Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Starting Back to Work

It's the day we all go back to work in the Archives . . . and there's plenty to do.

The Archives is open to researchers every Monday afternoon,from noon until 4:00 p.m..  This Monday I will be joined by Karen McKay, who began volunteering this fall.  (Karen is a mom of two school age children and we met while working at Little Norway, the beautiful outdoor museum in our area.)  Karen has been helpful with a number of jobs, but her ongoing work is reading 50 years worth of diaries written by Ida Rowell Kittleson.  They have never been processed before.

Ida's  Early Diaries
The diaries are the modest writings of a woman tracking her life from 1913 to 1963.  She starts as a young woman, soon to be married in 1913 to Harold C. Rowell in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Without any intention of creating a literary autobiography, Ida lets us see how lonely and, frankly, boring life was for a newly married young woman in a big city away from home.  Her new husband travels, she is left day after day to wile away the hours and spend time with her mother-in-law.

The early years of the dairies are a bit frustrating because Ida skips back and forth between her small notebooks, so it is hard to keep the chronology straight.  The more Karen reads, however, the easier it has become, as she gets to know the cast of characters and the ongoing events of Ida's life.

Reading the entries can also be difficult because Ida had such a matter-of-fact way of telling her story.  Karen came into the office one day with the latest diary in her hand.  "Now wait a minute!" she exclaimed.  "What's going on here?"  Karen then read a few entries that describe Ida visiting a hospital to "look" at babies, taking Harold there the next evening, and coming home with a baby boy, who they were so unprepared for that they put him to bed in a laundry basket that night.  Now we're trying to figure out Minnesota adoption laws in the early 1900's!

Ida's Diaries from the 1950's
We still aren't absolutely sure who Ida was.  We began a family tree on search and that helped verify some dates, names and places.  We haven't yet found out who Ida's parents were or why Ida came back to Mt. Horeb.  We do know that she divorces Harold and comes to Mt. Horeb with their son, Herbert (Rowell).  Abour 1930 she remarries a widower from the Mt. Horeb area, Carl Kittleson.  But Carl dies just a few years after they marry.  Ida died at the age of 99 in 1975.  She is buried in the Mt. Horeb Union cemetery next to Carl and Herbert having lived to be 99 years old.  She seems to have stopped writing in 1963.

Karen reads on and we will keep you posted.  If any of this rings a bell with you, please let us know, won't you?  Thanks for reading.   

Sunday, January 6, 2013

How It All Began

You get to meet alot of nice people in an Archives.  It's not all grey boxes.  One interesting set of meetings happened just this fall, starting when Peggy Peterson came for a visit, family history records in hand.  Peggy is a descendent of Ole Moe Peterson and was looking for a photo scrapbook that had been mentioned in the Mt. Horeb Area Historical Society's newsletter.  I found what she was looking for as well as other Peterson family references.  We parted with Peggy saying how she'd like to come back with her sister, Sally Jo, to look at our collection and share some of the information and photographs she and Sally Jo had collected.  I said, "Any time.  Just give me a call."  And not long after she did.

Ole Peterson Family Farm House
Peggy and Sally Jo came for an afternoon soon after.  Both had three ring binders of family history and lots and lots of photographs.  We talked about the family connections to the area.  Sally Jo and Peggy very generously allowed me to copy a number of family photographs, almost all of which were identified.  (Always a nice part of finding an image!)  The women's great grandparent's farm became part of the Village of Mt. Horeb and their farm house still stands on what is now a tree lined residential street.  This isn't the only house belonging to the family, either.  Ole built houses for all of the children who stayed in town.  Peggy and Sally Jo left me with the project of matching the old photos with the current houses.  (After a little more research, I'll be ready to put the old and new photos on this blog.)

In addition to all of their information, Peggy and Sally Jo said two other family members were avid genealogists.  One is John Peterson, who's work we have been collecting for a few years as he sends us new installments.  The other is Bruce Roth to whom they are related through Bruce's mother, Saundra Roth of Mt. Horeb.  Sally Jo said I should see Bruce's website.  She thought I'd be pretty impressed and I was.

Ole Peterson second left, back row

The Peterson sisters left us with some wonderful additions to the Archives holdings and we hope they will stay in touch.  After they left I spent some time reading their cousin's Blog (called, "My Other Blog") and I haven't been the same since.

Bruce posts the stories he is discovering through his genealogy.  It's a wonderful way to look at family history and has really made his research come alive.  The site was fun to read, well illustrated and looks very sophisticated.  A highly trained web designer, I thought to myself.   But, I thought I'd write to ask if he could advise us on how it is done, just in case you didn't have to have a PhD in computer science to do this.

He emailed back right away and said he would be in Mt. Horeb visiting his Mom over the Christmas holidays.  Gerry Glaeve and I were able to meet for 2 1/2 hours on New Years Day at the Archives office.  Bruce is trained as an architect so he has an eye for good design and he's pretty fearless about learning new computer technology, but it turned out that the template that made his Blog look so professional was free software available through Google.  The software is called "Blogger."  He certainly knows his way around the thing but encouraged us to just jump right in and see what we could do.  With Bruce just an email away and so far willing to answer daily questions, we have done just that.

I'm sold on this as a terrific way to share the richness of the Mt. Horeb Area Historical Society's Archives.  It is as immediate as Facebook but with more substance.  It can reach as many people as our web site but is easier to update.  Short of all of us meeting every afternoon for coffee, this is just the ticket.  Thanks to the Peggy, Sally Jo and Bruce for making it happen.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Beginning the MHAHS Blog

Happy New Year from the new Mt. Horeb Area Historical Society Archives' Blog! 

In the coming weeks, please visit this site for stories from the past and present while we continue our exploration of the MHAHS Archives.  The stories will highlight what we have and what we are receiving as people from around the area help us preserve our communities' memories.

We have material coming into the Archives every week and all of it is a fascinating link to the heritage of southwestern Dane County, Wisconsin.  Included in these articles will be numerous things of interest to genealogists.

As the Archives organization project proceeds, we'll share the gems we are finding in the collections - stories about schools, businesses, clubs and farms and the families that made our area what it is today.  We will share some of the 25,000 photographs in our Archives, along with art, posters, and scrapbooks.  You'll also meet the volunteers that make all this possible.

Stay tuned and let us know what you think.  We're here to serve anyone with an interest in the area. 

For more information about the Mt. Horeb Area Historical Society please click on

Hope to see you next time.

Historically Yours,
Shan Thomas, Archivist