Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sleuthing to find the homes of "lost treasures"

 It doesn't take long for anyone who has dabbled in family history, not just those who call themselves genealogists, to discover "brick walls."  When no matter what you do, you're unable to solve a particular problem -- whether it's determining a relationship, a date/place of death, or any of a long line of challenges.  You're stumped, and that's all there is to it.  Welcome to the "Brick Wall."

About four years ago, we wrote a story about Chadron natives Skip and Bev (Urwin) Umshler, shown here above.   It touched upon Skip's remarkable personal achievements after what some might call a "mis-spent youth" that lingered into the early years of their marriage.  To be sure, those achievements belong to both Skip and Bev -- but we tended to focus a bit on Skip.  His "Husker Room" alone was pretty amazing.  Anyone who's cheered for the Nebraska Cornhuskers over the years can't help but be blown away by Nebraska memorabilia in the upstairs of the Umshler home just outside of Mount Vernon, Missouri. We also made note of Skip's venture into poetry.

And, yes, we also mentioned Skip's strategic diversion into the world of metal detecting.  Now comes "the rest of that story...."

Not surprisingly, the enormous inventory of coins, rings, pins, and other artifacts Skip uncovered with his detector while traversing his territory as a traveling salesman is like a vault of  memories.  Each item has a story.

Skip was the collector of these items.  And now computer-savvy spouse Bev has taken the lead in finding some of the stories that go with them.  More specifically, she and Skip are trying to find happy endings for some of the many personal articles that he's found since first taking up metal detecting more than 40 years ago.  And they've met with considerable success.

One of the more recent "happy endings" was well documented by a writer for the Villisca (Iowa) Review named Linda Artlip Weinstein, a 1966 graduate of Villisca High School, who has kindly shared her report with us.  It describes the story of fellow graduate John Fengel, who lost his class ring eons ago, and most likely had given up hope of ever seeing it again.  But -- some 50 years after Fengel lost the ring -- Bev and Skip Umshler have helped tear down that brick wall, find the ring, and solve the mystery of what happened to John Fengel's ring.