Sunday, October 25, 2015

Keep on Looking!

My book, Dick Dollen: The Memoir of An Unknown Uncle,  has been sent to the printer and I expect to receive the published books within the next few weeks. I am looking forward to seeing the finished product; the fruit of my labors.

This sleepy Sunday morning began with a cup of coffee and a little computer fun. I quickly went to the Chicago Tribunes archive website and began entering ancestors names. I entered Dick Dollen.

Just when I thought I had found EVERYTHING about my uncle something new popped up and I ask myself, "Why didn't I visit the Tribune archives earlier?" Simply because I didn't know about the Chicago Tribune's free website.

This newest find blew my mind for two big reasons.
1. I just learned something new about my unknown uncle.
2. My book about him is at the printers. There is nothing more I can add to Dick's story.

It appears Dick was going to college! I never knew that bit of Dollen trivia. I sure wish Dick had followed "The Plan." What made Dick change his mind? I suspect Dick's sudden change of heart was due to the death of his father who died seven days after this article appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

Chicago Tribune Archives,
27 April 1950

Just goes to show you, genealogy research is never finished!


Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Moments That Make A Life

I write from the heart. I write about what I love. My subject must have meaning otherwise why would I bother. Having never written a "genealogy book" I selected a subject that mattered. I chose to write about my mother's brother.

Mom's brother, Dick, died tragically causing immense sorrow for my Mom and Grandmother. Their grief was so strong that Mom and Grandma never spoke about Dick. All I knew was that Dick was in Navy, that he fell from his ship while in dry dock, and died. His death defined his life.

As I researched Dick's life, I began to get an idea of who my uncle was. I came to love him and with that love came grief. It was the first time I really understood my Mom's sorrow.

Mom was a faithful mourner. She mourned every anniversary. One day, years ago, as I spoke with her on the phone, I sensed a sadness. Something was bothering Mom, so I asked her to dinner. We were seated at one of her favorite local restaurants. It was late; about 7:30 when dinner arrived. Mom picked up her fork, about to take her first bite of dinner, when her arm dropped to the table. Her body slumped, she heaved a sigh and said, "My brother died just about now." Tears followed. I now know that the day was 2 October 2007. Mom had received the phone call informing her of her only brother's death. She earnestly mourned him for 57 years and missed him terribly.

Now that is an emotional story and that emotion is exactly what I was including in story! Over and over I wrote emotionally never really liking how the story progressed. I tore up my words countless times.

I finally realized that it was up to my reader to find his or her own emotion. The idea of just telling his story took hold. Nothing more was needed. I began to share, in word, what I had learned through years of study. I began to share the moments that made his life.

Happy Writing!


Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Beginning of My Storytelling Journey

As I talk to my family about our shared history, I must be careful. Too much detail or too long a story causes their eyes to glaze over. Blank looks on my siblings' beautiful faces tells me that I have lost my audience. 

This blog was born out of the desire to tell life stories of my ancestors. The blog is a quick read. My hope was to entice family with snippets that take but a moment out of their busy lives. It worked to a degree.

My latest endeavor was to write a family history. After spending three years researching my uncle's life, I was ready to write and I did. I had something to share.

Writing a family history has been a journey. Originally, I planned to write a proof summary complete with footnotes. This attempt at scholarly writing ended quickly as it was a dry read. If it was dry for me to read, I can only imagine my family's reactions. I quickly threw that idea into the circular file.

Knowing that my audience was my family, I took a turn and began writing a narrative. I wrote, ripped up my story and began again. This happened over and over. Would I ever find a way to tell my story?

I am fortunate to belong to a genealogical society that encourages writing and am a member of one of three writer's groups. I found my voice at one writer's group meeting thanks to Nancy Stein. The way she told a story resonated with me.  I had listened to Nancy and others tell their stories for years and I finally had my "Ah Ha" moment! 

The story I wished to tell was a sad story filled with emotion. I removed my emotion. I removed the desire to elaborate on my step by step research journey. Interesting to me, but not so much to others. I learned to simply tell the story of a life. Once I knew how I wanted to tell my story, it was easy! I began to write in earnest.

My storytelling journey had begun!


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Write On!

My writing adventure is evolving. While my blog has laid dormant and most likely losing readers, the writing hasn't stopped. I am in the process of publishing my first genealogy book!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Thanks from a Grateful Nation

My father's grave is freshly decorated with an American flag in honor of his service to our great nation. Dad was an World War II army medic in the European Theatre. He assembled field hospitals, carried the wounded and drew blood from patients. I suspect he may have carried for the dead as well. Dad survived the war, as did his three older brothers. Thankfully, the Meyer boys all went on to lead good, long lives.

Dad passed away on 5 December 2005. His funeral was a cold, snowy one. We had record snowfall the night of his memorial service. I remember my shivering mother as she received the carefully and ceremoniously folded flag that draped his casket with the words of thanks from "A Grateful Nation."

We live in "A Grateful Nation" had today honors veterans of all wars. I think about the boys that sacrificed their lives for something bigger than themselves: The United States of America. I think of the boys who survived. They sacrificed their youth and in most recent wars, their future as a result of missing limbs and traumatic brain injuries. I feel sad for the daily struggles of those young men and their families.

Today I shed tears at Dad's grave. Tears for him but tears for all who died and all who live on.

Forever grateful,


Friday, May 22, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

We have had a very cool spring and my thoughts for this Memorial Day weekend revolve around getting in the garden. Our weather report tells me I may have one day to achieve my goal. Memorial Day weekend, in my neck of the woods, tends to be a rainy event. Maybe it represents tears for all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for me and for you. 

In Flanders Field

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD
Canadian Army

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D., “In Flanders Field,” Arlington Cemetery( : accessed 28 May 2012).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Genealogy Gophers

I recently found a new website thanks to Dick Eastman, Family Tree Magazine and North Suburban Genealogical Society. It is amazing how the word gets around. Plug in your search parameters and let the site go to work. Here is the link:

I entered my brick wall ancestor, Silas W. Cobb, and found a new publication, Colonial Families of America volume 17. I have been in search of Silas W.'s parentage for about five years. Colonial Families of America reports him to be the son of Captain Silas Cobb of Norton, Massachusetts.

The Tan Book for Norton, Massachusetts does not list Silas W. Cobb as a child of Captain Silas Cobb and Deliverance Hodges. They did have a son, Silas, whose birth and death dates differ from my Silas. Colonial Families of America tells me that the evidence was in possession of the family who are now deceased.

Nothing is ever easy when it comes to my 4th great grandfather.

Something to ponder....