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.