Family Stories

My vacation is over. I go back to work today.

I saw my doctor on Tuesday and was given the go-ahead to resume normal activities, except for lifting anything over 5 lbs for the next four weeks and remaining “cautious.” In light of that, I will work as a triage nurse for the next two weeks, sitting at a computer and answering the phone. It is not my favorite job at work, but it seems the most reasonable for the circumstances. I much prefer interacting face to face with patients.

I completed a few sewing and knitting projects (small ones) and read and rested as much as I was able. I admit to breaking curfew last Saturday to go to the All Blacks vs USA Rugby game at Soldier Field, but really, except for climbing those stairs to our seats up top, all I did was sit and watch New Zealand smash the US team 🙂

The NaNo — 

There is a yearly competition every November called NaNoWriMo (perhaps you’ve heard of it). If you manage to type over 50,000 words in one month (no matter what month though) without breaking your streak you will be awarded this fine badge of honor.

I also got a head start on my November writing. For the past three years, I’ve participated in the NaNo challenge to complete 50,000 words, the size of an average novel. (November is National Novel Writers Month.) I combine writing with genealogy each November, working on fictionalized family stories.

In the past, I’ve mostly focused on my Dad’s side of the family, but after researching my Mom’s Swedish-American side last spring, I wanted to work with that for at least part of the month.

In both cases, I’ve found that the 1910 census was a good starting point for my stories. I’ve learned more about the census, the enumerators, and the process. In each case, I found a name for the actual enumerator, found them in the census records and imagined a back story.

Willis C. Stone knocked on the door of a boarding house in Chicago on April 24, 1910 and found, among others, two young Scottish immigrants who were studying business. The older was quiet and shy; the younger, outgoing and friendly. Little did he know that both men would become part of our family story. A few years later the younger man, Robert Marshall, married my grandmother. He did well in business and by 1925 had acquired a summer home and a Monroe touring car with a winter top. His wife and three children–with one more on the way–were spending their first summer there and he was commuting back and forth to work. On a Tuesday evening, driving south on Hwy 41 near Hammond, he came to an intersection of the highway and the Pennsylvania Line train tracks. A car was stopped at the intersection but Bob swung around the car and crossed the tracks, right in the path of an oncoming passenger train. My dad was born four months later.

Thirteen years later, my grandmother went to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and married Laurence Christie, the older of the two young men listed in that 1910 Census. Robert and Laurence had remained family friends for all those years, even assisting one another in a business venture. Laurence, who had never married, stayed in contact with his friend’s family and later, convinced Janet to marry him. He died seven years later and I’d never paid much attention to him until a couple years ago when I learned a lot of interesting things about him and his family in the Shetland Islands. (Including the fascinating story of an older brother with bipolar disorder and unique artistic talents. During the last year, several memorials have been dedicated to his memory in Scotland and in the Shetland Islands.)

Back to 1910: About a week later, Ida Hanson visited two homes on 47th Street on the north side of Chicago. In one, Millard and Carrie Hansen lived with their three grown children, Nellie, Lillie and Ralph. Next door, Carl and Alma Freeberg lived with Albert, Axel, Arthur and Andrew (Alma’s father.) A young girl, Ellen Linden (13) is also listed as a lodger. Orphaned two years previously, she and her sisters had gone to live with different families in the area. I am entertaining the possibility (suggested by an old friend of the family) that Ellen first lived with the Hansens, who later encouraged Alma to take her in. In fact, twenty years earlier, in the 1880 Census, I found Alma Peterson living with the Hansens as a boarder. I am inclined to believe that it was Carrie Hansen who urged Carl Freeberg to hire Alma as his housekeeper after his young wife and daughter died, which eventually led to one of his son’s suggesting that Carl marry Alma. Perhaps the Hansens played a similar role in prompting the Freebergs to share their home with Ellen. In 1919, Ellen married one of the Freeberg boys, my grandfather Art, becoming my grandmother in the process. The Hansens remained close to my grandparents. In fact, I am pretty sure that the Haviland China that I inherited from my grandmother first belonged to “Aunt Lillie.”

I still want to walk around the neighborhood and continue my research to see what more I can learn. I love the meat-on-the-bones stories that come from probing deeper. (Even if they can’t be entirely proven as true.)

So, while I continue the next phase of my recovery, I will be continuing my research and writing a LOT of words. Between work and home, that’s a lot of computer time.

But I’m having fun–and resting.

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