Sunday, December 19, 2021

Only Six Days until Christmas

    I just read how Francis of Assisi around 1200 changed how Christianity put more emphasis on the birth of Jesus.  I quickly considered how modern Christians, and all mankind for that matter, views and celebrates Christmas.  My next thought slipped over to my working our family tree in recent weeks.

   Modern technology and what it can do has allowed people to consolidate mass amounts of information about individual's ancestors.  Truly it's mostly names and dates, and we need to be cautious about even that information, especially when we find discrepancies in the data or we have first-hand information that rivaled the online data.  However, what we find allows us to continue to find accurate information and offers hints to what and who are ancestors were.

   I feel like I'm stuck in the 16th and 15th centuries.  Partially because by the time you get to that point in the family tree, say your grandparents with ten "greats" before the title grandfather or grandmother, there are more than a thousand names.  It seems like a miracle that records going back far can be found but the data often stops there.

   However, as we near Christmas not knowing details about these ancestors, but extrapolating from known history and our own personal recent experiences we can visualize the differences between today's Christmas and the Christmas celebrations of our foreparents centuries ago.

   They didn't have a warm house heated by electricity or forced air.  Perhaps they had a fireplace or some type of fire in the house, certainly with the smell of smoke and some cooking over the fire.  On Christmas the cooking was special, perhaps some meat saved just for this day.  The milk and cheese didn't come from the refrigerator but from their cow or the neighbor's cow.  There were no lights on the Christmas tree because there was no Christmas tree, TV shows or sports, or bowls of fresh fruit and candies.  On Christmas eve or Christmas morning the children probably were excited about the gift their parents had made for them.   I visualize a Christmas Day so full of joy and laughter and food and singing that contrast from all other days.  Having memories of the year before I suspect the children's anticipation for that day was almost torturous.  It truly was a day of celebration.  

   I encourage each of us to recognize the many blessings we have and to allow our minds to imagine Christmas three to four hundred years ago.  I hope that your Christmas will be a great Christmas contrasting with other days of the year and that the anticipation be excruciating.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Holy Roman Emperor

Perhaps it was like Alice following the rabbit down the hole in Wonderland.  I was checking information about Wilhelm Ziegler in when I clicked on the little [family] tree icon by his name.  The "tree" suggested by means of a "greater than" symbol to the right of his name that there was additional information about his parents.

I clicked.

Alas, there was more information, some familiar to me, some new to me.  I hastened to my own database and added the new information.  After reaping those gems of new information I clicked on the next "greater than" icon.  Now the information was all new and another encouraging icon loomed before me.  There were other such icons on the page for parents of the spouses.  I followed one than the other, usually one would dead end with no parental information and I would return to follow the other.

Just as Alic's hole got deeper, I found ancestors from centuries ago, and beyond.  The adventure continued.  After one click, an image appeared by the name of a great-great-more-grandfather.  It wasn't from a cell phone or Brownie camera; after all it was in 1150.  It was a piece of art.  I asked myself, "Do we have ancestors important enough that someone did a painting of them?"  His father also had a picture.  His name was Hermann I von Thüringen and his father's was Ludwig III von Thüringen.  Both had been country counts, a bit of royalty.  The image on the right of Hermann I is a part of a larger drawing in a booklet called Elizabeth's Psalms, or something similar to that.

Jot it down in my database, I did, and continued on.  The next ancestors were Friedrich I and then Agnes von Waiblingen.  When I came to Agnes's father I had to do more than a double take.  Agnes's father was Henry IV Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 1056 to 1106.  All I could say was "Wow, could this be true?"

Now I was really really interested in what might be next.  More icons leading to parents and dead ends.  Finally only one set of parents remained.  Then the final click, no more icons or names of parents.  I had reached Brunhari Hamaland who lived in Hamaland in eastern Netherlands; he was born in 725 and died in 794.  Again wow!

Now, to wake up from this dream or hallucination and determine what was real and what was not.  And how do you verify information that may be as old as 1300 years old?  It will be an interesting challenge; discrepancies are bound to appear.  Meanwhile we will relish our status with our ancestors, regardless of their behavior and share one image of Henry IV
and a summary of our ancestral tree starting with my grandsons and going through the Ziegler branch.

Dominic and Riley Saxowsky, sons of
  Marc, son of
    Denvy, son of
       Erna Ziegler, 1920- 2002, daughter of
        Wilhelm B Ziegler, 1884-1956, son of
Barbara Friedrich, 1847-1934, daughter of
  Philipp Friedrich, 1815-1862, son of
    Dorothea Fode, 1778-1833, daughter of
      Maria Catharina Scholder, 1756-?, daughter of
10    Dorothea Oeffinger, 1722-?, daughter of
Marie Reinhardt, 1681-?, daughter of
  Johann Reinhardt, 1659-1695, son of
    Johann Gregorius, 1609-1662, son of
      Ursula Chistina Keller, 1580-?, daughter of
        Margaretha Rohr, 1545-?, daughter of
Anna von Erolzheim, 1518-?, daughter of
  Anna Thumb von Neuburg, 1501-?, daughter of
    Adam Thumb von Neuburg, 1453-1503, son of
      Hans Thumb von Neuburg, 1415-1468, son of
20    Albrecht Thumb von Neuburg, 1392-1465, son of
Gräfin (Countess) Anna von Aichelburg, 1350-1405, daughter of
  Albrecht von Eichelberg (Aichelberg), 1310-1365, son of
    Graf (Count) Diepold von Aichelberg, 1265-1318, son of
      Herzogin (Duchess) Anna von Teck, 1235-1270, daughter of
Margaretha von Henneberg, 1190-1256, daughter of
  Graf Poppo VII von Henneberg, 1183-1245, son of
    Landgraf (Country count) Hermann I von Thüringen, son of
      Landgraf Ludwig von Thüringen, 1128-1172, son of
30    Landgraf Ludwig III von Thüringen, 1090-1140, son of
Graf Friedrich I von Hohenstauffen-Swaben, 1015-1105, son of
  Agnes von Waiblingen, 1074-1143, daughter of
    Henry IV Emperor of Holy Roman Empire, 1050-1106, son of
      Henry III Emperor of Holy Roman Empire, 1017-1056, son of
        Ludolph of Friesland, 1003-1038, son of
Graf von Braunscheig, Derlingau & Nordthüringgau, 960-1015, son of
  Graf Ekbert “One-Eyed” im Ambergau & Derlingau, 930-994, son of
    Graf Wichmann von Stubenskorn (of Engern), 916-944, son of
      Graf Billung IV von Stubenskorn (in Sachsen), ca900-967, son of
40   Gerberge van Hamaland, ca900-960, daughter of
Graf Meginhard IV van Hamaland, 870-938, son of
  Graf Meginhard II van Hamaland, 840,881, son of
    Wichmann Hamaland I, 802-881 (France), son of,
      Meginhard Hamaland I, 775-844, son of
        Wratchard Hamaland, 750-?, son of
Brunhari Hamaland, 725-794

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

John Johnson

These are some notes from our visit with Duane and Shirley Johnson on their farm in Lafayette, Colorado, July 4, 2017.

Duane and Shirley have an upstairs room with exercise equipment and a wall of framed pictures of family members, mostly old photos.  One unframed oval-shaped convex is of a family with parents and eleven children.  I learned it was Duane father's family.  His father is one of the twin boys, Rodie and Ray; it could be Roderick and Raymond.  There were two older boys and one younger.  The oldest, Duane says, died in the Great War.  The next oldest is John, called Johnny, the same as his father John Johnson, who emigrated from Scotland, east side, about 1860, to Ontario, Canada.  He and his wife Jessie probably moved to North Dakota soon after.  All the children were born in North Dakota.

We are most familiar with the farm of Don and Amy McLeod which was just about a half mile south of the Ralph and Ellen Cameron farm on the Ayr/Argusville Road.  Rodie, Duane's father farmed this place and Duane and his siblings, Dallas and Amy, were born and raised there.  Grandfather John originally farmed a piece about four miles east of Rodie's farm on the corner of the Ayr/Argusville Road and the road to Erie.  One of the other brothers, Ray or Johnny, took over farming this piece and the other had a farm north of that corner.  Farming in the early thirty was very difficult with poor prices on farm products and very poor weather.  One of the farms was purchased from an individual who patiently waited maybe as much as a decade when crops were better to get paid.  Duane called him a wonderful man, someone who lived in Fargo.

It seems that none of them were very good farmers.  Ray moved to Mayville after losing his farm and managed a gas station.  Years later Rodie also moved to Mayville.  Ray and Rodie as twins were very close and so Rodie was very disturbed when Ray moved to Montana shorter after Rodie moved to Mayville.  Johnny also left the farm and moved to Mayville.

In 1925 Johnny married Francis McLean and in 1928 Rodie married her sister Mary.  Francis and Mary are sisters of Margaret Ellen McLean who married Ralph Cameron who were the parents of Gail Cameron Saxowsky.

Duane didn't say much about his aunts, the sisters of his father Rodie, except that several moved to California after they married.

Duane attended Ayr High School and earned a degree in mathematics at Mayville State Teachers College, now called Mayville State University.  He earned a Masters in mathematics at North Dakota State University and taught at Hamline University and Dickinson State Teachers College.  He joined the air force at the age of 19 and after taking a class was assigned to teach the class.  (I can't remember what he taught.  Something to do with repairing military radios if I heard correctly.)  At age 29 he moved to Colorado where he met Shirley (Rowden), the administrator in the math department at CU, whom he married the next year.  He also adopted her three children by an earlier husband: Jim, another son whose name I don't remember and Terri, the youngest, born in 1958.  Duane and Shirley have one grandchild.

Duane taught at the university for awhile and then worked for IBM for about 12 years.  After he retired he started sharpening knives at farmer's markets until it grew into business with persons sharpening about four sites two days a week for six months each year.  Many of the sharpening tools he created and built himself.  Shirley worked with him for years before the sharpening business selling the produce they raised on their farm.  The farm was a part of the land her great-grandfather accumulated after he came and homesteaded in 1860.  Their house is the expansion after three major remodeling of the farmhouse built in about 1916 and was adjacent to her mother's house.

More later.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Hand Tools

Babies don't care about much beyond eating, sleeping and a clean diaper.  Youngsters focus on their friends and their games.  Teens and college students are dealing with hormones.  It's not until much later that one recognizes the essence of family ancestors.  While I've been curious since the 80's, I was in my 40's, my mother had hundreds of relatives and was willing to help me, I'm now over 70 years old and think about how I'm going to gather and share information about my ancestors several times a day.

All my ancestors are old and has always been old, or so it's seems.  They sat and talked while others threw balls and played with the children.  They fixed dinner and cleaned the kitchen, sewed clothes and waited in the truck waiting for the grain from the combine.  Their tools were old and didn't look like those in the hardware store or farm supply shop.  Their clothes were simple and they looked old also.  Their conversations were void of modern technology.  Of course, I'm almost 20 years older than they were when I first thought they were old.

Now I'm doing what my ancestors were doing.  I paint small projects with a shaking hand.  I do small jobs around the yard, hoeing, raking, watering - with old tools that I have maintained with replacement handles made of tree branches.  I have a hoe - I love it, it's my favorite - that has been sharpened so many times by grandpa Ziegler that it's not much more than a sliver.  The metal part is loose where it connects to the wooden handle.

In the shop I treasure several tools.  While I can't read the numbers on the carpenter square that I got from the Ziegler estate, it's unique and special because modern carpenters have two legs measuring 16 and 24 inches, both divisible into the standard of plywood 48", and the square I have has legs of length 18 and 24 inches.  This type of carpenter square was common before the use of plywood and studs were placed 18" apart.

In the kitchen are several items that one might find in an antique shop: a crank butter churn with a cracked glass jar, a toaster where the sides fold out, a milk bottle and a couple paper lids, all of which don't get used because some part of them is cracked or broken.  In the same kitchen is a large wooden bowl for shaping butter or kneading bread.  Some of these may have been used by the Ziegler or Weisz ancestor, maybe one of my great-grandparents.  There's also a butter spatula for shaping butter and a wrought iron iron.  Neither get used as we have an electric iron and we don't have a cow for cream to make butter.

As I work in the kitchen using some of these items I realize how long they have been in use, and I can envision how my ancestors might have used them.  Not far from where I'm cooking stands a China closet.  The sides are curved glass, as is the door.  The feet and top are eloquently carved.  It's a cabinet that I envied as it sat in grandma Ziegler's living room near Hebron.  Mom acquired it after Lenhard and Elsie died.  I acquired it after Mom died.  Our grandparents bought it from Rev. Debus, one of the first ministers of our church in Hebron, when he left Hebron.

On the wall behind the China closet is an oval shaped picture frame with domed glass front.  The picture is Wilhelm and Regina Weisz Ziegler, our grandparents, at their wedding.

The most cherished and therefore carefully stored in my desk is a measuring tool.  It's like a foot long ruler but different.  When folded, yes, it folds, it's six inches long.  When unfolded it's two feet long.  The hinges and edges are metal, maybe a brass; the core where the numbers and hashmarks are scribed is wood.  I played with this as a child, completely intrigued by its structure and function.  This valuable antique is probably worth less than $20.  For me, invaluable; it was my grandfather's and maybe his father's, made after 1870.

Now I am my ancestors, old, stiff, with old tools so I am in a place where I want to share this heritage with those who don't care yet.  But when they will care, I may not be here remembering what they want to know.  So I go to write.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Small World - Hoeraufs

As we left the conference hall we stopped at a table selling chocolates and nuts.  The gentleman behind the table was from Sweet Home, Oregon and had been there since the '60's.  In response I asked if he knew of Ernest and Ann Wolters; he was mayor of Hebron, North Dakota, my childhood town when I was child.

"Ann and Ernie.  Oh yes.  If you're from Hebron, do you know the Walter Hoerauf?  He's my sister's husband."  I do and did.  We often attended the Hoerauf family reunions when my mother Erna was visiting.  Both Walter and his wife have since died as well as Walter's brothers Emil and Albert.  I replied that through marriages several generations back we are related.

The father of Walter and his siblings was Louis Hoerauf and his father was Michael Mishel Hoerauf.  One other son of Michael was Jacob who married Christina Saxowsky, my grandfather's sister.  With this conversation as a motivator, I looked deeper into the Hoerauf family and added some information to the Saxowsky Family Tree website.  This website is password protected but open to anyone who asks for the password.

Again the research brought me back to memories of events and people of my past, many whom I did not know at the time was related or connected even in some remote manner.  Neighbors and friends who were special have now become more special even in another way.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Grandma Cookies

Laura Ingalls Wilder writes of Christmas in one of her book.  I recall that one of the previous gifts was an orange.  How different Christmas gifts are now when many children receive Wiis and iPods.  Yet parts are the same even in the differences.

The making of Grandma cookies is reserved for Christmas time.  They earned their name because only Dad's mother, my grandmother, ever made them.  In my small world.

So in a effort to continue the tradition of Pfeffer Nuss (pepper nuts) I create a couple batches before Christmas.  On the wall hangs a large wooden bowl in which grandma probably mixed the ingredients with a wooden spoon like the one in the crock by the stove.  I, however, use a KitchenAid mixer.  I don't remember seeing her drop the thick cookie batter onto the cookie sheets but whereas I drop the batter from a spoon she might have rolled the batter into smooth balls.  Her cookies were smoother.

After the baking and cooling process, it's time for the chocolate frosting.  The difference here is that she dropped the cookies into the bowl of chocolate and coated all surfaces including her hands.  I dip the top of the cookie into the chocolate and knock off the excess with a spoon.  While licking the chocolate from my fingers is a great joy, I don't find the same joy in emerging my hands completely in the chocolate.

Baking is both a joy of the moment and a connection to the past, but eating them is not recommended for a slender waistline and so the variety we enjoyed as children are not on today's agenda.  Sugar cookies with colored powdered sugar frosting and sparkling candies continue to grace the kitchen around Christmas as well as a batch of gingerbreads.  Others come rarely and exist mostly in memories.

Each Christmas will start a new tradition which will last far into the future.  One we offer is a braided bread with strands of three types of bread, white, whole wheat and rye.  Looking back fifty years from now our descendants will talk about grandma's braided breads.  As well as grandpa's grandma cookies.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bread for Thanksgiving Day

It's hard to imagine how Thanksgiving Day was celebrated in 1621, the traditional first Thanksgiving, or 150 years ago when President Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving and Praise.  Today, the day before Thanksgiving Day, thoughts of past Thanksgivings come to mind.  In particular, the thoughts come as I pull down the big wooden butter or bread bowl of my grandparents and maybe their grandparents to make bread.  Certainly this was one task common to many years back.

The recipe would be similar to that of our ancestors a century ago; yeast, water, flour, oil, a sweetener and a bit of salt, maybe some special flavorings.  The yeast, probably Fleischmann's, a newly formed New York company trying to create a dependable yeast, would be similar to the yeast by the same name that we use today. Today's flour is probably more refined than that of a century ago although at times we grind our own flour which is no more refined than any time in the past.  Bee's honey and milk from the cow would be similar now and then.  Oil may have been lard rendered from the fat of a pig in the past.

The process is different although both doughs ended up in the same wooden bowl to rest and rise.  The bowl is stained and scratched after decades of use; the edges soft and pitted with age. The larger and perhaps older sister bowl still hanging on the wall has a metal strap holding a crack from splitting further.

The next stage of the bread making is as old and universal as time and space itself, kneading on a board with our bare hands, folding and pushing down, and folding and pushing again and again.  Finally the shaping, placing in pans and baking.  Fortunately for us today's oven is regulated by a thermostat and starts by merely turning a knob or pushing a button, which allows the baker to move to another task instead of stoking the fire with coal or wood and trying to maintain a uniform heat.

I would have loved to share the next moment with our ancestors as they cut a slice of fresh bread or tear off a piece, placing it in their mouths and savoring the taste.  Perhaps they too reflected on their ancestors of a century earlier.  For now the bowl is back on the top pantry shelf and the bread is ready for the celebration of thanks tomorrow.