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 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!