Sunday, June 25, 2017

Father's Day - Reflections - A Week Later...

Father's Day - Reflections - A Week Later...

A week ago, I posted this image on Facebook - my father, Pete Smith, as I want to remember him, from this photo dated Dec 1960. He was 45 at the time, just in his prime. We couldn't have imagined at the time that he had only 17 more years on this earth...he didn't quite make it to 62. And the last three or so years were an excruciating battle with cancer that he fought so hard against, every last day. 

I post this, today, because today marks the 40th anniversary of his passing. I'll turn 78 this coming Saturday, July 1, so he has been gone more of my life than he was in it. Kind of hard to conceive, but certainly true, as I think of it. My wife lost her Dad too early, as well, who I also grew up with in our tight-knit rural community. He passed away, from a massive stroke, in 1972. We each miss them both dearly, but have had good lives in spite of those losses. They each set us on our best paths. We are each thankful for that.

Families are Forever! ;-)


Sunday, May 14, 2017

DNA Results - My First Post

DNA Results - My First Post
My wife and I finally tested our DNA at and linked the results to our family trees. Our daughter Arrion had previously tested.

The results have come in recently. What do we do now?

First, two initial reaction, one from hers, one from mine.

1. Mildly surprised to see her Ireland Ethnicity was so high, at 35% (mine was so low, at 3%).

2. Results appear to confirm that both branches of my Kinnick heritage, including Nile Kinnick, are indeed genetically related. Multiple matches to ‘other branch’ - very satisfying! We all believe it to be true, but never able to ‘prove’ via available records. Now, perhaps, redouble our efforts.

Here are the stats:

WLS Ethnicity Estimate (100% Europe)
55% Europe West
31% Scandinavia
7% Great Britain
3% Ireland

NRS Ethnicity Estimate (99% Europe)
43% Europe West
35% Ireland
13% Scandinavia

For me:
DNA Circles
Asenath Butler DNA Circle - 2nd Great-Grandmother (1803-1885) 22 Members
William Charles Preston DNA Circle - 2nd Great-Grandfather (1780-1837) 18 Members
Walter W. Kinnick DNA Circle - 3rd Great-Grandfather (1810-1853) 10 members
Joseph Swineheart DNA Circle - 4th Great-Grandfather (1748-?)) 11 members

One Genetic Community - Settlers of Western Ohio, Indiana, Illinois & Southern Iowa (true!)

Have just begun to send out queries, a couple of initial replies.
What fun! Back to work! ;-)

Families are Forever, for sure, on Mother’s Day!! ;-)

Friday, February 24, 2017

RBS Express Update - Air Force Films

RBS Express Update
Air Force Films

Wilfred saw my earlier post:

and recommended this two part YouTube video - from the sixties - that I don't think has been posted here before. Brings back a lot of memories... also what military propaganda looked like back then! ;-)

Part one of the USAF film about the RBS Express:

Part two of the USAF film about the RBS Express:

Enjoy the trip...  ;-)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What can happen, when you share history stories

What can happen, when you share history stories

I have posted over 1100 stories here on this blog since 2009, never knowing who may be reading them nor who may reply in what way. This week, I received a note I never expected to get, with followup. For me, it is quite a story. It relates to this photo, posted at the end of a 2012 post…

Here was the first email (each published here with permission from Cory):

Hi Bill-

I think you knew my father.  Dick Etchberger out of 11th RBS Squadron.  That's him to your left and I'm pretty sure Stan Sliz to your right.  Sure would like to talk to you about your experiences on the train and what you might know about my father.

Cory Etchberger

I was naturally curious, of course, and this is the reply I received, including the several fantastic links at the end.

Bill-  Sit down, hang on, gonna take you on a ride.

I too am a retired college professor (Biology): Penn State, Kansas, Missouri, Switzerland and most recently here in Pennsylvania.

Back to dad:  that picture was taken when he was a SMSgt which he made about 1963, so that pic is about that time period.  RBS Express, probably in North Dakota.  That SMSgt to your left is the Air Force's most recent Medal of Honor Recipient.  Yup my dad.

He volunteered with other AF personnel to run a Top Secret radar site in Laos in 1967.  We were not supposed to be in Laos then, so the AF discharged these guys and were hired by Lockeed Aircraft Services and the CIA to run the site.

The radar site got overrun by North Vietnamese Special Forces on March 11, 1968 and dad saved three of his men while fighting off the enemy all night long.  He was put in for the Medal of Honor in 1968, but because he was "civilian" and we were not supposed to be in Laos, they posthumously awarded him the AF Cross (to my mother) with the understanding that when the War was over and the mission declassified, his medal would be upgraded to the Medal of Honor - that took 42 years.  There is of course, more to the story, but I was just 9 years old when he died, the whole thing was so secret, none of his three sons knew what really happened for another 30 years, and am always looking for people who may have knew him and simply stumbled across that pic on line.

I'm happy to answer any questions.

Links to verify:

Cory Etchberger

WELL, needless to say, I’ve now begun to read the book, "At All Costs," that documents the whole story, and had additional communications with Cory. The reading and this discussion has ‘brought back’ many memories of the ‘pre-Vietnam’ period of my military service that I believe have been a bit suppressed in my mind/memory. Each memory retrieved adds new memories resurfacing. I was discharged two weeks before the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. the ‘official’ start of the war. I cannot help but think I do have some suppressed guilt feelings of my life going on (in my civilian career), when most all of the men I served with did one or more tours of duty in the war zone. This new information really tops that off.  What a hero “Etch” was… and I had actually worked side by side with him, earlier. Never underestimate the potential in those around you!

My point of this post, of course, is that there are unknown benefits every time you post a bit of your family history or genealogy research. It can have great impact, even though possibly years in the future.

Families are Forever!! ;-)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My Hometown - When Daughters Ask - Part 3 of 3

My Hometown
When Daughters Ask
Part 3 of 3

Silver Dollar City, Thanksgiving 2016
Allison King, Annette Lamb, Arrion Rathsack

As my wife, Nancy, our daughter, Annette, and I discussed the ‘eighth-grade yearbook’ that featured Nancy’s mother, Ruth, as a seventh-grader, and my father, Pete, as an eighth grader (the only one, actually), our discussion also involved the younger brothers and sisters of each as we looked at the photos and pages about the other classes in the one-room country school. This brought up another important aspect of talking about your family history with your grown children.

Each child will have different memories about relationships with older members of the extended family as well as different cousins, perhaps. Annette pointed out, for example, that she had memories of interacting with aunts and uncles in our hometown that her younger sisters didn’t. We only visited the hometown a few times a year, perhaps monthly, in her early years, of course, but by the time the two younger sisters were old enough to remember, we had moved out of state and hometown visits were no more than once or twice a year, if at all in any given year. Conversely, on those later years trips, Annette was out on her own, not with us, so the younger sisters knew many cousins that Annette never really got to know well.

So, my point here is to remember that each child will have different interests, and disinterests, based on their own experiences with various portions of the extended family - in addition to there natural interests in one aspect or another of family history study… at the point in there life when they become interested at all… if they even do. As for our girls, I’ve already mentioned Annette’s interests. The youngest, Arrion, and her husband, travel to Europe regularly, so she has become interested in the ‘way back’ parts of our family history. In contrast, Allison, the middle one, is really the most connected to the living relatives, keeps in touch with many of them, and likes to visit them, when possible. Different strokes for different folks, so to speak.

I would enjoy hearing your comments about how your next generation has reacted to and become involved with your family history studies and research.

Families are Forever! ;-)

Friday, December 2, 2016

My Hometown - When Daughters Ask - Part 2 of 3

My Hometown
When Daughters Ask
 Part 2 of 3

Silver Dollar City, Thanksgiving 2016
Allison King, Annette Lamb, Arrion Rathsack

In Part 1, my wife Nancy was showing the first of two family history research projects on which she had been working to our oldest daughter, Annette. We looked at her reaction.

Then, Nancy handed her a folder with the second project, barely begun.

The key artifact in that folder was a multi-page ‘eighth-grade yearbook’ hand made at a one-room country school, using mimeographed sheets, and containing many little black and white photo images taped onto various pages. Each photo was of one or more of the students. This book was created in 1928!

Having been a Media Specialist in a local School, as well as a Professor of Instructional Technology and Library Science for many years, such a historical document ‘caught her fancy” immediately.

However, it was the content of the booklet that really caught her attention. She quickly realized she was looking at content written about both her maternal grandmother, in seventh grade, and her paternal grandfather, in eighth grade, chronicled in the yearbook!! At the same one-room country Star School, Union No. 1, where her own mother had attended in later years (the 1940s)!! Annette said something to the effect: “This is part of my family history, both sides of the family, in one document!”

This led to extensive discussion, of course, from both of our perspectives. Many memories invoked, shared, and discussed.

For this post, one particular aspect piqued her interest. Grandmother Ruth, the seventh grader, had written the ‘future’ stories of other students, and in particular, regarding Grandfather Pete, the eighth grader. It went something like this: At some future date, I (Ruth) was returning from an ocean liner cruise from Europe, and read a sports news article that featured Pete Smith. He was a star baseball player with the Des Moines Giants team and had hit 50 homers that year…. and went on like that.

Another page in the yearbook had noted that Pete was the leader of the local baseball team and it was his favorite sport - in addition to wanting to be a great farmer.

Annette immediately wanted to know if the “Des Moines Giants” had been a real baseball team of the era, and began an extensive computer search on the subject - she is very skilled at this. Jumping ahead just a bit, she got into the archives of our hometown newspaper, a weekly which is now available on line from 1882. She came across news articles, from the 1920s, of a local farm baseball team named the Willow Creek Giants, that features the Hilgenberg brothers. Willow Creek runs right past our home Smith farm… which Pete had purchased in 1941 from William Hilgenberg. Needless to say, this led to much more research and discussion. And, many, many maps trying to locate exactly where all this occurred, exactly, where and when and by whom. I did a full census-based family tree of the Hilgenberg family to add to the discussion. I knew many of them, growing up. One was an uncle, married Pete’s sister, and others were neighbors and friends. What fun!

This wasn’t perhaps the outcome that Nancy had expected in sharing her second project, but we all created new memories, learned new information about our family, and learned more about the neighborhood in the process of just a few hours. This occurred because we listed to “what our daughter asked” and followed her interests, not just our own.

In Part 3, tomorrow, we’ll look at some of the relationships we discussed related to the above and more…

Families are Forever! ;-)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Hometown - When Daughters Ask - Part 1 of 3

My Hometown
When Daughters Ask
Part 1 of 3
My wife, Nancy, and I are very fortunate that each of our three grown daughters have developed a serious interest in their family history. Nancy and I are more than pleased, and proud, to encourage that interest and share our extensive research, datebases, and writings, of course, to kick-start their own research… which they are doing, each in their own ways.
Silver Dollar City, Thanksgiving 2016
Allison King, Annette Lamb, Arrion Rathsack

Holiday interchanges are always critical since two of the three live in different states, so we are only face to face a few times each year. This post was kicked off, a few days after the Thanksgiving Day holiday, a few days before our oldest daughter, Annette, was ready to leave. Her interests include timelines and places (maps, places to visit, etc.) she says. Annette and Nancy have already published two family history books together, so it is always interesting to see where these discussions lead.

Shameless promotional plugs:

Nancy brought out two projects she had worked on lately, to share with Annette, to see if either caught her eye. For the first one, Nancy had built folders of information on the decades of her paternal grandfather, who was sort of a ‘black sheep’ in the family. It has taken years to build a decent history of him, since her family didn’t want to talk about him. There are still a few holes to fill in, but there is a story to be told one day. Annette showed interest, of course, but no new sparks seemed to fly… until she came across a photo from about 1914 of her three-year-old grandfather standing beside a pond/lake with “Longfellow Gardens, Minneapolis” written on the back. The ‘place name’ caught her attention. She immediately wondered if this “place” still existed and got to work on her computer.

She soon located “Longfellow Gardens” as a current part of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board [] and started to muse about a possible visit next summer as part of a previously planned trip in the vicinity. Wouldn't it be neat to have a similar photo, now, with her standing where her three-year-old grandfather had stood, over a hundred of years ago.

She also mentioned she knew someone who had worked with the parks there at one time. Was he still there? The pondering and planning continued, along with further discussion of Nancy's project research.

My point in posting this is how important it is to let the next generation pick and choose their own topics/subjects of interest in our family history studies. When they pick something that excites them, then perhaps the work we have done will become real to them, not just boring vital records and cute stories. They will move ahead with their own research that will add depth, detail, and context to what we have begun… that we would likely never have done, ourselves.

Part 2, tomorrow, will continue with another example… that second project...

Families are Forever! ;-)