My own home town

I was born in a small town near the middle of Ohio along the I-75 corridor, north of Dayton, south of Toledo, called Piqua. My parents, and their parents, and grandparents, and further on back in their genealogy lived in Piqua. Most who immigrated here from Germany, or Ireland, or England, settled in Piqua and established homes and families. Many are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery along the river in the north section of town.

In March of 2011, I wrote about my memories of growing up in Piqua.

Even back in the 1950s, it wasn’t easy to find a job in a small town. When my dad returned from the service in the mid-1950s, he started working for NCR in Dayton, Ohio, about an hour’s drive away. In the 60’s my parents packed up our bags and moved us there. Neither my mom or dad really wanted to go. My mom didn’t work outside the home. All her family and friends were in Piqua. Over the years, my dad made no secret of the fact that he always missed Piqua. My parents had conversations about moving back “home” during their  retirement years. They finally made it back in January of 2013, when they were both buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.

I understand the allure of small town life.

So, this morning, as I watched a CNN report on Beattyville, a small town in Kentucky where people are struggling to get by, it brought me to tears. I am a small-town girl at heart.

But sometimes you have to move. Times change. Opportunities shift. Throughout history we can find example after example of towns and cities that once prospered but then failed. The Dust Bowl comes to mind (probably because I just watched the documentary on Netflix). Sometimes we see cities that came through a rough patch and are beginning to thrive again. Buffalo, NY, is a good example. Buffalo was a rich city at one point during the height of waterway commerce. Then other forms of transportation developed and Buffalo was left with empty grain silos decomposing along its riverfront. The good news is that Buffalo is finding a way to reinvent itself. It is finding a way to thrive in the country and world as it is today.

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St. John the Baptist Church in Bakum viewed from Elmelage farmland.

My husband, Mark, and I visited Bakum, Germany last summer. It’s a small agricultural town in northern Germany about a half-hour’s drive south from Bremen. We’ve traced Mark’s ancestors back to Bakum from 1530 until 1850, when they emigrated to Amerika. In some ways, you could argue that Bakum is Mark’s family’s “hometown.” Certainly it was his great-grandfather’s.

In the early 1800s, the population in Bakum grew at a fast rate and  the farming communities became over-crowded. People were living in barns, sheds, bake houses, in any available structure they could find. There was no food to eat. Parents struggled to provide shoes for their children. Poverty was rampant. Mark’s ancestor, Bernard Dominicus Grote, lived in the farming community of Elmelage and worked as a hired hand on land owned by the Knese family. Dominicus’ brothers all lived nearby on other farms. They all went to St. John the Baptist, the small church in town. I’m sure they did not wish to leave their family, their hometown and their homeland to come to a strange country with a language they couldn’t understand.

But they did. Like other ancestors of probably most, if not all of us.

I’m not talking about immigration right now. I’m talking about people following opportunity and doing what they need to do to survive. There is nothing new about this. It is the story of human survival from the beginning of time.

I truly hope our country can find a way to make things better for the folks in small towns who have lost their local industries and jobs. No one wants to see people suffer like that. But I also believe the way forward is exactly that, forward. Not back.

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Hello again. It’s been a while

I seem to have lost my get-up-and-go, or maybe I should say, my sit-down-and-type. How are you making it through the winter?

I stopped by here and was surprised to see that my last post was two months ago. I’ve fallen a long way from my initial lofty ambitions of a-post-a-day. But if the truth be known, I think that was a slight overkill. Who wants to be bombarded with chatter from me every morning?

I did manage to finish a working manuscript of my father’s story that I hope to publish through my LLC, Grote Ink, sometime later this year. I’ve had an inertia problem with that project from the beginning, probably because of the emotional challenge it presents.

I’m thinking about putting my genealogy online through a separate WordPress blog, although I haven’t moved that project any further than the thinking-about-it stage. My interest in genealogy waxes and wanes through the years. I put it aside until someone follows the online breadcrumbs and contacts me introducing him- or herself as a distant relative seeking information — always a thrill.

I’m more focused lately on my photography. I am learning Adobe Lightroom and Elements software. My brain is becoming less flexible right along with the muscles in my body that resist, creak, groan, and generate pain when I call them to task. I suppose the only way to combat the aging body is to strengthen the will.

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That’s about all I’ve got this morning. I’m sitting here beside a fireplace I’ve yet to light, enjoying the glitter of the snow just outside the window as it sparkles in the rising sunlight. I am one of the few who actually still loves the snow, although the gray, wet, sludge can be annoying. I love how snow transforms the world, however, even I have my limits. I’m giving this winter a couple more weeks, and then spring better be poking its head out of the damp soil. Even the groundhog, who sees his shadow, predicts spring in six weeks, that’s by March 16th according to my calculations. Can’t wait.

Affection for ancestors and genealogy books

I’m back on genealogy.

I have been spending most of my time the past several days updating the family history book I created for my mother in 1998. At that time I used the Family Tree Maker software book program. It’s a clunky program, on an older computer, and nobody else can open the files if I want to share the story. So I am moving the whole book, all 146 pages of it, into Word by copying, pasting, and updating information .

When I have a good copy finished, I plan to post it on my Adams and Lemmon Genealogy site at WordPress. I have had some luck finding distant relatives who are researching the same lines as I am by posting stories about ancestors like the Mary Etta Conner Lemmon post from my Stitches we Leave Behind series. One of Mary Etta’s great-granddaughters, like myself, found the page and has been corresponding with me. This was much more exciting than it might sound to you because I now have a copy of my great-grandmother’s sugar cookies I wrote about in the post. A windfall as far as I am concerned. Although I searched and searched and tried out different recipes, I was never able to replicate those big soft cookies my great-grandmother used to make.

I started researching my family history in 1983, shortly after our oldest son was born. I felt more connected to my roots with the arrival of our son.

My father’s aunt, who was a Sister of Mercy, had started researching her family line, the Wirrigs. She gave me her research and I began.

Over the years I have worked on our family history on and off again. When I first started, like most people at that time, I did not even own a computer. I kept records by hand, wrote letters for information, and visited cemeteries. Today a membership to Ancestry.com opens up the world for you.

I also interviewed most of my elderly relatives. So many of these storytellers are no longer with us. I am grateful I took the time to talk to them while I still could.

Stories of my grandmothers and grandfathers  began to come to life on the paper and in my mind. I imagined what their lives might have been like. I began to feel affection for my ancestors.

Today I updated my parents’ genealogies in their file on my computer by adding the dates of their deaths. It feels so final somehow. Mom and Dad have now joined the ranks of the mothers and fathers and grandparents who only live on in the stories on paper and in our minds.

I feel a great affection for my ancestors.

 

Grandma Lemmons Sugar Cookies