Pages of family history line up by bedroom carpet.
(This Blog post, about my Christmas present to my brothers, was written on Christmas Day of 2011.)
Northern Illinois looks to have a green Christmas this year with no snow on the ground.
But that’s quite alright.
Whatever we are celebrating at this moment – be it Christmas, Hannukah or Kwanzaa – paints us a picture filled with snow and songs. But don’t need snow in order to get into the Holiday spirit. Typically today is spent around lots of family. For some families, it’s the only other time outside of maybe Thanksgiving that a bunch of family members will gather around.
When you see your family today, think about how you are made up as a person. Very likely, it is because of those family members that are a generation or more older.
“You are who you are because of the people around you” is a philosophy that I often use to trace backward the traits that define ourselves. The people around you, if you are planning or attending a gathering today, is most likely family.
Family is an important aspect in the life of yours truly. Perhaps it’s because so much of it is close around.
Nearly everyone on both my mother’s side and father’s side of my family reside somewhere within northern Illinois. Sure, there are a few people that have went far, far away, but most have remained not too far away from where I live and thus are more available during great times of need.
2011 had its fair share of sorrow when it came to my extended family. My great uncles Roger and Elmer, brothers, lost battles with cancer within eight months of each other. My great aunt Carol, the pair’s sister, saw Alzheimer’s get the best of her on the day we laid Roger to rest. Three siblings that were no longer a part of us on this Earth in eight months is more than enough to bear. Cancer also claimed the life of my great-granduncle Everett this year. So I’ve been at more than enough funerals this year.
Perhaps the saddest thing about funerals is that it is one of the rare times that the extended family all flocks together for something. Because me and my brothers are so young – I’m 25 years old and the oldest of four brothers – we don’t recall some people that come up for the deaded occasion, even though we know they are related to us.
I had some personal losses as well outside my family, and after a few things came together I set out on a project to work on. I wanted to get this done by Christmas.
What I’ve been working on over the past four months, when I’m not doing anything high school sports-related, is a family record that details all of our relatives – direct relatives, aunts, uncles and cousins – and tells how they are related to us. (By “us” and “we” I refer to the four Cutter Boys: myself, Michael, Christopher and Daniel). I gave them copies of the book for Christmas presents.
“The Six Degrees of the Cutter Crew” lists every possible relative that we have from four generations above us, and then descending back down across many different paths that detail the families of our aunts and uncles, great aunts and great uncles, and great-grandaunts and great-granduncles. In essence, we each have eight sets of great-great-grandparents, and the book tracks down every every descendant of each of the eight sets.
The book details exactly how we are linked with certain cousins of ours. For me and my brothers, it also tells us how many more cousins we have in addition to what we already know.
Are you related to me? If you live in northern Illinois and your last name is either Cutter, Reeser, Holder, Metzler, Holloway, Tighe, Roselieb or Hanell, chances are there is some sort of easy-to-explain relation between us. Then there are many other names that would take up most of this piece and make it cumbersome.
In my work with area high school sports, I was able to trace what schools have educated my ancestors and cousins. I was also able to figure out which of my ancestors, and their descendants, have served the United States in our past wars.
One relative that comes to mind is my great-granduncle Homer Roselieb. Homer was the second-oldest of 13 Roselieb children born between 1898 and 1918 in the Erie-Prophetstown area, and was the first of four siblings to serve. Homer was in the Army during the first World War as a young man, but died during the Influenza outbreak.
Because Homer died a young man without any children, there was little to tell of him as his brothers and sisters lived out their years. All of the 13 Roselieb children have since passed, leaving no one left with any direct link to him. In addition, Homer is buried at a cemetary in Erie while his brothers and sisters are all buried at a cemetary near Spring Hill, just south of Erie.
The purpose behind this book is to ensure that such relatives like Homer Roselieb, a very young man who served his country, are not forgotten as the four Cutter Boys grow older.
Another relative, my half-great-uncle Jarrod Roselieb, served during the Vietnam War and received a Purple Heart after his plane was shot down. None of my brothers knew that, or even know who Jarrod was, until they read the book.
Within the brotherly quartet, we take for granted our familiarity with our aunts, uncles and first cousins. Researching involved asking my oldest relatives what they know of their aunts, uncles, great aunts and great uncles, and first cousins. I could recall such relatives in a heartbeat, but it was a little difficult for the older folks to recall theirs. That’s because there was no concrete record of such. Now, within the Cutter Crew, there is a solid object that can be preserved and passed on to future generations.
As we grow older, generations before us will eventually pass on. I have only remembered one great-great-grandparent, and that was who we called “Granny Perry.” All of my great-grandparents have passed away, the last coming in 2009. Only one direct relative from three generations ahead of me is still living, and that is my great-granduncle Sam. Another great-granduncle of mine, George, has passed but his wife, Geraldine, is still living. Another great-granduncle of mine, Stan, has passed but his wife, Lucy, is still living. [Both Lucy and Geraldine have passed since this entry was written.]
It so happens that the age gap between me and my youngest brother, Daniel, is great enough that he cannot recall as many older relatives as I can. As we were gathering in our living room during this green Christmas, I took more time to show Danny around the book because he recalls so little.
The present was well worth the drives to Rochelle for information on the Holloways and Rockford for information on the Tighes.
Snow may not be on the ground to make it feel like Christmas, but the Christmas feeling in terms of family was certainly there.