Generation after Generation

When studying my ancestors, I think about their lives.  I think about the hardships they endured.  What I find was so common in past generations is early deaths, deaths of children or young adults.  When trying to piece together the family of a great-grandmother or a great-grandfather, I’ll find children who died. I find that so sad and think about how the mother must have grieved for her child.  I’ll find young mothers who died in childbirth, young adults who died of influenza, pneumonia, or appendicitis.  Today these kinds of things are very curable.  In so many other ways we have it better than the generations before us.  We have the advantage of modern medicine.  We have the conveniences of dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines, dryers, vacuum  cleaners, refrigerators, indoor plumbing.  We also have things that entertain us such as TV’s, radios, smart phones, computers, and the Internet.  Information is at our finger tips.  Want a book to read tonight? Download an e-book to your eReader.  Need to go to the store?  Hop in your car and your there in a few minutes, no matter time of day or night.   You don’t have to go back very far to remember when there was no Internet, cell phones, electronic games, microwaves, etc.

Socially we have become accustomed to women working outside the home, people living together and having children, abortions, mixed race couples and children, gay marriage, and now we are dealing with transgender bathrooms.  Generations ago no one ever thought about these things.   So it makes one wonder if we are better off today than generations ago.

Back when people didn’t have the conveniences and access to information at their fingertips, their lives seemed simpler in a lot of ways.  Men went to work, and women stayed home to take care of children and house.  Each had their role, and I think for the most part were satisfied.  At least it seemed that way in my family.  I think my mom and grandmother were content to stay home.  They did things to keep busy and save money that is lost today because working women just don’t have time to do it.  They sewed, baked, cooked from scratch, washed clothes in a wringer washing machine, hung them out to dry, and then had to iron them.  They cleaned the house made sure the children were fed, washed, loved, did their homework, and went to bed at a decent time.  They made sure we ate dinner together every night. When they went grocery shopping they didn’t always have a car so they walked and pulled a wagon for their groceries.  Milk and bread were delivered.  If you lived on a farm there was even more to be done.  Come fall they would start canning all the vegetables they grew during the summer months or the fruit from the fruit trees.  My grandmother would make crabapple and grape jelly from the grapes and crabapples in her own yard.  They gave us chores to do to.  It might be the kids that washed the dishes, cut the grass, took out the garbage, shoveled the snow, and whatever else they could find for us to do.   Sunday we went to church in the morning and later that day the whole family got together for a meal, and we just enjoyed each other’s company and talk about the week.  Saturday night might be a night that friends got together and played cards and talked while the kids played.

I think some of the things we have today are nice and I wouldn’t want to do without them.  I do however worry about family traditions.  Even in our small family as much as I try to keep some of them, it’s a losing battle, the younger generation seems like they just don’t value the same things.  We still have holiday dinners and even some Sunday dinners.  But everyone is in a hurry to finish and go back to watching football, baseball, or whatever the sport may be at the moment, or they are looking at their phones and messaging their friends, or on the computer, or playing a video game.  No one wants to sit and have a conversation or play a board game where we can all be together.  I think there will come a time when they will regret it.  These distractions were not around when my parents were here so I actually spent time with them.   I miss them, and I would give anything to have one more conversation with them.

I picture in years to come that there will be no one around to be the one to carry on family traditions and dinners.  Everyone will eat whenever and whatever they want.  They will spend all their time online, texting who knows who, and not know their own family members.  Hope I am wrong!  Only time will tell.

Daily Prompt: Generation

Copyright © 2016 Gail Grunst


Our Ancestor’s Spirits

Blog image

I never believed ghosts, telling fortunes, or communicating with the dead, but now I feel that I am starting to open up to the possibility.  It all started a few weeks ago when I had a dream about my brother who passed away in January 2015. In my dream he was alive and well.  I said to him, “I thought you were dead.”  He replied, “No, the doctor is giving me shots in the chest.”  I felt so relieved to know that he was still alive and then I woke up.  It felt so real that I wanted to go back to sleep and continue the dream.  I wanted to talk to him.  I wanted to tell him about all the things that have happened over the past 15 months.  Of course, I was unable to go back to sleep and continue that dream.  Over the years, I have dreamed about my parents and grandparents who have passed too, and a few times those dreams have made an impression like this one.  The next day on Facebook in my news feed I see a post that asks,”Have you had a visit from a deceased loved one in a dream?”  It said to find out if it was just a dream or visitation to click here.   I clicked, but it would not go to the website.  All I got was a white screen.  I then decided the heck with this and went on to something else.  Later on I started to think about it again, and went back on-line. I Googled “dream visits from loved ones”.  Well, I got a lot of information.  I read for a while and then went on to other things.  The next day I checked the library catalog to see if we had books on the subject and sure enough there were several books on the subject so I checked out two.  According to what I have read, they try to contact you in dreams, though animals, flowers, electrical things, etc.  Now I’m looking for signs that my loved ones are trying to contact me.  It would be just like my brother to contact me through Facebook. May be seeing a post about dream visitations on Facebook was a sign from him, letting me know that he did visit me in that dream. I’ve read that there are many signs all the time, but if we aren’t looking for it we won’t see them.  Well, I’ve been looking and a little disappointed that nothing has happened since the dream.

Carole J. Obley, a medium, writes in her book I’m still with you, “If a client or someone in his family is doing family genealogy, this will also be mentioned as proof that they are aware of the fact.  Sometimes spirits will assist in tracing the family tree by offering suggestions on where to find critical information.  One of my male clients had numerous relatives come through with very specific messages; in fact, his session probably holds the record for the number of names received in one sitting — not to mention the amount of evidential material these talkative spirits delivered.  Halfway through the session, I commented on how many people showed up to speak with him.  He laughed, adding that he’d written 40 books about his family tree!”[1]

Thinking about Ancestors wanting us to find them, reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago.  I went to a cemetery where my great-grandfather is buried.  I never knew him, my father never knew him.  In fact, my father only knew his name, that’s all.  I had very little information to go on when trying to find this man, and I was having a hard time finding him.  When I went to the cemetery, I wasn’t sure if this person was my great-grandfather or some one with the same name.  I went to the cemetery office to find out where his grave was located.  The man helping me pulled a book off the shelf and opened it right to the page that had my great grandfather’s name. We both were surprised and kind of laughed at the coincident. He told me where his grave was located, but said it did not have a tombstone.  I asked if there was information in the book as to next of kin or anything, and he said no.  I then thought if I could find out who paid for the lot it could  give me a lead.  I asked who owned the lot.  The man said that information was in another book, and he proceeds to get another book off the shelf.  He opens that book up right to page my great grandfather’s name is on.  At that point the man’s eyes got big and he said, “Oh my, grandpa really wants you to find him.”  It turned out that the grave was a pauper’s grave paid for by the State of Illinois.  After all that, I still didn’t know if it was my great-grandfather.  I have since found out that it is him.  So was that great-grandpa trying to tell me it was him?  I don’t know, but I am starting to wonder more about these kind of things.  Since I have always been a skeptic, I’m wondering if this is old age setting in, or am I losing my mind?

I have always felt disappointed that my current family doesn’t care to hear about the ancestors and my latest find.  I am all alone with my genealogy.  I can’t find anybody even a distant relative that is interested.  I had my DNA done through in hopes of finding a 4th, or 5th cousin working on the same line.  Again a big disappointment.  Now I am hoping it’s true that maybe the ancestors who have passed on do care and are rooting for me to find them!

Daily Prompt: Disappointment

Copyright© 2016 Gail Grunst


[1] Obley, Carole J., I’m still with you (Winchester, UK: O Books, 2008) pg. 127

Finding your Ancestors in the Newspapers.

img039 (3)

Do you use the Newspaper Archives to search for your ancestors? You should it’s a gold mine.  I subscribe to Genealogy Bank, and I can get the Newspaper Archives at my library.  Check with your local library to see if you can get access to the Newspaper Archives, Genealogy Bank, or any others.  Some libraries have their own town newspapers digitized so make sure to check with each library in the towns that your ancestor’s lived.   The Library of Congress has digitized newspapers from around the country and it is free to search so check out Chronicling America. I’m really hooked on looking for my ancestors in the newspapers.  You never know what tidbit you will find.

At first I thought mainly of Obituaries which are a wonderful genealogy resource. Obituaries can give you names of the deceased’s husband, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, and parents to name a few.  Also, the date and place of birth, date and place of marriage, name of their church, school, and employment.  Then on the other hand it may say “Tom died on May 5” and that’s all, but at least you get a death date.  However, beyond the obituaries, there are marriage announcements, birth announcements, and everything in between.  If they played a sport, or belonged to a lodge, you might find them mentioned in the newspaper.

I have been able to piece together parts of my ancestor’s lives this way.  I found an ancestor who was a doctor and performed an abortion in the 1920’s . The lady died, and he was charged with her death, but was acquitted. A couple of years later he was hit by a car.  Another ancestor was director of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and he was in the news quite a bit.  One ancestor lived to be 100 and he was featured in the newspaper article with his picture.  I didn’t have a picture of him, so this was quite a find for me.  I found an article about my great-great grandfather getting killed by his neighbor. Also, found that his son accidentally shot himself in the chest.  I’ve found the amount my grandfather paid in property tax and his bowling scores.  An obituary for my great-grandfather said that he had a great-great grandson that was related to Danny Thomas.  I’ve tried to check this out, but have not had any luck so far.  These are just a few examples.  Check it out and see what you can find in newspapers, it may surprise you.

Daily Prompt: Newspaper

On the street where they lived

1406657623257 (2)

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.

Daily Prompt: Street