with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Family Found – Heading Out of Wisconsin

I’m heading back to Seattle from Wisconsin tomorrow. My mother and I found a ton of family, both dead and alive, in Shawano, Brown, and other counties. I’m slowly starting to write about the trip on my new genealogy family history blog, so you can follow the adventures and our discoveries there.

This has been an amazing adventure. First and foremost because I was able to share this with my mother. To trace your family’s history and roots with a parent or grandparent is an amazing gift and privilege. Because of her determination to track down the living, while I spent all of my energy tracking down the past, she found several living relatives, descendants of our ancestors, and we were able to meet with some of them.

The most amazing thing was the fact that just about every other person, and sometimes two or three in a row, that we met in Lessor, Shawano County, Wisconsin, was related to us in some way. Talking to two local historians, they pointed to two other living relatives related to us, and talking to others to get more information on the area and history, we discovered that we were related by marriage to them! Incredible!

Tombstone of Hans M. Anderson, great-ought grandfather of Lorelle VanFossen in Lessor, WisconsinStanding in the cemetery in Lessor, surrounded by the names of people long gone whom I’d only seen on paper was a hair-raising experience. Across from the cemetery and down a tad was the family home still standing where my grandfather had spent his later teen years living, working, and going to school.

We were tracing the past of two of my mother’s family branches: Anderson and Knapp. In the Lessor Township of Shawano was the Anderson, Svendson, and Blickfeldt connections, with all their branches. We spent the first part of the trip focused there, gathering massive volumes of birth, death, and marriage certificates, some land, court, and probate records. Then we headed to Green Bay for more research and visiting living relatives, then north tracing the Knapp family branch.

My great uncle Wayne Knapp wrote at least three books on his life growing up in Northern Wisconsin, and his daughter had given us great copies of hand drawn maps of Wayne’s memory of the area. My mother and I dug up old plat maps of the area. While nagging the archive assistant’s that they should know where the “mud hole” and “frog ponds” were on the map, we were able to locate the area and traveled up to the wild and woolly northeastern wilderness of Wisconsin.

We found not only the empty clearing of the old homesteads, but also the mud hole and frog ponds, along with a popular falls in the area, Strong Falls, where we have photographs of my grandmother and her mother standing in front of it. We took turns taking each other’s picture standing in the same spot in front of the falls.

Along the way, I also picked up two soon-to-be-well-fed ticks, one on my leg and the other on my side, and we spent too much time on the phone with my husband back in Alabama and on the web figuring out the right way to get rid of them and what to do about Lyme disease. Once again I am too informed on a subject I want nothing to do with, so I’ll have information on what you should do with ticks, soon. SIGH.

Oh, I have tons of stories and lots of photographs and all kinds of news to tell about the adventure. I have YEARS of material gathered that needs to be processed and will be publishing it on our family history site. Stay tuned!

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