Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hilda and Fred

One of my hobbies since I was a teenager has been working on my genealogy. I'm in and out of it alot. But, over the years,  I've accumulated some good things - information, documentation, and photos. My mom has been sending me some old photos whenever she finds them. Especially if they were from my dad's side of the family, since they are of more significance to me than her. Luckily, the Petersen family was filled with pack rats. They saved everything.

In a box of treasures that mom recently gave me, there were some really great photos...
these are just a couple of them from the turn of the century - about 1910.
The bride is my great-grandma - Hilda Cornell.
The groom is my great grandpa - Fred Noyed.
Fred is attended by his brother. Hilda is attended by her sisters.
They both came from farming families in Watertown, Minnesota .
Hilda's parents immigrated from Sweden. Fred's grandparents as well.

What a gift a photograph can be. I never met my great-grandparents. They were gone way before me. But here I can see their faces. The gleam in their eyes. Imagine what their lives must have been like. Were they hopeful of the future? Were they burdened by obligation? What were their dreams, or ambitions?

They look so young.

They have no idea what's ahead. What's in store for them. The strange thing is that here I am, their great grand-daughter, looking at them now. And I know what's ahead. I do know a little bit about what's in store for them.

That in 1915, they will have twin daughters, Ellen and Eleanor. That less than a year later, Eleanor will die, leaving Ellen an only child. That shortly afterwards, they will separate - Hilda will take the baby and move back in with her parents, and Fred back with his - although they will still be in neighboring farms. That little Ellen would grow up, marry and have three boys, one of which was my father. That me, my siblings, and our two cousins are their only posterity of our generation.

That 100 years later, their granddaughter will be looking at their wedding photo, wondering about their lives and thinking about their story...

The most profound thing I have learned as I've investigated the family history is how fragile our lives can be. The people themselves can be very strong. But the details of their lives seem almost paper thin. What brought Fred and Hilda's ancestors to America? What if they had decided it would be easier not to come? What if Ellen had gotten sick instead of Eleanor? What if, later on, when Ellen was a young woman, she had never met grandpa? What if, after their first date, she thought - "well, he's nice, but I think I'll keep looking?" What if after waiting so long for babies, they decided not to try, then they would've never had my dad. What if my dad, being enlisted in the Air Force, had never been stationed in San Rafeal (where he met my mom). What if he had never gone into the cafeteria for burgers that fateful night - would they have ever met? These are just some of the larger turning points. There are an infinite number of possibilities, paths our lives can follow. So I start to realize - how perfectly everything had to come together for ME to exist. Can you imagine - if anything had been one iota different, how our lives would have changed. Or maybe we wouldn't be here at all...

And yet here I stand. With Hilda and Fred Noyed's blood coursing through my veins.

Have you looked into your family history? I think you'll find it worthwhile. You may fin priceless stories. Maybe some photos. Most likely a heritage to be proud of. If you've never done it before, talking to family members is a good way to start a family tree, gathering names and birthdates, maybe photos. When you are ready to delve deeper, or can't find any info from relatives, try I use it quite a bit when I'm in one of my researching stints. Or you can do research at libraries and request info (birth and death certificates) from the local government where the event occurred. If you've already studied your genealogy, what are some interesting things you discovered?


  1. Some people have so much and make very little of it...others have just a little glimpse of family togetherness and in treasuring it they make room in their heart for so much more...
    This is a very touching article and I hope many read are a gifted writer with such a light touch.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Jeannette! That is very sweet.
    I wonder sometimes, with how commonplace photos are nowadays, if this generation takes them for granted. They will have such a treasure trove of pictures from 'when we were kids.' And I only have a few photos of my great grandparents, for which I waited years and years to finally find. The number gets smaller and smaller as you go farther back in time.

    Sometimes, as I upload an album with hundreds of photos, some of which look similar to each other, I wonder - Will we loose sight of a photo's significance if there are too many to be had? Hmmm....

  3. I really need to get a start on working on my genealogy!

    Born To Be Styled


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