Everything’s Relative

Everything’s Relative

The lighter side of family history.

A Fortuitous Discovery

Returning home to Colorado from our California vacation, my husband, Jim, and I stopped overnight in a small Utah town. As has been our practice for many years, we checked the local phone directory for people with our rare surnames — Sydenham for me and Skadden for Jim.

We were shocked to find my family name listed. I called the number and ended up meeting a third cousin who had been a genealogist for 40 years. He gave me the name of an even more distant cousin who lived in my hometown, Colorado Springs. When I contacted her, she insisted we take a three-day trip to the Fort Kearny State Historical Park in Nebraska. The fort was the first one the US government built to protect Oregon Trail pioneers.

We made our trip in May 2004. To our surprise, after we gave our family name, we were treated like celebrities. The park ranger pointed to the visitor center’s history books and said our family name was in all of them. It seems my third-great-uncle (the brother of my third-great-grandfather) was the first and only postmaster of Fort Kearny.

Vanda Sydenham Skadden
Colorado Springs, Colo.

… And We Found Him Under a Cabbage Leaf

Parents used to be very secretive when it came to telling their children about a pregnancy in the family. Early one spring day during the 1920s, Pop walked into the kitchen and said, “I have a surprise for you this morning.”

His 8-year-old daughter, Dorothy, exclaimed, “Oh, good! Donuts!”

Imagine the reaction when Dorothy and her three siblings found out their surprise wasn’t a breakfast treat, but a brand-new baby brother.

Donna J. Dezern
Greenwood, Ind.

Capture Her Heart on Film

My dad’s mother lived in Maine with her 10 brothers and sisters. It was the late 1920s, and marriages back then were often economic rather than emotional affairs. To escape poverty and get away from the farm, Grandmother struck up a pen-pal relationship with two men through a “lonely hearts” ad. After much correspondence, she decided she’d marry whichever suitor gave her the best Christmas present. The man from Ohio sent her a camera, and the rest is history. My grandparents (shown above) settled in Michigan and used that camera for many years. They had four sons before Grandpa’s death at age 28.

Mary Dershem
Lansing, Mich.

Burning Mad

It was the morning after the year’s biggest snowstorm. The whole neighborhood was up early shoveling sidewalks and de-icing cars.

My dad had just purchased a brown, four-door 1962 Cadillac and was eager to clean it off and see how easily the big car could roll through a foot of snow. Our neighbor had the same idea about his brown two-door Caddy. He got outside first and, unable to open the car, began heating its frozen lock with a blowtorch.

When we went outside five minutes later, our neighbor asked, “How’s your new car?”

“Fine,” Dad replied, “Except for the burned-out lock on my door!”

Don Rutberg
Andalusia, Pa.

From the December 2004 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

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