Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Cousin Connection

This is a photo of my great great grandfather, Jonathan Gehman's farmstead in Brutus, Michigan.

My great grandmother Susie grew up here. I took this photo in 1994 when my daughter was born. Not far from here, Susie lived on the Maple River where the water was dammed and in the winter, my mother tells me they harvested the ice and stored it in the ice house covered in saw dust for the summer months. I still remember the flooded lake there--the memory that triggered the idea for the setting for my current novel.

I've been researching our family roots for several decades--a hobby since I was in junior high. I'm an avid member of Ancestry.com and I've even tested my DNA for genealogy research. This week on the DNA website, I connected with a lost Gehman cousin. He is a third cousin, once removed. My great grandma Susie was his grandfather's sister.

He tells a story that made me smile:
"My mother told me an early memory from her childhood in Michigan, that John had gone out in a snow storm to gather more wood, and was gone a long time. His wife, Beatrice, climbed up on the roof of the house, put her hands to her mouth like a megaphone, and called repeatedly, "Yoo-hoo, are ya all right, John?" Evidently he had become lost in the whiteness, and followed her voice home."

I laughed because I have a wonderful memory of hunting wild mushrooms with my grandmother Emma, Susie's daughter. I was quite small, perhaps 4 years old. She told me if I bent over too long and lost track of her, to just stand up and keep yelling "yoo-hoo!" Instead, I yelled "yooo-deee-hooo!" The story still gets retold to my children. Now I know it went back much farther, and perhaps was a local survival skill in the rural North Woods!

Another story about my great grandmother Susie that inspires me is that my mother recalls her working in the kitchen--always humming and singing hymns. Susie and her husband Elias had nine children. She also cared for her invalid brother, and her aging mother in their home. Plus they fed the extra farm hands. My mother calculated that for the fifteen mouths she fed three times a day---she made 45 plates of food every day---and she sang while she did it! My mother and I joke that her energy didn't quite reach our generation--I mean, I fed my family fast food twice the weekend!

Do you have some stories you should write down from your family history?
You might be surprised what you find out if you start interviewing your oldest living relative!


Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
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  1. Oh yes, the absolute fun of genealogy! I have a cousin who has been doing a ton of research and finding some great things about our history. It goes way back to Scottish Kings! Yay, I'm royalty! Now only if I could get my hubby to treat me as such. lol ;) I grew up on a farm in Michigan - very fun and I agree on the need for hollering to each other to find your way back. (love the snowstorm story and how neat you found a relative!)

    1. Great Susan--oh royal one! ;) I think I should write this into a novel sometime!

  2. Gehman? That's a surname in your family, right?

    My sister is also a member of ancestry.com. She traced our roots back on both sides of the family. Going back about 100 years. She did find some distant relatives on my mother's side. My great, great, great (not sure how many greats!) grandfather was a Quaker.

    ~Cecelia Dowdy~

    1. Yes, Gehman is one of my family names--of Mennonite ancestry, similar to Quakers. Perhaps our ancestors crossed paths? :)

  3. What a lovely story! I am in awe of what our ancestors got done in a day. I think they didn't have time to be selfish and made the best of what they had. I have similar stories -- a great grandmother who also sang hymns while doing dishes and said be thankful for every dirty dish because it means you had the blessings of a meal!

    1. Ah yes, the blessing of a meal. My grandma Susie was an avid gardner. They had a "truck patch" and peddled fresh vegetables to town to the "resorters". Brutus is not far from Petosky.

  4. Beautiful stories, Anne! I grew up on a farm, & helped my mother cook, & bake, dinner for farmhands every day (don't remember her singing, while doing it, though, & I certainly wasn't singing, as a child, too much hard work - especially when the bushels of fruit, & veggies, were brought in, to be prepared & canned). We worked in the fields until dark, also.

    I agree with you, Debra! No time to be selfish, & made do with what they had - my family went through the depression, & I can remember my grandfather mending his own socks, & sewing together the holes in the screen doors. He would never buy a new item, unless there was absolutely no way the old one could be mended/repaired. And - there wasn't as much TV, or other modern technology to consume their time.

    I never had the time to devote to genealogy until about 10 years ago, & have found several really interesting characters in my family. We are descendants of: Gerritt vanSwearingen, who was instrumental in founding the historic St. Mary's City in Maryland (which has been under excavation for several years), of: the "fighting" clan Gregor (MacGregors) of Scotland - from which Rob Roy also descended, of: Blue Jacket (previous name Marmaduke vanSwearingen), who was captured by the Shawnee Indians, made a war chief because of his bravery, & renamed Blue Jacket, because he was wearing a Blue Jacket when captured. There was an outdoor drama about his life that ran for over 25 years in Lima, Oh. (recent reports claim that Marmaduke & Blue Jacket were two different people, based on DNA from descendants of each. Guess I will never know for sure. There was also a cousin who was a missionary to the Seminole Indians, in Florida, for most of his adult life. Then there was the great-great grandmother who was kicked out of church for waltzing, the distant relative that was so OCD about neatness, that he picked up the "cow patties" in the fields, & the great-grandmother who smoked a corn-cob pipe (my grandfather learned to smoke when he was 4 years old, by lighting his mother's pipe with a live coal from the fireplace (he would have to take a couple of draws, to get it started). Now you know, I , probably, come by any of my strange habits, honestly (LOL)!

    SO happy that you were able to connect with a cousin, Anne! Who did you do the DNA search through? Some interesting history can be found, for sure!

    1. I LOVE your stories Bonnie. Very interesting indeed. I did my DNA through 23 & Me. My husband did it first--and we have proved his paper trail to Daniel Boone's family. Then he did Family Tree DNA. Both are interesting, but I prefer 23 & Me.

    2. SO much fun, the things, & people, you find!


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