For Momma - Memorial Slide Show (Turn Playlist Music off before watching)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Will We Have to go Dumpster Diving for Our Records?

Facebook was buzzing this morning about a recent article in the Mormon Times written by Michael De Groote. Mr. De Grotte was reporting on a recent speech made by Curt B. Witcher at the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. Mr. Witcher states that many court houses are reducing the volumes of old records by taking a sample of each collection and destroying the rest. He also states that “We have left the care of our written records largely in the hands of disinterested strangers.” I don’t know about you, but I found this very disturbing news. This is also happening in our libraries where many of us have done research. Do you think this is as serious as the burning of books? Maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but who decides what is worth keeping? Is it the records of the well known people who are being kept and the ordinary person’s records being hauled to the dumpster? I know how disappointed I would have been, after traveling to Nebraska this summer to research some of my ancestors, only to find out that those records had been destroyed because they “didn’t make the cut”. I don’t know the answer to the ever growing storage problem of these records and the massive, almost incomprehensible, job it would be to digitize them all, but I do know that to destroy them would mean that we could be destroying the very history of our families.

Mr. Witcher asks the question: “Who is writing letters anymore? When was the last time you received a written letter?” I must admit I haven’t written any letters since I got on the internet, nor have I received any in the mail. Oh, yes occasionally someone will send a card with a small note in it and I do the same. Even when I have mailed a letter I find it faster to type it rather than hand writing it. Even most emails I receive are jokes or emails that have been forwarded over and over, so how are we communicating these days? How are we sharing our lives in this world of the quick and easy?

Mr. Witcher also seems to be stressing the importance that we all need to take the responsibility to record our living history and suggests we all, “Write as you’ve never written before.” And to share the information with our families so that it is not lost to the future. I think that’s why I feel such an urgency to learn my own family history and to share it with the next generation. I want to make sure that the children born in my family in the next 10 generations know about their ancestors.

“We have an awesome responsibility ahead of us," Witcher said. "In so many ways, we have history in our hands. What are we going to do with it? If we wait, if we relegate for someone else to take care of, we are endangering that history — that history may be lost." (copied from Mr. De Grotte’s article.)


You can read Michael De Grotte’s full article here:
"The Coming Genealogical Dark Ages", by Michael De Grotte

Friday, July 9, 2010

"Scrapbooking Your Family History" - 96th Edition of the COG

“Scrapbooking Your Family History” is the theme for the 96th Edition of the COG. See Jasia's blog at "Creative Gene" for all the details. Submissions are due by August 1st and only 30 submissions will be accepted.

I had a chance to find and visit the locations where some of my Habben family had homesteads in the late 1800's, near Gurley, Nebraska, in June. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of their presence as I walked the gravel road by what once had been their home. I had similar feelings while I worked on a family history book in 2008/2009.

In my submission for the 96th Edition of the COG, I have tried to capture my feelings that day. My scrapbook page was made using a picture I took of their homestead as it appears today for my background. I could imagine them working the land with a wooded plow and a horse. To represent that I added an illustration of a man and child working the farm. I faded from black and white into color to show the past coming to the future. In the upper left corner are the photographs of my ancestors who lived on this land. I faded them into the clouds to show their presence with me that day and yet unreachable.

I hope you enjoy my submission and have a sense of the joy I felt that day!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - William & Kathryn Nelck

While on my Nebraska Adventure I stopped at the Sidney Library to check out their genealogy resources. I had read on their website that they had a good collection of historical information so I was anxious to see it. Although the room was rather small and no air conditioning, I'm glad I stuck it out because I did find some interesting and unexpected information on the Nelck brothers. After going through the cemetery books, that someone painstakingly had put together, I happened along the names of Fred Nelks brothers, Charles and William. To my surprise they had all had homesteads in Cheyenne County. Charles and William both remained in the Sidney area and Fred left in 1899 for Welcome, Minnesota. Fred Nelk was married to my great grandfather's cousin Tena (Habben) so they were my primary research subject. Next time I will be more prepared to look into the lives of in-law relations. Something interesting and unexplained is why the brothers used different spellings for their last name. Charles and William both spelled their last name - “Nelck”, while Fred used the spelling “Nelk”. After some digging it appears that the German spelling may have been “Nilk”, according to Charles birth certificate. Sure makes researching a fun game! 

For this weeks “Tombstone Tuesday” I present William and Kathryn (Shelley) Nelck. William and Kathryn were married in 1897. They never had any biological children, but did adopt two daughters according to some of their nieces. One daughter, Vera Grace died young at the age of 18 and is buried next to her father. In 1900 (according to the census) William, Kathryn, Charles and Emma were living together on the homestead they owned jointly. From a plat map, that I found from 1913, it appears that the two brothers owned one (160 acres) section together and each owned another section individually. So they were farming 480 acres together at that time. I also learned from the plat map that their homestead was west of the homestead that Fred and Tena had owned until 1900.

Kathryn (Shelley) Nelck raised canaries and lived to the age of 92.
William died in 1936 at the age of 68.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sentimental Sunday -Happy 4th of July

My Great Grandpa, Rolf Habben's car decorated to the max for the 4th of July celebration in Hildreth, Nebraska.  Early 1900's

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"You Want to Move Where?" - Traveling Back In time -

 As I drive East on Road 46 from Gurley to the Nelk and Habben Homesteads I somehow felt transported back to the days when this young family may have traveled to town for supplies in their wagon. I purposely drive slowly during the 7 mile trip from the junction of Hwy 385 and Road 46, so that I can take in what they would have seen. With the exception of the few homes I see along the way, I’m sure that not much has changed in this area since it was first settled. As I pass Road 125 a hawk swoops down in front of my Durango and catches a small rabbit alongside the road, poor rabbit. The main crops I see are corn and grain. Today these fields are irrigated with large sprinkling systems but when the Nelk’s and Habben’s lived here they would have had to depend on the rain to water their crops.

 Approaching the crossroads of Road 46 and Road 127, I feel excited to see this land where my ancestors had lived. I look across the fields and in my mind I can make out the faint outline of a man working behind a team of horses pulling a plow. The day is hot but there is a slight breeze blowing. The Nelk farm is planted with grain and the gentle blowing of the wind makes it appear as ripples in the water.

The Habben farm is at rest but there are remnants of corn stalks possibly from last year’s crop. The old soddies are gone and there is no evidence left of the family’s existence here. Due to the drought Fred was often gone for periods of time delivery mail and supplies by wagon between Sidney and the various towns in the area. According to the stories Fred told his grandchildren, he worked for Buffalo Bill Cody, delivery the payroll for the men who were building “Rest Ranch” in North Platte, Nebraska.

As I walk down the road I get a sense of the loneliness that Tena may have felt here in isolation for days on end. Tena told her children that she would climb up to the perch on the windmill and play her accordion or harmonica to pass the hours.

Although I was alone, I could feel the presence of these ancestors by my side as I viewed this small part of their lives. It was the same feeling I had as I wrote my book “Searching”. They seemed to enter my office one by one and became a part of my life. In the end it was difficult to finally say the book was done because it seemed to mean a farewell that I was not prepared to make. As each person’s story was completed they left until I was once again alone.

It may be a romantic view of things or wishful thinking but, I was glad to once again feel their presence with me as I stood on the land they once called home.

"You Want to Move Where?" - The Document - Continued

I do understand that not every person is as enthralled by family research as I, but, it is hard to imagine that even the most disinterested person wouldn’t be impressed by these Land Patent documents. The Land Patent was signed by the 25th President of the United States, William McKinley, by F.M. McKean, Secretary, C.H. Brush – Recorder for the General Land Office. Bonnie had another document that she had found and brought out another book for me to ogle at. That document was a two page hand written document called a “Warranty Deed”. The deed had been prepared in Cheyenne County, Nebraska for the sale of the Nelk homestead in 1900 to a John Hinrichs for the price of $225.00 ($1.41 per acre). I visited with a local Sidney farmer, Bob Poppen, who indicated to me that that same land is worth well over $100,000 in today’s market. (Just a side note to my fellow Geneabloggers: I was not required to wear any special gloves to handle the documents, but I was very cautious to do no damage and limited by handling of the document.) Looking over the land records for the Nelk homestead it appears that this land was owned by various Hinrichs family members through the years until about 8 years ago.

As I wrapped up my visit to the court house Bonnie asked if there were any marriages that may have taken place in the county. I knew that Fred and Tena Nelk had been married in Franklin County so I did not expect that any other family would appear in the marriage records. To my surprise the Marriage License of Fred’s brother Charles Nelk and Emma Shelley had taken place in Cheyenne County.

The biggest surprise came when I pulled out the papers I had brought on the Rolf Habben homestead and asked if she could help me locate where his land had been. I was shocked to discover that the Nelk and Habben homesteads were adjacent to each other at the crossroads of Rd 127 and Rd 46, which is
7 miles east of Gurley, Nebraska.
Rolf Habben’s old homestead is now owned by the Poppen family according to the plat map. Now this really sparked my interest because according to the delayed birth certificate for Tena’s daughter, Tessie, it states that a Mrs. Poppen witnessed her birth. I headed over to the Sidney Library and there I found a local history book that included biographies. I found the Harm and Hannah Poppen family, who had moved to Cheyenne County in 1889. The Poppen’s had emigrated from Sandhorst, Germany which is about 5 miles from where the Habben's lived in Wiesens, Germany. The Poppens had also been living in Wilcox, Nebraska and so were the Habben's and Nelk's. I think it is very likely that Hannah Poppen could be the person called out on the delayed birth certificate. After visiting with Hannah’s grandson I learned that the Poppen homestead was close to the Habben homestead so that also reinforced my theory. We probably will never know for sure but I’m pretty confident in my reasoning.
With the droughts and various plagues in the 1890’s many families gave up their homesteads. Fred and Tena Nelk left Nebraska about 1899 and settled in Wheaton, Traverse County, Minnesota.
Next my trip to the homestead……..


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