When I find an interesting story in my family’s past, I want to share it.
That was the case when I came across three letters postmarked from K. Lorenz in Remsen, Iowa–one from 1920 and two from 1921.
Among the names I’d become so familiar with during the decades of researching my family’s history, Lorenz hadn’t popped up once. Remsen, Iowa didn’t ring any bells, either. Yet, this person and this town were somehow connected to my family, because the letters were sent to my great-grandparents, who lived in California when they were written.
When my grandma passed away in April of 2004, some of the treasures she passed down were original family letters written between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s. These postmarked from Remsen were among them.
I checked the end of one letter from K.M. Lorenz, hoping he or she had signed their name. In tidy script, K.M. signed the letter, “With love to both, Aunt Kathryn.” I was intrigued by the unexpected appearance of this aunt Kathryn, whom I’d heard nothing about. When I asked my mom, she didn’t remember hearing about an Aunt Kathryn when she was growing up.
What else didn’t I know? What was still undiscovered? These questions tugged at me, begging to be answered.
I combed through online records and newspaper archives going back to 1855. The biggest thrill was connecting with small town records keepers who photocopied handwritten birth, baptism, marriage, and death records for me.
By matching details from the letters to what I found in my research, I pieced together who Kathryn was and how she was related to me. When I found she was my great-great grandmother’s half-sister, I started down a new path to discover Elizabeth Wellman’s story as well.
Discovering the sisters’s early lives together in Iowa and the circumstances that separated them was one of my favorite family history projects. While they lived very different lives as adults, in the end, both seemed equally rewarding.
In the blog post image, Elizabeth Wellman Winney and her family are on the left at their ranch in California. In the right hand picture, Kathryn Lorenz Brucher stands in her front yard in Remsen.
The story that emerged about Lizzie and Katie, nearly forgotten to history, begged to be told–and Kindle Vella seemed the perfect way to share it.
The first five episodes are live and episode six will be published on Friday, December 10th. After that, I have episodes scheduled for twice a week. Follow along on their journey from orphans to stalwarts in their families and communities.
If you’d like to check it out, the first three episodes are FREE The Tragedies and Triumphs of Mary Heuertz’s Daughters in 1800s Rural America.