Saturday, July 21, 2012


Early this year Dawn asked for any information I could give her so that she could begin building the Family Tree.  She was curious, and the internet makes searching for historical information easier and easier.  However, she lacked the time to sit for hours combing through records.  So, with her permission, I took over the task.

My mother's family has always been a mystery to me.  Questions that were asked weren't answered.  And for some reason, I never learned about my father's family either.  I don't recall hearing any stories from either side about "the good old days."  In the months that have followed my initial search, there have been some unexpected results, but all have been interesting.

A good part of the success I have had in building our family tree is attributable to my cousin Ideal’s help.  Our family visited with his often when we were children.  The last time I saw him we were in college.  As I recall, on my 21st birthday I went to a bar to celebrate being “legal”, and Ideal was there.  Not only did he buy me a beer, he bought several, contributing to a memorable hangover.  Then the college year ended, I graduated and my family moved away.  At the same time, our mothers had a falling out and contact between the families ceased.  When I began the ancestry search, my lack of knowledge and the possibility he (and his sister, Jeannie) would have information to share that could shed light on so many questions was the impetus to reach out to him.  

Thanks to Google, I’d located him years before.  But now I wrote to him, hoping that our mothers’ disagreement hadn’t affected our relationship.  I mailed the letter, eager to reestablish our family ties and hoping he could supply helpful information.

A week after mailing the letter, he called!  He had tried to find me and my brothers but been unsuccessful.  He didn't know my married name and neither brother is on Facebook or can be found with a Google search.  We talked for an hour, each of us telling the other about our lives over the past 49 years.

Iva, Bert and Grandma
Fortunately his mother had collected many photographs of family members during her life.  Before contacting Ideal, I had found birth records on that indicated our grandmother was not an only child as I'd thought.  She had a brother.  Confirmation came in a 1900 photograph Ideal has -- three young people:  Grandma, her brother, and, apparently, a sister, as well.  Their names were written on the photograph.   Now, even after several months, while there are later photos of the sister (with her husband and their daughter), I have been unable to find the date or place of her birth.  On the other hand, I learned that she was married a second time.

Great-grandfather Jonas

The search for information on Grandma's father, Jonas, has been slow and the rewards, scant.  There is a record of his marriage.  He and wife, Jennie, left the area in Ohio where they’d been raised and moved to Michigan where he was a logger.  Years later, the 1880 census shows they were in Iowa, where he was a plasterer.  And then there is no census data on the family for 30 years.  Apparently in that time, Great-grandmother Jennie passed away, for once Grandpa Jonas is “found” again, his marital status is shown as “widower.”

Great-grandmother Jennie

Jennie was one of ten children and apparently she remained in touch with a brother and sister whose photographs remain.  In fact it was through identifying who those people were that we realized their sister “Nancy J.“ was, in fact,  our great-grandmother, Jennie.

Mom's four older siblings

Mom had five siblings, four sisters and a brother who died when he was 10 and Mom, 3.  I have always thought his name was Orlie.  The Ancestry web site yielded the name Orla, which was also the name of a paternal uncle.  

Mom's Dad

Grandpa's brothers, Fred and Orla

What? My grandfather had brothers? AND sisters?  Why did I never know that?  Perhaps because Grandpa and Grand- ma divorced before I was born and my contact with him was infrequent.  I don’t recall ever hearing references to his extended family.  But now there are pictures of two brothers and two sisters.

Maternal Grandparents

Aunt Stella, Aunt Janette and Mom

Uncle Fred, Dad, Aunt Clara

Dad was the oldest of three children.  Although Clara died in her late teens or early twenties, I have been unable to find a record of her date of death.  

Grandpa was a grocer

Mom and Dad

As a young man, Dad played softball
Mom modeled early in their marriage

Tracing the family tree is made more difficult by the various spellings of surnames and even the given names.  I found Jonas’s surname spelled four ways and his given name, two.  He’s also confused with a brother, John, who died in infancy a year before Jonas was born.

I have enjoyed putting together our family puzzle, looking for the links that confirm relationships.  The ability to copy information of many ancestors that others have gathered in creating their family trees has obviously been helpful and  welcome.  I have verified that the children listed to any couple were born before the mother died (occasionally a researcher slips up!) and born after either parent was of an age to beget offspring.

Both of the branches on my mother’s side have been traced back by others to the 1500’s in Europe.  Unfortunately such data hasn't been collected on Dad's family.  His maternal grandfather came to the United States from Germany.  Until someone adds information gained from German records, that branch stops with his birth in 1854.  Similarly, there doesn't appear to be any work done on the paternal side of Dad's family prior to the birth in 1803 of Dad's great-grandfather.

Four branches down, four to go.  Next I'll work on Roy's family tree.  I already know from hearing Park family stories that there is a Cherokee Indian in our Tree.  A cousin of Roy's has put considerable effort into gathering records and I will ask for her help when I get back to gathering data.

Although we have corresponded frequently since this project was begun a few months ago, Ideal and his wife, Judith Ann, stopped here to spend the night last weekend on their way to Indiana to visit his family and their friends.  Being with Ideal, seeing the smile I remember and hearing his laugh again have brought back memories of our childhood.  As important as finding ancestors has been for me, becoming reacquainted with my cousins Ideal and Jeannie is a equally significant reward. 

Me with cousin Ideal who has shared information and photos and his wife, Judith Ann.

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