My Mother’s Hands

Whenever I think about my parents, both passed on for over a decade, thoughts of my father come into my mind first. He always seemed larger than life to me. He was the one I wanted to please, to make proud. My mother was more reserved, but she played an equally important role in making me the person I am today.

My mother’s hands were always busy. She kept our home clean and comfortable. She cooked, canned, and baked, filling our house with the most delightful aromas. She sewed a lot of our clothes. She maintained the household on a strict budget, but I for one never wanted for anything. Like all stay-at-home moms, she was also resident nurse, chauffeur, playmate, teacher, disciplinarian (until Dad got home), and so much more.

Even when she had “down” time, my mother’s hands were busy creating one handcrafted item after another. She always seemed to have a ball of yarn near her with which she would work, knitting or crocheting, tirelessly and lovingly, into this afghan, or that sweater, or those slippers, hats or scarves. She embroidered and did latch hook, creating both wall art and items for use in our home. She painted by number and enjoyed doing jigsaw puzzles. She learned the art of ceramics and made serving dishes for her holiday table. Once she made a quilt top, wedding ring pattern, out of fabric remnants, but she never finished it. (The work of finishing her quilt is now in my hands, but that is a tale for another time.)

Her talents for handcrafting, cooking, and keeping house have passed down to her daughters and granddaughters in varying degrees, but my mother’s hands continue their work through each of us, just as her mother’s before her, and on through the ages of women who I call ancestors.

What do you remember about the work of your own mother’s hands? How has her work influenced your life? Let your family know of this legacy. Write it down.

Proving Our Mayflower Descendants

Shout out to all my Olson/Church cousins! With the approach of the 400th anniversary in 2020 of the Mayflower landing, I decided I would work on my lineage papers to the Society of Mayflower Descendants. The New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS), of which I am a member, is making every effort to help the thousands–nay, millions–of descendants¬† of Mayflower pilgrims identify and verify their descendancy. Since my DAR application has already been verified and accepted, I didn’t see the link to our Mayflower ancestor, John Howland, as being much of a stretch. I submitted my Preliminary Review Form and my Preliminary Application to the California Chapter of Mayflower Descendants.

I am happy to report that I have received my official Application for Membership to the Society of Mayflower Descendants completed for the first seven generations, through our ancestor Solomon Lewis (1750-1839). Generations 8-13, from Lydia Lewis (1785-1873), wife of Asa Church (1788-1857),  to me, comprise the research and references I used for acceptance into DAR. I have the documents and references for all the vital events of each generation, some more derivative than others. With any luck, I will be able to use the same documentation for proving our Mayflower connection and satisfy eligibility requirements for the Society of Mayflower Descendants.

It makes me chuckle every time I think of my mother’s answer to my queries as a child about her ancestors. “Oh… we’re Heinz57,” she would always say, and end it at that. Well, I am finding out we are much more, and I am proud of our ancestral heritage. I have always loved this country, but knowing more details of the role our ancestors played in its early days increases that feeling ten-fold, at least.

As I learn more about my ancestors, their trials and sacrifices, their successes and celebrations, I am more and more in awe. We come from great stock. People of the land, mostly, but proud, courageous, patriotic people who helped make this country great. Those qualities are inherent in every one of us, my dear cousins. Our ancestors are a part of us, and we are a part of them. I LOVE GENEALOGY!!

Vesterheim Museum & Decorah Genealogical Society

The Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa, is dedicated to Norwegian heritage. (I learned about it while researching places that might help me with my BCG portfolio projects.) It contains an amazing collection of Norwegian artifacts depicting life in Norway and in immigrant America. The craftsmanship of the items on display is beyond description. Walking through the four floors of exhibits, not to mention the many buildings on the grounds behind the museum, one can experience life in 19th century Norway, leaving a beloved family and homeland for America, and the immigrant’s life in their new home. Visiting a site such as this always puts me in awe of the fortitude of our ancestors. We owe them so much. Learning about their lives is one way to show our gratitude for their sacrifices.

This trunk came with Bertha Knuddt. Skaug to America in 1857. It belonged to my husband’s great-grandmother, immigrant from Norway. It is a treasured family heirloom. Many of these are on display in the Vesterheim Museum, along with hundreds, possibly thousands, of other finely-crafted items.

As I continue on this journey to certification, I am amazed by the many unexpected turns my path has taken. One of the staff at the museum, upon learning of my interest in genealogy, suggested I visit the Decorah Genealogical Society. This was not on my radar, but I was ecstatic to find a new repository of information. For anyone interested in researching ancestors from Winneshiek County, Iowa, Norwegian or otherwise, I highly recommend you visit the Decorah Genealogical Society.

The librarian/archivist on staff the day I visited was wonderful! She helped me find Norwegian emigration records and birth records I had not yet located on my own, taught me about Norwegian internet sites I had not used before, and took me on a tour of their society’s abundant resources. At least six rooms filled with books, microfilm, maps, and more. What a goldmine I stumbled into!

You just never know where and when you will find that one record, that one repository, that one person who will help break through a brick wall. The joy is in the journey!

 

A Special NGS Moment

NGS Family History Conference 2018 ended a few hours ago. Now to put all of this new-found knowledge to work. I attended about 15 sessions, reviewed successful BCG portfolios, reconnected with friends, ate some great food, and bought a few souvenirs.

It was interesting to learn about how many Dutch immigrants settled in this area of Western Michigan. Over the past twenty years I have been researching my father’s paternal line in earnest. I have discovered that they came from Ostfriesland, which included northwestern Germany and northeastern Netherlands, not far from the North Sea. The Davids branch, his paternal grandmother’s line, have roots in the Netherlands. I have located records for the Brinkman line in Marienhafe, Engerhafe, and Siegelsum, all part of the province of Hannover, kindgom of Prussia, during the years before their emigration.

One of the highlights of the conference for me was a special presentation shared by Yvette Hoitink, a certified genealogist from the Netherlands, at last night’s NGS banquet. She shared a heartfelt story of a Dutch tradition that occurs every May 4th and 5th–Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking) and Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag), respectively. At about 8 pm, after explaining the significance of these two special days, Yvette invited everyone at the banquet to stand in silence for two minutes in honor of those who lost their lives in WWII, and in wars since, fighting for freedom from tyrrany and oppression. The following link explains those special days in the Netherlands.

May 4 and May 5: Remembrance Day And Liberation Day In The Netherlands

The more I study and learn about my family’s history, the more I want to learn and know. Maybe it is the same with you. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.” As I come to know more about the lives of my ancestors, about my roots, I am beginning to understand what parts of me come from each of them.