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A House History

Earlier this month I needed to search through some old family photographs. I must confess that my photos lack organization. In fact, they are a mess. To find the ones I needed, I had to search through albums (mine and my mom’s) as well as piles and sacks of pictures I have collected over the years but have never taken time to store properly.

One rubber-banded group of snapshots caught my attention. I had forgotten that when we purchased our house, we received a stack of work-in-progress pictures taken when the home was built in 1992. I had tucked the pictures in a cupboard after we bought the place in 2011.

Now the question arises: Should I keep these?

They might prove useful for their X-ray views of the innards of my house. That is probably why the original owners passed them along.

Or I could hang on to them for historical reasons. My home is 25 years old this year. This anniversary would offer a good opportunity for documenting the building of my house, the changes to it over the years, and the people who have lived here. Perhaps I should create a house history using the pictures I found.

Entire websites dedicated to searching and recording a house history exist these days. People like to know the story of their homes. The search process takes time when one lives in an old house.

For my not-so-old house, the work would not take long. Starting with the photos I inherited, I could create a history of the property so far and then document any changes we make in the future. When we leave here someday, we would have a good history of the place to give the new owners.

This small project could mark a start on cleaning up my photo mess. Tackling all prints I have seems overwhelming. Pulling out one group and organizing it properly seems much more doable. A house history sounds like a good winter project.

52 Stories #28—Treasured Memories

So many of us experience the same milestone events in our lives—our wedding day, the births of our children. What are some of my memories of these days?

  1. My husband and I got married during the Christmas holidays while we were between college semesters at the University of Wyoming. We had our rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding in a crowded restaurant at the local airport, not the place I would have chosen. Our simple wedding took place at my home church on the following snowy evening. The church’s Christmas trees still stood on either side of the altar, and we made our vows beneath an archway decorated with pine boughs. My husband chose the processional and recessional, the two versions of “Joy” by Bach and Beethoven. A college friend provided vocal music, “The Wedding Song”. Our attendants wore dark green, and my husband wore a yellow jacket. His brother served as best man and my best friend served as maid of honor. My brother was an usher. I remember that he wanted to get the most out of his tuxedo rental, so he wore it again the next day when he went out cross-country skiing. We had our wedding reception at the local Holiday Inn where the best man and I had both worked a couple of summers. A reception at a hotel instead of the church allowed us to serve alcoholic punch, something my dad insisted upon after having to walk me down the aisle. After the reception, we stayed overnight at the same Holiday Inn. My new husband roused me way too early the next morning so as to make sure we arrived at the airport in time for our flight for a Hawaiian honeymoon. It was a good thing he did, because we got seats when the flight was overbooked!
  2. Our oldest son was born five years later. The baby was due on March 22, but I wanted him to arrive a day earlier on the first day of spring. He complied and came into the world on a beautiful morning. Not only that, but he arrived with the wished-for full head of hair. I had been afraid he would be bald like I was when I was born. His sex was a surprise to us in those days before they offered ultrasounds. I can remember not wanting to look away from his tiny face, memorizing every feature of this new person in my life.
  3. Our younger son came along five years after that. A young man in a hurry, he was ten days early. Again, we did not know ahead of time what sex he was. When he was born, we knew he was ours when the nurse blurted out, “Gee, what big feet this baby has!” This was after we had passed the time in Labor and Delivery watching an Olympic hockey game. Later we learned this was a big mistake. Our child had one goal in life, and that was to play hockey. Beginning just a few years later, we were hockey parents until he completed high school.

Joyful memories, all. Beethoven’s “Joy” as our wedding recessional set the tone for a happy life together.

52 Stories #27—Leaving Home

At age eighteen, I left home, more or less, to attend college in a town a couple of hours away from where my family lived in Casper, Wyoming. The University of Wyoming is located in Laramie, and my arrival there was a homecoming of sorts for I was born in Laramie. My parents dropped me off one beautiful late summer day, and for the first time I was on my own. After that, I would return to my parents’ home only for vacations. I was eager to begin my new life.

My high school buddy, Karen, and I received a room assignment in the women’s dormitory, White Hall. At twelve stories, it was the tallest building in the state. We had a corner room on the sixth floor and promptly set about personalizing it. We had already purchased coordinated bedspreads in a very 70’s-looking orange and avocado green. The room had three dark brown brick walls, and we painted the fourth wall gold. We felt privileged to have a sink in our room, but we had to travel down the hall for the toilets and showers.

Late in the afternoon of our arrival, after setting up our room, Karen and I explored the campus that would be our home for the next four years. We located the library and our Arts and Sciences College where she planned to study chemistry and I, psychology. We ran into a couple of guys from our high school graduating class who were also finding their way about the place. The cafeteria would not open for another day, so we spent a little of our precious funds to get a meal at a restaurant across the street from the dormitory complex. Back in White Hall for the evening, we met our neighbors and began to get acquainted.

Being suddenly cut off from any meaningful communication with my family felt very strange at first. Although we had a telephone on the wall in our room, I had no money for long-distance calls home. My parents never called me. I could write and receive letters, but composing them took time that a busy college student does not have. Only my mother wrote to me regularly. The built-in delays of back-and-forth letter writing made any meaningful conversation impossible. I felt alienated from my family, and we never regained the closeness we once had.

Yet soon enough, it did not matter so much. I had always liked school, and I enjoyed my studies. On Saturdays, I joined new friends to attend football games in War Memorial Stadium where we cheered on the Cowboys. On a couple of weekends when the team was away, someone with a car took Karen and me into the mountains surrounding Laramie for picnics.

In those early days, another welcoming place was Laramie’s Lutheran Campus Center. I had the opportunity to stay there one night while I was still in high school, so the place was familiar to me. I began attending services on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. The church was a constant in my life when so much else had changed. I met new people there, too, and attended the social events they hosted.

After a few weeks in Laramie I became accustomed to new routines and life on my own. I enjoyed my independence and the freedom it offered. The separation from my family began to feel okay. From then on, I concentrated on building my adult life. I had succeeded in leaving home.

This Week’s Genealogy Happenings

Sometimes I cannot spend a week focused on just one genealogy activity. Too much goes on around me.

  1. A new distant cousin recently contacted me. She has taken a DNA test with Ancestry. I have not tested with that company, but one of my second cousins has. They were a match. The new cousin asked the second cousin for information on our common Sherman line. Not having much about it to offer, my second cousin referred the new cousin to me. I learned that the new cousin is descended from my Thomas Sherman’s (1841-1912) younger brother, John. Our common brick wall ancestor is the father, Daniel Sherman (abt. 1800-?). I am very excited to have a collaborator for this Sherman research, and I hope we can make some progress together on the Sherman line.
  2. Information from the new cousin equipped me to fill in the descendance of John Sherman. He had been the most difficult of the Sherman brothers for me to trace because he moved around a lot and had such a common name. The new cousin sent me his 1943 obituary, and that opened the door to locating information on his children and grandchildren. I have barely begun the process of putting it all into my database.
  3. Genealogists need and enjoy some social time. Once a month, members of the Colorado Genealogical Society (CGS) meet for lunch. Yesterday we gathered at a new American Indian restaurant. As we ate delicious Indian tacos and shredded bison, we swapped research tales and talked about upcoming training opportunities.
  4. I continue to take time to read the periodicals put out by CGS and the National Genealogical Society (NGS). I often get research ideas from these publications. The most recent NGS magazine has a good article by Michael Lacopo on how to find religious newspapers and use them for research on 19th and 20th century ancestors. I hope to follow through with some of his suggestions to find information on the Shermans and others.

As this week ends and a new one begins, I plan to get back on task. I continue to work on contacting DNA matches at FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe. Wouldn’t it be great if I could find a male Sherman match who would take a Y DNA test? That would move us ahead in finding the origins of Daniel Sherman.

52 Stories #26–Siblings

My parents had four children. I am the oldest, and I have two brothers and a sister. With a nine-year spread in our ages, I can remember clearly the births of my two youngest siblings, but I do not recall the day my first brother was born.

He arrived just 20 months after my own birth. To me, he has always been there. I am told we moved from a second-floor apartment to the main floor of a rental house to make room for him. Perhaps we shared a bedroom, but I do not remember this either. I recall the house as a noisy place with another family living in the basement. Understandably, my parents were eager to get us into a place solely occupied by the four of us. We did that about 6 months later when I was 2 ½. We rented a two-bedroom place known as The Dream House because it had once been a prize in a contest. For as long as we lived in that house, my brother and I shared a small bedroom. At first, he had a crib and I had a trundle bed. Later, we got bunk beds from the local Ethan Allen store.

We passed the crib along to our new baby brother when I was in kindergarten. From the beginning, the poor boy had more than his share of health problems. The day he came home from the hospital he was coated in a white salve to calm his eczema. That first year, he returned to the hospital a couple of times because severe allergies caused him to catch pneumonia easily. Life changed for all of us because of the elevated level of care he needed from the beginning and still needs today. We were glad to have my maternal grandmother there to help out for a while.

By the time I was nine, we lived in another state. A year later, a baby sister joined us. I stayed home from school that day to watch my brothers when my dad took my mom to the hospital for the birth. The process took longer than he anticipated. He came home at lunch time to make sure I had sent one brother to school and lunch ready. He also attempted to do a load of laundry, washing my brother’s red hoodie with our white underwear. Bad idea–everything turned pink. When the telephone range with the message that my sister was born, my dad returned to the hospital while I minded one brother and awaited the arrival of the other from school. Dad spent the afternoon viewing my new sister in the hospital nursery and visiting my mom. That evening he returned to make burned scrambled eggs for us for supper. That was the last straw. He gave up on housewifery and called in my grandmother. She arrived the next day. Finally, I could go back to school and he could escape to his office. My mom and sister came home from the hospital a few days later. The boys and I had only a brief glimpse of the baby before they put her in for a nap in the bassinet.

Her arrival completed our family. In many ways, we siblings became two groups of two. My oldest brother and I do not remember a time without each other, but we can recall our family life together from the earliest days. To our young minds, it seemed a long time before the other two children arrived on the scene. Everything changed when they did. No longer were we a family with two big and independent children. We became a family that needed to accommodate babies again.

The day each the siblings arrived marked a successive turning point in my family life. I acquired new companions and shouldered new responsibilities each time. Overall, I remember it being a hard adjustment, and I was not always as gracious as I should have been. Sibling rivalry was alive and well at my house.

DNA Test Results Arrive

Several months ago, I resolved to take a DNA test for genealogical purposes. I purchased both an autosomal test and a mitochondrial test from Family Tree DNA. After performing the cheek swabs and mailing in the samples, I received my results earlier this summer.

Since then, I have spent a bit of time reviewing my report. My ethnicity results varied some from what I expected:

What I Thought                          What the Test Said

44% English and Scots Irish    38% British Isles

25% Finnish                                 30% Finland

25% Norwegian                           21% Scandinavia

6% German                                   9% Iberia

—-                                                  2% East Europe

What am I to make of this? It seems my maternal line matches pretty well with the heritage I anticipated. My mom was half Norwegian, half Finn, and 51% of my ethnic origin lies in Scandinavia and Finland.

The disparity appears to come from my dad’s side. The family said he was primarily English and Scots Irish with the exception of a German great-grandmother. My heritage shows plenty of British but no German on this test. Surprisingly, I do have a sizable connection to Iberia (Spain and Portugal). I also have a bit of eastern European that the FamilyTreeDNA map shows centered in eastern Poland and western Ukraine.

Where would I get Iberian and eastern European ancestors when my family does not know of any? Could some of it be Germans from Russia? Black Irish?

My dad does have an unidentified grandfather who would have contributed, on average, 12.5% of my DNA. Perhaps all or part of this 11% Iberian and Eastern European comes from him. I wish I could find a DNA match that would help me explain this part of my heritage.

Unfortunately, nearly all my closest matches on Family Tree DNA are Finnish, so they must be my mother’s relatives. So far, no one leaps out of the list as a good prospect for deciphering my mystery lines on my father’s side.

I plan to keep working to understand the DNA data and to contact matches that might help me. As more people submit test results, perhaps a closer match will become available for comparison. In the meantime, I am participating in a DNA class through the Colorado Genealogical Society, and I am reading a couple of books on DNA testing. When that DNA match arrives someday, I want to be able to recognize and interpret it.

52 Stories in 52 Weeks #25—Babyhood

Obviously I do not recall the day I was born, but later my mom did tell me a bit about my infancy.

My parents lived in the college town of Laramie, Wyoming at the time I was born. I came into the world at the old Ivinson Memorial Hospital one spring night. I was my mom and dad’s first child.

I arrived a couple of weeks prematurely. Consequently, I was tiny and weighed less than the usual 5-pound threshold for life outside an incubator. Still, I had a lusty cry. The doctor decided I could skip the incubator and go home when my mother’s prescribed recovery time in the hospital ended.

The first time my mother looked at me, she thought I resembled my Finnish relatives. I had a bald head, and perhaps she suspected I would be blonde like them. She was right.

My dad was finishing up school as a business student at the University of Wyoming that year. He was graduated a month after I was born. He must have loved studying for his final exams with a wailing infant in the house. I had the privilege of attending his graduation ceremony, but I wasted it by crying the entire time. My mother had to take me out of the auditorium, so she missed it, too.

After the graduation, my dad needed to attend a three-month orientation in Casper, Wyoming for his new job as a petroleum landman. In the fall, he would be assigned to a permanent location in a field office. Not wanting to live in temporary digs in Casper, my mom took me to stay with her parents in Rapid City, South Dakota for the summer. There, my grandparents and aunt doted on me, the first grandchild.

In early July, my dad drove over from Casper for a visit. While he was there, I was baptized at the Trinity Lutheran church on the Fourth of July. My mother’s younger sister and my dad’s older brother served as my godparents.

When autumn arrived, Dad collected us, and we three moved north to Bismarck, North Dakota to begin his job. It fell to my mom to find us a place to live.

She thought the perfect location was an upstairs apartment for rent across the street from my dad’s office and the grocery store. Only problem was that the landlady wanted no children around. Mom went to talk to her and claimed that I was a very nice baby. She promised to keep me quiet.

The landlady relented. Mom, Dad, and I moved in. We stayed in that apartment until our family outgrew it when my brother was born a little over a year later. My mom said the landlady eventually grew to like me and was sorry to see us leave.

52 Stories #24–Family Sayings

The men in our families often give us advice or correct our behavior. Sometimes we hear the same phrases over and over as we grow up.

I can recall a few from my childhood, all originating with or handed down by my father:

  1. My great-grandfather, Samuel Harvey Reed (1845-1928) told his children “You inherited a good name, now keep it that way.”
  2. My dad, a Navy veteran, often reminded us to keep our home and belongings in Ship Shape.
  3. My dad admonished us when he did not approve of our behavior. Many times he told us to “straighten up and fly right” when he caught us in wrongdoing or to “look alive” when we seemed lazy or slow-moving with an assigned task.
  4. When we faced major life decisions, my dad advised us to “think very carefully about what you do” although he rarely ventured an opinion about what we should decide. Making an exception when we embarked on careers, he suggested that we should work in private industry instead of government so as to make more money.

I had no direct advice from my either of my grandfathers. Owen Herbert Reed (1896-1935) died in a motor vehicle accident long before I was born, and even my dad barely remembered him. Bjarne K. Bentsen (1906-1986) lived in another state, and I did not know him very well. When I did see him, we talked mostly of current events.

Perhaps my own children and grandchildren have heard me repeat some of the sayings from my childhood. They say we raise our children the same way we were brought up. In my family, that meant finding one’s own way with little unsolicited advice from the previous generation.

Great American Eclipse

Did you join millions of your fellow Americans to watch the solar eclipse this week? I did.

Months ago we learned that our Casper, Wyoming hometown would sit in the path of totality for this event. What better excuse to have a family reunion?

We invited everyone we could think of to attend a viewing party at the home place, and many people accepted the invitation. We offered free places to stay with relatives while motel rooms were going for $2500 per night. Family members came in from Colorado, New Mexico, and New York for our eclipse party.

They say the population of Wyoming nearly doubled that day as people flooded in. For a time, Wyoming (normally the least-populated state) had more people than other small states such as Alaska, the Dakotas, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The little Natrona County airport handled private planes loaded with eclipse watchers landing every two minutes. We heard rumors that a Saudi prince came in to watch the eclipse from the tarmac.

We prepared for our viewing by collecting eclipse glasses and discarding any that were not properly certified. My granddaughter and I also made a projector box out of an old shoebox, a skill I had learned as a Cub Scout den leader when Colorado experienced a partial eclipse in the 90’s.

The fun began about 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning. People grabbed their special eclipse glasses and scanned the sun, trying out the glasses and waiting for the show to begin. It was not long before we could see a corner of the sun disappear.

When it was time for a snack, we served Moon Cake. My mother-in-law has served this at family gatherings for many years, so there was no question that we would eat it on this day. My sister-in-law baked three of them to make sure we had enough. You can find a recipe for it on

As the eclipse progressed, we gathered everyone to take group photos, some with glasses, some without. We wanted to remember this day.

When the precious minutes of totality drew near, everyone quieted down as we all gazed at the sky. The air grew noticeably cooler. Finally, twilight descended, and the sun disappeared. Only a brilliant corona remained, and we experienced what appeared as a 365-degree sunset. We could see Venus in the sky above. Exuberant town residents celebrated by setting off fireworks.

I will never forget that moment. We all felt a little sad when the sun slowly began to reappear, and the unworldly vision ended.

My son and his family stayed for a picnic lunch and then prepared to head back home to Denver. Little did they know of the massive traffic tie-up they faced. Thousands left Casper and the surrounding area at the same time. Most needed to travel south on one of two thoroughfares—Interstate 25 or Wyoming Highway 487, a two-lane road. The usual 4-5 hour drive took my son 11 hours to get home. Traffic was backed up for hundreds of miles. Both Wyoming and Colorado urged people not to stop at the border to take selfies.

Luckily, I had the luxury of staying in Wyoming for one more day. My husband/tech advisor and I did some housecleaning at the old home place before we left. On the road home to the Denver area the next day, we encountered heavier traffic than usual but nothing like what had gone down those roads the day before.

We came home with great memories of a great American eclipse and family reunion.


52 Stories #23—My Dad’s Early Days

What was my dad like in his younger days? Occasionally he told us stories from his childhood. We listened, wide-eyed. We could not imagine a life like his.

  1. Dad and his brothers had silly nicknames for each other. Owen was “Bill”, Harold was “Skeets”, and Dad was “Doodle-bug”. The three of them planned to move to Alaska to work when they were grown, excluding their brothers Robert and Donald. The three signed The Reed Agreement to this effect.
  2. Dad hardly remembered his father. Owen Herbert Reed died in a vehicle crash near Brighton, Colorado just before Independence Day, 1935 when Dad was seven years old. My grandfather was driving a truck, hauling a load of fruit from Denver back to Wyoming when he went off the road. The load shifted and killed him. Dad and his brothers were at the movie theater in Wheatland that afternoon, looking forward to their father’s expected return that evening. A neighbor went to the theater to fetch them when their mother received the grim news.
  3. After their father’s death and the loss of his income, the family lost its place to live. Dad’s uncle Morton Reed traded some farmland near Wheatland for a small house in Loveland, Colorado and moved the family there. They qualified for widow and orphan benefits in Colorado because the accident had occurred there. Shortly after their arrival, they had a family portrait made with Harold, Owen, Robert, and Earl (my dad) in the back row and their mom, Grace, and Donald in the front.
  4. Dad and his brothers used to say, “We hated Colorado when we had to move there in 1936, and we still hate it.” Still, Harold remained there for the rest of his life, and Robert returned to Colorado after his military service. Hazel also returned to Colorado when her daughter was grown. My dad relocated to Colorado several years ago to live closer to me.
  5. Dad and his brothers suffered some frightening injuries when they were young. They sneaked into a broom-making factory one day where they initially had fun poking stalks into the cutting machine. Then Dad pushed one too far and cut off the end of his middle finger. His older brother Owen scooped up the detached digit with his handkerchief, handed it to my dad, and told him to take it home to their mother. She immediately took Dad to the country doctor who sewed it back on. Dad carries a bad scar from this accident, but the finger regained full functionality.
  6. Harold suffered a more severe injury while tree climbing. He accidentally grabbed an electrical wire and suffered a severe shock. For a long time afterwards, he had difficulty opening his hands. The same country doctor who had treated Dad instructed Harold to exercise by squeezing a small rubber ball. Harold eventually recovered full use of his hands.
  7. Dad loved sports. At school he went out for football, basketball and track. He played wide receiver on the high school football team and went on to play college football at the school in Greeley, CO. He lost several teeth when he once went head-first into a goal post. Dad’s brother Robert was the high school basketball coach, and my tall father was the center on the team. During his high school years, Dad went to the stadium one spring day to watch track practice. The coach needed someone to pace the boy who ran the mile for the track team, and he called my dad out of the stands. He beat the other boy in their race, and from then on, my dad was the miler for Loveland High School. He set a school record.
  8. The Loveland economy relied on sugar beet farming. With no men around during WWII, local high school students filled in during the harvest. In 1943, the school closed for two weeks, and Dad helped to bring in the crop.
  9. During those years, Dad had a little white dog. Runt had belonged to neighbors who could not take him along when they moved. The Reeds took him in.
  10. Dad enjoyed reading from the time he was young. In Loveland, he began his lifelong patronage of the public library. He read mostly non-fiction like military history.
  11. Dad graduated from high school when he was seventeen years old. He promptly enlisted in the Navy and went to San Diego for boot camp in 1945. After transport through Pearl Harbor to Okinawa, he was assigned to the USS Seer, a mine sweeper in the South China Sea. He spent Christmas, 1945 in Shanghai, China. Upon demobilization, he hitchhiked back to Colorado. With him he brought some Chinese pottery, a kimono, a Japanese military rifle, and his pea coat embroidered with a Chinese dragon. He also had a few photos of his time in the service. Although he served in the Navy, he did not acquire any tattoos when so many of his shipmates did. “I wasn’t interested,” was all he would say about that.

Dad has now outlived all his siblings. He will be 90 years old this week. He no longer remembers much of his younger days. I wish he had told more stories about his youth. Living through the Depression and the early death of his father made life hard for a young boy. I can see why he did not speak about it much.