It’s not stalking if it’s on Ancestry.com.
That’s what I keep assuring myself. I mean, really. “Stalking” suggests a certain mobility, of skulking around dark alleys and tailing in cars and whatnot. What I did was simply sit down at my computer, buy a temporary membership to a website, and look up public records.
Just so we’re clear.
According to the totally respectable Ancestry.com, sometime in the late 1890s, two babies were born in Queens, NY. Both of them were first generation Americans. The boy, Frank Tejral, grew to become a button machinist, while the girl, Helen, became a telephone operator. They met, married, and in 1935, had their one and only child- a girl they named Helen after the mother.
Although the country was in the depths of the Great Depression, the Tejral family was able to purchase nine acres of fertile farmland 130 miles northeast of New York City, in a town named Willington. They constructed a 4-bedroom colonial on the property, and settled into it.
Though a sleepy rural community, Willington’s biggest draw was the Perizak Button Factory, a quarter mile down the road from the Tejral home. Frank worked there, while Helen Sr. resumed work as an operator, and little Helen grew up.
The nine acres of fertile farmland? It had an unknown history. Locals remember kitchen gardens being grown periodically, and at one point a dairy cow was kept. Old maps of the property indicate a long-lost chicken coop, but the family kept largely to itself, and maintained another home on the coast they would spend summers at.
In the 1960s, Helen Jr. met and married Ivan Skoglund. They had two boys, raising them in the Willington farmhouse, while keeping summer residence on the coast. As the boys grew, the farmhouse was used less and less, and by the early 2000s, it stood vacant for long stretches of time, with the fields being rented out to a local farmer for corn crops.
As the house had been in one family since its construction, it was hard to let it go, although neither one of Helen Jr.’s sons, now both grown, lived there. Helen herself passed on in 2012, officially leaving the farm to her boys.
Finally, in autumn 2015, the brothers agreed- it was time to put the farm, long vacant and unused, on the market, and see what happened.
(come back tomorrow for part two)