Saturday, October 29, 2011

Build a Tree! Please!

I know this is unrelated..but aren't tree houses the best?
I've noticed something over the past 6 months as I've been blogging about family history and helping people start theirs.
Most of you don't see the value in building your tree. And I'm not talking about a tree house!
I was where you were last year. I gathered documents from family, searched for more and plugged in new information as I found it. The process was slow and ofttimes unfruitful.
Then I bought a subscription to But I STILL resisted building a tree! I would login and pull up the search screen, enter names, dates and locations and press "search". I can't express clearly enough the frustration I'd feel when people I KNEW were somewhere in the system failed to show up in the search!
I almost gave up and threw in the towel thinking I had very difficult lines to trace.
But one day I was playing with some of the tools there and figured, "Why not start a family tree? At least it'll be there for me to add to as I get more info," It took about 10 minutes to add my name and info, what I could remember of my parents and grandparents, and some bits and pieces of their parents, aunts and uncles. I didn't want to get all of my records out, so I did it from memory.

Sample pedigree with green leaves... not mine!!
Then the little green leaves started popping up near their names! I didn't know what they were doing there but I clicked on them and was pleasantly surprised. The system had taken the data I'd entered and searched for possible record matches that I could then review and research to see if they fit that person. If they matched I could add the record, if not I could ignore it and move on.
Whenever I get stuck in my research I start looking at aunts, uncles, siblings and children of my direct-line ancestors. I research THEIR documents for clues about the one I'm researching or trying to find.
Stop resisting building a tree on or any other site you're using that has the tools to help you find documents! And if you visit my account you'll see how many trees have been started by me or other people who use my account.
Even if you only use it once in a while, it's better than going it alone. Email me and I'll send you the login info. If you're new at family history the best thing you can do to get jump-started is to build a tree.
Start today!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Angels Among Us

Have you ever considered the the gift that the descendants of your ancestors are to you? 

I have cousins, aunts, and uncles everywhere. They're scattered all over the world. I don't know any of them. I've communicated to some by phone and email. I've received pictures in the mail of some of my ancestors and their children from a few of them. If I spoke to any of them in person it was when I was a child and I can't even picture their faces.

When I traveled to California with my sister Kathy in the '70's we stayed with my Grandpa Ken and his wife Nancy. We visited Northern California and walked amongst the Giant Redwoods, and stopped to take pictures of Oregon's rocky coast.

Then we went to Seattle and stayed with distant cousins. I don't have a clue about what their names were. I recall looking at a group photo of a bunch of Swedes and being told some names. The only one that has stuck with me for 32 years is Ole. And who he is or was is a mystery still. But I remember the Space Needle and the Farmer's Market!

I have good memories of that trip. But I was sitting at my computer yesterday, gathering more documents for Elsa Christopherson and her children and I felt an overwhelming sadness.

I'd missed, through others' ignorance as well as my own, the treasures that now I wish I had. I wish someone had introduced me to the descendants of all of my ancestors who were living in California, Oregon, and Washington. I wish I'd sat and looked into their eyes and got a feeling for who they were.

It would not have mattered then. 
But it matters now. 

People are more important than places and things to me. I sit and I wonder how many relatives I have and know nothing about.

A little over a year ago I made a phone call to a distant cousin in New York because I was stumped in some research. We'd never met nor talked before. What a great conversation we had! She told me all about her life and the struggles she was having. My heart ached for her. I wanted to help so badly, but all I could do was listen and promise to keep in touch.

So much of my time is spent with friends. And I love them. My eyes have been opened to the blessing that we can be to our other friends, the built-in ones that we have in our living relatives. They are so easy to find and to make a part of our lives. Who knows what blessings await?

They have become my hidden treasures. My children aren't very interested in them. They don't know them. But before anything else, I will make sure that they have those names and connections made available to them. So someday, when their hearts are turned they will know what I valued and took time to leave for them.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: here's a simple worksheet to print out, start filling in, and hang on your wall. It's not pretty but it's a start.

Introduce them to the rest of your family today. Give them as a gift.
Make them your treasures.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Going Home

Sugar plantation
 at Aiea, Oahu, shows Pearl Harbor in the distance.
Elsa Christopherson (formerly Skar) is buried about 11 miles away on another slope of the harbor.

"The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned."
                                                                                                                                          Maya Angelou

I had mixed feelings when I got the call that the house we're renting here in New Hampshire was sold and we have to be out by December 1st. We've been here for one year, and have made great friends. I've uncovered a lot of my husband's family history in the town we live in. It's bitter sweet saying goodbye. We thought we might just stay here forever.

And then I remembered Elsa Skar.

If Elsa hadn't left Norway with her brother Hans Peder she would never have met Christian Christopherson, a man also from Norway and seven years her junior. He left Norway a year after her in 1881. They married that same year and ended up having five children.

They both came to Maui because there was a need for workers in the sugar plantations. So they both decided to get on a ship, leave friends and family and start a new life.

What an adventure she had! I have no idea if she worked in the sugar plantation fields or stayed home to raise her family. Her first child was born almost 10 months to the day of her marriage to Christian. So, I hope she didn't. But Christian was a sugar cane farmer in 1910, so I know he had to have started somewhere! 

I found it hilarious when I realized how many plantation workers came from other countries. It must have seemed like a modern day Tower of Babel. Men, women, and children from the Philippines, Korea, Japan, China, Spain, Puerto Rico, Germany, and yes, Norway working side by side in the fields. It was either very quiet or very noisy because no one could understand each other! I guess the plantation owners didn't find it very amusing and developed a new language, Hawaiian Pidgin, to deal with the communication problem. 

I laugh picturing Elsa saying to Christian, "Would you please speak Norwegian! I can't understand a word you're saying!" 

At one point around 1890 the family which consisted of Elsa, Christian, and three children, Christopher, Rangvold, and Mary, left Maui and stayed in Olalla, Washington where her brother Peder and more family had settled. Two more children, Tillie and Edith , were born there.

This is the part of the story where my heart and hers starts to intertwine. 

For some reason Elsa, Christian and their five children moved back either to Maui or on to Oahu. What was it that called them home? 

Here's where I get to imagine because I wouldn't know unless I talked to them myself. But if I was Elsa, and 47 years old with five children and I knew that there was a tropical island with my name on it...

I'd be going home, too!

Elsa's story is much richer than I painted it. How could it not be, growing up in Norway, sailing to Maui and then to Washington State and then back to Paradise to finish out her days? 

I love that she's buried in a cemetery overlooking Pearl Harbor. It seems significant that WWII started in the harbor below her cemetery. Knowing the history of the people who came from all over the world, following the impression to take another step in their journey, humbled me. So many thousands of people being led and guided to a place of sure chaos, out of which they ultimately created a new language that would be impossible to decode by the Nazis during the war.

Every decision that might have seemed confusing or vague at the time ended up being stepping stones and building blocks of  history as we now know it. Each person and family group was a part of it. And whether I step back and see the whole picture or zoom in to study the lives of the individuals of my family history, the outcome is the same.

We are all part of something bigger than ourselves and have to trust that the small decisions made in faith will play a part in the grand scheme of things. Just for today, we can focus on the stepping stones right in front of us even if we don't know where they lead.

I, for one, am up for the adventure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hawaii Anyone?

Loch  View Cemetery
Pearl City, Hawaii

Do want to know what I'm going to do? 

Let's start with what I WANT to do. I look at that heap of broken headstones and I want to put them back in order. Among them might be my great great grand aunt and uncle, Elsa Skar, and her husband Christian Christophersen of Norway. Their headstones, I mean. Elsa is Hans' sister. Their descendants eventually moved to Washington State in the late 1800's.

On my early morning drive to Nashua this morning I asked my daughter to let me talk through my research about this cemetery. I told her about my fixer-upper project and she said, rolling her eyes, "We'd have to go to Hawaii, Mommy." 

"I know. We are." 

Laugh. More eye-rolling."Did you hear that, Kyle?" she joked with her brother sitting behind her. "We're going to Hawaii!" She obviously doesn't believe me. I can't say I blame her for doubting. I consistently and fervently say, "No!" to everything except the question, "Do you need some help?"

But somehow we're going. All of us. 

I was thinking of leaving a cache nearby for all geocachers to have a little fun. I just need an idea of some trinkets to put in the cache. Something creative that people who love family history and geocaching would enjoy. But that's for another day. 

Your reasons for liking cemeteries might be different from mine. I don't visit them to visit the dead. I love them because of the wealth of information one can gather from the headstones and the cemetery office's records, if any were kept. And they usually are. 

I want to get the Boy Scouts on Oahu to volunteer some time to clean up the grounds. My oldest boys' Eagle Scout Project was collecting information from the oldest part of a town cemetery, mapping the family plots, taking pictures of the headstones, and organizing all of the records created from his project. He gave the finished project to the cemetery's secretary, who updated the town's records of that cemetery. The next step would be to get all of that information online so that people wouldn't have to travel to get pictures, names and dates found on the headstones there.

But the Loch View Cemetery, overlooking Pearl Harbor, is a mess. Even if a map existed of the original plots, it would be too expensive to redo the whole thing. I'd like to do what was done at the Old Pioneer Cemetery in Olalla, Washington for some of my ancestors buried there. Someone created a memorial with names and dates of all of the people who had been buried there for visitors to see. Just a simple, engraved plaque mounted on a boulder (so I've been told).

I've started researching the cost of the memorial. It'll probably cost upwards of $1,000., depending on how many names and dates are added. But I'm good at finding deals. The airfare is another matter entirely. Perhaps we'll swim.

But what a dream. Huh? It'll take some time and planning. Kelley said, "If we go we HAVE to visit Pearl Harbor!"

Me? I just want to island hop and step on the same ground some of my ancestors stepped on. They lived on at least two of the islands. And I'm sure that the sand from the beaches they landed on is worn and washed away like the headstones. My imagination will have to bring me back in time because I know that things have changed since they were there. 

But the ocean doesn't change. I want to look at the same one that they did over 130 years ago. And I want to leave my mark. 

(Not really. I just want to go to Hawaii)

First I have to pay the electric bill.
And the heating and water bill.
And rent.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What Are Friends For?

"It's all your fault!"

I laughed. Jackie is so dramatic. But she got my attention. 

"What? What did I do?"

"One thirty in the morning! I was up until ONE THIRTY! And if my laptop battery hadn't died I'd have stayed up later!"

Okay. I know I was asleep at 1:30 am. I'm never up that late. 

Jackie and I used to hang out at the family history center every Tuesday night when we lived on the Cape just a year ago. It was so fun. We became best friends. She'd bring me Dairy Queen Blizzards. I hid them whenever one of my children came in from playing in the gym. We would laugh and laugh about nothing. Truth be told, we'd get a kick out of listening to each other mumble not so nice things at the computer screens. I loved the occasional screech of "Agh! I found him!" 

Family history centers are like productive and happy coffee shops. Everyone cares about what you're working on and almost everyone is a bit perplexed about something. It's not unusual to hand your chair over to someone who has been looking over your shoulder so that they can sit down and fix your mess.

I listened for about 10 minutes as Jackie told me story after story about her late night on You see when we worked at the family history center there was free access. It was more than either of us could afford to subscribe to privately. We had two hours week of intense searching and printing. And laughing.

Finally I got to the bottom of her "complaint" against me. The day before, less than 24 hours earlier, she'd called frustrated that she hadn't been able to get to the center and she really wanted to work on some family history. I asked her what she wanted to use in there. Was it the microfilm, fiche, or It was Ancestry.

"Jackie, I have a subscription. You KNOW that! Use it. That's why I got it!" 

I can't afford things until they become vital! is like that for me. 

I waited while she got the Internet up and got to the home page. I wasn't sure I remembered the user name and password, and she kept leaving her caps lock on. It took a few minutes before she screamed, "I'm in!" and I knew the conversation was done. It's like that when you have the family history bug. It owns you.

I giggled listening to Jackie tell me how much she loved "those little leaves" that pop up when the site finds new leads. She went on and on and on. She was like a breath of fresh air to my soul. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I so wanted to teach her some things that I'd learned. But as I started to I felt the shift in her telling me, "This is my moment! Let me enjoy it." Shut up, Betsy (me to myself!)! Don't say a word! Listen.

There has to be at least one of you who wants to use my with me and Jackie, and some woman in Ohio whose name I can't remember. (We met over the phone by mistake last year. She uses it a lot. I just have to remember to tell her when I change my password.) I'd be thrilled if you do. 

It's a lot more fun sitting as a group of friends in the family history center on a Tuesday night or Saturday afternoon, eating ice cream and laughing. I miss those days. 

One of my other dreams was to buy a big Victorian house and set up a few rooms with computers and, etc. I'd bake some bread and we'd have a blast just hanging out. You could pop in whenever and stay 'til whenever. But I go to bed really early so you'd have to lock up. It would be you, me. and all of those dead people! Problem is you'd have to live nearby! 


In the meantime...please share my subscription.

Email me:
 I'll send you the info. you need to start playing.

Update: As of today, Tuesday the 19th October, there are 2 new people using my Ancestry subscription. Two more and we'll have to set up a schedule so that we don't run into each other!

Update: Nov.15th: Hooked another one!
Update: Dec 11th: One more added!
Update: Jan. 9, 2012: One more added today!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Your Ancestors and Your Socks

"No one realizes the beauty of love, until you lose it"

Have you ever lost something and made yourself crazy revisiting and overturning  the same blasted couch cushions, or opening all of the kitchen drawers for the umpteenth time hoping that that trinket will magically appear? I do that all the time. But it rarely helps me to find what I'm looking for. I have a secret thing that I do when I have lost something. It works every time. 

I clean.

Socks are another story. Most times I abandon the search. The mate might be right in the drawer. Somewhere. But most times I can't be bothered . I can wear them mismatched. Or I might go sock-less.

I have to admit that my sock drawers are what I've heard are reflections or witnesses of creativity! I know what's in them. but they are a mess.

But I don't want to talk about socks just yet. I want to tell you what happened on Saturday.

I was lost. I couldn't find any excitement for family history. All of the stories were starting to feel the same. I was bored. I called my mom and she listened. It's good to talk when you're stuck. But talking wasn't helping me get unstuck either. I knew I need to do something. I glanced up at the clock. I remembered an assignment our family had to clean the church and realized I had 1/2 an hour to pull myself together if I was going to get there on time. My husband had just had surgery, the house was a mess, I was tired, and everyone but the 3 youngest children was sleeping. I said goodbye to my mom, threw on some clothes and raced to the church with the kids in tow. 

After plugging in the vacuum cleaner I walked to the family history center down the hall and poked my head in. I motioned to a woman on the phone that I was going to be noisy. Did she mind? She nodded and 10 minutes later met me in the hallway, her phone call ended.

We talked for about 15 minutes. By the end of the conversation I learned that our husbands might share some ancestors in common. She told me a story of one of them. I went home and reread the story online and cleared up some questions I'd had about Nathan Cross and his kidnapping by Indians in New Hampshire in the mid 1800's. I was thrilled to have been fed such a feast out of the blue.

Neither Pat, my new friend, nor I had planned on being in the church building that morning. But we both got up and out of the house in response to a feeling of being lost and doing what was right in front of us. 

Now back to socks. But let's not go all the way back.

Do you know your ancestors? Do you even have a curiosity about them, or are you like me? You think you know them, where they are, and what their lives were about. You consider yourself unattached from them. They have nothing to offer you. They are replaceable. They are things in the past and their stories are over.

They are your socks in your sock drawer. You know where to find them, but you'd just as soon get rid of them and replace them with new ones that fit, have no holes, and are stilled paired nice and neatly, ready whenever you need them. It's a hassle to sift through the clutter.

If that's not your sock drawer OR  the state of your family history I'm preaching to the choir. You are who I am on my good days! Days when I'm searching, finding and feasting. I need no convincing of the value of family history on those days.

When it comes to family history I may be looking for people, but I'm finding stories. And within those stories I always find myself. I find my physical, emotional, and spiritual DNA. My joy is in decoding it and finding what's in it for me.

Genealogy is the matching of the socks. It's the searching and analyzing to see which belongs to which, and where I might be able to find the missing one.

Family history is the washing and mending of them. It's the story behind the holes and the snags and the smells. It's where you make a love connection. Does that make sense?

So, think about something for me for a bit today when life might feel dull, or you feel a teeny bit lost. Or maybe you just can't put your finger on that little nagging feeling that's something's missing, but you insist everything is in order.

Think of your ancestors like socks. They may be old and smelly, holey and mismatched. But they're yours.

Let me help you find them.

Here's a chart to download and to get enlarged and printed. Tell the printer to change the file from JPEG to PDF.

4 Generation / Family Group Chart ~ 18x24" Download  (This really is a link. Click on it. Please tell me if it doesn't work!)

It's a worksheet for you to put 15 families from your past in order. Take one of those families and learn about them. I'd love to hear what you learn about them and yourself!

(One note. If you are adopted you have a legacy of love that's as important to look into as your biological ancestry. You can get information about your biological heritage pretty easily these days. Both families will have insights into who you are and why people make the choices they make. Let me know if I can help. I have some very intelligent resources!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Death and Postage Stamps Are on the Agenda

Wardner's Castle 1103 15th St. Fairhaven, Whatcom, Washington
John Earles' residence in 1905 according to records from relatives. No one knows who the family is in this picture. Could it be John, Bridget and the children?

Olympia, Washington, Tuesday, January 12, 1909. 
The Senate was called to order at 10 o'clock a. m., by President Coon.
Rev. E. L. Swick offered prayer.
The secretary called the roll, all members being present. .....

"Resolved. That the sergeant-at-arms is hereby authorized and directed to supply each member of the Senate and to the president, secretary and assistant secretary of the Senate five dollars worth of postage stamps...


"Whereas. In His infinite wisdom. Divine Providence has seen fit to remove from his sphere of activity and influence among us John Earles, a former member of the Senate of the State of Washington and of the House of Representatives. 

"Resolved. That as further mark of respect to the memory of the deceased the secretary of the Senate be instructed to transmit a copy of these resolutions, suitably engrossed, to the family of the deceased." 

(Don't forget to use your new stamps!)


The family of the deceased... 

That would be Bridget  and her eight children. The ones who would open that letter with all of its resolutions and whereas', and the sorry-for-your-losses written , folded, sealed and delivered by people, probably friends from a now former world. 

When I first saw this record I thought, "That's interesting. A former senator. There's no story there. People like that get their stories told over and over again." I wasn't impressed. I think I have a bit of reverse snobbery going on... But I read the document from beginning to end anyways. 

It left me cold. I have let it sit with me for about two weeks. What's there to say about a moment in time? I wasn't there. Neither were John, his widow Bridget Earles, nor their grieving children.

But when I hear about someones passing my heart stops for a few seconds, and I think about the people left behind. Husbands, wives, sons and daughters. Maybe parents, too. I was very bothered and couldn't understand why.

I think I saw myself and my life in Bridget more than I wanted to admit. 

Bridget was 48 when her husband John died. He was only 50. So am I. She moved south to Seattle, close to Michael Earles, her brother-in-law. He was the president of a logging company in Seattle and had a wife and young daughter, Betty. Remember him

 Bridget never worked. So say the 1910, '20 and '30 census records. She never remarried. That fact alone kills me. I have so many questions for her. Was John irreplaceable? Was she depressed? Did eight children scare everyone away? What did she do with her time? 

Those are the things I ponder. I can picture Bridget perusing the minutes from that meeting of former colleagues and friends when it was delivered to her home on a January day in 1909. Would she be as perplexed as I was when she read the resolution about postage stamps being on the same page as the "marking of respect for the deceased's passing?"

Which would chill her more? The frigid winter air or the stark reality that her husband's passing was noted and checked off as one of the duties of the day for all in attendance of a mandatory senate meeting?

No matter how many times I reread that one Washington State Senate document I can't get past the postage stamps. That one resolution speaks volumes about life and death.

Life goes on. But for a time two worlds overlap. One is relegated to the world of memories, the other to the nuts and bolts of every day living. The present. The now. The one that uses those postage stamps. 

In between the two is a place where time stands still. Where  emotions play while hearts sing their songs. and paint vivid pictures of how a person's life has affected us. It's an unpredictable and private world that pops up out of no where and demands attention NOW. No letters come nor go from there. No need for postage stamps because what happens there will find its way to the player's face and will tell the story in his eyes.

I have always been and hope to always be moved by what my imagination sees going on "between the lines". I want to be the kind of neighbor and friend that would look into Bridget's eyes and offer support for her to slip into that world freely and fully. Perhaps that's exactly what Michael and his family did for her. I hope so.

The facts tell me that Bridget lived for 25 more years. That's a long time for a widow. I'll find out more about her as I search newspapers that might show her as a member of a society or social club in Washington. It's obvious that most of her time was spent raising her children. While most were still in school, the oldest became teachers and even a musician in an orchestra.

Her life went on. Maybe she found a cause to champion or a purpose for her life that would keep her engaged and feeling vital.

Nothing she did will impress me as much as her endurance and the questions that her life encourages me to ask myself.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What Would You Do If Public Schools Closed?

If public schools were to suddenly shut down I know what I'd do.

First I'd do a happy dance! 
(after a meltdown wondering if I was up to the change!) 

My children are not excited about learning at all. They have no idea how many children in the world would thrive given half the chance at an education that they have. But that doesn't mean that they aren't capable of learning. They are wise and know that an education is NOT what they're getting. I don't believe that anyone is really to blame. It's just that the system I grew up in didn't work for me. Why would it be any different for them? 

So Step #1 would be: STOP 

Step #2  would be to pull out my 4 generation chart, a worksheet with 15 families of their ancestors. Maybe I'd have one of my kids close their eyes and point their finger on a spot. A family. We'd start there. Where they live. At that point and time in history.

I would love to know if anyone else sees the possibilities for an education based on family history? 

Do you get excited as I get when I find myself learning about a time or event in history that I'm certain I was exposed to in school, but now feels easier to understand because I can see one or more of my ancestors living during that time? Do you find yourself reading a farm census of one of your relatives from the 1800's and get a clearer picture of what it meant to eke out a living as a farmer? Or what the cost of living or the lifestyle was? Or wondering about tractors and plows and other inventions and the inventors of that era? I do.

When I want to write a story about an ancestor I have to immerse myself in their life, not just the facts from census, marriage, birth, death and other available documents. I always end up asking a whole host of questions that lead me to be more educated about the time they lived in than I ever would have been unless I had a certain penchant for studying the history of their day.

Let me show you what I mean!

 To make a very long story short here's a list of the topics I studied while putting together the story A Driven Man: Nature or Nurture :

  • The Great Potato Famine 1850's / Ireland
  • New York City 1850's
  • Ellis Island
  • Who were the steerage passengers of a ship. Why is it called "steerage"?
  • Transportation in the US in the 1850's-60's
  • Communication in the mid 1800's
  • Telegraph
  • Telephone / switchboards / operators
  • Logging in the Upper Midwest in the late 1800's
  • Early railroad systems in Colorado
  • Farming in Wisconsin 1860's
  • Manifest Destiny
  • Allopathic medicine
  • Steam ponies
  • Sol Duc Hot Springs
  • American Savings Bank. Seattle / Bank director/ Stockholder
  • Ferry service in Puget Sound

Believe me. The list goes on and on.

I have learned and retained more interesting things than I did in all 12 years of public school. The information was there. The teachers were qualified I think. But I was not engaged in learning. There was no time. 

My mother kept a 5th grade report card of mine where I wrote,"This was the best year. I wish I could always learn this way." I remember that year vividly. We studied Eskimos, Indians, and baboons all year. We built huge dioramas, watched movies, read books, and worked as teams and sometimes alone. 

There was time to let ideas simmer and percolate.

So why would I choose an education with family history as a foundation? Because it touches every part of life as we know it. 

  • The Arts
  • Languages
  • Science / Technology 
  • Inventions
  • History
  • Geography
  • Careers /Skills
  • Transportation
  • Math ( I ask, "What math skills did that trade require?" etc.)
  • Etc.

I don't want to spend my life gathering facts and skills. I want to find out what makes me insanely happy so that I wake up every day to bliss. Exposure to the real world through family history, albeit dead and gone, connects me to the world I live in . There are new questions to be answered, and new ideas and problems to address. I will have received a foundation of the history of real people. I will have watched them find their own answers and form their own ideas. It will be a strong foundation. One that I can build on.

By finding them I will find myself.

  • What type of education would you be drawn to if  public school wasn't available?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Best Friends Forever!

"Childhood is a short season." 
Helen Hayes

Can you believe that my Grandpa Ken (center with the white hat on) is 13-yrs,-old in this picture? I can't. Maybe it's the overalls! I found this picture this morning and discovered a story, or the beginnings of one, scribbled on the back by one of my father's relatives. 

It's dated 1919, Olalla, Washington. The kids' first and last names were written down, so I decided to have a little fun and see if I could find them in 

Of course they were there! They were neighbors of my Grandpa Ken, on the 1910 census. So for at least nine years, those years we all refer to as our childhood, these guys (and gal) were buddies. 

In nine years, from the date of the 1910 census 'til the timestamp of the photo, more children were born to all three families. Agnes, Grandpa Ken's mom, remarried. Those years, I'm sure, were etched on their hearts as the best time of their lives. Days packed with schoolwork, and chores around the house and the farm. Lazy Saturdays where they'd hang out and commiserate about their lots in life. At least that's what my friends and I did. And I'm incredibly grateful that my parents were busy being adults a lot of the time so that my friendships had the time and space to grow. I treasure my friends and the memories I have with them.

I'm moved today by the thought of how quickly time passes. And how children need to feel loved. I'm so grateful for my childhood friends. What a gift it is to have people to talk to, to laugh with, and to help you pick berries!

Family history is more than family. It's life and everything and everyone in it that adds color, texture, and dimension to one's soul. Most of our time is spent with our friends. 

Did Ken and his friends keep in touch? I don't know. I sent a message and a promise to Ralph and Carl Culver's relative on A promise of a photo. A moment in time. Sometimes family history research gives you opportunities to make friends who are connected because of their ancestors, not by blood but by curiosity!

"Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same."

I hope we all take the time to reflect on friendships past and present and maybe even take a minute to drop a line to say, "Hi! Remember when...?"

  • How do you keep in touch with your friends (past and/or present)?