, but rather told me that every game I played made me a better player, and he was right. I loved the times we had together playing cribbage. It will always be one of my favorite memories of my uncle. Over the years, we tried in vain to figure out a way to play long distance. That was one challenge that beat us. I suppose that in the age of computers, we might have found a way.
Uncle Bill is a unique kind of person, in that he found something he was interested in when he was just an 8 year old boy, and he never lost his passion for it. For Uncle Bill, that passion was for his family genealogy. As a young boy, he saw a little black book his mother was working on. It was a simple record book of the family members she knew of at the time, but for Uncle Bill, it was a challenge. He was hooked, and for as long has his memory lasted, Uncle Bill continued digging for more information. His work would take him on many trips to pour through libraries, county records, state records, and to walk miles and miles of cemeteries. He had a need to find out about his past. He found himself feeling annoyed when people didn’t properly mark photos and documents, with important information, such as who was in the picture, when it was taken, and what was going on. So much information is so easily lost because someone didn’t take a moment to properly document a picture. Since I have looked over all his work, I can understand his frustration, because there are pictures that we know the relationship of, but not the name of the person, and some people we don’t know anything about at all. And no way to find out. History lost…maybe forever.
When my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce were in grade school, they had an assignment concerning their family history. My mom, Collene Spencer said I should get a hold of my Uncle Bill…his reputation as the family historian had preceded him. I called him, and he sent what was needed for their assignments. That was awesome, but it was not the end of the story. With Uncle Bill’s way of peaking my interest, I have picked up the torch and I am running with it. I pray that I can do him proud. Uncle Bill has dementia now, and doesn’t remember that he was working on the family history, Still, I pray that I, and others like me, can carry on his legacy for him, so that history will not be lost in this family. Today is Uncle Bill’s 95th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My cousin, Gene Fredrick was a man of many talents. He was the oldest of his parents’ two sons. His parents were Fritz Fredrick and Laura Spencer Fredrick, my aunt. As a boy, Gene was the helpful older brother, helping his mommy with his little brother, Dennis, who was always known to my sisters and me as Denny. Following their parents’ divorce, my Aunt Laura brought her sons to Casper, Wyoming to live near her sister, Ruth Spencer Wolfe, and her husband Jim, who were living there at the time. Casper was also where my parents would settle in 1959, and that meant that my family got to see our cousins, Gene and Denny Fredrick and Shirley, Larry, and Terry Wolfe quite a bit. Those were great times.
Of course, Gene and Denny were the oldest cousins, and so they married and while they both still lived in Casper, we got to see their children too. Gene and his wife Paula had two sons, Tim and Shawn, and Denny and his wife, Sandy had a son named David. Later they both moved away, so we didn’t get to see them very much. I’ve always felt sad that we lost touch, and I am grateful that we have Facebook now, and that has given us a way to reconnect.
Gene was always a soft spoken man, who shared so much of himself with his sons. He loved to make furniture, and was very talented at it. He also connected with our Uncle Bill, who has always loved the family history, but didn’t have the equipment or know how to scan pictures, or a computer to research people or organize the information. Gene became Uncle Bill’s right hand man, helping to get the family history in the organized condition I found it when my cousin Bill sent it to me to allow me to scan it. I can honestly say that we all owe Gene a debt of gratitude for all the help he gave Uncle Bill.
Gene taught his sons anything they were interested in. Tim tells about the years when he started becoming interested in photography. They set up a dark room, and Tim learned photography. I don’t know if Gene already knew how to develop pictures before, but they worked it together. Tim tells of making new prints from the old damaged ones. I think that Gene was an amazing man. Today would have been 76 years old today. Happy birthday in Heaven, Gene. We are all in your debt. We love and miss you.
There comes a point after your parent passes away, when you find yourself wanting to pick up the phone and call them, just to ask them a question. It can be anything from family history, to life advise, to simply wanting to share the good times with them. Suddenly, you speak their name as if they are still here, and then, just as suddenly, you realize that they aren’t. That is the place I have found myself several times. Driving by Mom’s house, I thought of her. When exciting things have happened, I’ve thought of calling her. When I had a family question, that she could answer easily, I missed her terribly. And then there were the times I mentioned talking to her in a conversation, only to stop suddenly, shocked about what I had just said. I knew she was gone, but my mind just hadn’t accepted it, I guess.
It seems like after a loss, you find yourself always looking back on the past…missing the person that is gone. It isn’t about wondering if my mom is ok, because I know exactly where she is and I know she is happy in Heaven. It’s just that with both of my parents, there is so much more that I wanted to talk to them about. There were questions I wish I had asked. Now it’s too late.
My favorite part about looking through my parents things, has been the pictures we have found. Those pictures tell a story that we had never known to ask about. It has made a way for us to see the past and some of what it was like even though we couldn’t ask about it. I guess that is some consolation. The undeveloped film we found has been such a surprise treasure. Seeing our parents when they were young and us as kids has been amazing. Yes, we lived those moments, but now we can re-live those moments. We can see a little bit about our parents personalities from the pictures. We get to see the things they liked to do, and the places they liked to go. I have really enjoyed seeing that young side of them. My sister, Cheryl Masterson and I wondered what it would’ve been like had we stayed in Superior, Wisconsin. For me, the pictures have given us a glimpse of what life was like there. These were things that we would have asked our parents, but never had the chance.
When your parents have passed away, you find so many things that you wish you had talked to them about. There are so many stories about the past, that you can never ask about now. The problem is that you didn’t know that you should ask when you were younger. We are not alone and finding this out after their passing, because I think a lot of kids find it out this way. Today marks the eighth month since my mom, Collene Spencer went to Heaven, and every day brings to mind a question I would ask her…if only I could.
I’ve been spending some very enjoyable time emailing with my cousin, Dennis Fredrick lately, and the subject of Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren’s journal came up again. That is all it takes for me to decide that I need to read it again. I can’t get over the draw that journal has on me. Every time I read it again, something more jumps out at me. Another little tidbit of her amazing personality, because you see, my Great Aunt Bertha was an amazing person. She had the ability to see things around her in a deeper and sometimes, different way than others. Her curious mind wondered about the events taking place, and their impact on the future. And she had a foresight that many people just don’t have. I love her vision.
I didn’t get very far…the first page, in fact…before something new jumped out. She was talking about the dislike many people have of history, and how few want to write about it, except when it comes to family history. I think that is probably because they feel somehow connected to the events of the past, when they think about the fact that their ancestors lived those events. She talked about the idea of people writing about family histories taking off, and becoming a vast project that connected many people. She mentioned that, if writing about family history ever became popular to a wide scale, future generations could read about them centuries from now. Sometimes, I wonder what she would think of her idea of family history studies on a wide scale, because that is exactly what we have these days. Maybe, she could see a bit into the future, and in her mind envision events that were going to come about, much like Jules Verne did with some of his writings.
She encourages people to add to with family history, the human side, because without it, the history becomes dry reading of statistics with no heart to it. Great Aunt Bertha felt that we were living in amazing times at the time of her journal, and while many people would think she meant the 1800s, she did not. She was talking about 1980. I lived through the 1980s, and I can’t say that I ever felt like they were anything so special, but looking back now, I think about the man that many of us consider to be the greatest president we have ever had, Ronald Reagan. Those were days of recovery from the tense days of the 1970s and the big government we had then. They were days when taxes were cut, and government was limited, and things began to get better. The Cold War was winding down, and we saw the Berlin Wall come down at Reagan’s insistence. Thinking back I can see that Great Aunt Bertha was right. The 1980s were amazing days, but then so are many other times in our nation’s history. We just have to look at those days and realize that each generation has its greatness. That was the kind of thing my great aunt saw, but as I said, she saw deeper into a situation than most people saw, and she also saw the value of the insight she found by looking deeper.
For some time now, I have not really had a lot of information on my grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer’s brother, Albert Schumacher. My Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren, their younger sister wrote a few things in her journal, and I have connected with one of his great grandchildren, but she doesn’t have much information on him either. There were a few pictures of him in my Uncle Bill Spencer’s family history, as well as my grandmothers photo album and my dad’s photo album, but unfortunately for those of us left behind, there is not always good information about the pictures, except what my Uncle Bill was able to find out, because he documented pictures very well, if he had information on them. Uncle Bill started his family research long before computers, and since he really knew very little about computers, he never really furthered his research there. It was a fact that I found very sad, because I think he would have been so excited about what he would have been able to fine online.
That said, I will tell you that the latest little tidbit of information, came not online, but rather through the hard work of Uncle Bill, and the pictures found in the albums of my dad and grandmother, that ended up being connected to what we knew from all of Uncle Bill’s hard work. It is completely amazing to me that it wasn’t all of the technology we have today that helped with the discovery to any large degree, but rather the old fashioned way of putting the history together that was so common to my Uncle Bill. I have looked at the pictures, I have been so blessed with, dozens and dozens of times, but somehow, at some point, something jumps out at me when I least expect it. One picture reveals to me a distinct similarity to another picture, and when I look at them side by side…well, there it is.
That is exactly what happened the other day when I was looking at pictures, and I noticed that the man in a wedding photo I was looking at, looked very familiar. I knew I had seen that face before, and I knew exactly where I had seen it. In comparing the two pictures side by side, my revelation was confirmed. The picture I was looking at was a wedding picture, and the man and woman in the picture, were my Great Uncle Albert Schumacher, and his wife Christine Ida Froemke Schumacher. How could I have missed that? I had no other pictures of Christine, of course. so it couldn’t have been her that caught my eye. No, it was the man, and he was most definitely my great uncle Albert. When I put the two pictures side by side, it left no doubt in my mind, I had found my Great Uncle Albert’s wedding picture. That was so exciting to me that I sent my sister Cheryl Masterson a text at about midnight. Now thankfully she didn’t hear it, because we both had to work the next day. This is just what the excitement of my discovery caused me to do. I guess that once you get into the family history, it can be very addictive. I think maybe I’m my Uncle Bill’s niece in that way too. I can’t say that I’m surprised at all.