One of the things I like to do, if I can, is visit where my ancestor’s lived. I like to see the houses they lived in, walk the streets where they walked, and see where they went to school. If I can’t visit in person, I will look their addresses up on google earth. But it is best to go there. One time we were in Lincoln’s home in Springfield Illinois and my husband said, “Imagine we are walking where Lincoln walked.” Yes, that is true and it’s nice, but I’m more thrilled when I can walk where my ancestors walked. One time I visited the church where my grandmother was baptized. Attached to the church was the school she attended. I never knew my paternal grandmother. She died six months before I was born. Some one greeted us at the school door and walked us through the gym and down the hallways to the church office. All I could think of was this is where my grandmother walked, the grandmother I never knew. If I had been alone, I probably would have cried a little and let the tears come to my eyes. In the church office I went through church records to find her baptism and confirmation. This was the only record of her birth. She born at home in 1900 in Illinois and no civil birth record was recorded.
I’ve also made several trips to Ottawa, Illinois where my maternal grandmother was born. I knew this grandmother very well. She talked a lot about her maternal family and all the information she gave me was spot on. When I checked out the dates and places, she was right. She was not sure about her father’s family because her father left her mother, my grandmother, and her siblings when they were small. But I have been able to find information on her father’s family. Both her parent’s families lived in Ottawa, Illinois. I was able to locate both great-great grandparents homes. I have walked the streets where they lived. When I was a child, we would visit friends in Ottawa who had a girl the same age as me. We would go to the corner and play on the school playground. In my research, I found that a sister of my great-grandfather was principal of that school. So as a child I played on the playground of the school where my ancestor was principal and didn’t know it at the time. I had vague idea that my grandmother’s family was from Ottawa, but of course at the time it didn’t mean anything to me. Sometimes we would visit with old people, and I had no idea who they were or how we were related.
I’ve been to Amana, Iowa to see where another set of great-grandparents lived when they first came to the United States. In the museum there, I was able to see a book where they signed their names when they came to Amana. I also viewed quilts and other items that looked like ones my grandmother had in her home and that I have now. We ate in a restaurant and the German food tasted just like what Grandma made. At that point my grandmother was gone, and I had not tasted her food in years. But the minute I bit into it, the memories came flooding back.
A couple of years ago, I visited Clark County, Wisconsin where another great-grandfather owned a farm and was unfortunately killed on his farm. I went to court-house in Clark County and looked at the deeds to get the legal description of the property. The lady in the court house offered to show me where it was on a map today. My husband and I then drove out to find it. I did not know the whole story at the time on how he was killed. Knowing now that it was on his farm by a neighbor, it would have meant more to me seeing his land. His house is gone, and a newer one is on the farm, I image that the barns are newer too. But just the fact that this is where he lived and died, gives me chills. See post from June 13, 2015 John Desens Killed
My husband may like seeing where famous people lived, but give me the towns, streets, houses, schools, and churches where my ancestors lived, that’s what I get a thrill out of seeing. It’s not just the site of it, it’s the feeling that I get when I am there. I may have known some of the people or may not have known them at all, but I feel close to them when I walk on the street where they lived.