Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sharing Family History Stories and Photos on Holidays

Sharing Family History Stories and Photos on Holidays

Sharing family history stories and photos during holiday gatherings has become a strong tradition in our family. This year was no exception, of course. Specifically this year, my youngest daughter began looking at some photos of mine from my younger years, many of which she didn’t recall having seen before.

The one I’ve shared here particularly caught her attention. The photo being taken of Dad, Mom, and me (as a baby) is very familiar-but this one of the photo being taken, by my uncle (Mom's brother), has many additional interesting features! Who also had a second camera, in 1939, and took this photo, in particular? Note the cars on the left... This photo provides a broader background than the other, narrower image, as well. The earlier photo showed only the three of us and the barn, not the rest of the yard and barnyard in the background. Very interesting to me, for sure!

Did your family share stories and photos at your gathering this year? I certainly hope so. Perhaps, there is still time to do so!

Families are Forever!! ;-)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Just when you think you may have seen everything in family history…this happens!

Just when you think you may have seen everything in family history…this happens!
Grant and Ella when she married my grandfather Smith, 1904

Thanks to a new genealogy friend for this latest exciting bit of my family history…

Out of the blue, yesterday, in my secondary genealogy email account:

“Mate Kinnick’s daughter (Mabel Jones) married Joe Ballard, the son of Martin Luther Ballard with his first wife.  Martin’s son (by his second wife) was Monty Ballard – your grandmother’s first husband.   It is a small world.” under a simple subject line, “Ballard connection.”

Kinnick is my mother’s side of my family. I’ve done very extensive research there, and Mate is a daughter of Joseph Kinnick, brother of my great-great grandfather, Walter Watson Kinnick. She lived in Wyoming/Montana around 1900, and was always, until recently, a very mysterious person to me, but her name was most familiar.

The mention of “Monty Ballard” - that is my father’s side of my family. He was the first husband of my Dad’s mother…he died in 1900, very young - climbing on a ladder doing Christmas Tree lights, it is said, fell off, hit it head, and died - their first son was only a few months old. She married my grandfather a few years later and they had several children. They raised that first son, Grant, of course. We never knew a lot about his family, except they had lived in Nebraska.

It turns out that Monty’s father was Martin Luther Ballard, and he had two families. Monty was a son of the second family. In Montana, in 1913, a grandson of the first marriage married the daughter of Mate Kinnick. Note that Joe was a grandson, not a son of Martin Luther Ballard…that made confirmation of this information a fun exercise!! Ha! Small world, for sure.

Just had to share. Have you had an experience like this? A first for me. Always something new coming up. What fun!! ;-)

P.S. There is always 'more to the story' of course. Monty's younger sister was an active suffragette.
Both she and their father were life-long active lawyers. Here are their stories...


Her father: Martin Luther:

Her brother: Monte:

Families are Forever! ;-)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Happy 8th Blogiversary to me!

Happy 8th Blogiversary to me!

As is typical, I let this important date slip by last week. Thanks to a reader for the reminder.

I have older blogs, but this is one started in Sept of 2009.

[Here was my first ever blog post, 12 years ago last Saturday... ]

I've slowed a bit, but still going strong!!

Families are Forever!! ;-)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Obituary - First Cousin passes

Sunday Obituary
First Cousin passes

Connie Irene Pierce, age 63, of Coon Rapids passed away on Sunday, September 17, at Thomas Rest Haven Nursing Home in Coon Rapids.
A Celebration of Connie’s Life will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, September 25, at the First United Methodist Church in Coon Rapids with Rev. Joyce Webb officiating. Organist for the service will be Lula Garnes and soloist will be Cindy Seastrom.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials be made to the Coon Rapids Public Library and may be left at the funeral home or the church.
Visitation will be held at the Dahn and Woodhouse Funeral Home in Coon Rapids from 5 – 7 p.m. on Sunday. Visitation will resume at First United Methodist Church at 10:00 a.m. on Monday until the time of service. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Dahn and Woodhouse Funeral Home in Coon Rapids and online condolences may be left for Connie’s Family at

Connie Irene Pierce

Born on February 18, 1954 in Carroll, she was the daughter of Warren and Bethene (Smith) Pierce. She grew up on her family’s farm south of Coon Rapids and graduated from Coon Rapids High School in 1972. She graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1976 with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education and special education. She earned her master’s degree in education psychology with an emphasis in learning disabilities from Wichita State University. Connie taught K-12 special education in Bartlett and Erickson, NE; K-12 special education in Polk, NE; fourth-sixth grade special education for several years at Kingman, KS; K-six grade in a behavior disorders classroom in Leota, KS; and K-third special education in Lakin, KS.
After 18 years of teaching special education, she moved back to her hometown of Coon Rapids. She enjoyed going to water aerobics and water walking at the Carroll Rec Center. She cherished her cats Toby and Tina. Connie also enjoyed reading, watching television, crafts and crocheting.
Connie did volunteer work at the New Hope Bargain Shoppe in Coon Rapids. She also did volunteer work for the Primary Title I Reading Program at Deal Elementary. Connie was a member of First United Methodist Church in Coon Rapids. Connie had recently made her home at Thomas Rest Haven in Coon Rapids where she received tender loving care.
Connie is survived by her sister Rebecca Tribby (Mike) of Stoughton, WI; her brother Darwin Pierce (Liz Garst) of Coon Rapids; her sister-in-law Pam Pierce of Sheldon; her niece Gretchen Swadley (Ryan) and their children Blake and Quinn of Green Bay, WI; two nephews Nick Pierce (Anna) of Waukee and Sam Tribby of Stoughton, WI; and many other extended family members and good friends.
Connie was preceded in death by her parents Warren and Bethene Pierce; two brothers Raymonnd and Dwight Pierce; her aunt Irene Smith and many other aunts and uncles.

Source: Coon Rapids Enterprise - Thursday, September 21, 2017 Page 3

Sunday, July 9, 2017

New Ancestor Stories in Fictional Form

New Ancestor Stories in Fictional Form

In my book, 13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories, I've always urged using a variety of methods to share your research of family stories. This is my latest effort to do that with mine. Here is the description for your interest:

"This is an ebook incorporating the compilation of four sets of episodes from the Weston Wagons West series of historical fiction stories first published online at These historical fiction stories are based on the extended Weston Family members as they interact, from Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia, beginning in the 1600s, with members of the author’s actual ancestors. Based on extensive personal and collaborative research, each story shares the social history of the time along with the author’s ancestor’s own history in those times. Family surnames of ancestors include Preston and Butler, Kinnick and Duncan, in Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and more. This ebook is one in a series relating the Weston Wagons West family saga stories that continue to be written based on current and future family history research."

This compilation is just one sample of many short stories I have written in this series at

By compiling them into ebooks, many of them are available in one place. Useful for my reference as well as my readers. This ebook contains 25 separate episodes in three major story lines. There are also 4 'updates' that provide overviews for the whole Weston Wagons West project that are interesting from both a writer and historians perspective.

Available on currently are the two prior ebooks in this series...this one there shortly.
Right not, you can order from: 

Families are Forever!! ;-)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

One Thing Leads to Another…

One Thing Leads to Another…

We all know how ‘one thing leads to another…’ This has been one of those weeks. My blogging has lagged as other things in my life ‘got in the way.’ Now, all of a sudden, ideas are just flying so fast…

Among several other things, since Father’s Day, last Sunday, here, I posted the above photo of my Dad on the 40th anniversary of his death. The response has been overwhelming. Most recently, as you may have seen in the comments, I heard from my first cousin, Kelton Kinnick, along with a nice email, continuing the conversation. He asked some questions that got me to digging to some old files. Besides finding what I was looking for, of course, I found several other folders with papers that got me thinking about other stuff from there, that would be worth spending some time on.

Additionally, I talked a couple of days ago with my uncle Buzzy Kinnick, and his wife, Colleen, on the occasion of their 69th wedding anniversary. That, plus Kelt’s question about the early days of his family (Leo, Buzz’s brother) got me to reminiscing… which, of course, led me to also thinking about the first half of the 1900s in the Smith family. And then, a cousin on the Smith side posted a photo about a 60th anniversary, in Nebraska, on that side of the family. The wife, Shirley, doesn’t look that different, I noticed, from what she did when her family visited our farm in western Iowa in 1954. So I had to find that photo to share, during which I saw some other photos I need to work with… and it goes on and on.

Dad’s family always called their farm, “The Homeplace.” This was also the theme of the family history booklet written by my aunt LVene, assisted by her sister, Irene, which has been so valuable in my continued work on our family history. Of course, I adopted that concept in my extended fiction writing of “The Homeplace Saga” of several novels and hundreds of short stories - that I need to continue to promote and work on. See more at:

Thank you, one and all, for the renewed inspiration and encouragement.

One thing leads to another…

Families are Forever!! ;-)

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!! ;-)