Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Friday, November 04, 2016

And in yesterday's news . . .

A box was found.

If you're a family historian, you know what I want to say next, right? Of course you do, and I'm gonna say it... 'twas a box full of family history!

The box was found by a total stranger (let's call her Susan L.), who was unknown to me before, but is now my new best friend! It was found in an attic (where else?) and rescued from total annihilation only seconds before the wrecking ball hit. Well, maybe minutes. Or a few days. Does it matter? The drama is equally nerve-wracking either way. Then it was set aside somewhere for awhile, left to gather a little more dust and, well, let's face it, I'm working on building some suspense here.

When it came into Susan's hands, she examined the contents and, finding them thrilling beyond all imagination, she set out to find a family member who might want them. She studied the contents for names, places, relationships--any clue that might help her find a person to whom the box would be meaningful.

Having no luck locally, she and a friend turned to the internet. Genealogy bloggers, you know what happened next. Before My Time came up in a surname search, and in July Susan used the Kontactr form, up there in the little menu below the header, to send me an email about the box. Amazingly enough, I did not find it until late October! Why? Because gmail sorts itself into folders labelled Primary, Social, Promotions, and Updates. I check my Primary folder more than daily, of course, but sometimes fail to pay much attention to the others, which is how I missed Susan's offer of the box. Gmail had sorted it to one of the other folders.

By dumb luck, I had an idle moment a couple weeks ago and decided to go through some folders and delete a few of the 7,847 emails glutting my Inbox. (Yes, that is an exact, up-to-the-minute count.) I was on a tear, deleting one email after another, maybe as many as fifteen or twenty (wow!), when I noticed the one from Susan. Who is Susan?, I wondered, and considered the possibility that the email was a sales pitch or a virus waiting to be launched by a careless click. I was on the verge of deleting it when I noticed it had been sent via Kontactr.

Okay, so I knew it was safe to open it, but in a million years I would not have guessed what would happen next. She told me she had just written me a long email but it had somehow disappeared before she could send it. Don't you hate when that happens! So she told me her news in a nutshell--a box with pictures, letters, art journals and more. She thought they belonged to someone in my family. She wanted to hear from me.

I was stunned! Three months had gone by since she'd sent that email. Anything could have happened in such a length of time, but most of all, I was afraid she might have given up checking that email address to see if I'd written back. Well, next there was an exchange of emails, a phone call, and soon a fabulous box being delivered to my door.

It arrived about 2:30 yesterday, about 45 minutes sooner than I'd expected, but I was already standing by with a boxcutter. I admit, I might have been pacing a little bit, the anticipation being too much to allow for the accomplishment of anything other than waiting.

Once it was in the door, plopped onto the nearest chair, and carefully cut open, I did not sit down for the next two hours. I'm pretty sure I didn't blink or even breathe--just picked up one item after another until, finally, I had touched every amazing thing in the box at least once.

Susan had hoped I might be able to identify those heartbreakers--the unidentified photos--but they are from a branch of the family I'd had no photos of... except one. In the box there was a photo of Grace Pettis, the same photo I have from my grandmother's collection. It was kind of exciting to find Grace in the box. Maybe it was a little reassuring, in a way.

Several people from the box were already in my genealogy database, and I spent today extending their families in every direction, so I'll have as much information as possible when I try to figure out the photos.

Besides the photos, there are diplomas, two art journals, letters, an extremely delicate 24-page book printed in 1813 with a hand-sewn binding, several legal documents including a will, tintypes, and more. I'll be sharing selected items here at Before My Time, and have picked out a really nice one to start with. Click here for an original Certificate of Marriage signed by my third-great-grandfather, Ezekiel T. Efner.


Cheryl said...

Fantastic beyond belief. I know how psyched you are and rightfully so. I'm glad that you are posting these finds on your blog. You are one lucky genealogist. We all can hope for such a treasure plopping into our laps. Enjoy!!

Nancy said...

How exciting! I thin a box like this is every family historian's dream/fantasy/hope. Congratulations!

TK said...

Thanks for your comments, ladies. You know this box will keep me busy all winter. I've already added at least two dozen more people to my database in the effort to see how they're all connected. So interesting!

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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