Category: Words

Macular Degeneration

My mother was an artist. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago and graduated from Drake University with a BFA in Art. Art is just who she was. 

I don’t remember when she was first diagnosed with macular degeneration, but she lived with it for well over ten years. At the time of her diagnosis, she was doing finely detailed hand-painted cards. As the disease took away her ability to focus on these details, she explored other paint methods and settled on alcohol ink, loving how fluid the medium was, and yet she could manipulate the paint to create finely detailed pieces of art.


Cards were always her way of sharing her talent. I have copies of Christmas cards going back to the 1960s. Cards that she created by cutting her design into a linoleum block, then inking, stamping, and hand painting the detail. Others were in watercolor. My birthday invitation was just a black marker on orange paper. Because of this, I have years of her art, created just for me.

Mom passed away from kidney cancer in February 2021. At the end, she was almost blind. She could no longer pass the day reading books on her iPad. She could no longer spend sunny afternoons painting. Today I decided to tackle a stack of paper that was set on a shelf in her closet. I found this handwritten piece dated 18 Feb 2016. Her handwriting was still good. She wrote of her macular degeneration.

Macular Degeneration

“I understand that everyone who has macular degeneration experiences it differently. This is my experience.

I can see the world around me, but I cannot see the fine detail.

I cannot see to read a book a magazine, a menu, people’s faces are distorted — but I can see geese in the sky migrating in the fall, stars on a clear night (what a thrill!), the beautiful white clean world after a snowfall. My world will never be dark. Not perfect, but not dark. Thank you, God!”

In 2018, I took a photo of a blazing orange sunset that I was watching from my kitchen window. I sent it to Mom, wanting to share its beauty and knowing that she could access it on her large iPad, blowing it up, expanding the image with her fingers so that she could see it. The next day, she painted what could see of our backyard and the blazing sky. 

Macular degeneration is a funny thing. Mom could not see the television, and listening to programs irritated her. Yet there were mornings as I sorted our supplements, I would drop a Vitamin D gel tablet. Moving to quickly find it before our dog Lizzy would come to help, I would not see it, yet mom could always see it glisten and know just where it was. My mom’s world was not perfect, sometimes irritating, but never dark. Thank you, God!


Suffers Hallucinations

Margaret Oleath Hansen was born November 4, 1886 in Denmark, Brown County, Wisconsin to Jens (James) and Marie Kirstine Jensdatter Hansen, who had emigrated from Denmark in 1881. 

By the time the 1900 United States Federal Census was enumerated, they were living in Marinette, Marinette County, Wisconsin. James was working as “Laber in coal.” [1] The census taker was not the best at his job (sorry John Stratton, whoever you are), as he noted that Marie was the mother of nine children, with eight living, and then proceeded to enumerate nine children. The eldest, Peter, age 22, had been born in Denmark, and the youngest, Willie and Ethel, were enumerated as both being two years of age, born just five months apart. I am sure with a bit more research, I could sort this out, but this short piece is to be about Margaret, or Maggie as she was called. 

On October 3, 1903, just a month shy of her 17th birthday, Maggie’s mother passed away at the age of 50, in Marinette. Maggie would marry Henry Louis (Ludwig) Edward Dettman on March 3, 1908 in Menominee, Menominee County, Wisconsin. The couple worked together in the grocery business their entire marriage. Henry died in 1956 at the age 70, and Margaret passed away on May 22, 1968. She was 81 years old. 

Why my interest in Margaret? While doing newspaper research, I came across an article about a Margaret Hanson, [sic] 20 years old, of Marinette. [2] This article was directly above the article I was looking to review, and was titled: “Insane Girl Would Be Lawyer.” The sub-title goes on to report: “Margaret Hanson of Marinette Is Cultured, but Suffers Hallucinations.” That caught my attention! The article states that this poor girl’s “hallucination” was that she wished to become a lawyer and study for the bar. For wishing to become a lawyer, she was committed to the insane asylum.

Margaret told the 1940 United States Federal Census [3] enumerator that the highest grade in school that she had completed was 5th grade. The court in 1906 found her “cultured and refined,” and “she was able to quote long passages from Dickens, Shakespeare and other authors.” So while she only had formal schooling till 5th grade, she never stopped learning. For her desire to continue learning, and to become a lawyer, the court committed her to the insane asylum, and it just so happened that the newly built Marinette County Asylum, Mental Health Institution, and Poor Home was open, and ready to accept patients. 

Marinette County Insane Asylum, Marinette, Wis.

There is the chance that the Margaret whose life I briefly told, is not the Margaret who wished to be a lawyer, but she was the only Margaret Hansen living in Marinette, age 20. I also do not know how long she was kept at the asylum, but she married Henry Dettman two years later, so I so hope it was not a long stay. If I did wish to search further, the Coffrin Library at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has the asylum records. While most information is restricted, it does look as though the admission book may be open for viewing. [4]

I am so glad to be living in a time when a young woman, obviously smart, who wished to become a lawyer, can become a lawyer. 


  1. 1900 U.S. census, Marinette County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Marinette, 4th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 118, sheet 2 (penned), p. 129B (stamped), dwelling 23, family 28, James Hanson household; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Jan 2021); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, FHL Microfilm: 1241799.
  2. “Insane Girl Would Be Lawyer,” The Manitowoc Pilot, 15 Feb 1906, p. 3, col. 6; digital images, GenealogyBank ( : accessed 21 Jan 2021).  
  3. 1940 U.S. census, Marinette County, Indiana, population schedule, Marinette, 5th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 38-21, sheet 10, p. 290A, household 218, Henry L. Dittman household; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Jan 2021); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627.
  4. Pine View Health Care Center Records, 1906-1993.

Honey Dips

Having spent the majority of my life in the Midwest, many things are new to me. And I recently added some interesting information to my New England knowledge. My son purchased a 1920s bungalow in Pawtucket, Providence, Rhode Island in 2018. The home has a detached garage set back on a rear corner of the property. As we helped him move in, we noticed a weird metal cover that reminded us of a manhole cover. Opening the cover, we discovered that it covered a hole which was now filled with rocks. We chalked it up to a Rhode Island oddity, and continued to move things into the home. 

Fast forward to 2020, and I have also moved to Rhode Island, but reside in a neighboring community. This is where the neighborhood Facebook group comes into play, as one day a woman asked if anyone wanted a metal cover that was in her yard, and it sparked a very interesting conversation. It turns out that this cover complete with a foot lever, covered a hole that was intended as a place to get rid of kitchen scraps. It originally held a smaller can that the waste was emptied into, and once a week or so, farmers, (some say pig farmers), would drive through and empty the smaller container into a larger one. The smell must have been awful on a 100° day in the summer! One man remembered that they called these receptacles “honey dips” and the older kids would stick the smaller kids head down into them as punishment for bothering them. 

The people remembering the buckets or sharing images of their own covers did not mention when this practice ended, but it is obvious that my son is not the only one with this remnant of days gone by in his garden. 

Trying to Find the Words

I have to be honest, I have not felt much like writing lately. I love words, and I love to put them together in such a manner that they say something, and hopefully speak to people in a positive way. But now, every time I log into the internet I am bombarded by hatred. Words used to promote emotion, but not in a positive way. People publicly resenting family members. People hating Trump, hating Hillary. News agencies creating huge headlines with leading words aimed at their target, hoping to get everyone riled up. People disrespecting our country, and each other. Words used to hurt and to attempt harm.

People are using social media for their platform of tunnel vision opinion. Whether it is politics, or just family, they have the “My way or the highway” attitude. The highway includes deleting “friendships” and blocking that person from ever being your friend again. On social media anyway. What happened to conversation, give and take, sharing of opinions and expertise?

We were taught at a young age to say the chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” According to Wikipedia, parents have been teaching this to their children since 1862. The problem is, is that words do hurt. 

As we move towards the final days of this campaign period for president. I wish more than ever that people would sit back, and take a genealogists approach to what is being bandied about the web. I wish that they would treat the articles that are so freely shared, as hearsay, until proven otherwise. Research the topic till all records have been exhausted, then publish the findings with fully sourced documentation. Educate people so that at least their opinion is based on some fact. 

Words. Words are powerful. Words have always been used to attempt to force an opinion, but have also been used to express love. How many letters have been written then thrown away because the physical act of writing gave the author time to reflect, and give what they were saying a second thought? Posting on social media, responding to social media, is too quick. Too instant. The words have reached the target, and caused hurt, in less time then it would take to lick an envelope. 

I am trying to write again. Trying to put words onto “paper.” But as I will with this post, I walk away, come back, proof read it. Make adjustments. Wanting to assure that I cause no harm, and that my words will not hurt. But also that my words will evoke an emotion, a connection, and a response.

They Were Entrepreneurs

There were many in my family who were entrepreneurs. They started businesses and provided services and goods at such a rapid rate, that it sometimes makes it hard to keep track of it all. My solution? Make good use of the powerful tool of a Legacy Family Tree database. 

Last week a cousin and I got together and were talking about a company started by one of our common ancestors, the Alexandria Paper Company. She had recently visited Alexandria, Madison Co., Indiana, and discovered that the information that they had regarding the company had been donated years ago by my mother.  Wanting to know more about the company, I set out to see what I could find. 

The first step was to create a new “Unlinked Male” in my database, and I was off and running. Companies, like people, leave a paper trail, and like all research I will need to head to Madison County, Indiana for full details on the history of the company, but for now, I have found enough information to satisfy my curiosity. Enough to write up what I have learned in a blog post.

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The question might be asked, as to why I do not include this information with the founding ancestor? My answer is, when the ancestor could be labeled a business mogul, it makes his individual entry too large and cumbersome. The personal details get lost in details of his business dealings. By creating an “Unlinked Male” I can easily find and add detail to just the one company, or business dealing. 

My husband’s family has been involved in the cheese industry here in Wisconsin since 1887, the first factory started by the patriarch Peter Fassbender,  two of his sons continued the tradition. To keep them all in check, and to easily track the information about each factory, I have created a similar database to the above, only having the original factory named as the patriarch, and all others as children. Like any good family, these factories supported each other, working together so that each was a success. Their stories are entwined, and each factory story is needed to create timeline that shows the effect that these men had, and have, on the cheese manufacturing industry here in our state.

It’s all about being able to tell the story – and to find the facts I need quickly and efficiently.

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A Rant. I apologize.

While this has nothing to do with genealogy, this is weighing heavily on my mind. For the past nine plus years, I have been the webmaster and social media “person” for a local organization. I was asked to do this volunteer work by a member of the former administration. I was happy to do this work for an organization I believed strongly in, and as this is a vibrant, active community, I took it as my mission to update weekly the website with the schedule of activities. When social media became a strong player in how to market and reach your target audience, I was asked to add this to my list of duties. I was part of a study group as to HOW to use Facebook and other social media to most effectively reach our audience, and I worked hard at creating new content, sprinkled in with some shares from other like organizations, that I felt was relevant to what was happening in our world at that moment.

A short time into the start of my work with this organization, there was a change in administration. With this change came a dis-interest (lack of understanding?) in the website as a tool for reaching people where they are, and in social media as a secondary tool. But I kept forging ahead. This was my mission to give back, and gosh darn it, I was going to do so!! As I was not supplied with updates from the office of this organization, I had to get creative and find the material in other ways. About two years ago, this organization decided it needed a marketing committee. This marketing committee didn’t really know what they wanted to do, other than MARKET the organization. The committee recruited marketing people from local businesses to sit on this committee, and they met and had big thoughts. Included in their big thoughts was the goal that we needed to better utilize Facebook to reach our target audience (???), and the website sucked, and needed to be revamped to better appeal to our target audience. I still wonder to this day if they had even looked at the Facebook page, or spent any amount of time on the website, and its 100+ pages of content.

My response was to ask WHY the website was never promoted as a place to find information? And what EXACTLY was wrong with the website? They couldn’t say, just that it was not what the organization needed. I suggested they read the materials that I had worked through with my study group, to learn how other like organizations were using social media. Nope. A replacement person was brought on to make our Facebook page great. It was great all right, but a little redundant if you were already following the other organizations whose shared material was all that appeared there. I deleted myself as an admin.

A year ago, the organization had this great opportunity. A PROFESSIONAL web designer wanted to DONATE his time to create a masterpiece website for us. It was his MISSION. Would I maintain the website that I had built till it was completed. I said yes. I am still waiting. I have stopped updating it. It no longer lives. My mission is complete.

Why the reason for the rant at this moment? You see, the past year has been all about the committees desire to reach the people where they are getting their information. Facebook does this pretty well. This morning I learned that a top administrator of this organization is deleting his Facebook account. Really? I didn’t know he was active on FB. Now if we really want to reach the people, wouldn’t it make sense that a leader of an organization would be active on the company FB page? Would take it as their mission/duty to participate, to work hard at engaging and reaching the target audience? How can a company so miss the whole idea of reaching and engaging people in this second decade of the 21st century?

As we wait for the marketing committee consisting of professional web developers, marketing executives, and people who truly want the best for this organization, and moving it forward, to finalize and publish the new website. I sit here disillusioned with the administration of this company. Saddened that I have wasted 9 1/2 years.