Fifty-five years ago today, a woman named Corrillie Spencer passed away when she was eighty-six years old. She was the second wife of Richard Allen Spencer (1881-1973), my great grandfather. Recently I have begun to research Corrillie’s life. She was known to my family and many others as “Aunt Rillie” and I had no idea the many trials Rillie had faced. The records have revealed a challenging life in which she outlived three husbands and at least one child. Here is what I have discovered of her story thus far.
One of the first rules of genealogy, long neglected by genealogists is to write down your own stories. On this German Unity Day, as falling leaves and temperatures finally reach Alabama, memories of my Year of Firsts, thirty (!) years ago flood my mind. But the beginning of the story, like so many tales, requires me to go back a year earlier when I was in the spring of my fourth year of undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri in Columbia. A wanderlust had invaded my soul at an early age, but financial and academic limitations made me believe I could not afford to study abroad during my undergraduate days. As I was talking to my advisor and German mentor, Dr. Dennis Mueller, I mentioned I had dreamed of going to Germany for many years. He looked at me rather quizzically and said simply “why don’t you?”
Genealogists know that city directories are not simply phone books, rather that these resources were created for businesses to get access to customers and vice versa. They are genealogy gold ready to be mined! Ralph L. Polk, the most widely known publisher, began his business with 1872 Evansville, IN directory, listing the names and addresses of all residents of the town. Early Polk directories included a variety of information useful to genealogists including county courts, stage lines, steamboat companies, count residents on rural routes, and other detailed information on the locality.
July 6th is the 111th anniversary of the birth of Roma Clara Josephine Rasa, my maternal grandmother. She was born in Florence, Missouri to Fred H. and Lena (Tieman) Rasa. At her birth her family lived on the main street of the Florence community not far from the crossroads were two stores and the town bank would stand. She would spend her entire life in that community becoming mother, grandmother, neighbor, friend, confidant, Quilting Grannie, local historian and remarkable cook.
2019 was a great year for me. It seemed fast and furious with sixteen preservation projects including cemeteries, downtown districts, schools, apartments, banks and business houses. I get excited when I see the history of a place come alive and it helps me to imagine what life was like on this street, in this building or even this cemetery in an era often vastly different from my own.