Tracing her family treeWoodbury resident Alice Mergel Alme releases first-ever book based on the lives of her great grandparents, Henry and Georgeanna.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Do you know your family history? Do you know where you come from? Woodbury resident Alice Mergel Alme was one of the ones who didn’t.
About three years ago Mergel Alme began work on updating her family registry. However, as she worked she became increasingly interested in what she found — particularly in regard to her great grandparents.
“I just became fascinated with Henry and Georgeanna,” she said. “That just inspired me to find out more.”
It was that fascination that inspired Mergel Alme to write a book based on the lives of her great grandparents, Henry and Georgeanna.
“I just decided that I was going to write a book,” she said. “I’m not a writer, I don’t consider myself creative, but I had good editors.”
Mergel Alme’s book, “Pioneer Journey” was released this week. She will be giving a reading from the book Aug. 23 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Central Park amphitheater.
The life of a pioneer
“Pioneer Journey” is divided into two separate books — one book for Henry and one for Georgeanna.
Henry came to the United States from Germany in 1852 with his parents.
“Pioneer Journey” details his journey across the ocean, his life in Sauk Rapids, Minn., with his family, his involvement in the Dakota War of 1862 and the Civil War and ultimately his life with Georgeanna.
Mergel Alme said much of her book focuses on Henry’s battle with posttraumatic stress disorder after the Civil War.
“My story tells about him losing his faith totally in the Civil War, but how later in life he regained that,” she said. “All his life he suffered from the repercussions of the Civil War violence.”
Georgeanna, or “Georgia” for short, came to Sauk Rapids with her family from Maine in 1862 by train.
“Pioneer Journey” details Georgeanna’s journey and her life once they reached Sauk Rapids.
“I guess I threw that in because I wanted people to see the many changes that have occurred between the life they lived then and the life we live today,” Mergel Alme said. “It’s such a vast, vast difference.”
In addition to the histories of Henry and Georgeanna, “Pioneer Journey” also details the history of Minnesota and the life of a pioneer during those days.
“There’s a lot of history in my book,” Mergel Alme said.
Piecing together histories
To begin work on “Pioneer Journey” Mergel Alme first looked back through recorded family histories.
From there, she researched records to figure out where her ancestors were and what they did.
“The scenes just seemed to come to me as I was working on it,” she said.
The details were rounded out by researching Germany, Maine, the life of a pioneer, the wars, traveling by train, traveling by boat and all of the other details of the time.
In terms of characteristics and personalities, Mergel Alme used stories from those who remembered her grandparents and how she visualized how they may have acted or looked.
Mergel Alme said piecing together the histories has been a constant challenge.
“It’s been a struggle,” she said. “It hasn’t always been easy and I often had dry spells.”
Mergel Alme is hopeful “Pioneer Journey” will be well received by history and genealogy enthusiasts alike.
“Anyone who’s interested in history or family genealogy can get something from this book,” she said. “These are the people who make Minnesota what it is today.”
“Pioneer Journey” will be available for purchase online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in both print and e-book format.
Mergel Alme said she has even been in contact with a former colleague who has said she will use “Pioneer Journey” in a genealogy class that she teaches.
Mergel Alme said her whole experience writing “Pioneer Journey” has been rewarding because it allowed her to reconnect to her heritage.
“I never cared about ancestry, it just wasn’t interesting to me,” she said. “But as we get older we start thinking back on where we were and how things have changed, and then we start looking beyond that.”