Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Then & Now

My great grandparents had a large family of children…and even a larger group of grandchildren.  If they were still alive, their descendants would number at least 182.  My father is the oldest of their 33 grandchildren.  At 74 this summer, he is thirty years older than the youngest of their grandchildren.  So, while we knew about the cousins, aunts, and uncles on his maternal family, it really wasn't until a fairly recent time when we met some of his paternal side of the family.

Dad’s father died in 1975 and while I remember him – I never really got a chance to know him or his own family story.  My grandmother was the primary source of information.  She spent three years back in North Dakota and got to know his side of the family…probably because her family was so far away.  There were many times that she talked about Cousin Lois or Hazel, Uncle Wash or Uncle Frank.  She had a several pictures with her father–in–law and his siblings Wash, Frank, or Maggie.  About 15 years ago, I “met” a cousin who helped make those pictures come alive in a whole new way.  Among the pictures was one of my grandmother holding my father and another woman holding a baby.   

Grace Carlson Johnson holding Lowell Johnson and Marian Gage Johnson holding Gene Johnson

What started was several conversations on the phone with our cousin Lowell and his lovely wife, Bonnie.  One of the first things that we learned was that Lowell was just 19 days older than my father.  So, for the first time in his life, Dad actually had a cousin who was the same age as he.  Lowell and Bonnie provided a wealth of information about many of the Johnson family especially those that stayed in North Dakota.  They are the most wonderful kind of researchers – the type that collects things like obituaries, photographs of graves and news articles and are willing to share the wealth.

The Three Frank's - Cousins Frank Stewart Johnson &
Frank Washington Johnson & Uncle Frank Smith Johnson 
So, in the process of research our family’s rich history – we have had the delightful added bonus of meeting some of these cousins who live a few states away.  I've made it back twice to see where my father was born and where his family lived in North Dakota and to meet the only cousin who is the same age as he.  There is a certain irony that his father’s name was Frank as well.  Both my father’s Dad and Lowell’s Dad were named for their uncle Frank. Perhaps that is why that picture of the two women holding babies was taken.  Both of the Frank’s became a father that long ago July.  So…above is a picture of the two cousins in their mother’s arms…and another taken in fall of 2012…Can you see the family resemblance?

Left to Right - Cousins Gene & Lowell Johnson - Fall 2012