15 August 2006

Return from Family Reunion

Got back from Texas last week, and am now attempting to cope with reality once again. The reunion was pretty good, but not much was accomplished in the historical line. We have made great strides in making the reunions a celebration of our local heritage, but most still show up to eat and leave. The children were given an interesting variation of bingo to play. They had to go around the room and talk to family members who had a specific experience and get them to sign their card. There was also a quilt made up of old family photos that was a popular auction item. We had intended to sit down with some of the older cousins who remember Lukas and record their stories, but we had to cope with some the more bizarre members of the family, as well as a trip to the old farmhouse.

The tour of the old Zihlman farm, was the highlight of the event. My grandfather, Ben Schneider, had sold it to Larry Meurer in 1975, so even some of the Windthorst family members had not seen it in more than thirty years. The place has changed too much to bring back any memories for me. They enclosed the porch that went all the way around, and expanded the kitchen, the features I remembered most from the foggy depths of infancy. Mom thinks Lukas was very ahead of his time, because he designed large walk-in closets. Even so, the house seemed quite small to raise a large family in. Of the outbuildings, the barn and silo were torn down, and only the milking shed and the hog slaughterhouse are now standing. The rest of the weekend was spent with a cousin from the other side of the family, who has joined me in researching the Schneiders. She was able to track down a distant cousin (at 4'10" a literal 'little old lady') who had been to Germany and found the actual house the Schneider's came from in 1835, still occupied by even more distant cousins.

02 August 2006

Zihlman Family Reunion

Leaving tonight for Texas to attend the Zihlman Family Reunion in Windthorst, Texas. Going by bus again, which I am dreading, but this time the route goes up to Memphis, then Little Rock and Oklahoma City, so it will be a change of scenery.

It was researching the Zihlman family that got me interested in family history. While in England, one of our teachers did a family tree of the Queen, and I remember correcting her on two points. British teachers don't like being corrected on British history. After that, I thought why not do my own family, so my mother helped me with the Zihlman's, the only extended family group we could consider ourselves members of. Her memory was incredible, spouting off name after name of one remote cousin after the other. Uncle Eddie was the family historian at that time, and he helped me add to it when we returned to the States.

The Zihlman reunion is held in the memory of Lukas Zihlman (1871-1941), who settled in Windthorst in 1893. He had eight sons and daughters, of which my grandmother was the youngest. She would say "Lucy was supposed to be the baby, but Eddie was a mistake, and I came along so Eddie could have someone to pick on." She was the last to pass away, but Lukas' grandchildren have still kept the traditional family gatherings going. One of my cousins developed an interest in family history, so this time around will be the first reunion in which actual research will be attempted. They managed to persuade the current owner of the old Zihlman farmhouse to allow some tours, and we plan to get some of the older grandchildren together and record some old family stories. A few weeks ago, I finished an 18 page history which we will add pictures to and hand out.