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in a local School, as well as a Professor of Instructional Technology and Library Science for many years, such a historical document ‘caught her fancy” immediately.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! ;-)