My First Family History Road Trip – Rolling with the Roleke’s

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Hey there!  Yep, it’s me.  Still here.  I just had to take a break for a bit.  I had too much on my plate and other things had to come first.

Like 6th grade homework….  Uggghh!

Uggghh, is about all I can say about that on here, but the amount of homework sent home daily is redonk! Poor Knucklehead has no life outside of school.  So much for being a kid.

Anyway, between the chores, chickens, and homework, you can see priorities had to change a bit.  But, I think I have a good system down now and can spend some quality time with my Ancestors for a few hours each week while Knucklehead is at school.

Knock on wood, because I have said that before.

I have spent the last week or so, entering in information from a road trip I took back in October of 2008.  Yes, I realize that was five years ago.  I was such a newbie then that I didn’t even put information in a family tree.  I just collected it.  Now, I’m adding things to my tree and since I spent the last week or so going over the Roleke information, I thought I would share here with you all, my first genealogy road trip.  I have had several since then, but this was a really special trip because I got to share it with my Momma before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  She, myself and my sister-in-law Addie loaded up in the car and drove to Bethany, Missouri.  What a treat this was.

Also, it was special because we just enjoyed the moment.  We took our time and whatever information I got was glorious and it didn’t matter if I didn’t find the one thing I was looking for because I wasn’t looking for anything specific.  We just wanted to see where our Ancestor’s live, and my Momma hoped to learn about her grandmother.

I thank God every time I think about this trip because if I had taken any other trip at that time, I would not be as hooked into my family history as I am now.  We found out so much stuff on that trip that it almost addicted me.  I just wanted to see what else I could find out, and when and how could I?

Ok, I know you are saying almost addicted?  Ok, I admit, I am addicted to it.  My children and grandchildren will thank me one day.

The reason we picked Bethany was because of one little news article clipped into my Momma’s baby book.  Here it is:

Roleke Trip to Arkansas

I guess Mother hadn’t spent much time looking in her baby book (I have told you before, but her baby book was in the pile of stuff my grandmother was going to throw away and I saved) because when I asked her about her great-grandfather William Roleke, being a Mayor, she had no clue. Her grandfather J.T. Parks, never talked about her grandmother’s family, the Roleke’s. It was too painful for him I guess, and he had remarried and put his life back together. You see my mother’s grandmother, Helen Roleke Parks died after giving birth to her father, Bill (William John) Parks. It was a very sad time for her Granddad Parks. In fact, he never once mentioned it to my mother, but his wife Missie, who my mother called Nanny, and loved so much was the one who finally told her.  My Momma was stunned.  She had always thought Nanny was her grandmother.  It didn’t change a thing for her and Nanny though.  Nanny was always so good to her.

After reading that clipping in my mother’s baby book, I started digging a little more through my grandmother’s things and I found a newspaper from Bethany with Helen Parks’ obit on the front page. You can read about that here, on my Sympathy Saturday – Helen Roleke Parks post.

A search of Google before we left let me know there was a road in Bethany, named Roleke. There was a park in Bethany named Roleke, and I could see on Google maps, in street view that the house William lived in, was still there.  I also knew that the Harrison County Genealogical Society was there in Bethany, and we planned our trip around when they would be open.

Loaded with where I needed to go and what I wanted to see, we took off.  After a 7 hour road trip, we made it to Bethany.

Mt. Vernon to Bethany

We checked into our hotel room and headed straight to the cemetery.  We were more than amazed at what we found at the Miriam Cemetery.

William Roleke Family Cemetery Plot

The family plot headstone was massive, and finally, here they were, my great-grandmother Helen Roleke Parks, and my 2nd great-grandfather, William Roleke and my 2nd great-grandmother, Anna Schultze Roleke.  I would later find out that Edith Morgan Roleke, also in the plot, was William’s 2nd wife.

This was pretty emotional for Momma.  Here she stood at the grave of her grandmother, her namesake, a woman she’d never met.  And she wept.  And then I wept.  I think Addie did too, but she can usually hold it together pretty good.  To show you the size of the headstone, here is me and Momma standing next to it.

Mom and Susie at William Roleke Plot Marker

This photo of Momma and Addie was from the next day, we had to go back and take one because I guess I was so emotional while there, I never thought of photos, Addie saved the day on that and I wanted a picture of Addie there too.

Mom and Addie William Roleke Plot Marker

We placed flowers, and spent quite a bit of time there.

Mom putting flowers Roleke Plot

If you will notice on the right side of the next photo, down the hill we found another plot of Roleke’s.  We put flowers beside the plot marker there as well.

William Roleke Plot

Come to find out, that plot belonged to the family of Herman Roleke.  Cousin to my William Roleke.  He came from Germany before William did, and William settled here in Bethany and started working with Herman at his Tailor Shop.

Here is the Herman Roleke Plot. There are 16 people buried in his plot, with 13 headstones.  At the time, I didn’t know who they were or how they connected, but I have since put the pieces together.

Herman Roleke Plot

After this, since it was pretty emotional, we decided to just see some sites around town and get a lay of the land.  We found Roleke road.  I thought at the time, that since William was Mayor of Bethany for 36 years, that Roleke road was named after him.  I’m not so sure as Herman was also a major pillar of the community and it could just as easily have been named for him.   Either way, I don’t care.  I’m happy and proud to say I’m related to either one of them and regardless of which one it was, the road is still named after my family.

Mom and Susie Roleke Drive

Thank you Addie, for taking these priceless pictures.  I actually have this photo in a frame. It marked such a special moment for me with my Mom, and Addie.  This trip was where my love for digging up family history really began.

Next we found Roleke Park.  I did not take good pictures.  This was my first time, what can I say.  Maybe I will get to go back one day and take more.  I think at the time, I thought they were good.  Ha Ha

Herman Roleke originally owned this land and built the park.  This is the spot where most of the scenes I have found on old postcards and in books is located.

Roleke Park

 

Here is the Pavilion where a plaque had been placed in honor of Herman Roleke.  Did I take a picture of the whole Pavilion?  No, no I did not.  Dumb.

Herman Roleke ParkI took a picture of a pretty little bridge though.

Roleke Park

Then we drove to where William’s house was.  I couldn’t believe the house was still there.

William Roleke House

I shyly knocked on the door, and even though this car was parked out front no one came to the door.  This being my first trip, not really sure of what I should or shouldn’t do.  We left, and didn’t go back by.

Now a days, knowing more about research and learning all that I have learned about that house – I would keep going back until someone came to the door.

William Roleke House

Then we went to the Harrison County Historical Society.  If I filled this page with nothing but nice things about the Society, it wouldn’t be enough.  They have really done the work there.  I made a copy of anything that had the name Roleke in it.

One of the best things I found was this obituary there that actually had a picture of Anna Roleke, my 2nd great-grandmother.  I had never seen her before, and still to this day have not found another picture of her, so this was worth the whole drive alone, and it was just one of many treasures we found that day.

Anna Schultze Roleke Obituary

 

Here is just one of the many things I found about Herman Roleke.

Herman Roleke house razed

 

Then the kind ladies at the Historical Society directed me to the Bethany Clipper office, the local newspaper where I found some information in books about William Roleke.  One thing about it, when you are Mayor of a town for 36 years, there is a lot of information out there about you.

I found out the Tailor shop used to be on the town square next to the Bethany Clipper.

roleke tailor shop

 

I wish I had taken this picture from the same angle, but I did not.  There again, I was a Newbie.

Bethany Missouri

 

Right across from this is of course the courthouse.  Did I go in the courthouse?  NO!  Like an idiot!!!   I thought I had found so much at the Historical Society what else could I possibly need, right?  Uggghh!  I wish I could go back and kick my former self.   We did find a lot though and the trip was worth it, and for a Newbie, I did pretty dang good.  So good it just took me a week to add all the stuff I got on this trip to my family tree.

If you have any Roleke relatives from the Bethany area, contact me.  I have put all the information on my ancestry.com and I will be glad to share it with you.

Also, I need to stress to you that if you are a newbie, like I was during this trip, always check the local historical society, I can’t even begin to tell you all the wonderful things I found there.  Plan your trip around this, trust me.

Next, check the courthouse.  Everyone is always talking about their AHA moments, I call that my DUH moment.  CHECK THE COURTHOUSE!!!

Check the local paper.  Would I have ever known William’s business was next door had I not??

Of course, check the cemeteries, all of them in the town if you have time.

Check the phone book, and call some local’s while you are there.  I tried this, but they all thought I was crazy.  Which is true.

Search out cousins!!  Some of the articles mentioned that my grandfather had a cousin Bill Jones.  I found him!!  Alive and well and living in Portland, Oregon!  And if you think alive and well isn’t a big deal, you haven’t been doing genealogy for very long.  Everyone you find is dead and gone!  Anyway, Bill and I talk often and he sent me some killer photos and get this, he sent me the actual certificates my great-grandmother received when she graduated from Osteopathy school.  Most importantly, he’s a link to my family and my history and I enjoy so much talking with him.  I hope to meet him one day.

And last, but not least, knock on doors, and wait for them to answer!  You never know what history they might know!

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