Nearly everyone has a hobby, and it frequently amazes me to find out what these hobbies are. Quite a few years ago, I discovered more than I ever knew about one of my brothers, when his grandson said, “Papa has a new guitar,” and went on to tell me all about it. Who knew?

A sister collects taxi cab miniatures; another sister makes crafts; my mother collected penguins and I had an aunt who collected salt and pepper shakers. Trying to get rid of a collection like this is a challenge. But hobbies are not always about collecting. Some are centered on research.

After the television saga, Roots, was aired in the late 1970s, many people took up an interest in genealogy and a new hobby was born here in America. Thousands of people started making family trees, interviewing their relatives and writing down things long forgotten. Discovering one’s “roots” is a long task, but if you have even an inkling of interest in your ancestors, the discovery can be fascinating.

As I entered my 50th year in 1987, I had just begun to wonder about my maternal great grandparents, who had been born in Denmark. All through my life, my mother would occasionally tell stories about visiting her grandparents and listening to them “talk Dane” or she’d tell about special foods her grandmother would prepare. Finally, during the summer of 1987, my stint as a single parent was over for a while, my son was going to be in basic training far away, and I had two weeks vacation with no big plans.

A casual conversation with one of my cousins led to a trip to Canada and a quest for genealogical information which has not yet come to an end. Thus, my “main” hobby was born. That summer, we went to a small town called New Denmark. Totally unprepared and with no idea of where I should start, I wanted simply to find out who my great-grandparents were – where they had come from in Denmark, and who their parents were. It sounded easy, but I was a fledgling genealogist in those days. My cousin and I found the museum, which was closed. Fortunately a group of “old men” were eating lunch at a nearby picnic table – and they were conversing in Danish. I asked (in English) if they’d ever heard of Peter Jorgenson (my great grandfather) and they immediately switched to English, told me where he used to live and called a neighbor to come and unlock the museum so we could visit.

Inside we saw all manner of fine dishes and household items which the early immigrants brought with them to Canada. Like many other immigrants, they had been promised “free land” and a new life. Most of these Danish people had been well-to-do dairy farmers and brought their best furniture and household goods with them to start a new life in Canada.

Later in the week, after big meals at restaurants with names like Valhalla, and visiting cemeteries seeking history, we stopped at the post office. We talked with the postmistress whose name was Marilyn Rasmussen. We asked about a place called Blue Bell where Peter Jorgenson had farmed. Could she tell us how to get there, we wondered? She was silent for a moment and then asked how we were related to Peter, who was her great uncle. It seems that when he and other family members came “down to Maine,” one of his sisters stayed in New Denmark. She was the great grandmother of the postmistress, who filled us in on a whole chapter of family history we had never heard about.

When we returned to Maine and I relayed this discovery to my mother, she casually remarked that she had known her mother went to visit a cousin in New Denmark, but never knew the name or how this cousin was related. My mother didn’t share my fascination with genealogy, but she was interested in this part of her history.

Many years have gone by and I have truly never found out exact birthplaces or dates to fill in the family tree. In the meantime, I’ve done a great deal of research on the genealogy of other families and turned a personal interest into a full-fledged hobby for my retirement years. At least each week, I receive a query via email or the postal service, seeking data. I had filed the Jorgenson family folder in my bottom file cabinet drawer, and moved on to other groups.

A few weeks ago a woman from Texas called me to find out what I knew about the Jorgenson family. She was another relative starting to climb the family tree. It was a good feeling to provide her with a photo of her great grandmother (whom she had never seen) and a whole batch of family history.

Do you have a special hobby? Perhaps you’d like to share information or a tale about your discoveries. We’d like to hear from you and perhaps we can include your story on our Senior page. If you’d like to talk with me or ask for more information, call me at the newspaper office 892-1166 and leave a message so I can call you back – or e-mail me at [email protected]


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