My grand niece, Raelynn Masterson is turning 13 today. Turning 13 is an exciting, mixed up, trying time in that persons life, but Raelynn…or Rae, as she is known to her family, is taking it pretty much in stride. She has always been easy going, and maybe it’s that style that lets her make a smooth transition into the teenage years. The journey from child to young adult is filled with ups and downs, but Raelynn doesn’t seem to be too shook up about it…unlike her mom, my niece, Dustie Masterson. Dustie is having a bit of a hard time believing that her first born…while no longer a baby, yet always her baby, is growing up so very fast. Dustie calls this by far their “biggest adventure” yet. I think that any parent of children over the age of 13 knows exactly what Dustie means. I don’t think any parent is truly ready for their kids to grow up.
Raelynn is the big sister to Matt and Anna, and younger half-sister to Christina, who lives in Colorado. For some time now, Raelynn has been the “little mom” to her younger siblings. She is helpful to her mom and dad, and doesn’t present them with a ton of drama…unless her younger brother and sister provoke her, that is. She is so motherly sometimes that her mom has to remind her that in reality she is not the mom, but that often happens with older children. She is a kind person too, so I’m sure that keeps sibling relationships on an even keel. Many people really have no ability to empathize with others, but Raelynn is compassionate and has an understanding of people that surpasses her years on this earth.
These days Raelynn is into science and boys…and not necessarily in that order. I suppose that might be viewed as an odd combination, but it works for her. The Science Zone is a really big deal here in town, and she loves going there. They even have summer classes for the kids. Dustie signed Raelynn up for three this year. The first one was a Dissection Class, and is definitely the one Raelynn likes the least…probably because of her love of animals. The second class was on Water, which she really enjoyed, but it was the class where she was able to help the instructor with the animals that really did it for Raelynn. When her mom picked Raelynn up, she was excitedly telling her that the Iguana and the Science Zone doesn’t like anyone, but really took to Raelynn. She was so happy about that. Raelynn loves to read, and is keep a journal, which is seriously private, of course. Raelynn is such a sweet girl, and a great blessing to her family. Today is Raelynn’s birthday. Happy birthday Raelynn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
I think everyone deals with the realities of war differently. Many people barely think about it, mostly because they don’t know anyone involved, and do they can move it to the back of their minds, except for the news anyway. Others feel sadness for those lost and for their families, but that is as far as it goes. Those who have a loved one in the service, know the risks, of course, and their feelings about their loved one being in harm’s way are very evident. Some feel the need to talk about it, while others simply can’t talk about if at all. My cousin, Shirley Cameron deals with war is in a bit different way. She can’t sit idly by, and not do her part for the war effort. I guess that is a little bit of her mother in her.
Shirley has spent countless amounts of money to send care packages to the troops, does everything she can to make their time in the war zones, away from their families, be at least a little bit more pleasant. It is so hard to be far away from loved ones, overworked and underpaid, never knowing it you will survive the day…if you will ever see your family again. When that is the position in which a soldier finds himself, it is so nice to know that there are people out there who care about you…even if they don’t even know you. People who take time out of their day and money out of their pocket to make a difference. That’s where Shirley and others like her come in. Without her and people like her, our soldiers could easily think that no one really cares, but with her in their corner, they know that somebody cares, and that can make all the difference.
Shirley is a true patriot. She knows what it is like to have a loved one in the service, because her dad, brother, and son have all served. Thankfully, her loved ones came back from their wars, but Shirley cannot forget that so many soldiers did not. These days, she keeps a journal with the names of the fallen, the dates, branch of service, and any other pertinent information in it. She often posts about them on Facebook…their pictures and her own sweet words spoken over these men. Who does that? Not very many people, that’s for sure. Her patriotic actions have touched me deeply, and I’m sure I’m not the only one either. Today is Shirley’s birthday. Happy birthday Shirley!! You are a good woman and a great patriot, and we are proud of you. Have a great day!! We love you!!
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.
Whenever I read through my Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren’s journal, I find something new. I may have read it before, but somehow, a new thought jumps out at me this time. Yesterday, as I was looking through it, I saw what a visionary she was. Many people kept clear family records, dating back for centuries, but the one thing that many of those records were void of was the stories that made up the lives of the people who were listed there. Aunt Bertha mentions that so much of how life was for our grandparents or great grandparents is being lost, because people only kept the birth, death, and marriage records, and never really told the future generation what their ancestors felt like. She was so right.
I often look for something more in the different sources that I use to build my family history, and even when there is a story, often it is simply and statement saying that the person died on a given day, and was buried in a certain place. While that can be good information, it doesn’t really tell anything about the person. I want to hear about their life. I want to know about some exciting things that they accomplished. Often, people don’t even post their obituary in it’s entirety. That is another sad thing, because it makes it hard to know for sure is this particular person is the ancestor you are looking for. The obituary would tell about their parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren. That information alone can fill in a history that has been missing a lot of really interesting and important information.
Birth and death certificates are another area that seems to be sorely missed in the actual media area of a persons information of Ancestry. Wehn you want to know about an epidemic that has hit, you have a real struggle on your hands. Much research is needed to find out what cause the deaths of people in the not so distant past, and it can be really frustrating. Marriage certificates are hard to find too sometimes. It really makes me sad that all of this documentation is missing from history, and all the stories about life are missing too. It really is up to us to make sure they get in there, just like my Aunt Bertha points out. Just knowing the dates does little to show who they really were.
I’ve been guilty of this myself. You get in a hurry, and forget to put in the personal information. I suppose it does help that I have written stories about these things, but I have not necessarily connected them with Ancestry, so that other people would be able to read some of it. I can see that I’m going to have to start doing a better job of putting in the stories that go with some of the people I am researching. People’s lives have so many interesting stories in them…so many twists and turns in their journeys, and I want to be like my Aunt Bertha, and pass that information along for posterity.
When my great aunt, Bertha Schumacher Hallgren wrote her journal, she said that, “making a record of the simple, everyday things you see, feel, and hear around you – and passing them on to posterity” would make you famous. It seems such a simple thing, and yet, whether Bertha was famous in her time or not, her journal has definitely been read by many people now, so I guess she was famous with the people who mattered. Aren’t her family members among the most important ones to read her writings. I think they are. Bertha said to write about the simple everyday things. That really is something that can have an impact on the reader.
In her journal, Bertha talks about the first family car. It was brand new, and state of the art…and they paid $650.00 for it. When we buy a new car now, $650.00 seldom covers the monthly payment. The car itself costs upward of $31,000.00, and could cost much more. I realize that wages were much smaller when Bertha was a girl, but I have to wonder if she would just about pass out if she heard the cost of a car now. When people put gasoline in their car in 1925 they paid approximately 20 cents a gallon. These days $3.35 is pretty good for gas prices, and in some places, they pay as much as $4.35. And that is just today. Gas prices have gone up and down, and has been $6.00 a gallon before. I doubt if people from 1925 ever thought we would end up paying that kind money for gasoline today. We, of course, would love to be able to buy gasoline for 20 cents a gallon, but those days are gone forever.
When we look back on the prices of things in history, I think most are likely in proportion with the wages, for the most part. But, when we look at the difference in the prices of things, we seldom think about the wage difference. We just wonder how they expect people to pay such a horrible price for these things. I think it doesn’t occur to us that most likely we are making more money and so the prices of things aren’t really so far out of line with the wages we make. Gas prices, especially hit hard, because the people of the United States are a very mobile people. We like our cars, and we want to be able to go when we want, and where we want. And, sometimes, that price at the pump starts eating into our ability to do that. We get annoyed.
I would love to be able to pay $650.00 for a new car like my great grandfather did years ago, but if you don’t mind, I would like to keep my wages right where they are when I buy that new car. That would make the price of that new car very appealing indeed…just not realistic. Whether we like it or not, the prices of things often have a pretty direct correlation with the wages of the day, and we will have to deal with it.
What is it about reading a story that intrigues us? It is the content, of course, but there is something more. Sometimes, we just want to take a few minutes outside ourselves…to lose ourselves in another man’s mind. It was a quote by Charles Lamb in 1890, who wrote “I love losing myself in other men’s minds” that came to me in a cover letter for my Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren’s journal. It was written to some of her grand nieces and grand nephew, her sister, Mina’s grandchildren, when she gave them a copy of her journal…the writings of her thoughts. And when I read the letter, I was intrigued. I was very curious about her mind. I never had the opportunity to know Great Aunt Bertha, who went by Bertie, and I find that very sad. It is my opinion that she was an amazing woman. In her letter, she points out that all too often, historical writings take in simply the events as they occurred, but leave out the human side of things…the thoughts, emotions, feelings, and the impact the events had on the lives of the people who lived them. She also points out that the family stories told by the very of people who lived those stories will impact the lives of their descendants for years to come. She looks ahead to the 23rd century, and wonders what they would think of the events that shaped the lives of their ancient ancestors. After reading her letter, I realized that my stories had barely scratched the surface of the events I was writing about.
I began to think of the day to day moments of our lives, and how much of the future history is being lost, because we have not recorded the thoughts and feelings we experienced at the time that we experienced them. Great Aunt Bertie suggested that if a person was interested in writing about family history, they should question their parents about the lives of their parents and grandparents. I immediately felt a sense of loss, because my dad and my father-in-law are both gone, and the opportunity to talk with them is gone too. I also felt a sense of loss, because my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease, and doesn’t always remember the events from her past anymore. I did feel an urging to sit down with my mom to see what things she could tell me, and also with my aunts, because I still have a chance to get their perspective on things. It occurred to me that while the desire is there, time will be the biggest problem, because of work and other obligations. Still, I want to take the opportunity while I can do so, and I know that I will learn many interesting things about my family.
I look forward to reading more of Great Aunt Bertie’s journal. She was an amazing individual, and she had the presence of mind to think in the future. She knew that the past has a very important place in the future, and that the future generations will never know the great things their ancestors accomplished, unless someone tells them about it. They will never know how their ancestors felt when they made the decision to immigrate to a new country, with their future very uncertain, but knowing that they had no future where they were then. And yet, she saw the importance of the here and now too…the everyday changes in the lives of family members around us…the accomplishments, hopes, and dreams for their future. She knew the importance of documenting the everyday moments of a life. Thank you for your wisdom, Great Aunt Bertie, and thank you Julie Holmberg Carlberg for blessing me and the rest of the family with this wonderful journal and the pictures you sent too. Great Aunt Bertie’s legacy will always be our priceless treasure.