Sunday, December 21, 2008

Celebration of Winter Solstice and the beauty of Maeshowe


Quirky. In my younger years, "quirky" would describe my delight in the arrival of the shortest day of the year. No one actually celebrates the Winter Solstice. At least not in my recent memory. If you did, you were rather - quirky.

I could never quite understand why December 21st brought a sense of wonder. Being a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, it could have something to do with the fact that December 22nd brought with it one minute more of daylight. But the date always seemed to hold more of an inner rejoicing rather than having 60 seconds additional of daylight.

More likely than not, my celtic ancestors celebrated the arrival of the Winter Solstice with bonfires, bringing in of the greens and music and dancing to celebrate the arrival of the Oak King.
The Holly King and the Oak King were twin gods seen as one entity. Each of the gods rule for half of the year, fight for the favor of a goddess and dies. But the defeated twin is not truly dead but merely withdraws for six months. The belief of some was that the defeated twin retreated to Caer Arianrhod, the Castle of the ever-turning Silver Wheel - the Wheel of Stars. Caer Arianrhod, the Aurora Borealis, is the enchanted realm of the Godess Arianrhod, ruler of the astral skies where she rules as the goddess of reincarnation.
The Oak King, who is the light twin, rules from midwinter to midsummer. The Holly King, the dark twin, rules from midsummer to midwinter.

For centuries we have marveled at the existence of stone circles and henges scattered around the world. The one that immediately comes to mind is Stonehenge located in southern England. June 21st finds Stonehenge invaded by druids and tourists waiting to catch a glimpse of the rising sun aligned perfected among the Bluestones. I had the opportunity to visit Stonehenge when visitors were able to walk among the stones. Dispite the carnival tourist atmosphere it is spectacular. But it is not the Summer Solstice nor Stonehenge but rather the Winter Solstice, the light twin, that my thoughts turn to in the far reaches off the coast of Scotland.

Photograph Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

Maeshowe is a neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave located on the mainland of Orkney. Believed to have been constructed over 5,000 years ago it is also the largest of the many tombs located in Orkney. A grass mound hides the complex chambers and passages constructed of flagstones, some of which weigh upwards of 30 tons. According to the Orkneyinga Saga, the Vikings looted Maeshowe, probably taking with them many artifacts but left behind a series of runic inscriptions - basically graffiti - on the stone walls. As our guide pointed out, while Vikings from the north invaded Scotland, not all Norsemen were Vikings.

Viking runes aside, the amazing part of Maeshowe occurs on the shortest day of the year. On December 21st, the setting sun aligns directly over a neighboring stone, called the Barnhouse Stone. The passageway into Maeshowe is aligned so that for a few minutes the setting sun illuminates the passageway and the rear wall of the central chamber.

It is a feat that I cannot begin to fathom has having been constructed 5,000 years ago, before the construction of the Great Pyramids of Egypt, to celebrate the return of the light.

Photograph Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

While I may be sitting in my family room in north central Wisconsin my thoughts are thousands of miles away. Thanks to technology I watch the web cam from Maeshowe. At 14:28 GMT the fading light has begun to illuminate the passageway and central chamber. I celebrate by placing a piece of oak on my yule fire.

Blessings of light and life.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Would You Care To Comment?

Three posts in three days ... It's amazing what a few days with limited commitments will do for you!

Filled with the excitement of having completed the latest Genea-blogger meme a celebration was in order. I packed up my computer, iPod and cell phone and headed off to my favorite coffee/ice cream establishment, Emy J's, for some quality blog time.

What a terrific way to spend a Saturday morning. I am amazed at the number of talented, creative, funny, skilled and down-right nice people in Genea-blogger land. I am inspired to share more of my family history and my corner of the world.

Two large cups of skinny Chai Latte's after I began ... here is my list of the fabulous blog sites in no particular order:

Elizabeth at Little Bytes of Life
Number one on my list for so many reasons. My friend, confidiant, tech mentor and I'm sure, a sister in my past life. E and I share a sisterhood in DAR and she has come to my web site rescue more times than I can count. She crosses my mind daily and I count her one of the many blessings in my life. She coaxed me to blogging and Facebook - thanks to her I now know what to do with my time when insomnia strikes. I know ... a shameless post about what a treasure she is. And her redesigned web site is a must see - virtual eye candy for sure.

Lisa at Small-leaved Shamrock
Speaking of eye candy ... this is one of the most soothing, inviting and beautifully designed sites I've had the pleasure of visiting. A cozy room with a warm fire on a wonderfully damp and gray day.

Amy at Amy's Genealogy, etc. Blog
I love barns and Amy's header photo is one of the best. I can't wait to learn more about Tombstone Tuesday's. I had to force myself to leave the Tombstone Tuesday posts in order to finish my 'assignment.'

Denise at Moultrie Creek
Another awesome blog - a well balanced mix of story and beautiful photographs. I'm always sorry when I reach the end of one of Denise's posts. Not to mention her profile photograph which, for some reason, really speaks to me.

Sheri at The Educated Genealogist
Ok ... a professional genealogist who shares all of her knowledge, tips and tricks AND she is learning to do the polka? How can you not love this blog? Just because my last name ends in "ski" (even though it was a name I chose and not the one I inherited) and Sheri's latest post has to do with her learning the official dance of the great state of Wisconsin - I'll admit it looks like I'm a bit prejudiced. But you have to admit - the woman knows how to wear a hat.

Janet at The Chart Chick
There are so many wonderful blogs that I yet to discover and this is one of them. Having been called the 'biking chick', the title of Janet's blog is what caught my eye - she had me laughing out loud at her post about the little girl's smile and before I could take another sip of my latte, Chart Chick was on my list of favorites.

Kathryn at Looking4Ancestors
Is it kismit?? One of our grandpuppies has a swirley purple coloured tongue, a good friend from Wokingham, Berks, was a Girl Guide leader and we both love Tim Horton. Add all that up plus she loves research and I think I can file Karthryn under "we were friends in a past life."

Miriam at Ancestories: The Stories of my Ancestors
This is my favorite learn-something-new-about-research blogs. Miriam is selfless in giving of her time to so many worthwhile projects - her blog is like the Wall Street Journal meets Erma Bombeck. It makes me want to do more to give back to those who have helped me along with way.

Lisa at Genealogy Gems News Blog
I am a huge fan of her podcasts. If you have never ever listened to a podcast - run - don't walk to her site and check it out. Her recent post on igoogle is outstanding - if you have not all ready become a fan of igoogle, you will after reading her post. And become a fan of her blog as well.

What a terrific reminder that sometimes it is good to step outside of the familiar and do something wild and crazy. How about a bag of Robert's American Gourmet Pirate's Cannon Balls and check out an 'unknown' blog!

Life is short ... Enjoy!

Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

Friday, October 17, 2008

I've Been Tagged! Getting to Know MeMe

Colleen, author of Orations of OMcHodoy has tagged me for the latest MeMe on Genea-blogger. With my thinking cap firmly in place, a fresh cup of coffee and Loreena McKennit playing on my iPod, I'm all set to answer the following five questions. Then the difficult part ... I have to come up with five others to tag. I'll think about that ... later.

Ten Years Ago I ...

1. I had just celebrated my 45th birthday
2. Worked outside of my home
3. Had my hands full with a litter of five cocker spaniel puppies
4. Discovered the joy of road cycling (bicycles)
5. Had just received the Individual Death Personnel File documenting the aircraft accident that claimed the life of my Uncle Earle who flew the "Hump" in the CBI Theater in WWII.

Five Things on Today's To-Do List ...

1. File, sort, shred papers on my desk, on the floor, on the lateral files, on the table ....
2. Make an appointment for a hair cut
3. Download photos from last week's trip to Sault Ste Marie and format camera card
4. Trim dogs nails
5. Fill bird feeders, scrub bird bath and locate extension cord for said bird bath heater

Five Snacks I Enjoy ....

1. Ice Cream
2. Potato Chips
3. Gala or Pink Lady Apples with Peanut Butter
4. Tortilla Chips with homemade Guacamole
5. Craisins

Five Places I Have Lived ...

1. Hartwood Drive in Eau Claire, WI
2. First Avenue North in Park Falls, WI
3. West Williams in Champaign, IL
4. W. Pikes Peak Avenue in Colorado Springs, CO
5. Yorkshire Drive in Madison, WI

Five Jobs I Have Had ...

1. Owner/Office Manager general fire-putter-outer advertising agency
2. Early Childhood Classroom Aide
3. Secretary
4. Retail Sales Clerk
5. Waitress in supper club (term probably known only to those in northern Wisconsin!)

Five Others I Have Tagged ...

Having spent the last forty-five minutes trying to locate Genea-bloggers who have NOT been tagged, I decided that my only choices are:

1. Raise the white flag and ask for amensty
2. Post that the dog ate the 'tag five others' part of my homework
3. Pretend I tagged five names but have no clue why they did not show up in my post
4. Make up a bunch of names and fake web sites
5. "Tag" the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers

Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

Thursday, October 16, 2008

For The Record

Wise Geek describes an epiphany as "as a moment of self-realization or discovery that enlightens or reveals the person’s character." The site goes on to state that some compare an epiphany as a "Gestalt", an "Ah-ha" moment when things become clear. My friend Maureen and I call these "mascara moments" for the fact that they seem to drop down (or pop up) at the most unexpected moments - such as when you are concentrating on applying mascara. My latest mascara moment occurred on a 'hit and run' trip to the Langlade County court house.

It was during one of those rare three-day week-ends 'up north,' with the colors of early autumn splashed across the landscape and a clear blue sky. When I should have been out walking with my camera, instead I found myself on my way into town for groceries.

"If I take the back way into town, I can stop at the court house for a few minutes, hit the library if I uncover anything interesting and still get to the grocery store with the majority of day left for photography." I felt confident that I could stick to my plan of spending just a few minutes at the court house due to the fact my research folder was not in the same county. Not to mention that over age fifty brain fade lending me powerless to recall more than one research subject (pardon the pun) off the top of my head.

My intention was to check collateral lines (cluster genealogy) in search of additional information on former neighbors of my father's parents. The Olson's gave my mother several glass Christmas ornaments, two of which hold places of honor on our Christmas tree, high above the reach of cocker spaniel tails. Hoping to learn more about the Olson's, I reached for the marriage index which fell open to the section of grooms names in the 's' section. I was surprised to see the index page listing the marriage of mother's parents, Alma Loretta Polar and Harley Allen Space. A few pages later is the index marking the marriage record of my parents, Phyllis Jean Space and H. John Bergeron. My 'Ah-ha' epiphany mascara moment was the realization that contained within the marriage records of Langlade County were three generations of my family: my grandparents, my parents and my oldest son and daughter-in-law.

How many times have I advised family historians to research beyond their direct lines - look in surrounding counties - look for clues to other family members who may be living in the same area. My epiphany - my ah-ha moment - was the reminder of just how alive history is. This was not something that had occured in the past but it was history that was occuring at this very moment. I have many vivid memories of my grandparents, I am blessed to have both of my parents to share and make new memories with as well as with our son and daughter-in-law. Family history is not static but rather something to be looked at in wonder - it is not something that just happens a long time ago, it is happening right now and tomorrow will create today's history. My family history became something more real - it reminded me of the blessing we received during the evening celebration following Chris and Ashley's wedding.

Chris and Ashley chose to exchange vows on the lawn of our beloved 'up north.' A place my grandparents called home after relocating to the original forty acres after a fire destroyed their home and farm during the early 1940s. Where my mother spent part of her life, the place I was brought to after my birth in 1953 and where Al and I spent a portion of our honeymoon.

This was the first time many of their friends had been out on a moonless night, away from any ambient light. While many of them had been to an outdoor wedding, those had occured at a park, not in the middle of 240 acres. They were amazed to see so many stars and the Milky Way as it was meant to be seen - spread across the sky in a band of pale light. Around 11:00 a soft glow began in the northern sky and spread until the entire sky was alight with dancing and flickering northern lights. Nature's fireworks. Elusive, ever changing, unpredictable. I could be describing family research.

Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Green Chair

The end of summer is ushered in when the evenings turn cool and begun to deepen, taking with it more and more of the daylight. Regardless of the date on the calendar, summer is gone when the Elcho Ice Cream Shoppe closes for the season. As that sad day draws near, our week-end trips north include at least one trip to Elcho. The drive itself is a joy as we wind past small lakes and across bogs on our way to the last of the summer time ice cream treat.
On our last ice cream trip for 2008, we took a side trip following a hand made sign advertising a Yard Sale. Imagine our surprise when we discovered the yard sale was at the former home of my second cousin, Allen. It has been five years since Allen's death, he and his wife Jeanetta were close to my grandparents. Allen was a favorite among my mother's cousins. His children and I have become closer over the years enjoying a bond that comes from an appreciation of our shared family history as well as the love and admiration for our respective parents.
Since his death, Allen's daughter, Karen, has become interested in family history. I know Allen is proud she has become the Keeper Of Everything for the family. Over the years I've been the fortunate recipient of boxes of letters and family memorabilia that Karen has discovered that pertain to my grandparents. Allen kept mountains of letters and notes and made numerous copies of documents and photographs. Sorting through the boxes and file cabinets is going to keep Karen busy now that she and her husband have retired.
The yard sale was the typical jumble of ash trays, souveniors from trips to various state and national parks, fishing rods and well used spinner baits. But it was the sight of a green wooden chair that stopped me in my tracks. I was immediately transported back to a time when I spent my summers with my grandparents.
When the heat of the day had passed and the sky was threatening rain, my grandfather would carry the green wooden chair outside and place it below my grandmother's bedroom window. He'd sit on the chair looking out across the western horizon, watching the darkening sky while I would turn cartwheels or look for toads. It has been many, many years since I have sat in that chair - I don't remember it being that small! - but it is something that has often crossed my mind.
We surmise that the chair made its way from the farm to Allen's when my grandmother had to be moved to a nursing home and my grandfather moved in with my parents. For whatever reason Allen took the chair. Thanks to his thrifty, never throw anything away, the chair has come full circle.
I now sit on the porch of our log home on the same piece of land watching storm clouds make their way across that same horizon and many of the same trees - matured from the time when Grandpa and I first watched the rain fall on them.
The price tag on the chair was $5.00 but none of my cousins would let us pay for the chair. A small price for a memory.

Text Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski
Photo Copyright © 2008 Al Scherwinski

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wordless Wednesday The Late Edition

On Autumn's Doorstep. Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Music! Sweet Sweet Music!

I have my own particular sorrows, loves, delights; and you have yours. But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love, belong to all of us, in all times and in all places. Music is the only means whereby we feel these emotions in their universality. ~H.A. Overstreet

Overstreet puts into words the mystery of why my taste in music embraces such a wide variety of genre and artists. Having been influenced at an early age by my father's love of Frank Sinatra and music of the Big Band era, during my teenage years I would have never admitted that fact outside of the confines of my yard. With age comes, hopefully, wisdom and I can bring Frank, Rosemary and Glen out of my adolescent closet and add them to my list of my 'salad days.' However, when I replay the highlight reel of the 1960s and early '70s the following 'vinyl' lp's come to mind:

#10 Donovan
Sunshine Superman and Atlantis blasted from 8-track in every van cruising up and down the street .. not to mention the parking lot at James Madison Memorial HS

#9 Tapestry
There wasn't a female in my circle of friends that did not know every word of every song on this album. And we all could not imagine Carole King 'doing it' with Neil Sedaka. EEEEWWWWW

#8 The Monkees
Before Laverne and Shirley's "Hassenpfeffer Incorporated" there was the Monkee's theme song and 'walk.' And everyone asked, "Do you know Peter Tork is from Madison (WI)?" I'm a believer!

#7 Joan Baez
This album made me realize the power of music as a medium for expressing thoughts and opinions. Joan Baez took music from beyond the beat and words to sing to a far more personal level. Music became a way to help change the hearts and minds of others - and maybe the world.

#6 McCartney
This album helped heal the wounds of not only the breakup of the Beatles but also Paul's marriage to Linda Eastman - Maybe I'm Amazed remains one of my favorite love songs to this day. Linda's photography ressenated with me and Paul's talents playing every instrument on this album was an amazement.

#5 Jim Hendrix
Awesome album ... there is nothing better when I'm in the mood for something loud, driving and totally rock and roll.

#4 Crosby Stills and Nash
Their harmony is unsurpassed. There are two albums that I continue to replace as the venue of music changes, my #1 pick and CSN&Y Four Way Street - lp, cassette, 8-track and now CD. They were a favorite but two other artists rate higher on my salad days list.

#3 Sweet Baby James
James Taylor and I have been together since high school. At my senior year talent show one of the two songs I sang was Fire and Rain. My husband played this same album during his time in the service stationed at Fort Benning Georgia so there are many memories tied up with Sweet Baby James.

#2 Abby Road
In addition to the music, reflecting for the first time the different paths each member of the group was taking, speculation of the meaning of John in white leading a barefoot Paul was rampant. Paul is dead and Is Paul dead ... it was my generation's "Amelia Earhart." One of the many memories I treasure of traveling with my mother, is the trip we made to the Abby Road Studios in St. John's Wood. I wrote on the wall in front of the studio then walked down the street to the famous crossing and took a photo of my mother in the crosswalk while I stood in the middle of the road with my camera. As they say ... priceless. I have this mental picture of Queen Liz, sitting in one of the many cavernous rooms at Bucks House, tapping her foot and softly singing along to Her Majesty. It does make one smile and I can't help but think ... I am amused.

#1 Beatles White Album

This album was such a force during the time of its release that the English department at James Madison Memorial HS added The White Album to its curriculum. Dissecting the words to Rocky Raccoon remains as one of my favorite class projects.

Text: Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Friday, August 15, 2008

Parlez-vous Family-Speak?

Jeff Scherwinski, circa 1980. Photo in possession of Cindy Scherwinski; Bergeron Family Papers

Somewhere in my library of treasured research books, buried within the chapters and paragraphs is a sentence that forever changed my approach to family history research. While I cannot recall the exact quote, or give credit to the author, in essence it said that every family needs someone designated as the Keeper of Everything. Up until that moment, I viewed myself as someone who's hobby was genealogy. Now I came to the realization that I was more than just the person that everyone tried to avoid at family reunions - the cousin/sister/aunt ("don't ask her how we are related!") chasing people down asking for family event places and wanting to know who has the personal effects of great Aunt Ruby. I was now The Keeper of Everything in my family. This designation includes recording for posterity, the 'isms of our family. My father's contributions will fill an entire chapter all by itself.

But without a doubt, one of my favorite family phrases was uttered one summer evening by my son, Jeff.

Four generations circa August 1975
Left to right: Alma Polar Space, Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski holding Christopher John Scherwinski, Phyllis Space Bergeron. Photo in possession Cindy Scherwinski; Space Family Papers

It was apparent from a very early age that Jeff had inherited his Grandmother Bergeron and his father's artistic talents. There was no detail too small that would escape Jeff's attention, eventually making its way onto his drawing paper. I have always wished I could see the world through his eyes; I'm convinced that the colors are brighter and the miniscule loom large. To this day, I treasure time spent with Jeff. We share a love of music and all things celtic and he shows me the delights of this world that I might otherwise miss. During the summer of Jeff's tenth birthday, he found a Blue-spotted Salamander and kept the discovery to himself until he shared his secret with me but only after I promised not to tell anyone else (aka his brothers). Jeff wanted to keep the intrusion on the salamander to a minimum to insure that he (and I) could observe it whenever we wanted - which we did until the first frost appeared in early autumn.

If memory serves me correct, one of my favorite Jeff-ism's, appeared to have come out of the blue one evening at the dinner table, all though I'm sure he had been mulling this particular thought over for quite some time.

"Too bad Grandma Space never had any kids of her own."

What followed was a painfully detailed explaination that I viewed as the perfect opportunity to share my love of genealogy with my family. More than likely it was at this moment my children came to the realization that they should never ask the line of descent from any name, living or dead, that does not found familiar to them without expecting a long dissertation.

My delight in enlightening my family to the wonders of genealogy was met with a lot of blank stares, that deer in the headlights look I find oh so often at those family reunions. What seemed obvious to me - Grandma Bergeron is Grandma Space's daughter - just wasn't registering with Jeff. In the middle of yet one more way to explain why Grandma Bergeron was Grandma Space's child, Jeff interrupted me with the plea ...

"Mom. Just cut that in half."

Is it any wonder Art Linkletter made a bundle on "Kids Say The Darnest Things."

Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

                                                                                      Photographer: Al Scherwinski

As a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, I look forward to the changing of the seasons. The move from winter to spring to summer to autumn and back again cannot be marked off any one specific day as we do a birthday or a holiday. It is the rhythm of life. The change from summer to fall is more than just a date on the calendar - it begins as a subtle, oh-my-gosh-when-did-that-happen change in the air. The sun makes its appearance a few minutes later each morning, the color of the late afternoon sun sets the stage for spectacular show of light at the end of the day. The sound of a cicada might go unnoticed among the crickets and the nighthawks - all signs of the Dog Days of Summer.

Sirius, the Dog Star, made its appearance, traveled across the sky and set, leading our ancestors to believe the star's heat, together with the sun, was the cause of the hot and muggy temperatures during late summer. The term Dogs Days conjures up images of white hot sunshine beating down on a parched landscape without a breath of wind. Dogs - prone to rabies were considered evil and possessed by devils - appeared irritable on the hot summer days.

But was it really due to the summers heat? Could it be that our ancestors misunderstood the lesson our four legged companions were trying to teach us?

Dog Days - I think the world would be a better place if we looked at our world from the eyes of our cocker spaniel's. To them it does not matter if 'the other side of the door' holds sunshine, rain or snow - the joy of being in just this moment is a lesson we can all learn from. How can you resist their invitation to join them in this wonderful dog day?

If I knew this was my last day on earth ... would I spend it cleaning and worrying about meeting deadlines ... or would I step outside - in the rain, snow, sun or dead of night - and enjoy a Dog Day?

How wonder-full if I could count it a blessing that when the Dog Star is starting its journey across the sky, I find myself utterly exhausted from enjoying a Dog Day ...

Thanks for sharing your day!

At the end of the day ... everyday should be a Dog Day.
Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One of the things I recall about summers spent with my grandparents, is the frustration of having to wait for the grass to dry before I could go outside. The frustration of having to sit in the house and wait for the grass to dry was, well, frustrating. Occasionally, I would sneak outside, hoping to get across the grass without getting my Keds wet and would end up having wet shoes, socks and feet for a few hours. If my memory serves me right, the joy of being outside was worth having squishy shoes.
Now when I make my way across that same stretch of ground, I have a pair of waterproof boots that I can slip on and not have to worry about wet feet.
Isn't it funny how something as simple as wet tennis shoes on a summer morning can immediately transport you back to a very special childhood memory.
Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Congratulations Mom!

Congratulations! Earlier today I was informed that a program my mother and I wrote and presented to our Daughters of the American Revolution chapter was selected by the National Society DAR as one of the latest additions to the NSDAR Program Collection. The program, which was submitted to the Wisconsin Society Daughters of the American Revolution and forwarded on to the national level, will be added to the manuscripts section of the members' web site that can be downloaded and printed by chapters for their use.

The program titled Ojibwe Heritage was presented at the November meeting as part of the DAR celebration of American Indian Heritage. For my mother and I, this was sharing a part of our family history, claiming our heritage as Anishinabe which translates as "the original people."

According to their tradition and from recordings in birch bark scrolls, many of the Original People came from the eastern areas of North America, or what the original people called "Turtle Island." These original people traded widely across the Continent for thousands of years, and knew of canoe routes west, and of a land route to the west coast. Some of the first maps of the inland rivers and lakes were made by the Ojibwe made on birch bark maps and preserved by the elders along with the history of the original people, Anishinabe.

Legend says seven great "radiant beings" appeared to the peoples in the Land of the Dawn - the eastern lands - to teach them of the ways of life. These seven great beings established clans - or dodems - for the people of the east. The original Anishinabe were the crane, loon, fish, bear, bird and marten and the thunderbird.

After a time, the great beings returned to the sea and the people prospered - drawing on the bounty of the eastern forests and lakes. In these early years, one version of the legend said the Original People "were so many and powerful that if one was to climb the highest mountain and look in all directions, he would not be able to see the end of the nation."

Then came a warning from a prophet to the people: "If you do not move, you will be destroyed." The prophet urged the Anishinabe to seek out an island in the shape of a turtle; this would be their first stopping point. There would be six more, and each one would be revealed through a sacred sign in the form of a cowrie shell that first emerged from the great salt sea.

During their long journey, which lasted many generations, the Anishinabe encountered enemies and subdued them. At night it was said their campfires flickered like stars for as far as the eye could see. All the campfires were kindled from one sacred fire, which had been carried from the land of the rising sun and was never allowed to die.

At their third stopping place near present day Detroit, the Anishinabe divided into three groups and went their separate ways, with each group assuming a different responsibility for sustaining the culture. One pledged to safeguard the sacred fire, these people became known as the Potowatomi. Another group agreed to carry out major trading expeditions, these became known as the Ottawa. The third group who's duty was to protect the spiritual beliefs of the Anishinabe emerged as the Ojibwe. Before separating, they formed a confederation called the Three Fires, and met each year to renew their alliance.

Continuing westward the Ojibwe settled farther to the north, along the north shore of Lake Superior. After parting from the others, the Ojibwe continued to be guided by the sacred spirits. In time, a new sign appeared to them at another place of beauty and bounty, the strait where waters from Lake Superior rushed down to the lower-lying Lake Huron and whitefish choked the rapids. It was here the Ojibwe paused and established a village they called "Place at the Falls." This was not only a splendid fishery but also a hub of water-borne trade. French explorers and traders who arrived there in the 17th century called the local Indians Saulteurs, an adaptation of the French word saut, or "falls." This place became known to the French as Sault Ste Marie. At that time, the village had a permanent population of several hundred people, a number that swelled to two or three thousand each summer as Ojibwes and others from surrounding areas congregated there to fish, trade, hold diplomatic councils and join in ceremonies.

By the time the Frenchmen reached Sault Ste Marie, many Ojibwe were fanning out around Lake Superior. According to legend, those who ventured to the western end of that lake were again blessed with a vision. That sign appeared to the people for the last time at La Pointe Island, or Madeline Island as it is known today, where the Ojibwes founded a bustling village that emerged as the spiritual center of their culture.

One of the foremost scholars and researchers believes the migration of the Anishinabe began around 900 AD and took approximately 500 years to complete.

It is from this group of the Ojibwe that my mother's family descends. My great-great grandmother was a member of the Lac du Flambeau band, which translates to "Lake of the Flaming Torches." Early French explorers used the term to describe how the tribe often fished at night by torchlight. While my gr-gr-grandmother's name was been long forgotten, she is included in the early rolls of the reservation as the wife of Isaac Stone, the first white man to settle into this area of Wisconsin. She has been found listed as "Elizabeth" on a vital record but very little is known about her other than she died in June 1858 shortly after giving birth to my great-grandmother, Nancy Ann Stone. Elizabeth is buried in an unmarked grave in the village of Hogarty, Shawano Co, Wisconsin. On Memorial Day, my mother and I honor the memory of Elizabeth by placing flowers in the section of the unmarked graves in the Hogarty Cemetery.

My grandfather, proud of his heritage, made sure that this pride was passed on to his daughter and to his granddaughters. I credit this with helping to kindle and fan the flame of my interest in family history.

I am sure that both he, Grandma Nancy - and Elizabeth - are pleased to see that their story, which we continue to share within our family, is now part of a larger audience.

Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

My Sister ...

My Sister deserves to know that even though
I don't always get a chance to show it,
She is absolutely essential to the happiness ...
that lives within my heart.
~Ann Turrel
Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cluster Genealogy

During a recent session, assisting someone with their family history has served to remind me of why I love using cluster, or 'whole family' genealogy to help solve those problems we've all run into at one time or another.

Our ancestors did not live in isolation, although we often research them as if they did. They were part of a family, most often with siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and other relatives. They were also part of a community with friends, neighbors and co-workers. This 'cluster' of family, friends and neighbors can provide valuable clues to the lives of our ancestors.

Cluster genealogy or 'whole family' or 'extended family genealogy' is the practice of extending our research on one individual to include the individuals and families to which he/she is connected - these range from the ancestors brother or spouse to the neighbor who appeared as a witness on a land deed.

This type of research leads to a more complete and more accurate picture of our ancestor's life.

On its surface you may think you are not interested in your ancestor's siblings, cousins or neighbors but consider the following:

The records of siblings, cousins and other family members may provide clues to the next generation that you have not been able to find in the records left by your direct ancestor.

Neighbors may actually turn out to be relatives. Family groups often migrated to the same town, lived near each other, attended the same church or school and were buried in the same cemetery.

Since a single record is often not enough to prove an ancestral connection, cluster genealogy offers additional documents to support accurate research.

Knowing and recognizing the names of other family members can sometimes help you locate your ancestor when he has been mis-indexed or had his name mangled on a record where you expect to find him.

Tracking ancestors as they move from place to place can often be a daunting task. Knowing the names of relatives who may have moved with him can make it easier to identify him in a new location.

Cluster genealogy involves expanding your search beyond your direct line ancestors to include their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends. Check for as many of these individuals as time and finances will allow - collect information on them just as you do for your direct ancestors and record it in your notes or software.

Don't neglect the spouses of these 'cluster' individuals!

Census records and estate records are especially useful for identifying additional family members - land deeds, newspapers and church records can prove useful for pinpointing neighbors and friends.

By increasing the pool of individuals whom you are researching, cluster genealogy improves your chances of locating records and details on your ancestors. In the process you'll learn more about the places and times in which your family lived.

Photograph of Earle C, Bergeron, Army Air Corps training at Kelly Field, TX; Bay '7', March 22, 1942. Bergeron Family Papers; photograph in possession of Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Saturday, July 12, 2008

One Sweet Ride

If a man is defined by the company he keeps, then a lot can be said about the car he drives. While the political views of our family are all personal and individual, we are, without a doubt, a Ford family. While you won't find any of those annoying stickers of little boys peeing on a Chevy 'bow tie,' you won't find a GM product permanently parked in our driveway either.

From the time I met Al, he has driven a Mustang. He tells me that it was 'love at first sight.' Not necessarily making a reference to his future wife, but certainly to the moment he first laid eyes on a Ford Mustang.

Park Falls, Wisconsin during the mid-1960s was just like any other Midwest small town; the latest news and gossip made the rounds quickly. April 17, 1964, was like any other spring day with the exception of the arrival of a Mustang at Vincent and Vincent Ford Dealership; a white convertible with red interior. Even at 12-years of age, Al remembers it was a six-cylinder, 3-speed on the floor. It would be another five years before he would slip behind the wheel of his own Mustang - a 1968 Mustang coupe; Wimbelton white with red interior. Later, the car underwent a radical upgrade when Al and his brother-in-law, built a racing motor that transformed the car from a pedestrian vehicle into a muscle car.

Volunteering for the draft in the early 1970s, marriage and a tour of Viet Nam made it impractical to keep the car and brought to the end an important part of Al's youth. His love for the classic Mustang's continued and at various times in our life, we have had other pony's parked in our garage. They were all very nice cars but never held a special place until 1994 when Al found an ad for a 1965 2+2 Fastback for sale in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. A California car (no rust) and a check of the VIN showed it to be a true San Jose assembled vehicle with the rare Champagne Beige paint. The drive home made it clear that a lot of work would be needed on the engine.

The car is known simple as "The Sixty-Five" - it has since undergone a transmission transformation and engine upgrades that makes it one quick pony. We drove it to Charolette, NC, for the 35th anniversary of the Mustang and again to Nashville five years later. She will never be a trailer queen; it is my favorite vehicle to go out for ice cream and long drives along the backroads during Autumn, when the fall colors are best enjoyed with the windows rolled down.

Every year Al threatens to take it out to the Iola Car Show and see how much someone would pay to own The Sixty-Five. I'm not too worried. We've been down that road of watching someone else drive away in our car and don't think that we're about to have history repeat itself.

Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

Thursday, July 10, 2008

With A Nod To Carl Sandburg

During the summer months one of my mother's favorite times is when the cool morning and evening air moves in on 'cat feet.' It reminds her of the Carl Sandburg poem, Fog; one that her Aunt Leona remembers memorizing as a child during the early 1900s.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

With the exception of the poem, Fog, Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Remembering Earle Bergeron

If you have worked on your family history for any length of time and have/are subscribed to any genealogy discussion lists, you've probably been asked the question, "If you could spend the day/invite to dinner, anyone from history, who would you invite?" While I might be tempted to ask Amelia Earhart where she and Fred Noonan set down the Lockheed Electra, without hesitation, I would want to spend the day with my Uncle Earle.

Earle Clare Bergeron was born in Wausau, Marathon Co., WI, on 25 June 1922, the eldest son of Charles Edward Bergeron (1887-1969) and Mildred Eileen Little (1899-1968). The marriage of my grandparents on 1 June 1921 was the second for my grandfather; he and his first wife, Ida Servant, had a son, Melvin Charles Bergeron. When they divorced, I'm told it touched off quite the firestorm in our devoutely French Candian Catholic family. At the time of their marriage, my grandfather was 33-years old and my grandmother was 21 and only ten years older than her step-son. I can imagine that made for some interesting family dynamics. Earle Clare was named for my grandfather's brother, Earl Stanley Bergeron; my research leads me to believe that Clare is from my grandmother's father's side of the family as there are a number of children who carried the name Clare, who died during the diptheria epidemic in the mid to late 1800s.

My grandfather worked for a hardware company in Aniwa, Shawano, Co, WI, all though Earle and his brother, Leland Keith (1924-1966), were both born in Wausau, WI, their sister, Carol Arleen (1927-1992), was born in Aniwa. My father, John, born in nearby Mattoon, WI, in 1929. The family briefly left central Wisconsin when my grandfather was employed by a company in Rush City, Chisago Co., MN; during this period of time my aunt, Marian Jean (1931- 2004) was born. Within a few years time, the family returned to northeastern Wisconsin and settled into life in Antigo, Langlade County.
Earle graduated from Antigo High School, Class of 1940, and enlisted in the Army Air Corps on 7 July 1940. He was sent to Chanute Air Base near Rantoul, IL, where he is listed as a mechanic then shipped to Kelly Air Base in Texas. The opportunity for an enlisted man to be accepted into pilot training was non-existant. It was the belief of military 'brass' that a pilot needed to possess a college education; something my grandparents could not afford. Yet, the military promised a better life once the war came to an end and most young men wanted to go off to war. In 1941 a window of opportunity opened for Earle. Due to a drastic shortage of qualified pilot candidates during WWII, the Army reduced the education requirement allowing enlisted airmen to earn their wings as pilots. Earle applied and was accepted into this program. Known as Flying Sergeants the men endured harsh treatment and prejudice. The cadets trained six days a week in the classroom and in the air. The competition among the cadets was fiercely competitive and the atrition rate was incrediably high. As if the classes weren't difficult enough, the instructors did their best to 'wash out' the Enlisted Pilots. My dad recalls that Earle, who was an average student, struggled with his meterology class but finally, in August 1942, he received his wings at Ellington Air Base in Texas, the class of 42-G.
You get a sense of the sentiment within the military for the Enlisted Pilots looking at this photograph, taken shortly before earning their wings. On the left, the cadets jumpsuits in stark contrast to the enlisted officers uniform.
Earle's first assignment was to fly C-47 for paratrooper training at Fort Bragg, NC. Finding the assignment far too mundane, he volunteered for duty overseas. He was assigned to Sixth Ferry Group, First Ferrying Command; in early February 1943 he arrived at Mohanbari Air Base, India. The China Burma India theater during WWII is one that has been overshadowed and yet, played an important role not only because it helped insure a victory for the Allies, but laid the foundation for transporting and evacuations in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
While piloting a food dropping mission on 23 April 1943, the C-47, with Flight Officer Earle C. Bergeron at the controls, crashed on take-off. At a critical point during take-off, the right engine failed, immediately causing the right wing to drop, hitting another C-47. Earle did not have sufficient flying speed or altitude to allow him to get the required air speed for 'single engine performance'. The plane turned up vertical and the right wing cut through the fuselage of a B-24 parked near the runway. The C-47 struck the ground, nose first, and within 20 seconds began to burn. Co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Alfred R. Rossman, perished in the fire; Uncle Earle was pulled from the plane but died in route to the hospital. Listed as having sustained "major injuries" was radio operator Pvt. Robert W. Bowles. The three remaining crew members, Pvt. John Street, Pvt. Scicolone and Pvt. Tanner all were reported no injuries.
As a child, I never understood the sadness that was part of my Grandma Bergeron. I can't imagine the grief she experienced and how her life changed from the moment the Western Union telegram was delivered announcing the death of her eldest son. On her dressing table, next to a glass trinket box, my grandmother kept a photo of Uncle Earle. He's wearing a leather flight jacket and helmet with the coveted white, silk scarf, signifying he was a pilot, casually draped around his neck. The trinket box and photo now sit on my dresser to carry on the tribute to this mother and son.
I wish I could explain why I feel so close to this man who died ten years before I was born. When our youngest son was born we gave him the middle name, Earle. It seemed fitting to carry on the name I'm sure my parents would have given to one of their children had they had a son.
This past June 25th would have been Earle's 89th birthday. My children have all lived longer than Earle and with the death of my Aunt Marian, my father is the remaining children of Charles and Mildred.
But that does not mean that Earle's spirit, his life and legacy will be forgotten.
Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday America!

Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Serious Girl Time

Without a doubt, one of the most important things in my life, is family. The term applies to immediate family, extended family, even those people who's company I enjoy as part of my 'biking family' or my 'D.A.R. family' or the chance to spend time with friends families. But nothing can compare to time spent with those family members who hold a very special place in my life and in my heart. Over the past few days I've had the chance to become reacquainted with my nieces, Alissa and Rebecca, who are visiting from their home in Iowa. Having known them from the time before they were born has a tendency to remind me that time flies my much too quickly; something I seem to recall my father telling me but never quite understood - until now. The time between playing dress-up, Strawberry Shortcake and Barbie's, until now seems to have flown by in an instant. They are now young women - beautiful, bright, articulate and funny - which makes up for time spent apart. I am honored that they would want to spend part of their vacation time with Uncle Al and Aunt Cindy. It does not surprise me that part of their request included time spent at 'the cabin.' The place where their grandmother spent so many years of her childhood - where she learned to sew by making clothes for the farm cats and heard the stories that made up her family history - and where later, their mother and I, along with our sisters spent our childhood, is part of their family history. We are blessed this piece of property still held within our family.

Laughter. It is the first word that will come to mind when I think back over the past few days. The laughter that was a result of family stories and memories their grandmother and I shared about our family and the laughter at moments that happened out of my sight. But what I will treasure the most, are the memories of laughter shared with these new memories. A day trip to Minocqua, standing in line at the Island Cafe waiting for a table on the patio, Becca overcoming her aversion to the smell of book stores to humor her aunt, winding our way through the mammouth arcade to locate the world's best ice cream. The laughter of sisters experiencing the freedom of riding 4-wheelers; the sound of their joy rising above the machines and echoing over the field. The memory of putting on jeans and sweatshirts, the smell of Off and wood smoke as we gathered in the twilight to roast marshmallows and wait for the stars to appear. And of course, laughter. The photographs will be treasured memories, capturing the moments that will bring a smile to our faces when we 'remember when' but won't capture the sound of laughter. The kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes and takes your breath away - a reaction to a moment that reaches down to that place in your heart as only someone you love so completely can touch.

I will be forever grateful to the wonderful gift I received from these two beautiful young women, my nieces. Family.
Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Grandpuppies Come To Visit!

What a parent won't do for their kids ... doesn't matter if you are talking about Mom and Dad or Dog Mom and Dog Dad.

That would include driving 318 miles, round-trip to meet our son and daughter-in-law and pick up the grand puppies, Abby and Spencer, so their Mom and Dad can enjoy four days of camping in the Boundary Waters. Yes ... they have some very nice kennels where our children live but I wouldn't be able to sleep thinking about Ab's and Spencer in a kennel - but I couldn't stand the mental picture of Abby and Spencer with their cute little noses pressed against the chain link fencing wondering when their time in crate-jail would be up. Even with gas approaching $4.00 a gallon, it was cheaper than baking a cake with a file and delivering it to the far reaches of the earth. And then there is that issue of the absence of opposing thumbs on dogs and their inability to use a file.

Spencer is one of 'our' puppies - the unabashedly alpha tri-colour whose personality and drive made us fall in love with her from the moment she arrived. The sentiment is not, however, shared by her sister, Lucy. Whenever Spencer arrives for a visit, Lucy - otherwise known as HRH The Queen of Everything and MeMe Von Lucy - would make sure Spencer knew who was the Queen - that is until their mother, Emma, was around - the alpha of the dog family.

Abby, a 4-year old Flat-Coat Retriever, is the newest member of our family. She was surrendered when her previous owners could no longer care of her due to a diagnosis of cancer in the family. Chris & Ashley located her and fell in love with her. A new forever home meant a name change from Sabrina - to Abby. She is smart, head-strong and such a joy of life and fits in with so well with our family you'd think she was one of 'ours.' In fact - I'm certain she thinks she's an English cocker.

The two 'extra' kennels have been added to what we refer to as the "Cocker Hotel" and to keep everyone on equal footing, I've arranged a full itinerary here at Camp Cocker where we are equal opportunity puppy providers - even if you look like a Flat Coat Retriever.
Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Monday, June 16, 2008

In Honor of Dad

Once upon a time - in the not too distant past - while presenting dad with his Fathers Day gifts, dad picked up a wrapped box - holding it next to his forehead (a la Johnny Carson's Karnack) my dad made a guess at his gift, "Plaid or plain." My sisters and I, who until then were beside ourselves with excitement at having dad open his presents, were crestfallen. The gift, a pair of golf shorts, were, in fact, plaid. And so was born the family joke, uttered at every gift opening event ... plaid or plain.

Mercifully for my mother, she no longer has to worry about what gifts 'the girls' are going to get for Dad; I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to come up with several gift ideas, back when she had to help us pick out Dad's gifts. He is as difficult to shop for as he is to cook for - raspberry pie, Aunt Florence's rye bread and rice krispie treats not withstanding. If you buy him a jacket, he might enjoy it as long as the sleeves aren't too tight around the wrist and the collar is soft enough - sweatshirts can't be too baggy and knit shirts need to be the perfect weight. Which probably explains why he has enough hankerchiefs to last to the middle of the century.

My dad has coined a number of 'ism's' that are now family legend from "I wouldn't walk down the street for this" (describing the main entree at Easter Brunch) to "plaid or plain." I inherited my father's sense of humor, being at ease in new situations, love of Big Band era music (especially Sinatra) and a touch of clairvoyant.

Happy Plaid Father's Day Dad ... plain just isn't in your vocabulary.
photo in possession of Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski; Bergeron Family Papers
Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

Friday, June 13, 2008

That First Akward Post

A blank canvas ... a clean slate ... unlimited possibilities. I feel like the first day of school with an armload of notebooks filled with bright, white paper and a packet of pencils. Okay ... here we are with the brand new blog and very little idea of how to begin. Yup ... okay ... uh-huh ..

When in doubt - bring out the puppies. After all they're cute and a great way to break the ice.

Not actually a puppy ... but pretty darned close. Jinny is our 4-1/2 year old English cocker spaniel and as you can see ... she can peg the needle on the cute meter without breaking a sweat.
Whew .. creating an account, overcoming that first akward 'what do I say' post AND uploading a photograph? I feel like I've just received a gold star sticker!
Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski


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