"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."


’Twas The Week Before Christmas

by  Phyllis Zeck

When all through the towns
Snow fall was happening by leaps and by bounds.
Our family was nested all snug in our beds,
The weatherman predicted a light snow fall ahead,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
but mountains of snow, all our autos unclear. 
A wink of my eye and a twist of my head,
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,
Starting my snow blower up with a smirk,
I sent that snow flying with spunk and with perk.
I knew in a moment St. Nick could land safely,
and fill up our stockings with treasures so gaily.
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!

My mother’s sister Phyllis married Richard and they settled in New England to raise their family. My five cousins and I were only able to see each other briefly throughout the years but we had a close bond that remains to this day. Grandpa was so happy when all of his grandchildren were together.

My cousin Rick lives in New Hampshire. In the photo to the left, my brother Tom is kneeling (striped shirt) and Rick is in front of him.

This summer Rick restored a 150 year old barn on his property. He hired a crew to lift and straighten the barn then he excavated and laid a cement foundation. The siding went back on, some original and some new, and Rick built a new door. The photo below is Rick and grandson Ollie on his tracker. How much fun Ollie must have with all these big noisy machines! Rick’s restoration is incredibly impressive. Grandpa would be proud and also jealous of the storage and work space. Poor grandpa only had a very small section of the basement for his table saw and work bench.

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Ollie 1
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This weekend’s snow forecast for New Hampshire was 6 to 12 inches.  Rick was taken by surprise when he woke up to find almost 40 inches of snow fall. Click this Youtube link to see Rick operating his super duper snow blower. I think about how much grandpa loved his Sears push snow blower for those harsh Chicago winters. It would not have made a dent in the New Hampshire blizzard of 2020.



Norders of New Glarus, Wisconsin

by  Phyllis Zeck

courtesy univ of WI, New Glarus WI early 1900

I haven’t done much research into the family of my paternal grandmother Grace Norder.  Grace’s ancestors had very deep roots in Engi, Canton Glarus, Switzerland.  Other ancestors such as Blum, Luchsinger & Stauffacher immigrated from the villages of Matt, Glarus and Bilten in Switzerland. They settled in or near the town of New Glarus (Dutch Hallow) in Wisconsin.

This summer I began corresponding with Bob Elmer. He came across this website by chance and recognized some of my ancestors names. He has studied and documented the history of the families who settled in New Glarus area and who immigrated from the Canton of Glarus in Switzerland. Bob explained that Glarus is a state (or canton) in Switzerland. A Glarner is a person from Canton Glarus or a person with Canton Glarus ancestry.

Bob shared with me names and dates of births, marriages and deaths for four generations of Grace’s family tree. I updated my Ancestry account kicking off an abundance of hints which included records of birth, death, marriages, war service and census. Each time I clicked on a leaf hint I was taken to a new generation of Norders. I kept getting sucked in deeper and deeper. Thank you to our Swiss record keepers for your excellent recording skills. Click the image below for my family tree.

My Ancestry.com DNA Ethnicity graph now lists my DNA at 39% Germanic Europe. I wondered why my Switzerland DNA percentage was so high. I see now that the Norder line extends quite far back in Engi and my Blum line has deep roots in Bilten.
New Glarus was founded in 1845 by about 135 immigrants from Glarus who were fleeing an economic crisis. Click here to read the historical societies timeline of the town. Click here to read a fascinating diary account from the New Glarus Historical Society. Mathias Durst chronicles the first group of settler’s courageous journey.

My 3rd great grandparents Leonhard Norder (his parents Fridolin Norder and Anna Giger were married in 1807 in Engi, Switzerland) and Magdalena (Stauffacher) Norder arrived in New York one year after the first immigrants. The Argo docked on 06 Nov 1846 most likely at Castle Garden immigration center in Battery Park. Leonard was 36 and Magdalena was 34. With them was their son Fridolin age 1.  My 2nd great grandfather Dietrich (Richard) Norder was born 03 Mar 1847 in New York and I can only assume they made the smart choice to stick out the winter in New York. 

leonard norderThe 1850 census shows Leonhard was a farmer in Sylvester, a town south of New Glarus. Leonard and Magdalena Stauffacher had at least six children. Fridolin (1844), Dietrich (1847), Mathias (1852), Leonard (1855), Gustave (1857), and Emma (1859). The 1860 census records their home at lot # 2049 and post office was Sylvester. The Norder’s real estate value was $600.00 and personal estate value was $400.00. The photo to the left is Leonard Jr (upper right) and possibly two of his brothers. I’d love to find out if one of the gentlemen was my 2nd great grandfather Dietrich.



2020, Why Are You Testing Us?

by  Phyllis Zeck

 As if 2020 has not been traumatic enough, fire danger was thrown in to test our resilience. In September wildfires erupted and 40 mile an hour winds spread the Riverside fire dangerously close to our Clackamas County communities. This was historically the worst fire season Oregon has had on record. Towns to our south were being evacuated to Level 3-Go as our home was elevated to Level 1-Be Ready. The little purple houses on the map to the left shows my home as well as my family members. I had never been alerted that my residence was in danger of a wildfire and like many people was oblivious to what the threat actually meant to me. The first time the emergency warning went off on my phone I realized the severity of the danger we were in. Now I had to consider that my home may actually catch on fire, thoughts I was conveniently avoiding thinking about. 

Being ready meant we should video record our belongings in each of the rooms of our home as well as the outside the house. We gathered our most valuable papers and treasures. Well that was a heart stopper.  Where do I start? Of course I scooped up my precious ancestral treasures; Uncle Hank’s 100+ year old prayer book, grandpa Gilbert’s eye glasses and address book, mom’s Bible and Rosary, treasures purchased during my visit to Italy and albums of photos that had not yet been scanned. Lori and I also packed a few clothes. I thought I’d wait to pull papers out of my safe. When we stood back to look at the table I was stunned by the small amount I’d set aside as my most valuable and irreplaceable treasures. I reasoned that if we moved to level 2 surely I would be adding more items to the table. I’m so grateful to say that we did not progress above level 1. The first night brought a fitful rest and the next day I felt a little more relaxed. The smoke was too heavy for us to go outside but the winds had died down. By the following day we seemed to be out of danger and we said a prayer of thanks.

My great grandparents Pietro and Elvira would live on W Harrison St just a few miles from the fire 20 years later. The photo above is a post card of the corner of State and Madison streets (Chicago History Museum) after the Oct fire. Reading some of the articles from the Chicago Tribune is heart wrenching. The fire killed 300 people and destroyed more than 17,000 buildings spanning an area 4 miles long. October had been hot and dry and fires had been popping up throughout the city in the days leading up to the October 8th fire. The city’s waterworks burned on Oct 9th, cutting off that supply of water. 100,000 people were left homeless. Click to view a clipping showing a map of the area from The Philadelphia Inquirer 10_Oct_1871. You can enlarge the clipping to read the text.

On a happy note, Christmas is around the corner. I remember when I was a kid and the Sears toy catalog arrived my siblings and I would get out the scissors, paste and paper to start our wish list which was mailed to Santa Claus. Times have changed. My grandson Kingston and sister Lori are reading the Amazon Wish Book. All Kingston needs is a cell phone so he can text the QR code to Santa!




Masks Masks Masks

by  Phyllis Zeck

Week 17. Our three largest counties Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah are in phase 1 of reopening. We may have to stay in phase 1 until we have a vaccine. As of July we have a new statewide mandate requiring everyone ages 5 and up to wear a face covering in outdoor public spaces when we can’t physical distance. Coverings are required statewide for indoor public spaces. The good news is our hair salons are reopening along with some restaurants, stores and the ZOO! Ashley and I took some of my grandchildren to the zoo this week and it was fabulous. I felt like I won a get out of jail free card. 

In April my sister Holly busied herself making masks and she’s been stitching ever since. She distributed the masks to hospitals and health care facilities. Soon family and friends wanted to know how they could help. Holly set up a message board and posted what she was in need of which included thread, elastic, fabric and buttons. The donations poured in. Soon health care workers were requesting bands to hold masks in place and scrub caps. My son in law put his printer to work churning out straps. Generous donations of printer filament arrived at Ryan’s house keeping his printer working 24/7. Click here to read an article about a mask shortage during the 1918 Spanish Flu in San Francisco.

Lori and I wanted to know what we could do to help beside buying and delivering supplies. Holly immediatley vetoed any use of a sewing machine by either of us but we were allowed to sew buttons on scrub caps. Holly’s supplies have been shipped from coast to coast, as far as away as Buffalo NY.  I’m so proud of my sister. She has a heart of gold.

What’s happening in US? Crime and demonstrations have ruled downtown Portland for over 50 days. Federal officers converged at the court house and justice center to try to protect federal buildings from vandalism. There is constant unrest dealing with the covid pandemic, being told what we can not do by our local government, a lack of leadership from our federal government, discrimination issues and arguments as to whether or not we should remove 120 year old statues of civil war leaders from town squares. The mayor of Chicago removed a statue of Christopher Columbus (which honors Italian Americans living in Chicago) from Grant Park in the middle of the night. We have historic unemployment and demands that our police forces be de-funded.  

I’m sure that I’m on the wildest ride of my lifetime. I think about how brave my ancestors were to set off on a ship to America with just the basic of possessions and not much money. They survived the Spanish flu, the great depression, droughts, world wars as well as personal battle stories that we might never uncover. I know this time of unrest will pass, and we will survive, but life is challenging right now. 



National Nurses Week

by  Phyllis Zeck

Week 7 of Oregon’s stay-at-home order. Governor Kate Brown has released a three phase plan for re-opening. Each county must meet specific criteria and then submit their county’s plan to reopen. Our virus cases have to be on a downward trend, we need to increase testing and begin contact tracing before we can enter the first phase.

This week we celebrate our brave and compassionate nurses. We’ve all heard amazing stories of the sacrifices nurses have made during this Covid-19 crisis. It takes a special person to go into this occupation and I hope they feel a lot of extra love from their communities, especially now.

I’ve been sucked into the archives of digitized newspapers in the last few weeks. I never should have pressed the subscribe button for a Newspapers.com membership. I will never learn. There were some interesting articles about the influenza outbreak of 1918. Chicago’s nurses were deployed to military camps and overseas due to WWI. Soon after the outbreak began Chicago found itself with a nurse shortage. The ad above promotes fast track training by learning at home through the Chicago School of Nursing on S. Michigan Blvd.

Click on this link Nurse’s Guidelines for Flu patients to read an article which helps guide families caring for sick people at home. It’s from the Chicago Tribune dated 20 Oct 1918. Item 6 under the “essentials” section suggests that avoiding chattering, nagging or questing is helpful in the patients recovery. 

There were a shocking number of parallel’s with the Covid-19 virus we are experiencing today. To the right is an ad printed in the Sacrament Bee on 29 Oct 1918 requesting that druggists control hoarders who are  buying up all the Vick’s Vaporub.

There was a shortage of gauze for masks and hospital beds. The photo below was taken in the Oakland auditorium (Oakland Tribune dated 24 Oct 1918). Tents for flu patients were also set up at the University of California. The ad for Lysol below suggests you use their product for a cleaning agent and also try their Lysol Toilet Soap and Lysol Shaving Cream. As you can see, it was easy for me to get sucked deeper and deeper into the abyss of fascinating articles and advertisements.