Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

Climbing the Family Tree


Just in case I didn’t have enough to keep me busy (House work? What’s that?) I’ve started working on our family tree.

FTs have always fascinated me.  (No, I’m not Mormon.) I don’t know if it’s because of the stories we heard about family when we were kids or the stories we didn’t hear.

Once Grandma told me her granddad (or her gr-granddad) was the younger son of a German count. I haven’t found any evidence of it, though. Maybe she was just wishful thinking.

BTW: I have one branch of the tree I can’t follow back very far. I call it the family stump. 😦

anna-e-dickerson-@18This is my maternal great grandma. It’s a picture of a tintype Grandma gave me a long time ago. Wasn’t she pretty?

Here’s the whole tintype.


Those are a couple of friends with Gr-grandma on the right. Tula and Betty. They don’t look like they’re having much fun.

Virgil,-Grandma-Dickerson,-This is another grandmother. Not sure which one. She doesn’t look very happy. The kids don’t either. They really look as if they’re expecting to be shot rather than remembered.

Why is that?

Quitman,-Bella,-Betty-WallaI love this picture. Looks like they’re having so much fun . . . except they left their smiles at home.

A couple of things I’ve really enjoyed about Family Treeing is the names of my family. A couple of my uncles had really different names.

One was Quitman.

The other was Okla Homer.

(No, I’m not kidding.)

The other thing I’ve noticed about names is the repetitiveness. There are several Josephs. And Lewises. And Bettys. Mary seems to be a very popular name in my linage. (Mama’s name was Mary.)

Joseph-Dickerson I wish I knew more about them.

I do know that my grandma’s daddy died when she was less than a year old, so Grandma’s mama took the kids to live with her fam.

grandma's daddy

So why do I bother? Why do I want to know where Grandma Reeves moved to Oklahoma from? Why do I care where Grandma Nycum came from?

I don’t know. I met a woman once who grew up in the town my Grandmother’s family moved to Oklahoma from. I told her my ancestors had lived there by the name of Mitchell.

She got very excited. Her brother’s best friend’s name was Mitchell and, oh, my gosh! I looked just like them.

Knowing my family history kind of makes me feel as if I have a base. Roots. You know? Now, maybe I know who I have in heaven, praising Jesus and praying for me.

And if I run into anyone who looks just like me, I’ll know we’re related. 🙂

Is your family tree finished? Do you have it proudly framed and displayed on the wall or tucked away in a drawer somewhere?

If it’s finished, how do you know where to stop? 🙂



Author: Susan Shay

For as long as I can remember, I've loved two things--reading and people--and that led me to become a writer. Many of my stories are set in Small Town Worlds. I'm a wife, mother, sibling and an aunt. I have a deep faith in God, and an exciting life in Christ. Maybe I shouldn't be (after all, he's God!) but I'm constantly amazed at the things He's up to. :)

6 thoughts on “Climbing the Family Tree

  1. I love it that you’re doing this! I can’t wait for you to ‘introduce’ me to our ancestors!!! I feel a road trip coming on!!!

    • Family is so interesting. A little confusing . . . or maybe I’m just easily confused. At one point, it looked as if one of our Nycum granddads (not sure how many greats go in front of grand) married his own cousin, which is kinda gross.
      But I watched Gone with the Wind last night and was reminded, “You know the Wilkeses always married their cousins.”
      Maybe gross, but not unusual back in the day. 🙂
      Let’s wait until the weather cools before we head for the Delta. 😉

  2. Okla Homer… I love it! 😉
    I love learning about my family’s history!! We have traced some of our ancestors as far back as the early 1600’s. But… that isn’t far enough, is it? The more I learn about them, the more I want to learn about them! I recently found a copy of a 22-page letter written by my great-great-grandpa’s brother to my great-grandpa’s sister. In it, he shared a LOT of family history — it was almost like reading an historical novel!! 🙂
    And one of the best parts? All those wonderful old photos! Gosh, I wish I knew the names of all the people in those photos…
    No, my family tree isn’t finished. I don’t reckon it ever will be. But I sure am working on it! 🙂

    • I’ve heard there was an Uncle Okla all my life, but just saw his leaf on the tree a few years ago. I haven’t followed that branch yet to see if he has any kiddos named after him.
      I wish I’d done this before I had my kids. I missed out on some great names. 🙂
      Wow, the 1600’s? You’re a much better man than I am. I’ve barely made it to the 1700’s, and then it kinda scared me. Could the information I found be real? That old? Whoa!
      I’m so impressed with your 22 page historic letter.
      I agree . . . the pics are the best. Most of mine have names on them, but I have one that doesn’t. I’m still trying to figure out who they are. I sent it to my sibs and they’d never seen it before.
      Maybe my aunt and uncle on that part of the tree will know. :}
      Enjoy your journey through your family. (Kind of like having a time machine, isn’t it? Makes me wish I had one.)

      • Yeah, I keep telling my sister (who is pregnant) that we have so many family names to choose from that we shouldn’t ever have to use a baby name book. lol! 😉
        Well, I didn’t trace the family back that far… Several of my aunts & uncles have done quite a bit of research, though, and they are the ones who traced that line of the family back to the 1600’s.
        I’m jealous! It seems like most of my ancestors saw no reason to put names on their photos. 😦 And the ones that do have names… some of the names aren’t legible.
        Thanks! You too! And yes, it is. 🙂

  3. I’ve heard most people had rotten teeth. I’ve also heard the photographers told them not to smile. Maybe for the reason I’ve previously stated!

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