Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day and Family Visits

I admire the two rows of American flags erected along the entrances to my subdivision today. As a young girl, today was the day my family visited Calvary Cemetery to plant geraniums on my uncle's and later my grandmother's grave. My uncle was killed in Saipan during the Second World War Marine invasion of the South Pacific. I visited his grave on April 20 so that will have to count for this Memorial visit.

My research led me to find out more about the history of Memorial Day and I discovered this web site http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html . A return to the roots and original observance of the day is needed. Unfortunately, in our corporate driven, dividend driving, give it all for the bottom line lifestyle, the brief 3 day reprieve from work becomes almost a day of relaxation, but in practice a day of playing catch up on household chores and conversation. My mother, who turned 80 years young earlier this month, has been the impetus for me to re-ignite memories with the 100 year Centennial Celebration of the birth of John Wayne. How all American can one get?

Yet, with all of the relocations across the country, it is unlikely many families are able to visit the sites of their relatives who have been lost in service. I cannot be at all of the gravesites today. However, the idea of the National Moment of Rememberance at 3 pm rings true to me.

When I lived in Tennessee, I had the opportunity to visit the Grotto at Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis twice on Memorial Day weekends. It is the creation of Dionico Rodriguez who used cement and crystals to artistically build dioramas of Biblical scenes. The peaceful entryway with Abraham's Oak is a welcome repreive. The pictures on this website give you an idea but cannot do justice to the beauty of the place. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/map/tn.html. My father loved this place and I loved to be with him there. Today I remember my father, a Navy veteran of WWII, and his brother. That is my Memorial Day tribute.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Do You Want to Know the Secret?

When traveling home from Denver, I completed reading my latest book on Catherine the Great and desperately needed more reading material. I stopped at Hudson Bookseller at the Denver airport and searched for another historical book. Alas, nothing in particular sparked my interest. So, against my initial instincts, I bought "The Secret."

I have believed in affirmations and positive thinking for years. I devoured books like "The Power of Intention" by Wayne Dyer, anything by Louise Hay, and more books on this topic than I could possibly recite in this blog. What could this book offer?

"The Secret" started slow and I felt pretty much repeated information that Louise Hay and others have pioneered for years. Yet, I kept reading. By the third chapter, I realized it was a great refresher for those of us who get so carried away with their lives that they forget what they learned years ago. Also, the marketing created by this publisher certainly merits our attention. More to come on this topic when I finish reading the book.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Research pays off with Invaluable Information

As part of my family history research, I traveled to my hometown of Sheboygan, Wisconsin in late April. My cousin Charlotte Lamb and I trace our family history to Reinwald, Russia. We visited both the Lutheran Cemetery and the Catholic Calvary Cemetery to pay our respect to our grandparents and great-grandparents. Charlotte is the first grandchild of Philip and Anna Maria Reimer. I am the youngest grandchild. Our age difference spans 25 years. Charlotte remembers our grandparents and I was not born until after their deaths. Spending time with her opened was extremely valuable. She answered many family questions for me. When I asked, “Do you have any pictures of our Philip Reimer?” I was stunned to hear her answer, “Yes.” Three pictures later, and I have copies of my great-grandparents and my grandparents. I had never seen a photo of my grandmother as a young woman and it brought tears to my eyes. I am so grateful to Charlotte for her time and generosity.

I also met with Sheboygan Assistant City Historian, Scott Lewandowske. Scott has conducted research on German Russians from Reinwald who settled in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Scott’s research will culminate in a book on these settlers in the near future. Scott and I attended North High School together. It was a wonderful reunion. Scott has been a valuable contributor to the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center. He has also created detailed maps of the following cemeteries: Oostburg Cemetery in Oostburg, Wisconsin, Union Cemetery in Holland, Wisconsin, the Hartman Cemetery, First Reformed Church Cemetery, and the Presbyterian Cemetery in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin.

During the same visit, I attended two genealogical meetings in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Genealogical Society’s Biennial Workshop featuring Cyndi Howells of www.cyndislist.com was a huge event at the Serb Hall in Milwaukee. The other meeting was the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia monthly meeting. President Jim Philbert and his wife Helen were outstanding hosts. Their meeting included a noodle making demonstration and a chapter fund raising auction. I also met Roman Schmalz, author of the newly published book, “My Life in Stalin’s Russia.” Schmalz was an eyewitness to history as he saw his grandfather, father and uncles taken away, never to return. Schmalz says, “Our history does not explain this disaster in full truth and leaves it to the people to find out. My book descries it as it really was. It is kept compact and concise, in order not to dilute the seriousness of the tragedies.” At this point, I have not completed reading the book, but his personal experience provides us with valuable insight.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Russia: Land of the Tsars

I spent today immersed in the History Channel's DVD, Russia: Land of the Tsars. Two of the leaders have been central to my research of Russia. These two leaders are Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. I have read numerous books of each of them, but the Land of the Tsars helps to pull all of these generations together. Two points in particular stand out to me. Peter the Great's lack of designating an heir mars a remarkable life and incredible achievement. Yet, it is understandable that one always thinks there will be time to handle the matter of inheritance. My fascination of Catherine the Great expands with each book and movie I encounter. Without her, I would have been the direct descendent of Luxembourgh and Germany without the unique history of the Germans from Russia. Her attempts at reform were outstanding by any standard.

Understanding the Tsars and Russia is tantamount to understanding how my ancestors survived during their 2 and half centuries living in the Volga River basin. Sweeping cinematography offers gorgeous views Russia's land and architecture. The artwork and portraits are exquisite and gives one a sense of the family's regal stance. Of course, the voice of Edward Herrmann phenomenally enhances the program. His strong voice heralds the beginning and the demise of each Romanov generation. I find it oddly comforting that my grandmother's maiden name was Herrmann.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Reinwald 1798 Census

The Reinwald census of 1798 shows Herzogs, Kerbers and Reimers as the original settlers of this small village. This verifies the hometown for my maternal ancestors as far as I am concerned. The oral history, death notice documentation, and ship manifests all match back to Reinwald. Now I need to fill the gap from my grandfather and great grandfather back to the orignal settlers. Again, I am in awe of the names and how each generation repeats the names. I am extremely impressed how in the United States, some of the names have survived despite 3 generations.