During this journey to find my ancestors and my living family, there have been several times that I have felt that I had made a rare find. Of course, how could it be rare if there were several times, you might be thinking. I thought the same thing, and yet, some of the people I have come across have become so special to me that they could only be classified as a rare find. People like my father-in-law’s half brother, Butch Schulenberg, and our cousins Paul and Betty Noyes, come to mind immediately. But then, I also think of Tracey Inglimo, Denny Fredrick, Tim and Shawn Fredrick, Shirley Cameron, Pam and Mike Wendling, Bill and Maureen Spencer, and the many Schumacher cousins in Wisconsin and Minnesota. I think of Nick and Laura Weber, and Joe Weber. As I think of these people, new rare finds and renewed rare finds, I begin to realize that as I have discovered these special people, some I have never met in person, and some that I have known all my life, but lost track of, I begin to realize that maybe rare finds in the family line aren’t really as rare as I thought they were after all.
I have been thinking about what it is that makes a person a rare find, and the thing that immediately comes to mind is that these people truly care about me…about what I think and who I am. I find that these people are kindred spirits…something I had not really given much thought to until I got into the “Anne of Green Gables” movies, but after watching those movies, I realize just how important kindred spirits really are. Kindred spirits share the same values, goals, and desires, even if they are is slightly different ways. I think it is the values though that mean the most. Maybe that is a big part of what makes these people a rare find. So much has changed in our world these days, and while we all have maybe a slightly different view of what things are wrong and how to fix them, I still find that these people are value driven people…patriots, who love this country and what it stands for.
The longer I think about it, the more I realize that while finding people who compliment who I am is not such a rare find, it is still a rare find that there are so many people who have become so very special to me. It warms my heart to think of these people, and it warms my heart with every conversation I have with them. It is my hope to someday meet those precious people who I have never had the pleasure of meeting in person. I know we will really hit it off, because we are family and kindred spirits. It’s a great combination. While my “rare finds” have not really been so rare after all, I am so blessed by each and every one of then, and that makes them absolutely priceless. I am very blessed to know them all.
Sometimes in life, we are handed a blessing that takes us by surprise. Such was the case with Uncle Butch Schulenberg. Butch is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s half brother, and since my father-in-law’s passing, I have had the wonderful opportunity to get to know Butch, if only through Facebook. This is a fact that I’m sure my father-in-law would be quite pleased about. When my father-in-law passed away, we needed to let his family in Forsyth, Montana know. It was a hard time for all of us. Then, something very nice began to happen. I had connected via Facebook with Butch Schulenberg’s daughter, Andi Kay, and that has led to blessed connections with her brothers Todd and Heath, and her sister-in-law, Jennifer, as well as Butch’s wife, Charlys and their granddaughter Savannah. Each of those connections is a sweet blessing in it’s own way, and I am so thankful for each, but the connection to Butch as been especially wonderful, because of the kind of man he is.
Butch reminds me a lot of my grandfather, George Byer. He is an encouraging sort of man who always makes you feel important. I’m sure his kids and grandkids can attest to that, because I’m sure that over the years he has encouraged them in whatever they chose to do. Of course, being encourage is not the only reason I feel a closeness to Uncle Butch. It’s because he has just welcomed me into his family. Unfortunately, for many years, there was not a closeness between my husband’s grandfather, Andrew Schulenberg, and my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg, but when they decided to set aside those feelings and reconnect, that was for them the end of a long era of being distant from each other.
It is strange, however, that somehow, I was unaware of the relationship the half brothers had developed. It wasn’t until I was involved in taking care of my father-in-law, that I even knew that they were in touch with each other at all. Of course, it is no surprise that these two men would get along so well, because I believe they are two of a kind. It is a hard thing to fully express the personalities of these men, but gentleness, kindness, encouraging, and accepting are words that all come to my mind. These are attributes that really leave a person no choice but to like the person who has them…and these men have, or in my father-in-law’s case, had these attributes. They leave a person room to be their own person, knowing that the people they respect, also respect them enough to trust their judgment, and celebrate their successes. Even if the accomplishment isn’t anything major, these men could make it feel like it was. Can it get any better than that? I don’t think so.
I’m not saying that I crave praise, or that it is the praise that makes Butch special, because that would be inaccurate. It is just the person Butch is that makes his very dear to me. Every interaction I have with him reiterates just how much I like the person he is. At some point, we are hoping to meet up and have an actual face to face conversation, with several of us in attendance, an idea that I am very much looking forward to. Still, for now, I am glad to have connected with him on Facebook, because it has given us the chance to get to know each other. This isn’t Butch’s birthday or any other special day that I know of, but rather just a chance for me to tell this sweet uncle just how glad I am that our families have connected…because he has been such a surprise blessing, and one I feel very thankful to have received. Of course, that blessing is nothing new to those who have known Butch all their lives. Thank you Butch for being an important part of my life, and the lives of all the people you touch with your gentle kindness. We love you!!
Every time I make a new family connection…no matter which of the many branches of the family tree it happens to be on…I feel such excitement. These are new members of a family history that is ever evolving. We are related…be it by blood or by marriage, and now there are new people to get to know. They may or may not have new family history information, but quite often, they do. They may not even know that they have important information, until someone asks them a few questions. Still, most times they do know that they have important information, but they just don’t know that it is information that someone else is interested in.
In the past year and a half, I have had the wonderful opportunity to become friends with some family members on my father-in-law’s side of the family, that I knew about, but had never really connected with. My father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg, had a half brother, Andrew (Butch) Schulenberg, and I met him and his family years ago, when we went to a family reunion for the Schulenberg family. After my father-in-law’s passing, we needed to contact his half brother, and that conversation started my curiosity. I began searching Facebook, and came up with a familiar name…Andi Schulenberg.
When I first met Butch’s daughter, Andi Kay, she was a little girl, with a really cute name that just stuck in my head over the years. I didn’t have a chance to talk to her then, but I remember thinking that she was a cute little girl. She was a couple of years older than my oldest daughter, Corrie, and three years older than my youngest daughter, Amy. They could have been friends if they had lived in the same town. As I recall, Andi Kay was into sports, but I don’t recall what sport exactly. Andi has two brothers…an older brother, Tadd, and a younger brother Heath. At the time of the reunion, I don’t remember seeing her brothers, nor her mom, Charlys. I only remember meeting Butch and Andi Kay, and them only in passing.
Now that I have friended Andi on Facebook, I have to say, that as an adult, she is a very interesting person. We haven’t connected personally, just through Facebook, but I like her a lot. She is the mother of a nine year old boy named Calen, who is her pride and joy. Andi is a therapist at the Northern Wyoming Mental Health Center in Sheridan, Wyoming. She is bright and cheerful, with a smile that makes you feel like she is your friend right away. Through Andi, I have connected with Jennifer Schulenberg, who probably doesn’t know it, but she is the second Jennifer Schulenberg. The first one is my sister-in-law, Jennifer Schulenberg Parmely. The current Jennifer Schulenberg is married to Andi’s brother, Heath Schulenberg, and they have two sweet little boys named Heath and Ethan…or as Jennifer puts it so adorably in a picture…Thing One and Thing Two. I also connected with Butch Schulenberg, who is my husband, Bob’s uncle, and now with his wife, Charlys and their son Tadd. I understand that we are going to have to work on Heath to get him on Facebook…but that is a job for another day. Sometimes, you have to pick your battles, but maybe we can get him interested in new family members.
I feel like our family is so much more complete, now that we have added the Forsyth Connection to the mix. I look forward getting to know the Forsyth Schulenberg families better. I know there are more of them that have not been mentioned here, but I don’t know them yet. I’m sure there will be some new connections very soon. These things have a way of snowballing into a bigger and bigger connection every time.
My dad, Aunt Laura, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Ruth had a half brother, of whom I was barely aware until recent years. I think I had heard about him, but somehow it really didn’t register in my mind, but rather seemed like someone who was somehow connected to someone else. While going through my dad’s pictures, we came across a picture of a man named Norman. We were pretty sure this was Dad’s half brother, and then when I was looking through my Uncle Bill’s family history books, our suspicions were confirmed. He looks like a very nice man, and I became very curious about him. I began researching him on Ancestry.com, and found that there was relatively little information, or at least that I could be sure of by documentation. I knew that he was born on May 25, 1906 in Flambeau, Wisconsin, and that he passed away on October 26, 1977 in Richmond, Virginia. Since his birthday was coming up, I decided that I wanted to showcase him for his birthday…but, it was looking like it was going to be a very short story. I decided to ask some of the people on the Spencer Historical and Genealogical Society’s Facebook page to see if they could help. What an amazing idea that turned out to be. I quickly got a response from David Lawrence, and he had a wealth of information to give me.
He told me that Norman was married to a woman named Elizabeth, but it didn’t appear that they ever had children. He mentioned that he had been stationed in Oahu, Hawaii in World War II. Then he said that he had worked for the Virginia State Police as a radio technician in 1850. I had found Uncle Norman’s grave on FindaGrave.com a while back, and a reference to Elizabeth that I couldn’t confirm on Ancestry.com. This all gave me new motivation to find out more. I first went to FindaGrave.com and found Elizabeth’s grave, but all it said was Elizabeth H…no last name, and called her, simply his wife. I found that a bit odd, but then I started thinking about the Virginia State Police, and decided that maybe I could get more information by calling them. This also turned out to be an amazing idea. I was quickly connected to the Human Resource Records Department, and within just a few minutes they read me all of the information on my uncle’s employment card…and there was more that just his employments history. His parents names, which I already knew, were listed, but also Elizabeth’s last name, which was Hoover. They had his service years, August 25, 1925 to March 31, 1950, when he retired at the rank of captain. They also had, of course, his employment years, August 17, 1953 to June 1, 1971, when he retired at the age of 65. I couldn’t believe all this information had come my way, by simply reaching out to two key sources. It was an exciting day indeed.
I was curious as to what Uncle Norman might have done as a radio technician, so I did some research on that occupation and found that they design, set up, operate and maintain equipment and radios used for transmitting. This tells me that he probably worked on systems for broadcasting information to and from the police officers of the Virginia State Police. I’m quite sure that the equipment he worked on back then would almost seem like a home built ham radio these days, compared to the equipment the police departments use today, and in todays world, his job might be a mix of those old radio technicians, and the work my cousin, Tim Fredrick, who is a half grand nephew of Uncle Norman’s, if I have my terminology right. I’ll bet he saw a lot of changes in that industry over his years of being involved in it. I wish I could have talked to him about it, but that was not to be. Today would have been my Uncle Norman’s 108th birthday. I’m really sorry I never got to know him, but happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Norman.
I have been going through old family pictures lately, and I have found myself looking into faces from the past that look strangely familiar. I find it odd that people who don’t have the same parents can look so much alike…even when they come from the same family line.
And it’s more than that. The mannerisms are so similar too. The way they smiled, stood, and expressions on their faces, and even their laugh. It seems so odd to me that some of these things can carry down from generation to generation…even skip several generations an still present themselves in grandchildren or great grandchildren. You would think that expressions would be unique to each person, or at the very least be mimicked, but they don’t seem to be. I have even noticed these things in nieces and nephews, or cousins. I even noticed strong similarities between my father-in-law and his half brother. I guess they must both take after their mother, but when you add my nephew to that mix, and how much he is like both of these men…well, it just gets mind boggling.
I know genes play a huge role in who we are, but you would think that as the generations get “watered down” with the addition of new contributors into that gene pool, that those similarities would begin to be less noticeable. I guess there are just stronger genes in some people, dominate genes, that force themselves into the mix strongly every time, like fighting for survival. I don’t know much about that really, and I’m quite sure that some scientist could give me an explanation, but since I don’t have one handy, I will just have to continue to speculate.
No…maybe not knowing will keep the sense of wonder that I feel every time I look into the face of an ancestor and see the face of my daughter, niece, nephew, mother, father, sister, or one of Bob’s family members. I don’t think I really want to lose that, after all.