I am always surprised somehow, when a side of the family tree takes an unexpected turn. I remember years ago, talking to Bob’s grandma, Vina Leary Schulenberg Hein about her family. She had never mentioned her mother much, but I knew that she loved her dad, Chester Marion Leary and her brother, Kirby Leary very much. The events of our past can shape our views of people…sometimes forever. The reasons people do things are not always clear, and sometimes may never be known. That said, Grandma told me that her mother had left when she was a young girl. That meant that her life changed overnight. Childhood was over to a degree, because she had to help out around the house. Her dad loved her and her brother very much, and did his very best for them.
I suppose that because I was asking her about her mom, she didn’t exactly go into detail about what happened afterward. While looking through Ancestry, yesterday, I clicked on a hit for Chester Leary that took me to FindAGrave.com. I didn’t have a picture of Chester’s grave yet, so I wanted to get that. As I looked at his memorial, some of which I had seen before, because I had added the picture of him, I glanced to the relationship information, and saw that there was a child listed there that did not match what I knew of the family. I clicked on the link for Ruth Leary Dilley, and it stated that indeed Chester was her father, but her mother was Marie, not Viola, who I knew to be Chester’s wife.
Well, of course, after Viola left Chester, he did remarry. I wondered why that was not mentioned when I spoke to Grandma Hein all those years ago. Since Grandma was listed as one of Ruth’s sisters, they must have had a relationship. It was so strange to me. I suppose that Grandma thought that all I was interested in was what happened to her mother, which wasn’t exactly right, but maybe the whole situation with her mother was still a touchy area, and she didn’t think about the woman, Marie Behrendt who had become her step mother. Marie was quite a bit younger than Chester…seventeen years, in fact…so Grandma Hein was fourteen years of age when they married, and Marie was only six years older that she was, so maybe she didn’t really feel like a mother to her, and maybe not even a friend really. Nevertheless, the half sisters who were born to that second marriage certainly felt like Grandma Hein was their sister, since they listed her as Ruth’s sister. Grandma Hein was just seventeen years old when she married her first husband, Bob’s grandfather, Andrew Schulenberg, so it could be that she wasn’t really around her dad’s new wife long enough to feel like she was her mother either.
Whatever the reason, I certainly did not know about the twist the family history was about to take. Of course, I know that marriages fail and people remarry, but it just seems odd that when asked about her side of the family, Grandma Hein mentioned only the things that she had felt so negative about, and not the aftermath. I have found some of the Dilley children, and plan to attempt to contact them to see what they know of things. Once again, time will tell as to whether or not I am able to learn much more about this step grandmother and half aunts that we have through my husband, Bob’s grandmother’s family. Once again, the story continues to evolve.
After seeing some old pictures of the Knox family a while back, I have wondered about one picture in particular. I’m never sure exactly why one picture stands out in my mind above all the others I have, but it does happen. This one is a picture of six Knox brothers, John, William, RM, Dr Nicholas, James, and SYT Knox. These men looked so strong and stern. I know that my husband, Bob’s Knox ancestors were both politicians and ministers, but that didn’t mean this picture had anything to do with either of those things. Then I came across a book about Hattie Goodman’s family history search, and found that these brothers were a missing link.
It seems that Bob’s 6th great grandparents John and Jean Gracy Knox, had seven children. They were Allison, John, Thomas, Delia, Mary, Squire, Joseph, and Benjamin. The only descendants that had been found belonged to John and Benjamin. I find it amazing that these family members didn’t know other family members within the family. I suppose that it is because of the fact that communications were no as easy in those days. Families lost touch, and the younger generations got to the point that they did not even know of the existence of great aunts and uncles that they had…especially if their parents and grandparents didn’t talk about them much.
That is probably one of the reasons people finally start looking for their ancestors. Pure curiosity. We know that family members are missing, and we want to know more about them. I think that is the reason most of us look for our ancestors. These brothers were at the Nashville Exposition in the summer of 1897, when they saw a copy of the Knox Tree, and realized that they belonged on it, since they were descendants of John and Jean Gracey Knox’s son, Joseph. They sent in not only their own names, but a number of others who also belonged on it, and ordered copies of the tree. It was at this point that the tree took on new life.
Whenever a new branch can be added to a family tree, it takes on new life. I have seen many parts of my own family history take on new life when, after months, or even years, of searching, someone connects something in their tree to something in someone else’s tree, and suddenly a link is formed. Of course, it is much easier to find those links these days, because of computers and the internet. I seriously doubt that I would be where I am in my family history were it not for those two tools. If people had to travel to all the different locations, or send out requests to all the different locations to get information, it would take forever to get anything accomplished. I’m glad the Knox brothers were at the Nashville Exhibition in 1897, because is made the process that much easier for everyone researching that line from that day forward, but it would have been a lot easier had computers been around. I suppose that I feel that way because of my own curiosity about my own missing links. I am quite impatient when it comes to that research. I want the information to be available, and when it is not, I am annoyed. Patience is a virtue, but I don’t want to have patience when I want information…do you?
A while back I discovered, or should I say, connected the Susan Spencer in Bob’s family tree to my family tree, thereby confirming the cousinship that I suspected between Bob and me. Recently, as I was looking again at the beautiful family tree that Hattie Goodman, who was an ancestor of Bob’s mother’s family, put together and I had seen so many years ago, I started thinking about some of the other implications of that connection…specifically regarding my family, and more specifically my sisters, nieces, and nephews.
So often, we go through life separating, or keeping our families straight by catagorizing them as our family and our in-laws. Then we look at the families of our siblings, and catagorize them as friends or our sibling’s family. And most of the time that works well, but in my situation, and that of my family…on both sides, it ended up being a little different.
I have to wonder if my sisters have considered the fact, that if Bob is my 10th cousin twice removed, he is also their 10th cousin twice removed. Now, that is interesting enough, but go one step further. If Bob is our 10th cousin twice removed, then his sisters and brother are also our 10th cousins twice removed…and to top it off, our kids are 10th cousins 3 times removed to Bob and his siblings. Ok, if you find that to be a little odd, then consider this. My girls are 10th cousins 3 times removed…to their dad!!! Now, that is totally mind blowing, but truth nevertheless!!
People could let such relationships get to be more of a big deal than they really are, if they aren’t careful, as was the case, when it came out that Prince William and Princess Kate are actually cousins. If you think about it, since we all came from Adam and Eve, I suppose that we are all cousins or some other relationship, so we might just as well get over the stigma that we have attached to that. In reality, we are all just one big happy faimly.
About a year and 4 months ago, while I was researching my family tree, I came across someone else who was researching his family tree, and my Aunt Ruth, my dad’s sister was in that tree. Since his name and his user name were not the same, I contacted him to ask what his relation to my Aunt Ruth was. I was quite surprised to hear that he was my aunt’s grandson, Larry. That was strange too in that my mom had just said that she had wanted to get in touch with Shirley, my Aunt Ruth’s daughter, because she wanted to give her our grandmother’s wedding dress and we had been out of touch with that side of the family since Aunt Ruth’s passing in 1992. This all seemed too amazing to be simply chance. I believe it was a journey the Lord wanted our families to take, and one that would turn out to be a journey we would cherish for the rest of our lives.
Meeting up with Larry in the very near future seemed very unlikely given the fact that he was in the service and stationed in Korea. To further complicate matters, he planned to stay in Korea following his retirement. When Larry retired however, things in Korea had changed. The place he had intended to work, had implemented a hiring freeze. There was no work there for him. Larry and his son, Nehemiah returned to Washington state where his family lives. The job situation there was no better, until a friend suggested that he go to truck driving school. Larry was unsure that he would be able to learn to drive a truck, but with his friend’s encouragement, he went to school and found that this was a perfect fit for him. He loves driving truck.
Yesterday, Larry’s route found him driving through Wyoming. He posted a picture saying that it was a picture of the sunset in Wyoming. I asked where he was in Wyoming, and at the same time his mom was asking the same question. When she found that he was in Casper, she called me and told me. She gave me his phone number, and I called my mom and sister, Cheryl. Within half an hour, mom, Cheryl, her granddaughter, Aleesia, my grandson Caalab, and I were sitting at Perkins, having pie and a great visit with Larry. It was like coming full circle for our families. We had not seen them in 20 years, and yet it felt like just yesterday. The crazy thing about it is that neither Larry, being his family’s photographer, nor I, the one who uses pictures every day to tell the stories I tell on my blog, thought for one minute about taking a picture to commemorate the visit. Can you believe it?? I hope Larry’s route will soon find him in Casper again, and since he has my phone number now, he can let us know ahead of time, so we can have a longer visit, and bring more of the family…and take pictures!!!
There are ancestors in my family tree whose very name makes me want to know more about. Some of these people have a lot of factual data associated with them, and one little blurb about who they really are. People like Angeloah Shaw and his wife Mary Sapney Shaw come to mind. I have heard he was a minister, but that is all I can find on him, so I wonder what else he did in life. My mom told me that he used to walk 12 miles to town, stay the night, and walk 12 miles back when they needed supplies. That seems like a long walk back with those supplies. I’m sure he was used to the 12 miles in, and since Bob and I have often walked 8 miles in 2 hours, I can see how he could do that, but we weren’t carrying boxes and bags of supplies either. My guess is that he was a man who was in good shape. Still that is not much to know about your great great great grandfather
Then there is Susan Frances Spencer. She is an ancestor on my husband’s side who’s last name is the same as my maiden name, making me wonder if we are related. Unfortunately, little is known about her, including very little factual data. I would like to know if she and I are related. To my knowledge there is not even a picture of Susan. She has eluded me for 36 years, but I keep looking. All I know of her is that she died 13 days after giving birth to her twin daughters, both of whom also died within 8 months of her death. I would like to know if she is related to the Spencer line from England that I come from, as do most Spencers in the United States, from what I have heard. Still, the Spencer line is usually so well documented, and then there is this girl, who seems to exist only in a few places in the documentation world.
Of course, there are the well known and well documented members of my family tree, which I wish was the majority. So much is known about them, and it is very interesting to look it all over, but for some reason it is the elusive ancestors that seem to intrigue me the most…maybe because they are elusive, I don’t know for sure. I will continue to search around to see what I can fid, hoping that someday someone will know a little more about these mysteries and will finally unlock the door to the whole story.
While visiting Bob’s great grandparents in Yakima, Washington in 1976, Grandma Knox showed me a family heirloom of a different type than most, but priceless nevertheless. It was a drawing of a tree, on which the trunk and branches were the names of family members. It was a true family tree. It must have been a copy of several or many that were made and given to family members in the Knox family, because I have since seen it on the Internet. And was able to save a copy on Ancestry.com.
I think about the person who did all that original work. Her name was Hattie Goodman, and she is a relative on Bob’s side of our family. I would have to dig deeper to tell you exactly what the relationship is, but we are related, and on the copy that Grandma had, we know where our family section is. Of course, the tree does not show the names of my children or grandchildren, or even Bob and his parents, but his great grandparents are listed, so we know where we fit. It is an amazing piece of history, painstakingly written down by a woman I would love to have known, because I think she must have really been something!
Bob’s great grandparents are gone now, and I am quite sure his Uncle Frank still has the family tree drawing, as he is one of the last of the brothers born to Bob’s great grandparents, and the healthiest one for sure, making him the best choice to keep it. And he is also the one who would be the most interested in the family history, so he would treasure it.
It is quite a responsibility to be the family historian…and yet quite exciting too. You carry the memories in your head, and you feel the need to get it down on paper, or online these days, so that it can be passed on to generations who would not have known these stories any other way. There are family historians in every family, and you know who you are. The memories live in the filing system in your mind, but they are not content to stay there. They continue to spill out in your writings as a memorial to times past. You feel the need to leave a legacy of the stories of the past, so that future generations will not forget where they came from.
That is where I fit into the family, but I am not alone. Most families have several or sometimes even many people who are interested in those stories from the past. They can sit down and hear a story from the past, and immediately commit it to memory, and turn around and tell it to others to preserve the family history. This stuff just sticks in their memory so easily, and once it is in there, it stays. They are the family historians, and they have an important role in the family. Keeping the past alive for future generations.