Household tree hugger: Perham historian Mary Pfeffer has put in 50 many years documenting the histories, connections of area households


The formal record of Perham tracks again to 1871, 150 yrs back, when a smaller quantity of European people came to the location and settled down. A couple arrived even previously than that, assisting to produce and shape the rugged minimal city that, more than the decades, advanced into the lively neighborhood we know nowadays.

Between those was Mary Pfeffer’s family.

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Pfeffer, recognised for her operate as a historian at the Record Museum of East Otter Tail County, initial commenced looking into her have household record all around 50 years ago. She designed a family tree, and figured out that her ancestors had been section of the early St. Joseph settlement (which was located in close proximity to Marion Lake, only a couple miles from Perham). They came to the spot in 1868.

“When I began, there was no net,” Pfeffer laughs, recalling the 1st a long time of her genealogy adventures.

She begun basically since she uncovered it fascinating. When she was 21, one particular of her dad’s uncles died, and when they returned property from the funeral, she commenced asking her grandmother about her household. She then went to her grandfather and questioned him questions. She wrote down what they advised her, and her journey of studying spouse and children history was underway.

Due to the fact of the lack of net, Pfeffer wrote a lot of letters to relatives associates, tracking down their names and connections to other people today she’d linked to herself. She also located outdated newspaper articles from the Perham location to be very practical. Because of them, she not only had names, but she also experienced some tales to put to these names.

The History Museum of East Otter Tail County is located at First Avenue North in Perham. (Elizabeth Vierkant / Generations)

The Heritage Museum of East Otter Tail County is positioned at Very first Avenue North in Perham. (Elizabeth Vierkant / Generations)

Nevertheless, the task swiftly proved to be a lot more substantial than what originally met the eye. There was a great deal of intermingling concerning the early European settlements of Hurry Lake, St. Joseph and Perham.

“I’d commence (wanting in the outdated newspapers) for my family, and I might see a number of of the identical names,” Pfeffer explained. “And I might assume, ‘How are those people today relevant to the people in my household?'”

From there, she bought intrigued in investigating households she wasn’t similar to. And with that added analysis, she commenced connecting all individuals early family members alongside one another. She began mapping out the family members trees of most families in the Perham area, and the history at the rear of them.

She learned generations on generations of connections in between the latest individuals of the Perham spot, all tracking back again to some of the initial European settlers, this kind of as the Drahmanns, who ran Perham’s to start with basic shop, and the Schoenebergers, who ran Perham’s funeral household and furnishings shop. Her get the job done has helped her hook up Perham’s existing inhabitants to the town’s heritage.

“You will find still that spouse and children relationship in this article,” Pfeffer claims. “The spouse and children ties have stayed listed here.”

“I just appreciate to link people today,” she provides. “When I locate another person, I check with, ‘Who are you? Wherever are you from?’ And ultimately you uncover a relationship to a ton of men and women.”

In addition to writing letters, Pfeffer would also glance by censuses and church data ahead of the net arrived together. Now, internet sites these as are readily available to everyone who’s interested in their genealogy.

There are numerous tips to monitoring relatives histories that Pfeffer has acquired along the way. For case in point, understanding to read some Latin, German and Polish. She also promptly uncovered that, in the earlier, individuals normally switched their first and middle names. Mainly because of that, newspapers would generally use a distinctive name than a person’s official initially identify.

“You start off with what you know initially and then you work your way out,” Pfeffer says of investigating. “Following a while, you just start off to master the approach of (how to discover) who you might be seeking for.”

While there have been a ton of new persons and people in Perham through the a long time, Pfeffer generally finds that if she is aware of someone’s grandparents’ names, she’ll be in a position to monitor their Perham loved ones background, if they have 1.

A map of Perham in 1880, showing where the Drahmann's Store (number 14) was located in Perham's past. (File photo)

A map of Perham in 1880, showing where by the Drahmann’s Retailer (range 14) was found in Perham’s past. (File photo)

The Record Museum of East Otter Tail County offers courses on developing family members trees and tracking down family members record. They have had folks from all more than the environment take a look at with inquiries about their genealogy and relationship to the Perham neighborhood.

Numerous several years ago, for example, a pair from Holland visited that have been relevant to the Drahmanns, early settlers of Rush Lake. The few had an RV and prepared to go to three various people of Drahmanns that had settled in a few diverse locations all over the U.S. They stayed in Perham for a few of times and spoke with Pfeffer, sharing pics of their loved ones retail store in Holland, which looked accurately like the Drahmann’s retail store in Perham. Pfeffer discovered this extremely interesting.

The Drahmann's Store was located on the corner of First Avenue South in Perham throughout the early to mid-1900's. It was Perham's first general store. (Submitted)

The Drahmann’s Store was located on the corner of Initial Avenue South in Perham in the course of the early to mid-1900’s. It was Perham’s first normal keep. (Submitted)

Pfeffer enjoys becoming equipped to link Perham with individuals from all all around the globe — it is really one particular of the several good reasons she finds preserving the community’s record to be so crucial.

Though she has slowed down on her self-initiated research about the years, from time to time the info will continue to discover her, and she’ll go on to add to her household trees. She has a number of bodily copies she retains with her, as well as a computer model. If any person will come in with an intriguing tidbit about their relatives tree or background, Pfeffer tends to make positive to write it down.

She’s observed that connecting persons with the background of Perham makes that background considerably more tangible to her: “If you essentially assume about (how we are) strolling throughout the ground our ancestors walked on…” she demonstrates.

And she’s continue to in get hold of with some of her own distant family to this day due to the fact of her study.

For extra information about the history of Perham, or to share interesting stories of your possess, simply call the Heritage Museum of East Otter Tail County at 218-346-7676 or stop by in-human being at 230 1st Avenue North in Perham.