Origins of the digital version of Betty Wilson's Nenno History

Betty Wilson's Nenno History
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About 1980, at least three people were creating histories of the Nennos of America and Europe, namely Elizabeth Nenno Wilson (in New York), Emily Roscoe (in Montana), and Mary Kathryn Nenno (in New York). These people communicated with each other to share data, and eventually produced paper copies of their hard work to distribute to a small number of interested and usually closely-related people. However, this work largely had ceased by the mid-1980s because the authors were growing old, and many of their sources had died.

About 1999, one of these paper Nenno histories (by Emily Roscoe, whose mother-in-law was Florence Mary Nenno) was digitized by Tom McFarland, whose maternal grandmother was Adele Mary Nenno. The history was then displayed on a fledgling website devoted to family history. In 2001, Tom McFarland discovered a similar but much more extensive Nenno-centered website created by Don Gentner in Paol Alto; as it turned out, Don Gentner's genealogical data formed the technical foundation of all three Nenno histories. Pictured below: Don Gentner, Betty Wilson, and Joe Degenfelder in 1990 in Springville, New York

Tom McFarland then visited Mary Lou Nenno northwest of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, who owned a 1980 copy of Betty Nenno Wilson's "Nenno History", and Betty's history was similarly digitized and displayed. Finally, shortly after the death of William C. Nenno in 2008, his daughter Claudia sent a history of the Nenno families which had been created by William's sister Mary K. Nenno, and this was digitized. Of the three histories, Betty Wilson's is by far the largest, and is both genealogical and personal; in Betty's words, "a history of How They Lived, what kind of people they were, what they accomplished in their lifetimes", a memorial gift to those Betty knew and loved when they were alive.

About 2001, Tom McFarland located Betty Wilson in a southern suburb of Phoenix, and though Betty had no computer, a nearby friend showed Betty the digital version of her earlier work displayed on a website. Betty was at once astounded, a bit angry, and at the same time energized. Betty was astounded that her very own words could be so accessible, but angry because this web-based creation contained links to other related pages (such as Emily Roscoe's history), which Betty felt gave undeserved credit and recognition to others for work which Betty did herself. Initially, Betty wanted no links to anything : just her own words.

This introduction to the possibilities of web display inspired Betty to put into writing modifications to her history of the Nenno families which she had only thought about for years, and for the next year or so, Betty sent her written thoughts to Tom McFarland, who would transcribe them for web display. Betty would check each new edition with her local computer-savvy friend. As part of this effort, Betty sent a few original family photos for inclusion in her digital book, which had reached its final form in early 2003.

This web display retains Betty's unique style of writing, with a few mis-spelled words and awkward grammar. Later, I showed Betty how to import her work to into a WORD file, and WORD was allowed to correct some of these errors. I have heard that this WORD file was printed out and distributed in paper form to a few people (such as her brother Leo) and the local library of Saint Bonaventures in Olean, New York.

During the summer of 2003, I visited Betty at her Phoenix home, and videotaped her discussion of Nenno History. These videos (originally on -inch tape) have been digitized, and are available on CD or DVD to any family member.

Betty (Nenno) Wilson died peacefully on 15 December 2005 at age 82 years, one month, 10 days, after a long bout with lung cancer.

Tom McFarland, Madison, Wisconsin, March 2013