Everybody has a Grandma Wilda, or at least a Grandma “Somebody”. To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “A Grandma by any other name would smell as sweet.” They make the cookies and chocolate milk, and tuck us kiddies into our trundle beds at night. They tell us stories and take us to the beach and to church. They watch us dance, play ball, and cheer us on graduation night from pre-school to law school. But Grandmas do so much more.

Grandmothers are also those people who have gathered and preserved the genealogy and family lore to pass on to coming generations. Their research files often consist of piles of papers… family group sheets, pedigree charts, copies of documents, letters, notes, and journal entries and lots of pictures filled with people we don’t know or have been long forgotten. To the uneducated and inexperienced these are a collection of chaos; information without documentation, and something not to be touched; all too often to be thrown out as junk when she is gone. And when the discussion of family history arises around the dinner table, remembering the piles of paper, the response is: “Our genealogy is done! Grandma did it!”

Junk? Gold? Or a Bridge to the Past?

This past week I sat down to a box of “Grandma’s Genealogy.” What do we do with all of this stuff? With all of the information found today on the Internet, many answer, “Surely everything Grandma had can be found online, and in a format we can understand.” A few will ask “What treasures can be found in her collection? Is there gold in Grandma’s bucket of rocks? Is her information a bridge to the past, or Is Grandma’s Genealogy just all Junk?’ But for me, passing up such an opportunity to have her papers to study and learn from would be like saying “No” to a helping of Grandma’s Peach Cobbler or a piece of her delicious “Wacky Cake”. To her beloved kiddies, this would be unheard of!

Grandma’s Genealogy is indeed a mass of surplus paper; it was created in the days preceding computer data storing systems. She had seemingly dozens, if not hundreds of yellow or pink work sheets for each finished family group chart, often in her own handwriting, and each page seems to have a little bit of different information on it; keeping that page from being discarded as a duplicate. Like filling up on her homemade rolls and split pea soup, I knew there had to be treasure among all her stuff.

Picking up where Grandma left off with Today’s Resources

I was looking through a collection of letters, when nuggets began to appear. One was a letter from many years ago about Great Grandfather Isaac King’s family. A relative in Canada was asking for information from Grandma’s branch of the family, and this cousin reviewed what was known about the children of Isaac. The kids in the family were born between 1862 and 1885 in Hampshire, England, before the family moved to Iowa, in America, and from there to Alberta, Canada. As I read on, the professional genealogist in me began dissecting the information and applying it to resources available today. We could look at this census, and that one, to confirm names and ages. Death and Marriage records could be found on-line. Immigration lists and naturalizations would help identify birth dates and historical information about the family’s arrival in America. All this would add to what Grandma had gathered. Her information was the bridge to future links on her family tree.

Grandma didn’t have the Internet when she was doing genealogy in the 1930’s through the 1970’s and 80’s; and many records weren’t available on microfilm when she was compiling her collection of charts and pedigrees. Indexes and records I use on a daily basis now in my professional genealogy research were non-existent in her time. Census records after 1880 had not even been released by the government. More importantly, family members that Grandma personally knew or discovered to be born in the 1870’s and 1880’s, had not received temple ordinances because they hadn’t met the 110 year requirement to do such work. As I studied her papers, I found that Grandma had dozens of names of aunts, uncles, and cousins who fit into that category. There was “gold in them thar hills”; family names for temple work.

Grandma had done the genealogy, but she hadn’t finished it. When Grandma was studying the King and Hunt families in Hampshire, England, those records were half a world-a-way, and tracking down details was difficult in that era.

Isle of Wight are available on microfilm through the Family History Library. Grandma’s writings were like a treasure map that led to the hidden chest of family gold, which still needed to be uncovered; and I’m here now, ready to uncover it.

Today, the parish registers for Sandown, Newchurch, Ryde, and all of the churches on that part of the

Using Grandma’s Golden Bridge to the Past

And so I went to work. Using the Internet and Family History Library resources, we were able to identify the necessary information for each person on the King family tree, and submit them for ordinance work. We even found the index entry for the marriage of Isaac King to Mary Smith in 1859, on Ancestry’s online Free Index to English Marriage Records. Her notes were indeed a bridge to the past and full of treasure.

Other nuggets appeared as well. Scribbled on one piece of paper was the comment that Great, Great, Grandpa Frank McRae had a brother John, whose family in 1900 was living in Kansas City, Missouri; but at the time, Grandma had no way of locating them. I should be able to find them in the 1900 and 1910 U.S. Census; and search death indexes and cemetery records for them, and then possibly connect with living family members in on-line directories, or in published lineages. Who knows what treasures of genealogy they will bring across Grandma’s bridge to me!

Grandma’s pedigree and family group records upon examination were a paper copy of the genealogy already to be added to the New Family Search database, a worldwide pedigree chart. Her detailed family history outlined who our ancestors were, and what dates and places she already knew. With a little bit of additional work I can add new information and sources to her data as I input the generations on the computer. Using NewFamilySearch, Grandma’s Genealogy will be shared with the rest of the World, and we will link with other relatives who are searching for our common ancestors, or they might add generations of new data to our record. Using Grandma’s bridge to the past, we have found golden treasure in her genealogy that can help us make a Record Worthy of all Acceptation……

Your Family’s Gold

Many of us have Grandma’s, or uncles and aunts, or cousins, who have collected genealogy and family history, which at their passing was left in a box in a closet. Track down that box or group of files. Spread the information out and begin organizing it in a manner you can understand. Begin looking where they left off for the nuggets of gold that are hidden in the pages of records that you have found. Names of forgotten ancestors will appear, and her collection of junk will become your golden bridge to the past. Grandma’s genealogy will now become as sweet as her tastiest desserts.

I’m ready now for a Big Piece of Grandma’s Chocolate “Wacky Cake”, with a cold dollop of vanilla ice cream. This is really going to be good!

Grandma Wilda Wimmer McRae’s Wacky Cake – Made with Love, Especially for You, Honey!

I would call her every time I made it. She told me a different way to make it every time. Here are two ways, in her own words and spelling. Love was Most Essential Ingredient.

1. Sifted 3 times all dry stuff and put into a bowl and mix with mixer with wet ingredients – apple vinegar added last. Pour into “ungreesed” 9×13-in. pan & Bake at 350 degrees about 35 – 40 Min.


2. Sift all Dry Stuff together 3 times. You can buy a sifter with 3 screens. Put into a 9 by 13-in. “ungreesed” pan.

3 C Flour

2 C Sugar

6 TBS Cocoa

1 tsp Salt

2 tsp Soda

Add to pan in three wells and stir up real good:

2 C Cold Water

2/3 C Oil

2 TBS Apple Vinegar (put this in last)

Bake at 350 degrees abt 35 – 40 Min. Cool before Covering with Frosting.

White Frosting for both versions of G’ma Wilda’s Wacky Cake

6 TBS Butter

1 lb pack of Powdered Sugar

1 TBS Vanilla

Mix butter and vanilla together. Then slowly add powdered sugar and beat it to desired consistency.