Sunday, September 16, 2012

Uncle Reuben's Canoe!

This is a follow-up post to my series on Uncle Reuben.
The new blog site for: The Uncle Reuben Project

Recently, I discovered that one of my uncles actually has the canoe that Uncle Reuben traveled in when he went down the Mississippi River in the early 1930's. Now I have more research to do! Here are some pictures I took of it yesterday.










Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Trip to the Homestead of Arthur T. Johnson

Sun screen, long pants, old shoes, long socks, camera...
That's right! It's summer and time to climb over barbed-wire fences and explore the old homesteads! 


Our first stop of the day was my paternal grandparents' barn, just to the northwest of McPherson, Kansas - all that's left of the farm that I spent much of my childhood exploring.


My cousin and I prepared for hiking through freshly cut wheat fields. After a discussion about which path had the least poison ivy, we stepped through the Osage Orange trees that form the hedge around the land.


The barn looks south from a grove of trees that have grown up around it. I walked to about where the old farmhouse would have stood. It is in good condition with no signs of caving in.


I wonder how old the red paint on the siding is. I was hoping there would be a little piece of the barn laying around but most of it is still intact. 


What I remember about most about this barn is the smell of oats coming from the little rooms with the wooden latches (still there!)



As we stood in the doorway, there was a sudden noise from above and out swooped a large barn owl - white with gray spots - from the door of the loft. It flew a few inches above our heads, close enough to feel the breeze from its large wings, and out the door of the barn. It was a nice surprise!




I'm thankful that this barn is still standing. My sisters, cousins and I spent many hours playing in it as children (1960's) and our parents (1930's), most likely, before us.




Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday - Ask Questions Before it's Too Late!

These are words of wisdom that I am taking to heart myself. Every genealogist runs into the problem of unanswered questions and no one left to answer them. My mother's family has almost reached that point now. A few years ago I would have told you that I was asking enough questions but now I know much more about questions
Here is a short list of things I have learned about genealogical questions:
  1. Questions multiply quickly - once you start asking.
  2. There is no way you can know all of the questions you should ask before a conversation or interview.
  3. No one has all of the answers but everyone has a piece of the answer.
  4. Most people love answering questions.
  5. Every answer brings with it many more questions.
  6. More questions go unanswered than there are questions that will be answered.
  7. Someday it will be too late to ask the questions.
  8. I love questions!
Happy Asking!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Finding Time for Genealogy Part 3


As we got further into this project, I began to realize how much data we had to work with and was happy to see the enthusiasm my students had for what we were beginning to look at. I decided to continue the story with them and take advantage of the great information I had for this part of Reuben's life. Lucky for us, Uncle Reuben kept a journal during his traveling years. We divided his journeys into 30 parts and started mapping them out with colored yarn. We used brown for train travel, red for motorcycle, green for car and blue yarn for steamship and canoe. The questions kept coming as they studied the maps!  

Teamwork!
Lots of discussion!
The next step was to figure out how many miles he traveled. That was a big job but my students dug in and, enthusiastically, got to work! They each made a “map measurer” using a gift ribbon and a marker. They marked 100 miles 10 times according to the legend on the map giving them 1000 mile measuring ribbons.The first group began measuring using their estimating skills. One person stood at the board and wrote the miles for each leg of the journey. Another group measured the next day and either agreed with the measurements or wrote their miles next to the first miles. A third group settled 2 measurements by measuring again. The discussion I heard as I passed these groups was wonderful! I was so happy to see evidence of their growth as learners and inquirers!
Measuring and Recording Data

Another group determined the type of transportation for each trip and coded it with a letter; c for car, ca for canoe, m for motorcycle, etc., on the board.
Transportation Team

By this time I was ready to have my board back so I decided to set up three laptops facing the board and assigned students to type the information we had compiled into Excel. Each typist had a partner to check, point and help make sure they weren't skipping data. Some traded places after awhile.

Working in Excel and adding up the miles.
When they were finished, I combined the three files into one. The class was excited when we put the data up on our Smartboard and I showed them how Excel lets us sort and filter. They used their calculators to add the miles of each mode of transportation. When we were finished, they had figured Uncle Reuben traveled about 19,200 miles between 1924 and 1934. Now they could display the miles according to transportation!

[As a side note: I was curious to find out how close they got to the actual miles with their little ribbons. I took the data file and compared it to actual miles using http://www.freemaptools.com/how-far-is-it-between.htm . I just about fainted when I finished adding them up for myself. They had gotten within 200 miles of the actual mileage! I don't think the kids actually understood how cool that was but I'm sure they recognized the look of pride on their teacher's face!]

Finding Time for Genealogy Part 2


Reuben with his sisters
     Uncle Reuben was born near McPherson, Kansas in 1903. He loved to read and must have had an adventurous spirit because at 20 years old he began 10 years of traveling the country.  He started his journeys in 1924 when he went to Chicago to attend flight school. A year and a half (and one plane crash) later he returned to Kansas to help his brothers with the farm. Before too long, he borrowed his brother’s Indian motorcycle and took off on a thousand mile trip south to help his parents with their new farm in Alamo, Texas. His continued to travel this way, crossing the United States in all directions until 1934, when he finally settled back in Chicago for awhile.

Here is the data we had to work with for the map.
Uncle Reuben's Journeys:
McPherson, Kansas
Chicago, Illinois
Train
Chicago, Illinois
McPherson, Kansas
Train
McPherson, Kansas
Alamo, Texas
Indian Motorcycle
Alamo, Texas
McPherson, Kansas
Indian Motorcycle
McPherson, Kansas
Canada
Model T Ford Coupe
Canada
Yellowstone National Park
Train
Yellowstone National Park
Salt Lake City, Utah
Train
Salt Lake City, Utah
Phoenix, Arizona
Train
Phoenix, Arizona
San Diego, California
Train
San Diego, California
Los Angeles, California
Train
Los Angeles, California
Chicago, Illinois
Car
Chicago, Illinois
Detroit, Michigan
Bus
Detroit, Michigan
Buffalo, New York
Steamer across Lake Erie
Buffalo, New York
Portland, Maine
Train
Portland, Maine
New York City, New York
Train
New York City, New York
Chicago, Illinois
Train
Chicago, Illinois
Illinois River
Car
Illinois River
Mississippi River
Canoe
Mississippi River
New Orleans, Louisiana
Canoe
New Orleans, Louisiana

bicycle shop
New Orleans, Louisiana
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Canoe
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
Canoe
New Orleans, Louisiana
Chicago, Illinois
Harley Motorcycle
Chicago, Illinois
Minnesota
Harley Motorcycle
Minnesota
North Dakota
Harley Motorcycle
North Dakota
Tucson, Arizona
Harley Motorcycle
Los Angeles, California
San Francisco, California
Harley Motorcycle
San Francisco, California
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cars and Boxcars
New Orleans, Louisiana
Chicago, Illinois
motorcycle

This is what our map looked like when we were finished mapping it out.
Uncle Reuben's Journeys all mapped out! The colors of yarn stand for the mode of transportation.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Finding Time for Genealogy Part 1


     This spring I was looking for something to give my students and myself a boost at the end of the year with high engagement for everyone. This was my first year back in the classroom after 11 years as an Instructional Coach. I have missed having the energy to work on my family tree during the school year like I used to be able to do and I wanted to end this great school year in an exciting way. Because of my love for genealogy and my desire to bring history and geography to life for my students, I decided to unite the two into an integrated unit that would provide opportunities to apply all of their freshly acquired skills. 

     Reuben Sigfred Johnson was my grandpa’s youngest brother. He had a very interesting story of travel and adventure in the 1920’s and 30’s and I have always wanted to write about it or display it in some way but could never find the right medium.  A lesson plan for 22 second graders was the last thing I thought I would decide on but it has really been the best way I’ve found to work within Reuben’s life story.

     I introduced Uncle Reuben to my second graders by telling them some stories about him and showing them some pictures from my genealogy files. The fact that he lived to be 100 and I knew him personally intrigued them and by the time I started telling about the different modes of transportation he used, I had them hooked. The next question for me was how to use the power behind this story to create excitement that would last until the last day of school.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Those Places Thursday - A Window into the Past




Memorial weekend I headed for the country and my aunt and uncle's farm near McPherson. While I was there, we took a drive to two homesteads; the first, that of my great, great grandparents and the childhood home of my great grandmother Ida Matilda and the homestead that belonged to my great grandfather, John Johnson, who lived to the south of them.Ida's home was the one she lived in after her family migrated from Sweden when she was 5 years old. We could drive right up to that house which is still occupied by a cousin. 











The house needs quite a bit of work but I can imagine what it was like as Ida was growing up. Jonas' barn is in disrepair but looks wonderful and interesting standing there on the Kansas prairie. 

The other homestead, built by John Johnson (Ida's future husband) is close by but much harder to see. The trees have grown up around it and all I could see was the the roof and second story. That is a project for another time, possibly this summer. I wasn't dressed for barbed wire, tall grass and pests that I might meet on my way. 
 
When John came to Kansas from Sweden and settled in the New Gottland area, there were not many women nearby to marry.  He solved that problem by waiting for a wife to grow up and when Ida turned 17, they married.











This window looks south toward great grandpa, John Johnson's, homestead. Great grandma Ida Matilda would have been able to see the land and home of her neighbor and future husband, John, from here.