Sunday, February 6, 2011

Knowing Where We Come From

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

They say time goes by more quickly as we get older. Lately, I’ve been feeling this more and more. Sometimes I’m startled when I realize that an event that seems to have happened only a couple of years ago actually happened 10 or more years earlier.

What really amazes me, though, is when I’m standing in front of some beautiful rural architecture that was built in the 1800’s when there was only the strength of horses and men to get the job done. And then I realize that this time period was only 120 to 150 years ago.

Fifteen years ago, Ruth and I, along with our sister Phyllis, took our dad and stepmom on a day trip to the Spring Green, Wisconsin area, where our ancestors settled when they came here from Germany. We visited the farm that our grandfather bought in 1919 and where our dad grew up. While Dad talked with the people who then lived there, Ruth and I explored the farm, photographing all the buildings.

We also visited an old log cabin built by our great-grandfather in 1887 for his bride. Our grandfather was born in this cabin and it was showing its age. The front side was a bit overtaken by vines and shrubs. The back side was falling in. That same year, there was a nice snowfall towards the end of November and Ruth and I decided to capture some photos of the log cabin in the snow. But when we arrived there, we were shocked and saddened to find out that it was gone.

The good news is that a few months later, we found out that the log cabin was purchased and carefully taken down by someone who planned to someday rebuild and restore it to its original condition. That hasn’t happened yet, but they told us that they still have it stored for possible rebuilding someday.

I’ve recently begun to create digital scans of the photos from that trip to Spring Green with our dad. I had taken some rather cryptic notes that day, so last weekend my sister, Phyllis, and I paid Dad a visit to ask him questions about those photos along with other family photos. He gave us a lot of details about his younger days and I’m afraid we wore him out with all of our questions.

As we get older, the photos from our past and those of our ancestors become more important to us. Luckily for us, our Dad’s sisters, Beatrice and Bernice, have spent thousands of hours tracing our family’s history and recording it for future generations. And they have often answered our questions about our ancestors. But we have a job of our own to do. We have boxes of photographs from our immediate family that are begging to be cataloged. That is why we are beginning to organize, label, and scan these treasures.

Old family photographs can provide a window to our past and a legacy for the future. If you have old unlabeled photographs in boxes or envelopes, I encourage you to spend some time organizing and cataloging them. Ask questions while those who have answers are still around to give them.

Happy Shunpiking!

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