If there's a genealogy gene, my husband's grandmother had it. On February 20, 1974, she sat down at a typewriter and composed a letter to all her young grandchildren called "Those Were the Days." It's a memoir, really, and it's utterly fascinating. The letter itself is thirty-five pages long, put in a binder and, at the end, has a family tree. The first time I saw it, my heart beat faster, I swear. Honestly, the whole thing is fabulous and such an act of love (says the genealogist).
Here's an excerpt. Typos and spelling recreated faithfully - I have added the photos from my father-in-law's extensive collection.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS
February 20, 1974
My Dear Grandchildren:
As I sit here in the family room of our new home basking in the sunshine of a winter's afternoon, I am thinking about all of you. Even wishing we could be living closer together so we might really know one another better - you, Grandpa, and I, and in turn each of you, to have a closer relationship one with the other. Wishing does not make it so; so what can this grandmother do to span the miles and the years in such a way that you will have an insight into your heritage? Of course, I know! write you a letter telling you of "Those Days".
As they say in the story books, once upon a time a chubby blonde Olive Vandever Hendricks arrived at the home of John and Julia Hendricks, December 13, 1910. Their modest home was located on a farm owned by your great, great Grandfather Herman Hendricks and his wife, Mary Lau Hendricks, and was approximately 1 1/2-2 miles out along the road between Mason and Kings Mills [Ohio] - only knowledgeable to you because it now leads to the site of the popular amusement complex known as Kings Island (fashioned after the Disney attractions).
Both of these grandparents had migrated to America from northern Germany (Herman-17 years old from Treptow and Mary-15 years old from Ganchon, Mecklenberg, Strelitz) Nov. 13, 1872, along with other Lau, Hinrichs, and Weisman families. A half-brother of my grandfather, Will Hendricks, eventually owned the farm adjoining grandpa's; this man had 3 sons - Bill Jr, George and Albert (Nick) and one daughter, Minnie. One Fritz Lau had come to the Mason area first, gave such glowing reports that the others decided to follow, especially to help Karl Lau, brother of my grandmother, avoid the military draft. I have heard my parents tell many times what an overly ambitious person my grandmother Hendricks was, i.e. she would go out to work in the field with a baby strapped on her back. At the time of this writing I have a tablecloth of her's; for this she, at the age of 16, raised the flax, spun the linen thread, then wove the cloth! Do you wonder it is such a treasured keepsake?
My first recollection of life on the farm is of an experience with one of our fellow occupants, a beautiful and quite large rooster of questionable disposition. On this particular summer day three-year-old Olive had been shadowing her daddy in the barnyard. And then, attempting to respond to my mother's summons to come to the house, my path crossed that of the cock-of-the-walk. In no time at all he pounced, putting all the strength he had into flopping me, but good, with his wings. At all the screeches for which females, large and small, are known, my father came to the rescue and lost no time in impressing Mr. Rooster with the fact he was off limits. Wonder why a meal soon thereafter was graced by roast chicken?