The Family Historian

Friday_fave_five_Tamara smallIt’s time for Friday’s Fave Five and since we are finishing up our Family Heritage Quest through Minnesota, I thought I’d list five highlights from our trip out here.  We’ve certainly encountered more than five fun things since arriving in God’s Country, but I’ll take a stab at narrowing it down to five.

Dee and Tim1.  Reconnecting with my cousin, Tim Graf and looking over his amazing collection of Graf history. Every family has their family historian and I’d have to say that for the Graf family, Tim must be the man.  Tim has been collecting Graf genealogy and memorabilia for years and had the presence of mind to interview the older members of the family while they were still able to remember lots of details.  We’ve corresponded some over the years and I know we must have played together out on the farm but I hadn’t had the pleasure of spending time with him as an adult until yesterday.  I have to tell you, I love his enthusiasm.  It was like finding another brother.  I can’t wait to get home and go through the old pictures I have to see which ones I can copy for Tim.  It’s fun to find another traveler on the family history road who enjoys the thrill of the hunt.

Monster Tractor2.  Driving the huge John Deere tractor – OK, I know that this isn’t exactly related to family history but I’m telling you, this was something that I’ll never forget.  I LOVED every minute of climbing up into that tractor and viewing the fields from the cab (even though we just stayed in the farm yard).  And when my cousin said, “OK, now it’s your turn to drive”…well, I could hardly believe that he was going to trust me behind the wheel of this monster.  I mean, I’m the one that took a whole clothesline of clothes with me on a pass by with a lawn tractor.  But what a thrill.  Thanks, Leonard!

Grandma's Donated Stove

3.  Going to Pioneer Village in Worthington – I had so much fun walking around Pioneer Village and going through the old buildings that have been brought to the site and set back up there.  One big thrill was seeing this old Isinglass stove that my grandmother donated to the village.  The last memory I have of this stove was the winter that my grandfather died.  We had come back to Minnesota for his funeral and were staying at the farmhouse.  I was sleeping in a bed that was set up in the dining room and this stove was sitting in one corner.  Grandma would shovel corn cobs into it and then at night, it would keep me toasty.  I’d snuggle under the quilts and watch the reflection of the flames dancing in the little squares of the isinglass panels.  I’ve never forgotten that memory.

Dee and Monetta4.  Reconnecting with my cousins – I am so glad that I had a chance to see my cousins.  I got to visit with Erving and Lois Graf and Tim Graf on the Graf side and my cousin Anita and Leonard and all the Runck boys (minus Andrew who was already off to college).  I got to meet Bryan’s new bride.  Then I was off to Mankato and got to spend time with my cousin, Monetta.   I have so few family left that it is a rare treat to be able to spend time with them.  In fact, as soon as I finish this blog post, I’m hoping to call one more cousin before we fly out of Minneapolis, to say “hi”.

Johann Graf's Grave5.  Finding my Great-Great Grandfather and Grandmother’s graves and also walking around the towns where they lived. I also found out from Tim that one place that we stopped and parked was just a short distance from the caves where my great-grandfather kept the beer from his brewery cold.  If we had walked down the path, we would have found them.  Tim also showed us pictures of the remains of foundation walls from the Graf business in that area.  Wow!  Just walking around that area was something.  I never have any trouble imaging my ancestors standing in the same spot, seeing the river or hills that I’m gazing at years later.  This has helped me “flesh out” the narration of my great-grandfather when he talked about coming up the river and settling along the St. Croix.  I can see now why that area would have been attractive to them…how it would have been a bustling town back in the 1850’s-70’s, with lumber floating down to the mills and hungry and thirsty lumberjacks coming into town ready for a cold brew.

Yes, it has been a good trip and I’m also thankful for a husband who has been a willing participant in this family adventure.  I’m looking forward to doing more sleuthing when I return home so that I can come back at a future date, armed with more clues to pursue on another Heritage Quest.

If you’d like to read what others are writing about this week for their Friday Fave Fives, visit Susanne’s site at Living to Tell the Story.

  • I really enjoyed reading this list, Dee. I love history and touring historical things so you drew me right in. How cool is it that you were able to sit down with your cousin and go through your families history.

    When I read that people visit cousins it always makes me long to know mine. I’ve only ever met any of them once in my whole life. You are blest that you were able to visit and catch up with yours!

  • I loved this list for several reasons! One of the main reasons is that we may, just might, have a common ancestor in there somewhere! I know I mentioned to you before that my mother’s maiden name was Graf!

  • I’ve so enjoyed your adventure, Dee! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

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