family history

Week 1: Foundations

I learned about this fun activity that Amy Johnson Crow of Generations Connection puts on each year called 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. It’s a series of writing prompts that help family historians, like myself, to write and share our ancestors’ stories. I joined Crow’s Facebook group Generations Cafe by an invitation from a cousin that is an experienced genealogist. I have been in the process of writing a book about the Frederick family for the past few years. Changing technology, lack of time, and trying to make the book more than names, dates, and places have slowed things down a bit. Maybe this year-long activity will put my project in a higher gear.

The first week’s focus topic is “Foundations”. When I think of a foundation, I think of all the individual bricks or stones that are fused together to form a solid base. Family members work together to establish this firm foundation. Here are family members I credit, look up to, have worked with in the past, and continue to work with to chart our family history.


For as long as I can remember, my mother has been extensively researching her tree. I distinctly remember her having the Family Tree Maker program for our Windows 95 operating system back in the mid-90s. I remember trips to local libraries and research centers. Mom was looking at records, and I was either playing with a toy or reading a book. Of course, at that time I was just a little guy and did not really understand what Mom was doing, other than looking at a bunch of old books and papers

A little later, I remember being excited that I had a Civil War veteran in my family tree. Mom said she had found records of a great-great-granduncle that fought in the Civil War–for the Union. Mom had copies of the pension records, and we took a trip to the cemetery where he is buried. Ah yes, all those trips to local cemeteries also stick in my mind. Mom would tell me the name to look for, and I would saunter around the cemetery searching for the name she was looking for.

Aryllis – 1st Cousin Once Removed

I am so fortunate to have made a connection with my cousin Aryllis. She has been doing the Frederick family genealogy for many years and has shared many of her stories and photos with me. I’ve been visiting with her for the last few years. Each time I go for a visit I learn something new from her, and I always leave with a piece of family history that she generously passes on to me.

Arthur & Ella Frederick & Family Circa 1928
(Great Grandpa is holding Harold)

It’s because of this cousin that I’ve been able to put faces to the names on our family tree. She has such a treasure trove of pictures. My Granduncle Harold Frederick passed away a few months shy of his seventh birthday. Grandpa and my Grandaunt–said cousin’s mother–talked about Harold being sick and crying out for their mother before he died. We had never known what Harold looked like until my cousin showed me a family picture taken before his death. This cousin has truly been a pleasure to get to know and work with building our family tree.

George – 1st Cousin Once Removed

My cousin George is no longer with us, sadly. He passed away in May 2013. I first connected with George in February 2012 when my book was published. He had published a book years earlier on the history of iron mining in Dodge County, Wisconsin, so we had a connection there. We exchanged books and hit it off on our family history research. We each shared documents and information about what the other had done so far. Before he passed, George gave me all of his electronic files of family pictures he had professionally digitized. I am so thankful for connecting with him and honored that he passed his work on to me.

George shared a couple of photos with me of family members in WWI uniforms. I had no clue we had family members that fought in the Great War. I dove into researching these individuals and turned up service records, regiment history, and more pictures.

Myke – 3rd Cousin Once Removed

When you start this family history journey you never know what or whom you will discover. I am so fortunate that I met this distant cousin by chance. I was looking up family members’ graves on, and I noticed a photo of my great-great-grandparents posted by someone I did not know. I got to wondering how this person had this photo. I shot off an email explaining my lineage and asking what other information or photos they had. It turns out, Myke was a descendent of my great-great-granduncle–whom I had little information on. We have been working together to put the pieces together of our family since we met by chance in 2017.

I credit Myke for having shown me the records and resources from Europe that are digitized, and she helped me find our family that stayed in Prussia. We made a huge discovery this past year of a great-great-grandaunt that never emigrated that we were trying to find–click here to read. Our team effort yielded some very rewarding discoveries.

I was supposed to meet Myke in 2020, but Covid-19 postponed that. I hope we can meet in person very soon.


One of the best things about social media is the chance to connect with family members we might not otherwise know about. I created a Facebook group that focuses on the Frederick family members that are descendants of the three Frederick siblings that emigrated from Prussia and settled in Wisconsin. The group is an awesome resource for sharing family stories, photos, recipes, and just connecting with family!

Family Facebook Group

I encourage you to join this awesome family history writing exercise! Check out the Generations Cafe Facebook group and join the challenge! Get out there and discover your past! #52ancestors

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