Hereditary Stitches

My mom never sewed. I mean, she taught me how to reattach a button but honestly, my dad could sew better than her. My grandmas did though and I wish I had the opportunity to learn more from them before they died.

I don’t really remember my Grandma Doherty (nee. Smith/Schmidtke) sewing at all but I know she did and that she also did crochet. Unfortunately she died right around the time I started getting interested in that area of crafting.

My Grandma Heutmaker (nee. Szczech) was a wonderful seamstress and often gave the grandkids handmade pajamas for Christmas. She was who you took your jeans to get patched or your work pants to get hemmed. I honestly don’t think there was anything she couldn’t sew or mend. My Aunt Dianne inherited this talent but did I? Even though I didn’t have someone there to teach me?

After Grandma Heutmaker died, I inherited her handkerchiefs. Colorful and delicate, some were hand embroidered, these were very special to me. But I am not the kind of person to starch them and leave them folded in a box somewhere. I wanted the world to see them so I decided to make a quilt to hang in my daughter’s room.

I began by piecing together each tissue-thin handkerchief by hand. Here I am doing that on my bed. Side note: not sure if you believe in spirits showing up on film as orbs but check that out! Could that be my Grandma watching me work?

The process to quilt by hand is a slow one so this project took me years (of breaks and starting and stopping) to complete.

By the time I was finishing, my daughter was old enough to help a bit. I have to say, there were many times where I was sewing with tears in my eyes. Surly this is the perfect example of “full circle” – from grandmother to grand-daughter, and mother to daughter.

During the breaks I would work on other projects. During one such project, I was complaining to my mom about having to iron so much, “It takes twice as long to finish everything but, if I had one tip for a beginning sewer, it would be to never skip the ironing,” I said to her.

“That is just what your grandma used to say,” She told me. So, even without them being here, I grew up sewing just like them.

Eventually, I finished the quilt and it now hangs on our wall as a reminder of family. I’m excited to pass this hereditary stitching onto my daughter and she is so excited to learn.


Genealogist’s Bag-o-Tricks

What do you need to get started with your family tree? As it turns out, not much. Really, a computer with internet connection and a few names might get you surprisingly far. If you start delving deeper, like Lexie and me, you might want to add a few more items to your bag-o-tricks.

As I added more and more names and dates to my family tree, I started to get a little confused. Is Mary Dressen from my German side or my Dutch side? Did I come across a Hoen with my family tree or my husbands? So I decided to put everything into binders. Each branch of our family tree (meaning, each grandparent) has their own tab in the binder. I did have to split my Irish side into it’s own binder because I have a lot of stuff on that side. I’d like to think that, eventually, I’ll have eight binders for each of the branches of our family tree and they’ll all be overflowing with stories and pictures and everyone will think I’m amazing! Oh, sorry…

Anyway, I have those clear protective sleeves behind each tab for photos or anything else I do not want to punch holes in. I stuck a note book in the front of one of the binders too.I always have to have a heavy-duty stapler and 3-hole punch nearby so that I can add pages into the binders. Of course, a pencil, pens and a highlighter are tossed in there. Sticky Notes and a camera are great to have to.

Finally, I have my genealogy books that I am currently reading. Sometimes there might be a magazine or newsletter if it had an article that might help me understand life way-back-when (like National Geographic’s May 2012 issue featuring the Civil War).

Now, if I could only figure out how to carry around a printer, I’d be set.


Painting a Clearer Picture

Being only the 3rd generation in my family tree to be born in the United States, I’ve always felt less American than others, though it never bothered me. Growing up I always had a strong sense of culture and background. With strong European roots and tradition, it was never a question to feel closer to my European background than to my American one. But that was the way I was raised and it’s always surprised me when I would ask people, “What is your ethnicity?” and they would tell me American or they didn’t know.

I thought it to be so outside the norm to have generation upon generation born in America that I never even considered it. Even more so was the idea that someone would be raised without knowing their cultural background. That is, until I met my husband.

And he was the one to ignite my passion for genealogy because I want our children to have a strong sense of cultural self, just as I did. I want my research to allow them the tradition and story that I’ve grown up with and I want them to know who they are and where their families have come from.

I hope, as I build our family tree, that is not just filled with names and dates of unknown people. I want to paint a clearer picture of life for those people: through song, food, art, books, history – anything I can get my hands on.

I hope you’ll join us as we explore the art and craft of the family tree.

~ Liz