Who Do You Think I Am?

Have you ever seen an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

It’s a show featuring celebrities who “travel” back in time {not literally} learning about their family history.  Producers set up family historians and genealogists to help facilitate the process.  The celebrity then travels to destinations surrounding their family history.  Our family loves this show.  We record the show and watch them on Sundays together.  I find it interesting that many of these celebrities know very little about their family history.

Last week our family had the opportunity to have our own episode of Who Do You Think You Are. {Although nobody was filming us ;)}

My Grandma, my Dad’s Mom, grew up in a place known as Forest City, Iowa. {My Dad was born there.}  Over the years I remember her telling me stories about Iowa and Forest City.  After my Grandma passed away I pulled out some of the family history she gave me.  I began to read about how my Great, Great, Great Grandpa, Robert Clark, founded the town of Forest City.  He was elected Court Judge and established the county’s first store, post office and steam saw mill.  “He was a leading citizen throughout his life in Forest City and the main street of the city is named in his honor.” (Centennial Sketches, Forest City, Iowa)  “This is incredible,” I thought.  Robert Clark’s daughter, Julia married John F. Thompson {my Great, Great Grandparents.}  Julia was surrounded by over achievers and prominent founders of Forest City.  After John served in the civil war he became an attorney, organized the Forest City public school system, organized the Winnebago County Bank (first formal banking house in the county) and opened the first fire insurance agency.  In addition, this six foot, two hundred-pound man (J.F. Thompson) served more than once as Mayor of Forest City, served several terms as president of the local school board, and was a professor/lecturer on common law and civil government at Waldorf College (in Forest City) for two years after it’s establishment.  Wow.  These are my ancestors.  What a legacy.  I knew after reading this that one day I needed to visit the place my great grandparents help establish.  That day came for me and my family last week.

A week ago today we set foot upon Forest City.  Our first stop…The Mansion Museum.


Guess who built this Mansion and lived there?  Julia’s sister Cora and her husband.  It was humbling and special to see my family’s name scattered throughout the memorabilia in the house/museum.  I am very grateful for the Winnebago Historical Society.  I am especially grateful for our very gracious tour guide and member of the Winnebago Historical Society, Rosella, who volunteered her precious time.  Imagine my surprise to find a reporter from Forest City’s own Summit Newspaper taking our photograph as we peruse the museum.  Rosella understood the importance of this special trip and called the reporter.  I can’t wait to see how the article turns out in next Wednesday’s {July 13, 2011} paper!

Our journey led us to walk through Clark Street eying the old buildings.  Some are still there.  Others have been torn down.  It was completely surreal to walk where my ancestors had lived and walked themselves.  We came upon the beautiful County Courthouse and War Memorial.  I found many family member’s names on the war memorial walls.  I can not begin to express in words the depth of gratitude I felt.


A true family historian does not make a trip like this without visiting the cemetery.  This was definitely the most emotional part of the trip for me.














My Grandma left me little notes like this one below.















Of course we had to go see the place where they hiked, picnicked, ice skated and skied!


Forest City is one of the cleanest and beautiful little towns I have ever seen.  Honestly, it is the small town, USA most people might think doesn’t exist any more.  The residents were extremely friendly.  They were always eager to help and excited about our journey.  The librarian at the Forest City library helped me locate the Thompson Family book my Grandma had photocopied several pages out of for me.  I was able to look at the library’s copy and the librarian found where I could purchase a copy for myself.  I have been looking online for years trying to find a copy.  I also found two other books I had been looking for at the museum and Forest City Chamber of Commerce.  Success all around!  I am honored to be a descendant of people who truly made their dreams come true and for many generations after.

Snapshot of my Ancestry.com tree of family members written in this post about.

This is probably the longest post I have ever done and I apologize for that.  However, if you have not taken advantage of Ancestry.com, you are missing out.  It is the best and easiest way to begin your family history.  I am happy to affiliate with a company I have used for years.  Once you add a few names, Ancestry will begin to find records, sources, photos and other family trees for your family members.  I have met distant cousins through Ancestry as well and we trade information.  I highly recommend the services Ancestry.com provides for your family history needs.
Start Looking

I treasure my family,


  1. Sara Waters says

    Shan, I love that y’all did this! What a significant trip!!!

    • I’m so glad I followed through and made the trip with our family, Sara. My only regret was not being able to see my Grandma’s Sister, my Great Aunt. Her husband, my Great Uncle is recovering from a broken hip. They live in Minnesota and we just couldn’t make it work this time. I did speak with her on the phone and enjoyed hearing her voice again. Thank you for your sweet affirmation of how significant this trip was for us. 🙂 Hugs!

  2. I just happened to run across your blog today and could not beleive my eyes when I see your post about Forest City Iowa. I live about 25 minutes away from there and worked there for 7 years! Glad you enjoyed your time there last summer!

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