In the years since I first became interested in my family history, so much has been revealed to me. Sites like Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, GedMatch.com, and others have made my journey and the journeys of so many others, not only easier, but possible. DNA testing finds matches that no one could find before, and for those who were adopted, that is a very big deal. For the rest of us, it connected us with lines we didn’t know about that tore down some of the “brick walls” we had come up against.
All that was just amazing, but there was one thing that I still lack…the stories my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles could tell me. I have started to remedy that now, with my aunt, Sandy Pattan, but we both have found that we have regrets about the missed opportunities of the past. We have been kicking ourselves about the family who have gone to Heaven and taken with them the stories of our past. We have talked about why we have allowed that to happen. Of course, the answer is simple. As kids, we didn’t care about the past. We were looking to our future. We wanted to be grown up…to be 16, 21, 25 and so on. Those were the important things, not what happened 20, 50, or 100 years ago. None of that seemed even remotely real to us. More’s the pity, because looking back now, I wish I would have been more “forward thinking” as a kid. I know that as we get older, we suddenly find that our parents are gone, Then almost as if something strange was triggered, the questions we should have asked years ago, come flooding in. Suddenly we think, “I need to call Mom or Dad, and ask them about that.” Then, as if we just woke up from a long coma, we recall that they aren’t here. They are in Heaven, and our chance to ask them this or that is gone.
I think this happens to everyone who has lost a parent. The realization is slow to manifest, and habit makes us think we can just pick up the phone and call them with our questions. Then there is a “catch in our throat,” a “pain in the pit of our stomach,” and that “ton of bricks” realization that our parents are gone. Then, while we wonder why we hadn’t asked the questions of our parents that we wish we had, we also find that it’s our parents themselves that we miss the most.
On September 22, 2016, I was contacted by a man on Ancestry.com who told me that we were researching some of the same people. He said they were people who had signed the famous Snyder Friendship Quilt. Well, since I had never heard of it before, I wasn’t too sure how famous it was, but his question intrigued me, so I had to check it out for myself. I looked at the site he sent me to, and I was very intrigued. The quilt was a known as a friendship quilt, and they were quite popular in times past. This quilt, called the Snyder Quilt, is made with varying red floral tones and white contrast. It has 72 blocks in it. The thing that makes it a friendship quilt is that the friends of the quilter write their name on the blocks. On this quilt, 63 of the 72 blocks have signatures.
For me, there were two things that I found exciting. The first was that eleven of the signatures had the last name Shaw, which is one of the family names in my mom’s family history. I knew that I would be researching those people to see if we are related. The second thing that was exciting is that there were three signatures of famous people…”Abraham Lincoln President of US America 1865″, “Mrs Abraham Lincoln”, and “General US Grant” had each signed a quilt block. At this point, my mind was racing. I wondered if the Shaws on the quilt could be family, and how well they knew President Lincoln, who has always been a man who interested me. That was almost a year ago.
The names that are repeated several times are Snyder, Shaw, and Readon. Some of the other last names on the quilt are Thomson, Russell, Fuller, Suderly, and Schoonmaker. The name Snyder is on the quilt thirteen times and the name Shaw appears eleven times. All of the different names on the quilt got my family history wheels turning, and I knew I would have to get busy and find out if any of the people who had signed the quilt were people who were related to us. My research would prove quite fruitful, but as with any research of one’s ancestry, the going was slow. I really expected to find the connection to the Shaw side of the family, and I think I will at some point, but what really surprised me was that I found out the Abraham Lincoln is my 7th cousin, 3 times removed; and that Mary Todd Lincoln is my 4th cousin 4 times removed; both on the Spencer side of my family!!
There is some speculation as to whether the Lincoln signatures are authentic, and I can see why. On the quilt, Abraham Lincoln is spelled Abraham Lincon. I’m not going to try to debate the authenticity, but I will go so far as to say that since my job requires me to sign my name multiple times during the day, I have actually signed my name so quickly that I have misspelled it, and had to insert a letter into it. I know that sounds odd, but try signing your name over and over for years, and see if you don’t make a mistake or two. By this time, Lincoln was the President of the United States, and so had to sign his name a lot too. You can believe what you want to, but I have chosen to believe that the Snyder Quilt is authentic, because I can’t see any purpose in the Snyder family lying about it. Their friends would know the truth, and the quilt would have had no real value.
My cousin, Dennis Fredrick and I have been emailing back and fourth for a few weeks now, and it has brought our relationship back to what if used to be, years ago. Time and distance make it difficult for people to stay in touch…even relatives. That is what happened with Denny and me, and now that we have begun to move our relationship back where it should be, I think we are both much happier about it. It’s amazing just how much you miss of someone’s life. The years go by so fast, and before you know it you can feel like you hardly know them anymore, and that is a sad thing to see happen between cousins. The good news is that it’s not too late to change all that, and that is exactly what Denny and I have set out to do.
Denny recently retired, and that has given him more time to devote to the family history. It’s perfect timing, because I have some pictures that I wanted his opinion on, and he has found some great documents that most of the family had never seen before. Denny’s mom, my Aunt Laura Fredrick has been working on the family history for years, and being the oldest of my grandparents’ children, she had the opportunity to have a copy of her parents’ marriage certificate. With her passing, her years of hard work on the family history were passed on to her son Denny. Now, with Denny’s extra time, and my knowledge of Ancestry.com, it is my hope that we can make some the information available online, as well as to other family members who are online, but maybe not on Ancestry.com.
Of course, the family history is not the only thing that Denny and I have been talking about. There are so many memories to talk about. Our families were so close when they lived in Casper. we loved it when they came over. There was always something fun going on. The conversation was interesting, and there was a closeness between the families. After their move to Oregon, we didn’t get to see them as much. That is the part that both Denny and I feel a loss over. Nevertheless, it’s never too late to catch up on the past, so that’s what Denny and I intend to do…making up for lost time. That is our ultimate goal. It might be a long road, but it will be worth it in the end. Today is Denny’s birthday. Happy birthday Denny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My Uncle Jim Richards has always been a soft spoken man. To me he always seemed shy, and maybe he is, but over the last year, have come across information that has made me realize that while he might have been shy, he was also a very strong man…a man of deep convictions, who valued has family and took care of them when they needed it the most. I can’t imagine growing up without my dad, and yet when Uncle Jim’s dad died, an eight year old Uncle Jim stepped up to the plate, and did his very best to fill the shoes his dad had left behind. I’m sure that at first the whole head of the household thing seemed almost cute to his mom, but as the years went on, and he continued to show a leadership ability far beyond his years, his mother learned to depend on this son who was the man of the house before he was even old enough to be a man. He proved himself to be the person everyone could count on.
Just a year before his dad’s passing, while the nation was in the middle of World War II, Uncle Jim found himself the younger brother of a war hero who had been killed in action while storming the beaches of Normandy, France…his brother, Dale Richards. There was not much that a young boy of seven years could do to ease the pain his parents felt, and there was not enough money to bring his brother home, so he was buried in Normandy along with many other war dead. I can’t imagine the pain that must have inflicted on the family, and how one seven year old boy felt helpless to stop the hurting that had come upon his family. Then to add to the pain, his dad passed away just one year later. The sadness must have been overwhelming for them. I think too, that it probably shaped Uncle Jim’s life into the kind of life it was…one of close family ties, and helping each other whenever possible.
I don’t know if Uncle Jim will ever be able to go over to France and visit the grave of his war hero brother, but after hearing about the facts surrounding the loss of his brother, I set out to find out what I could. I didn’t have very much to go on…just his name, but before long, with the help of Aunt Sandy Pattan, Ancestry.com and Findagrave.com, I found what I was looking for…the location of the grave of Dale Richards, and even better, a picture of his grave. At the family Christmas party, I was able to give that picture to Uncle Jim. It was an emotional moment for his whole family, and I was so happy to be able to give him that gift, because he was such a sweet man who had done so much for so many others, asking nothing for himself. The picture will never replace the loss of his brother and dad all those years ago, but for the man that had become my uncle, I hope it was a comfort, because his brother’s grave is in a beautiful, well kept honorable place, and I’m sure that is just what Uncle Jim would want for his brother.
Uncle Jim will always be a quiet, soft spoken man, who carries a big load on his shoulders. It’s not that his life these days is so hard, but rather that he is the family patriarch…a lot like my dad was. The family looks to him for leadership, guidance, and emotional support. When things go wrong, he shows them the way to go, and when all is well, they all share in the joy of it together. Today is a day of joy. Today is Uncle Jim’s birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
For some time now, I have been quite curious about my husband, Bob’s maternal great grandmother, Eva Landis Noyes. I have been searching for her on Ancestry.com, and have found a little bit of information, but it has been minimal, and there were no pictures out there. That made me sad, because I have wanted to have as many pictures of our family’s ancestors as possible. Those people who have eluded me have been left to have just a picture of their grave, if that is even available, which sometimes isn’t the case either. I have come to learn…throughout my life, really…that perseverance usually brings success at some point…and sometimes when you least expect it.
I have been trying to scan all the pictures from my mother-in-law, Joann Knox Schulenberg’s childhood scrapbook, and because of it, I have found out a lot of information about my mother-in-law, and her personality when she was a girl. Her scrapbook has been a treasure box of little gems of information both in picture and words. She not only put the pictures in, but she told who and what they were…something so many people don’t do, and when they don’t, their descendants are left to guess about the people and events that are held within the covers of the scrapbook. It is a sad turn of events indeed, because we all want to know who those people are, and what was going on in the picture.
Today, as I was looking at the pictures there, I stumbled on two pictures that I apparently hadn’t really looked at before. I find that to be the case a lot. We look at the pictures, but assume that we won’t know those people, so we don’t necessarily read what is written there very carefully. Today, however, I noticed that was written there, and the light bulb came on. All this time I had been wondering what Eva Landis Noyes looked like, and she has been in that book, which I have had for almost a year now, and I just simply didn’t know it.
Today that all changed. As I read what was written there, the realization came to me that this woman was indeed none other than Eva Landis Noyes. One picture was of Eva, and her daughter, Bob’s grandmother, Nettie Landis Noyes Knox, and is captioned, “Mother and Daughter”. The other one is of Eva and her husband, Grandpa Orin Eugene Noyes, who went by Eugene; and Grandma and Grandpa Knox, Nettie and Bob. That picture is simply captioned “Anniversary”. Yes, they are just pictures, and it isn’t like I have had the chance to meet these great grandparents, but to me, these simple pictures are truly pure gold. Being able to see the faces of the people who, through their lineage brought my husband to me, is amazing. While this find has only served to spark the fire of my curiosity, rather than to put the fire out, I still feel like it is an amazing find, and about that, I am very excited.
In the months since connecting with so many of my cousins on the Schumacher side of the family, we have found out that one of the original six children of Carl and Albertine Schumacher was not represented among the cousins. I set out with renewed determination to see if I could find out more than the little bit of information we had, which is that Mina Schumacher married John Spare, and they had one daughter, Pauline Jessie Spare. Someone thought that Pauline had two daughters and two sons. That was pretty much the extent of our knowledge of Mina’s family. Then I came across a tree on Ancestry.com that had a little bit more information. I found out at that time, that very sadly, Pauline had passed away in June of 2013. That information left me feeling both sadness, and great loss, because we had been so close to finding her and yet, we were so far. We were too late to have the chance to know Pauline.
I felt like I was stuck. I went back to the family tree that I had found on Pauline, and looked at the name of the owner…Julie Carlberg. We had thought that Pauline’s children were John, Lisa, Kristin, and Timothy, but when I looked at the home person on this tree, it was the daughter of Pauline. I wondered if Lisa, whose middle initial is J might be this Julie. I sent a message through Ancestry to Julie, but then I noticed that she had not been on in a couple of months. Then, I decided to look on Facebook, and I found her there, but she doesn’t get on there much either. Nevertheless, through a combination of these two places and the information I found there, I was able to Google her and found a work email…which is where I hit the jackpot!!!
I sent her an email on Monday night, and could hardly wait until Tuesday to see if she would respond…which she did. I am very excited to say that the cousin search just took a great big upward turn. Not only did I find Pauline, who went by Paula, but I found her four children, Lisa and her children, Jenny and James; John, his wife Diane, and their daughters, Allison and Abigail; Kristen and her sons, Jonathan and Timothy (yes there is a Timothy in the bunch, just not a son, but a grandson); and of course, Julie, her husband Andrew, and their three children Kevin, David, and Kendra. Julie was able to confirm that a picture of a little girl, who after a little thought I had suspected might be Pauline, was indeed Pauline, and that a large copy of this picture had hung in Pauline’s room. I also received a much more updated picture of Pauline, along with Julie and her daughter, Kendra. So now I believe that our family is much closer to coming full circle from complete disconnect to very connected, and I am very excited about getting to know these newly found cousins. This has been such a wonderful journey, and I thank God for each and every one of the precious cousins that He has now connected.
For many years I have been trying to find out if Susan Frances Spencer, who is Bob’s 3rd great grandmother, has a connection to my own Spencer family ancestry. It has been a struggle to say the least. I originally found out about Susan while Bob and I were visiting his great grandmother in September of 1976 in Yakima, Washington. Susan had stayed on my mind off and on through the years, and when I began researching our family history, I found that no information was available beyond Susan on Ancestry.com. Recently, as I was going through some old papers…looking for pictures, of course…I came across an old piece of paper where I had written the known information at the time of our visit to Yakima, in 1976. I was pleasantly surprised to find the names of Susan’s parents.
Within Ancestry.com, one tiny bit of information can open a whole new world of information. I began to trace her family back, and the further back I got, the more familiar the names began to sound. I started getting excited. I had tried to trace children of my great uncles down to try to connect to Susan that way, but hadn’t had much success. Now that information coming out started to mean something to me. As I continued the connections of Bob’s side of the family, I began to think that I was very close. Finally a name surfaced that I knew I had in my family tree…Gerard Spencer. As it turns out, Gerard, who is my 9th great grandfather, is also Bob’s 11th great grandfather. My family descends from Gerard’s son Michael, and Bob’s family descends from Gerard’s son, Thomas. So what does this information mean to me? Well, it means that Bob and I are actually cousins. Bob is my 10th cousin twice removed to be exact. Strange isn’t it? I suppose that might be something that could have bothered me 38 years ago, but since we have been married over 37 years now, I’m not going to let it upset me much.
One thing that Bob’s family might find interesting, however, is that since I can trace my line back to Princess Diana, and they are in that same lineage, theirs can also be traced back to Princess Diana. Princess Diana is my 18th cousin. Since Bob and I share a grandfather, Gerard, and Gerard is my 9th great grandfather, and Bob’s 11th great grandfather, that should make Princess Diana’s 20th cousin. Now that…is amazing!!