the first house i lived in: the old homestead…

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, 2018; week 13 prompt:  The Old Homestead.
Six-fifty-one Knickerbocker Street.  The old homestead.  Sigh.  The first place in which I have recollections of being.  In my mind it’s a grand place, that grandness only slightly diminished by seeing it in recent decades and realizing its smallness and complete lack of grandeur.

Below, how it was in 1948:  barely visible, really, my tiny summer-born self the center of attention in this particular photo, but unfortunately this pic is all I have to remember the old homestead by photograph-wise.

1948: Me & my mum in front of the old homestead — 651 Knickerbocker Street.1

And, how the old homestead looked more than six decades later, in 2015:

A 2015 Google Earth image of the old homestead1

Initially I feel sobered by the 2015 image.  Confused.  My mouth opening in that “O.”  This isn’t 651 Knickerbocker, my mind protests.  Except it is.

But childhood memories win out:  as the image above fades from my head, 1948-through-early-1950s ones rise to the surface triumphantly, too strong to be vanquished by a little reality.

See those four windows across the front of the 2015 pic?  They didn’t used to be there.  Behind them is a huge porch that for us was open wide.  It contains my very earliest memory, in fact:  “Why do I have this faint memory of sleeping in a baby stroller on the Knickerbocker front porch in the dead of winter?” I asked my father one day as an adult.

“Because you did,” he laughed.  “Your Norwegian grandmother Rosalie was convinced it made babies hardy.  No-one could talk her out of it.  All you kids were set out on the porch for an hour or two for winter naps.”  Talk about one’s mouth falling open in that “O.”  (This is an actual custom in Scandinavian countries, I later learned.2)

The old homestead was the greatest place to play.  See those three windows above the four lower, in the 2015 image?  That was my and my two sisters’ bedroom.  A vast, long room with sun streaming in from near all along the front and, one side.  A play heaven.

Our yard out back of the old homestead was fenced in, our wonderful collie Mitzi always up for some playing; concord grapes for snacks climbing all over a wooden grape arbor with a bench to sit on underneath; an old-fashioned clothesline:  the yard seemed to go on & on.  Flowers dotted it, my mom being the gardener.  Lots of old-fashioned types flourished, peonies and hollyhocks and such.

And right down the street from 651 Knickerbocker?!  Oh my:  a whole lake.  A park to go along with it and, one edge of the university arboretum adjacent, where faeries were alleged to live in trees and, actual deer ran & grazed.  A “wild place.”  (What child doesn’t love, wild places?  Especially a child whose first playmate is an older brother…)

Adorable, teeny tree frogs were abundant in those days right in one’s front yard, and, take a hike with an older brother into the swampy depths of the arboretum and there were BIG frogs, turtles — all sorts of interesting creatures, bugs and wonders.

Stroll UP Knickerbocker and, there were railroad tracks running behind the houses on Gregory Street.  TRAINS — which I love to this day — made their wonderfully noisy way along the tracks several times daily.  (These days, it’s a hiking path.)

To the west, maybe six short blocks away, sat the imposing building I would go to kindergarten in:  Dudgeon Elementary School.  The older kids called it “Dungeon,” but I thought it looked like a castle.

Dudgeon Elementary School, Madison, Dane, Wisconsin.3

The world was different then, so I walked alone, to and from Dudgeon each day.  (My brother now an attendee of Blessed Sacrament, my own next stop after kindergarten.)

In the wintertime, the Dudgeon School hill was the best sledding.  Launching from off the small hill way top, we’d often be carried by the momentum clear to the bottom.  The whole neighborhood came to sled there:  big kids, little kids, grown-ups.

Nothing measuring up to fond memories, there will simply never be as grand a place to grow up in as, that old homestead… 😉
1 Family photos of the author’s.
2 “Why Norwegian Parents Let Their Kids Nap In Below-Freezing Temperatures,” at , accessed Apr., 2018.
3 Dudgeon Elementary School, Madison, Dane, Wisconsin, USA:  photo source, year taken, unknown.


The Elusive Life of Hans Herr

This blog post by Eric Christensen is such an e-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t piece of writing and, represents such g-o-o-d research that nOt reblogging it seems [somehow wasteful? ridiculous? a mistake? etc.]. Thus I AM reblogging it and, with a note of THANKS!, and, appreciation to Eric for sharing all his hard work with myself and other Herr descendants [<- of which, by my quite unscientific estimate, I am thinking there must be gazillions, just by how many I’ve encountered?!].  UPDATE:  I am currently in “suspense mode” as to whether or not I am, indeed, a descendant:  stay tuned… 😮 😉

Eric’s Roots

One great challenge in genealogy is trying to make sense of conflicting records, knowing full well that one can never have a definitive, fully documented answer, but must instead make the most educated guess that can be deduced from the available information. Such is the case with my eighth great grandfather Hans Herr. There are not only disagreements over who is wife was, but also over his birth year, his immigration year, and the birth years of some of his children.

Portrait of Hans Herr This picture of Hans Herr comes from Theodore Herr’s “Genealogical Record of Reverend Hans Herr,” and is said to come from a painting by John Funk.

I will start with a presentation of Hans Herr’s basic history, and then move on to the disputed facts of his life.

The Swiss Anabaptists

Hans Herr (also known as John Herr) was born in Switzerland. Most histories give his birth date as…

View original post 2,859 more words

an ode to my likers and my commenters

Y’all Likers and, OH,
you Commenters 😮 —
you make me wanna hug ya. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Right through this laptop screen,
I’d reach my arms straight out, and
(hoping it wouldn’t bug ya),
I’d big-like, thanks-heaps hug ya. 🙂

It’s like this:
you Commenter, and, you Liker peeps?
You land a sparkle in my eyes with each comment
that you write 😉 ,
the biggest smile on my face with each click
of that wee “Like” star. 🙂

You don’t have to click that star.
You don’t have to write that comment.
(You don’t have to read my blog, Gasp.)
But you do, you darlinks. 😀

(Me? Call me old-fashioned; I am so touched. 😥 🙂 )

Bless you, blog peeps. 😉

free access to military records at findmypast june 27-july 4, 2016

HAALLLOOO genealogy enthusiasts everywhere, this one bears broadcast 🙂 :

Find your military heroes in our free records” —  “In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, we’ve made our 65 million world military records and over 265 million British and Irish censuses FREE for a week. Find your family making history in the most comprehensive collection of British Army records from World War 1 available online.“[1]

Notice of this freebie offer was emailed me in the form of “Genea-Musings” blogger Randy Seaver’s post, “Free Access to Findmypast Military Records from 27 June to 4 July”[2], which I could not for the lifeof me figure out a way to simply re-blog, so, I am blogging a post on a post, how’s that?! 🙂 .



1. Both graphic, and, accompanying “caption”-text from FindMyPast at , accessed June 25, 2016.

2. “Genea-Musings” blog, Randall J. Seaver’s, at , accessed June 25, 2016.