Restart Number 2

Where does one begin? Oh my gosh… My head is so full of thoughts and memories, bouncing around in every possible direction. I like to think of it as creative energy, but maybe I am more scatter-brained than I ever realized. Nah… that can’t be it.

So, today I am beginning again by announcing to the world that I am “on the clock” with BCG as of 5 February 2018! This is huge for me! I have one year (providing no extension is needed) to complete and submit my portfolio to the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). I have prepared a year-long plan to keep myself on track and focused. (Some people think retirees have nothing to do, but I have never been so busy.) I have begun writing and/or researching for every requirement. I have planned research trips to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and to a number of repositories, libraries, courthouses, historical and genealogical societies, and museums in the Midwest.

Besides the BCG portfolio, I will be finishing about ten courses for NIGS (National Institute of Genealogical Studies) and the Beyond the Basics course for AGS (American Genealogical Studies). As a board member and volunteer for SGGS (Sacramento German Genealogy Society) I have the honor of working with an amazing group of people to help plan the 2019 IGGP (International German Genealogy Partnership) Conference to be held in Sacramento. (More on that later.)

This year is going to be an amazing one for me! I hope you will follow along with me as I share some of my successes and hurdles, discoveries and revelations, and more of my family history, and maybe along the way, offer some ways you can Show Your Tale, too. See you soon.


Journey to Certification: Part 4

We returned from the reunion road trip about mid-July. I had been through some life-changing experiences over the past eighteen-plus months. Now, I found myself somewhat at a loss as to what my life as a retiree would look like. I still had the responsibility of being the woman of the house (wife, cook, housekeeper, etc.) and caregiver to my mother-in-law, but I needed more. I needed a new purpose, a new direction for my life, a mental challenge. And I knew genealogy needed to be at the heart of whatever I path I chose to follow.

In August, I took to the internet and began searching for information on “becoming a professional genealogist.” I found several great sites and learned about all of the wonderful educational opportunities available, both online and off. Recommendations for training and preparation for certification included, among other things: attending national conferences sponsored by the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS); enrolling in tuition courses through NGS, Boston University, BYU, University of Toronto, University of Washington, and a few others;  attending week-long institutes such as Genealogical Research Institute–Pittsburgh (GRIP), Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), and National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR, now called Gen-Fed); readingand studying professional journals, such as the NGS Quarterly, APG Quarterly, The NYGB Record,and The American Genealogist; expanding research experience to include archives, courthouses, etc.;  and taking advantage of free webinars offered through Family Search, Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), and the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). I took a leap of faith, made a plan for achieving certification as a genealogical researcher, and began my first class–American Genealogical Studies: The Basics, through NGS.

The idea of taking online classes was foreign to me and caused some anxiety. However, attending a program away from home was not an option. I knew I had to let go of my insecurities and trust that I would find my way through the process. I had no idea how much I would learn along the way–many new and valuable research techniques, the importance of thorough citations, and how to write reports. A wonderful, unexpected side effect to taking online classes has been improved computer skills. Who knew?

Now, when people ask me if I am retired, my reply is a joyful and resounding, “No, I am redirected, and I am loving every minute of it!”


Turning Point

Journey to Certification, Part 3:

Defining moments come to everyone, probably more often than we realize. One of those defining moments came for me during our visit to Minnesota for the Olson Family Reunion in July, 2014. The journey with my sister B. and Aunt L. was so much fun! Seeing my aunts reunited was heartwarming. Reconnecting with cousins we haven’t seen for years (some for over 50 years) was a true blessing. But it was one cemetery visit, with memories of burying our other sister still fresh in my mind and heart, that brought it all home for me. I understood at that moment what I was to do with the rest of my life.

I had been dragging my sister B. around for a week, taking her to every cemetery I knew of where ancestors were buried. She helped me walk up and down rows and rows of markers trying to find the names on my lists. Our travels took us from Albert Lea, MN, to Sioux Falls, SD,  and then south to Sibley, IA. Of course, there was an agreement made my sister that, if she was going to go with me to cemeteries, then I was going to take her to Falls Park while visiting Sioux Falls. Not a problem. Aunt L. accompanied us on that excursion, too. It was a fun day for all.

One of our last cemetery visits took us to Sibley, IA. Before leaving on our road trip, I found the cemetery where our grandfather, Peter Brinkman (1890-1914), was buried. We never knew him. He died two months before our father was born. According to Google Maps, the cemetery was south of Sibley, out in the middle of a corn field. I wasn’t even sure whether it still existed. It was called the Hope German Presbyterian Cemetery.

Our first stop in Sibley was at the Chamber of Commerce. When asked about this cemetery, the woman in the office said she had never heard of it. She sent us to the public library, just a block away. We had no idea what we would find there.

The main librarian hadn’t heard of the cemetery, either. However, they just happened to have a binder of a compiled list of all the cemeteries in Osceola County, recently donated to the library. The man who compiled the work listed the name of every person found, dates on the inscription, the cemetery in which they were interred, and the town where that cemetery was located. (There may have been other pieces of information, too, which I don’t recall now.) She brought out the binder and let us look for our grandfather’s name.

“There! There it is! Oh, my gosh!! I can’t believe it! Hope Cemetery! We found him, B.! We found him! The cemetery does exist!” I was so excited, I think my heart took a leap or two!

There was another young woman helping at the counter. When I showed her the entry for our grandfather, she said, “I think I have been to that cemetery with my grandmother.” She went straight to the computer and printed out directions. Almost there, I thought, an anxious lump growing in my throat.

Well, the drive to find the cemetery was interesting, to say the least. The directions wanted us to turn off of a nice paved road onto a dirt field road. I started to turn, determined to get to our destination. Being a country girl married to a rice farmer, driving on field roads didn’t intimidate me. However, we didn’t make it more than 50 feet, or so, and there was a huge mud puddle. A thunderstorm had come through and dropped a bunch of rain for two days. Next to the puddle was a sign to the effect, “Enter at your own risk.” We decided, since we were not in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, it would be best to heed the warning. There had to be another way to get to the cemetery. Thank goodness for GPS!

After backing up, we were back on pavement, at least for a while. Eventually, we found ourselves on a public dirt/gravel road, obviously maintained by some road crew. While I drove, my sister concentrated on the Google Map and the car’s GPS map. Finally, she says, “We are very close.” We passed a cornfield, a long row of trees, and a white farmhouse with a sign that read “Olson.” All of a sudden she said, “We missed it. We have gone too far.” Slowly, I backed up from the corner, past the farmhouse, past the row of trees, slower and slower. Then, I stopped.

There, between the cornfield and the trees, was a road, covered with grass/weeds, green from the fresh rain. Our eyes barely caught sight of something at the end of the road–a cyclone fence. Could that be it? I backed up just a bit more, and there it was. Beyond the fence we saw headstones! Heart racing, I drove slowly to the edge of the fence. We got out and looked around.

The cemetery was not very big, maybe 30 or 40 headstones at most. Many of them had the surname of Frey, another ancestral name on our father’s side. We walked around for a short time, then my sister proclaimed, “Oh my gosh! We found it! He’s here! I don’t believe it.” We stood in front of our grandfather’s headstone, the closest we had ever been to him in our lives, held each other, and cried. They were tears of joy in the discovery, but also tears of sadness. We were sad that we never knew him, but even more, we were sad that he never knew his son. How much our father needed him as a child! We just stood there for a while, thinking out loud, relishing the experience, and took lots of pictures.

That was my defining moment. That was the moment I knew that I had to pursue genealogy with a purpose.  I needed to find out about my ancestors more deeply. Who they were. How they lived. Where they came from. I wanted to learn more about genealogical research. I decided then and there that, once back to California, I would turn this dream into a reality. I didn’t know how, but I knew this would be my new path in life–a life-long passion turned into a new career, possibly.


Overcoming Loss

Journey to Certification, Part 2:   Bone marrow transplant day arrived in March, 2013. It was quite an experience and an amazing process to be a part of. I was grateful to have my older sister by my side that day. We laughed. We cried. She fed me, because I  was not allowed to arms. She kept tabs on both Carol and I throughout the day. We understood the importance of what was about to happen, the chance to save our sister,  but we knew there was no guarantee. I produced over 9,000,000 stem cells in the 4-5 hours of collection. About two-thirds of those were given to Carol around 5:30 pm that same day. The rest would be frozen and saved for another time, another person, perhaps. We were all gathered around her bed and watched as the transplant took place. Hope, love, and gratitude filled the room.

The next seven months did not go as hoped. Even though I was a perfect match, the cancer fought against the transplant. Her body did its best to fight back. Blood tests kept showing low magnesium and potassium levels, and she endured hours and hours of infusions. The doctors decided to give her a second dose of my stem cells, but still the leukemia would not give up. I felt like I had failed her. How could this happen? Did the doctors underestimate the strength of this cancer which they knew so little about when they decided to go with a lighter prep regime? Was I such a close match that her body could not distinguish between my cells and Carol’s?  Everyone was so disappointed, but still she fought.

Another donor was sought, someone not related. A second transplant was to be given in February, 2014. One of her daughters and a granddaughter were her care-givers in 2013, but they couldn’t be there in 2014. I was asked to fill that need and willingly accepted. Things seemed to go better at first, but eventually, the cancer would win. Carol fought a valiant fight for four long years. The literature on her disease predicted at most 18 months after diagnosis, so she did beat the odds. She passed away in May 2014.

Her passing created a heavy feeling of loss, but also a feeling of greater love for my sisters. An Olson Family Reunion was planned for July 2014 by a cousin in Minnesota for the purpose of reuniting the last two living sisters born to Emil and Marjorie Olson–one lived in Minnesota and was nearing 100 years of the age; the other, her baby sister, lived in California. This is just what I needed–a new purpose. After losing my sister, I was bound and determined to make sure these two sisters, my aunts, would be together once more. I convinced our aunt, the one in California, to make the trip out to spend a week or more with her sister. I would drive and my older sister would accompany us. What a great adventure we had! So many memories.

But that tale is for another time…