Family History Book(s)

There is nothing quite like digging up the past! Whether it’s visiting your local library  or visiting a research center to sift through primary documents. I find myself getting a taste of a topic and then wanting to know as much about it as I can. Believe me, its hard not to get lost in hours and hours of research–it’s so exhilarating. What’s even more exciting and engaging is when your research takes you into your family’s past.

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Old Family Photos

I’ve looked into making a family history album in the past, but I have not had time to devote to it. My folks have boxes full of Frederick family photos and documents sitting in the attic–not a good spot for them! It would be good to go through them, organize, scan and print them in an album. Face it, this stuff won’t last forever. I just hope my future children and their children will cherish and take interest in it like I have.

Additionally, Molly’s folks gave me a treasure trove of her family photos and mementos. One of those items is her great great grandpa’s passport!  I also have her great grandparents wedding announcements and other documents. There are also boxes full of photographs that I have yet to go through. These are such wonderful items that piece together to tell her family’s story.

You would think that writing this would be easy. I mean, it is my family’s story. The tough part is how to make a family history album more than just birthday, marriage, and death dates. These family members had personal experiences that I need to capture. I remember Grandpa Frederick telling me that shortly after marrying Grandma Millie in 1943 the “G-Men” showed up to take him to a physical exam for the draft. He said that he went through the examination, but that he would not be required to serve. Molly’s Great Grandma, whom I was fortunate enough to meet when we started dating, told us the story of the transatlantic trip her family took to Switzerland when she was a little girl. They were going to Europe to stay with her father’s family. She talked about walking on the deck of the ship as they crossed the Atlantic. These are just a few of the great stories that will fill the pages of a book.

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Great Grandpa Frederick’s WWII draft registration

I am really looking forward to doing this…it is long overdue. I am making it my goal to do at least one of these books before the end of 2017. I have a mass of photos and documents ready to go into one of these books; it’s just a matter organizing and making sense of it. There are a lot of examples of how to assemble a book like this on Pinterest that will guide me through the process.  I will post my progress as I work on it in the next year.

Have you put together a family history album? How did you go about doing it?  What was the most exciting details you uncovered about your family history? Share some of your project stories in the comment section below.

5 Years of Blogging

Wow, it has been 5 years since my first blog post. My wife, Molly, got me hooked on blogging. She was taking a college class where she blogged, so I decided to give it a shot. It has been a great way to share information and draw a following of fellow history enthusiasts. I have enjoyed every moment of writing and researching my topics. I look forward to learning more and sharing more. Here is to the first five and many more to come!

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The Muk Luks Museum

This weekend my wife, Molly, and I spent some time with my folks in Markesan. We traveled up the road to Princeton, Wisconsin. Princeton is a little town along the Fox River that has a wonderful flea market every Saturday in the park. We made it a point this weekend to go to the Princeton flea market and the downtown businesses for some local shopping.

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While shopping in stores on Water Street, a little building with a red door and big white letters in the window caught our attention–The Muk Luks Museum. It is a quaint, self-guided museum that tells a history that I knew nothing about. This little museum was so intriguing to me that I could not pass up the opportunity to have a look.

The extent of my knowledge of Muk Luks is that of Molly having a pair of them. It seems like a trendy line of crochet apparel. I had no idea that the origins were in Princeton. It started as a hobby business that grew over time. Heck, I learned that my hometown of Markesan had a factory where these socks were made. The original company was bought in the early 1970s, and operations were moved to Milwaukee. While the socks are no longer made there, they continue to be popular.

It was amazing to see how people came together in the community to establish a small museum that tells a big story. Museums come in all shapes and sizes, but what matters most is the amazing stories that we learn inside. If you are visiting Princeton or just passing through take a few minutes and stop by this little building to support the local effort to preserve a piece of history.

D-10 Series II Restoration

(If you would like to see some of our other restorations, click here.)

Our D-10 was the 4th and most recent restoration job that we worked on. I had done some various work on it in it before the painting part of the project. My brother and I took the head off, only because the head gasket went out, and had the head gone over and honed the piston sleeves before we put it all back together. There used to be a Woods 5′ mower deck mounted under it, and we used it for mowing the acres of grass on our farms. This made a great mower because this model has an independent PTO on it, unlike earlier models.

I believed we bought this tractor in the winter of 2007. It was at a small restoration shop in a town up the road from us. It was in pretty rough shape when we got it. I can’t remember what the price tag was on it, but we ended up trading in our Allis-Chalmers CA and paying couple hundred dollars yet for this tractor. There is a story about my Allis-Chalmers CA as it relates to the D-10, but I will cover later.

We used the mower in the condition it was in for 2 years.  We were having issues with the rear axle seals leaking and the brakes didn’t work as a result of it (oil was dripping on the pads and wouldn’t grip). So I initially tore that all apart and put some installed new seals in Fall 2009. That took care of the leaking issue and the break issue. In Spring 2010 we started taking the tractor all apart and prepping the metal for paint. We didn’t have any mechanical issues to fix, because I had addressed those the previous year.

By the end of that summer, we had the tractor painted and back together. The only thing we are missing yet, which we didn’t have to begin with, is the snap coupler mechanism for the drawbar. We have actually looked into putting an aftermarket 3pt hitch on, that might make it a little more useful.

The D-10 is a super-sweet little tractor. We would like to get its twin sister, the D-12, and have them both fixed up together. They are fun to putter around with and take out for photo ops every now and then.

D-19 Restoration

In 2006, my dad, brother and I decided to take up a new hobby. Dad thought that getting some old tractors and machinery might be fun, and we could use them to make some small food plots near our woods. He bought a 1962 Allis-Chalmers D-17 Series II and, although we never really intended to, we started to restore her. I was 15 years old at that time, and since then we’ve restored several Allis-Chalmers tractors and implements.

Dad bought this 1963 Allis-Chalmers D-19 gas tractor for $1,500 in 2007. The seller said that it was actually a combination of two D-19s that were put together to make one. The tractor was a great deal, but it needed a great deal of work. The rear main seal leaked, the power-director jumped out of high range, the PTO seal leaked badly, and the transmission needed some attention.

We moved the D-19 in the shop right after we finished our D-17. The first thing that we tackled was the transmission. The main pinion bearing was out, and it was making noises and metal filings were in the oil. Getting to this area of the tractor meant a complete tear-down of the transmission housing, which is something that most tractor owners cringe when they hear, but not us.

The most agonizing part of fixing the D-19 was removing the rear hubs from the axles. It took two weeks of torching them till they were cherry red and then hammering on them until they freed up. After we managed to get them off, it took us no time at all to get the transmission apart, fix it and put it back together again. The other issues were a quick fix, seeing as we had the opportunity to fix them on the D-17 prior tackling the D-19.

The last major problem we encountered was that the tractor had no oil pressure, as the rear main seal was worn out. We discovered the problem when we were working the tractor on our farm and engine oil started pouring out of the clutch inspection hole in torque tube. We ended up splitting the tractor again, after the restoration, in the same spot to replace the two seals for the clutch shaft. We learned after that to replace any seal we see when fixing a tractor.

In spring 2008, it was time to get really dirty. My job was to sand blast the entire tractor and all the sheet metal. For anyone that has done this job, you know how labor intense and dirty it really is. I had to be very careful not to get sand in any of the new seals or other areas where the sand could damage moving parts. To do this I used plastic bags and duct taped them to ensure a seal around the critical areas. It took a lot of hours and a lot of sand to get the tractor blasted, but getting the old paint and rust off would ensure a fabulous paint job. The next step was to prime and put the persian orange #2 paint on her.

For our painting booth, dad bought a car port and set it up in our shop with cut pieces of silo bags on the floor inside. We painted the main tractor and wheels first then got it out of the booth. We then built a rack to hold the smaller parts. My brother sprayed the fenders, hoods and all the other smaller stuff. When he finished painting, we could just disassemble the car port, box it up and store it until the next project we had.

We put the final touches on the D-19 in september 2008. This was when the tractor got decals, gauges and a new wiring harness. As we pulled it out of the shed for the first time, the tractor looked like brand new. A lot of the cosmetic parts that went into this tractor were bought from Steiner Tractor Parts. They offer a wide range of products for hobbyists restoring these old machines.

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At that time our line-up consisted of a D-10, D-14, D-15, D-17 and this D-19. After the D-19 we restored our D-14 and D-10. We did a few custom jobs on the side after that including a Minneapolis-Moline Jet Star 2 and a Farmall H. The D-17 and D-19 were recently sold and replaced with a 190XT Series III and an Allis-Chalmers 440. We really enjoy collecting and restoring these old machines and the best part is using them after they are all fixed and repainted. Collecting old farm equipment has been a really good father-and-sons project for us.