I found this picture of my great-grandfather Richard Allen Spencer and his second wife Corrillie Percival Spencer a few years ago. It is one of my favorite family photos! Why? Because they look happy, content and in love. I don’t remember Allie, as he was called. He passed away on July 6, 1973 when I was very young; but I love his spirit conveyed here.
Allie was a preacher like his father before him, but he also farmed all his life. Allie’s father had a very difficult early life; one that at times I struggle with emotions the more I uncover. Allie’s grandfather Elias Spencer’s life is a conundrum. He is the brick wall in my tree I am committed to breaking down in 2017. I look forward to sharing my journey and those of Elias, his son William and grandson Allie.
This picture hangs in my office where I can look up from my desk and see it everyday. It is comforting to know that a couple at such peace are looking over me. With all the difficulties in our modern lives it is challenging to stay positive about the future. I find it helpful to look at the past. While our ancestors’ lives may have been lived more simply than ours, their level of hardship, hard work and enduring spirit inspire me to stop, take a breath, appreciate all we have, love those around us and share great stories.
Recently I saw a blog post asking “Who got you interested in genealogy?” I would answer, Roma. Her husband Carl Siegel, passed in 1964 before my birth so I never knew him. “Family” on my maternal side meant “Grandma.” While we spent lots of time with other relatives, Roma was the matriarch, as evidenced by our struggle to maintain a family structure and even schedule family gatherings in the wake of her death. However, the reason she inspires me is not because of her hierarchical role in the family, rather her approach to it. I attribute her attitude towards family to her entrée into married life that was anything but smooth.
Roma fell for a man more than twice her age who had been widowed and left to raise his three young sons. Her family did not approve and it is believed within the family that her father never spoke to her following her elopement.
By the time I was in the picture, some 40ish years later, Carl had passed, as had the animosity among extended family members. Carl’s three sons had been raised as her sons and there was no difference in the status of members in the family. I simply had three uncles that were only a bit younger than Roma herself. I never heard the word “step” and from all the stories I have been told she loved and treated the boys as she did the three children that would follow.
She was proud of her family and it showed.
Roma, Carl and the six kids
As we start 2017 together I wanted to share one of my favorite pictures of Roma. This photograph was taken c. 1912-1914 on the side of her family home on the main street in Florence, Missouri. Pictured are Lena Rasa (full name Caroline Tieman Rasa), her half sister Clara Schroeder, and Lena’s three children: Pearl, Rita and Roma.
Roma is clearly having a moment here. She’s got that hand on her hip and a bit of a pout of her lips. I can feel her mood. She is saying exactly what I am feeling today…Look out world, here I come! 2017, I hope you are ready.
As we move through this crazy process called life Christmas always seems to happen upon us more quickly than we expect. As the end of the year nears we are often driven to contemplate where we have been and where we are headed in the coming annum. 2016 has been a year of consolidation and focus for me and 2017 will mark the beginning of a new journey. I spent my professional life thus far focused on working with and for the federal government. While I thought I was ready for a change at the beginning of this year opportunities arose that kept me in that sphere. The work was not fulfilling. I find I am most challenged by life when I do not feel I am making an adequate contribution…to something. For years that something has been national security but for a very long time I have not felt my talents were being utilized to the maximum extent. All this is a nice way of saying I haven’t felt productive or effective in a very long time.
Thus, it is time for a change. I plan to focus on genealogy and historical research full time. Thus this blog will get the attention it deserves. I am ready to tell my story. For those of you who have read my posts in the past, thank you. It’s time for a new beginning, one that delves into the past and moves forward. Stay tuned for a year marked by stories filled with with love and connection.
Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for a blessed 2017.
There are several Marys in my life. My mother’s sister for one. Then there are those who have left this earth in recent years namely my husband’s grandmother, Mary Agnes (Baker) Buchan. There are at least two in my family tree who have had a great influence on my life even though we’ve only met through pictures and in the memories of others.
There is Maria Magdalina (Raiffeisen) Mothersbaugh, known to my grandfather as Aunt Mary. Both the Raiffeisen and Mothersbaugh families played monumental roles in my genealogical journey. Mary married Louis Authur “Bud” Mothersbaugh, a Missouri farm boy who joined the U.S. Marine Corps just in time to play a role in the Spanish American war, U.S. presence in the Philippines and the Boxer Rebellion in China.
Just as significant was Mary Virginia (DeHaven) Siegel, my grandfather’s first wife and mother of Eugene, Pete and Carl Siegel. Mary succumbed to influenza in the spring of 1919 when the second wave of the global epidemic hit the United States.
I have several Marys in my Tree but Mary Agnes, Maria Magdalina and Mary Virginia are the ones that have helped shape my story and lend their name to this blog.
I apologize for the months of delay. I thought summer would be a good time to begin blogging, but alas life jumped in the way! Anyway, I am back and ready to begin again.
Grace Valentine Kembel was born on Valentine’s Day in 1914. She married Ellis Ray Spencer on Valentine’s Day in 1933. She was was the fourth of nine children; two boys and seven girls in all. She was always a bit of a conundrum to me. A little gruff and distant. Her husband, Ellis was such a trickster that he would often have us all laughing about the crazy stunts he and his family would pull. Grace was more subtle; she had a dry wit that was biting…something I learned in later years.
As their 50th wedding anniversary approached the family planned a large fete to honor the couple. We wrote to family and friends and asked them for pictures, stories, remembrances that we were going to place in an album. We began searching through old photos and came upon the one above. We debated about whether to add it to the album because we weren’t sure that the woman next to grandpa was Grace! We compared other photos and asked relatives. The issue was Grace didn’t like to smile for the camera, nor could anyone believe she would strike the rather sultry pose of the woman in the photo. Was it her???? In the end we included it and much to our relief discovered that it was indeed Grace. It would not be the last time she would surprise me. Many of those stories are yet to come!
As I sit down to write this post I wonder, should I write my life story? Should I tell the funniest/weirdest/longest genealogy story? The answer that comes to mind is that I should explain a little about how I got here and a little about where I plan to go with this blog.
My genealogical odyssey began in the 1980s – somewhere around the middle of that decade I had a homework assignment to complete my family tree. As luck would have it we were going to visit both maternal and paternal grandparents and I could ask them to help me fill in the blanks. My mom and I sat down with both grandmothers and I still have the notes we both took on that Sunday afternoon. It is my first memory of talking about the generations of parents, grandparents, cousins, aunt and uncles, none of whom had I met.
I would say now that I have met many of them over the last 30 years and their stories are alive in my soul. Within a few years of my first family tree outing, I joined the high school debate team and my love of research and adventure found its home in my core being. I could easily sit and read books, rummage through old documents, investigate newly digitized sources or listen to stories of yore without end. Hence, I am officially joining the millions of dedicated genealogists worldwide who consider family research as engaging as a sport.
I have been privileged to have traveled to dozens of countries for my career and pleasure. I have walked in towns and villages where my forebearers trod. I have stood on land they worked and tried to imagine how their lives unfolded. It has made me think differently about my own life, a process that I will detail in a future post. For now, I would like to introduce you to Roma, the first namesake of this blog.
Roma Clara Joesphine Rasa Siegel (1909-1988) was my maternal grandmother. She passed in 1988 when I was a senior in high school, yet she has remained a presence in my life as probably no one else has. I will steal an idea from writer Isak Dinesen who explained that when she wrote about one person more than any other it was perhaps not because he was the most important to her, but because he was clearer. I feel very close to Roma, especially as I have learned more of her early life through my research and talking with those who knew her best. She is a shining light in my life, because for whatever reason she is very clear to me. I feel I understand her and have many of her stories to tell. I look forward to sharing her story and many others with you in the future!