Across Generations Stories


Below are a few story previews from submissions that we particulary liked. These stories have a "wow factor" that caught our attention, a narrative that makes a compelling tale, and a strong mix of the search for family history with the stories uncovered. They provide insight into who we are, and the connections we make with people and the past.

We encourage anyone who has tales of discovery and of their heritage to send us your stories.

Across Generations Pilot Stories:

Finding Freedom — the story of Johann Heinrich Hammer

Bob Fetters

Traveling Across Generations is like detective work.

Do you have what it takes to solve a 200-year old mystery or have you reached your genealogy brick wall? Once we attempt to put together the pieces of our own family puzzle, we soon realize we don't have all the pieces.

Bob Fetters was told one of his relatives was Johann Heinrich Hammer, a Hessian soldier who came to America 200 years ago. Bob traveled Across Generations to solve the mystery.

Linda Shillinger was told she had an ancestor, Johann Heinrich Hammer, who was a "Minister of the Gospel." She made her own journey Across Generations.

Could this German soldier, a man of war, captured at the Battle of Trenton, also be a man of peace, a minister and a teacher? How would an obscure 1829 manuscript, known only to one person, hold answers to these questions? And how could political decisions made by a German prince alter the lives of people hundreds of years later?

As you travel Across Generations, remember, stories that are passed down may lead you to find someone like Hammer - a man whose fate was determined by governments but whose life was rescued by a new land.

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Love and Family — the story of the Woo family

Family secrets have a way of unraveling. In Jeanie Woo's case, she discovered from her great uncle that their real family surname was "Tom", not "Woo", a secret held by her German-Welsh grandmother until her death in 1936. This revelation would unravel Jeanie's grandfather's true identity, eventually leading her to her grandfather's native village and family in China.

Woo Family

Jeanie's grandfather had used the inventive Chinese "Paper Son" immigration surname to circumvent the Chinese Exclusion Acts so he could become an American.

The story has a twist. Not only did her family fight ethnic discrimination from external sources; it also overcame religious discrimination from within.

Both Jeanie's Grandmother and Great Aunt, who were missionaries to the Chinese, married Chinese immigrants. The result? Family prejudice on all sides and ostracization from some family members who themselves were Chinese missionaries.

Would the sister's demonstrate courage? Would they abandon their own religious convictions? Would succeeding generations be destroyed or enlightened by ancestral pride?

Follow Jeanie Woo as she traces her ancestors' footsteps Across Generations.

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Healing the Past — a family's tale of immigration, disintegration and reconciliation

What would you do if you had to rebuild your life from the ground up - physically and emotionally?

With nowhere to go and nothing to call its own, Marion Mitchell's family members had to rebuild their lives from the ash heap that was post-World War II Germany. One by one, they left their homeland - but would hopes clash with reality?

Helen, Trudy, Marion

As immigrants in America each tried to overcome the past and struggled for acceptance, but conflicts and suicide caused the family to splinter.

Years later, Marion developed a major illness and sank into depression. Her doctors recommended she begin talking with her mother to discover what influences had shaped her life and the life of her family. So Marion began her voyage of discovery Across Generations.

Do miracles really happen? Can a family be psychologically healed and physically reunited after a half century?

To find what it means to heal body, mind and family by peeling back the past, come travel with Marion and her family, Across Generations.

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Lost and Found — the story of Police Chief William J. Kittrell


Lost to history. Every time you find something out about the past, you give more meaning to the present. Have you found things "lost to history" when traveling Across Generations?

Mary Mahaffey and Jennie Cook couldn't find their grandfather, William Kittrell.

Donna Callahan knew a fellow police officer - William Kittrell - had died but didn't know the circumstances surrounding his death; nor did she know Mary and Jennie existed for all traces of Kittrell's family had vanished.

Donna traveled Across Generations and discovered that William was killed in the line of duty but she hit brick walls because of records lost to fire and tornadoes.

Mary and Jennie

Mary and Jennie traveled Across Generations and found the city where their grandfather had died.

One hundred years later, in a serendipitous moment in time, Donna, Mary, and Jennie would meet, each holding her own piece of the puzzle and the mystery of William Kittrell, who died in the line of duty on Christmas Day, 1890, would be solved.

Follow the twists and turns of chance and fate that led three women Across Generations to bear witness as William J. Kittrell received national and state honors from fellow police officers.

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Murder, Justice and Politics — the story of the Enos Murders

When Steve Devine began traveling Across Generations in search of his family's history, he realized what he was researching was also part of Minnesota's political history.

Stillwater Prison, Minnesota - 1874 Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Steve's third great Grandparents - Joseph and Olive Enos - were murdered by their hired hand, Joseph Marco. Would his grandparents' murderer receive justice in his first trial or his second trial? Would the political destiny of Minnesota be affected by the gruesome deed of a single person or would Marco resolve the resulting turmoil on his own?

This made Steve think. Events seemingly important to only a few can grow in size and shape the destiny of many. You never know what that event might be. The actions of a single person can make a difference. Did a murderer make a difference, for better or worse?

Has someone in your family traveled Across Generations? If so, why not tell First Flight Productions? You never know. One person's story can change everything.

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