We had the good fortune of connecting with Stacey Wallace Rehbein and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stacey, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Im not sure I had a thought process with a particular goal in mind, but it was something I fell into naturally because of where I was in life. I am not your usual, young and ready to find my purpose, type of entrepreneur. For 35 years I already had a job I loved. I was a mom with a husband, four children and everything that came with it. However, sooner or later children grow up, move out and pursue their own individual interests and dreams. This left me in a position to pursue new and exciting possibilities. It’s not as easy as it sounds. I found myself wondering if there was anyplace where I could bring value or be more involved. My thoughts wandered and kept taking me back to my past. When I was much younger, my mother had been collecting photo’s of our ancestors and and making copies for everyone. I listened to my grandmother tell stories about each one and how we were related. I wanted to know more but getting copies of records at the time was almost impossible, as it was laborious and time consuming. Life went on as my mother and grandmother passed away and everyday life took over. Fast forward 20 years; my kids are almost grown and ready to make their own histories. So, I got a part-time job at the library and as I spent my time there, I discovered you could request newspapers and obituaries from other Library’s across the country. My curiosity was peaked! As I was thinking about the possibilities, I remembered the name of one of my great grandfathers. That little bit I remembered, gave me what I needed to request an obituary. After month’s of waiting, I received a copy of that great grandfather’s obituary and my interest grew as it all came to life for me. He was a real person, with a real family; my family. I wanted to find them all, “Dead or Alive”. I discovered my new purpose and I wanted to share it with everyone. Thinking about it now, I suppose I didn’t get a new career. I just expanded my audience.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My work is all about connecting people with their ancestors. My ambition is to help society see the value in knowing who they are and where they came from. It’s a feeling of connection to their time without the prejudices and problems that came with it. There is a degree of separation that occurs and allows us to look at them from a different perspective with little judgment. They all led such captivating, everyday lives that they were unaware they possessed. Now, those lives are here to be known by some of their own descendants. It’s a fascination that has no solid explanation. Family Dig website is geared toward helping future genealogists learn how to research on their own and do all or most for free. However, not everyone is a future genealogist and we have options for those who want help. We keep everything simple and inexpensive because everyone should be able to find their ancestors without hardship. I have been researching my family for many years and it means so much to me. I reconnected with my Dad several years ago, because of my interest in genealogy. My challenges have been more about how I thought other’s saw me. I started this passion of mine, later than some. I knew what I was doing but if I didn’t present myself that way, no one else thought I did. I’m lucky to have a husband and children that all believe in me and taught me to “Act like you know what you are doing, because you do!” By the way, I will always be a work in progress, but I think of that as a good thing. I love finding and connecting people with their unknown parentage. This is usually done using DNA and a family tree. This includes, adoptee’s of any age. My favorite undertaking was with an older woman that was adopted as an infant and never before wanted to know who her bio parents were. For whatever reason, she changed her mind when she was 92. Her daughter wanted me to find the birth parents before her mother’s 93rd birthday in 2 months. She had no family tree and had 1 close-ish DNA match that had 2 people in their tree. I built an extensive family tree looking for her birth parents, using those 2 names and her DNA matches. On her 93rd birthday she was presented with the names of her birth parents and later found her 1/2 brother, who was still alive and many other 1/2 nieces, nephews and cousins. It is one of my most fascinating and rewarding experiences. In the beginning, it was just the excitement of finding my own ancestors, then it quickly spread to my friends ancestors and beyond. I joined the local genealogy society and quickly became involved. Having a group of people that understood my excitement about finding dead people was a relief and a joy. In the midst of all of this I became acquainted with part of my Colorado heritage in the tiny little ghost town of Winfield, CO. It took me no time to realize how fortunate I was to find this place from the past. I knew then, I needed to find a way to encourage others to explore their own ancestors.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I think it would be a mix of acquainting my visitors with our local history, tied together with a gambol into their own family history. Let’s start out with a visit to the Avery House built in 1879, near what is now, Old Town, Fort Collins. Taking the tour, we would learn a bit about the people who built this place; Franklin & Sarah Avery and their part in making it my home town. My Aunt is a docent at the Avery House and would love to give us a tour if she could, but you can check out the website later. Wouldn’t it be great to stay for tea?. Now, Luncheon sounds delightful, let’s try our luck at an old gathering place from the early 1900’s. This place used to be the Northern Colorado Feeders Supply and is now a lovely little restaurant and coffee shop named Ginger and Baker. An afternoon nap and a light supper will be needed before our next chilling event. An evening of suspense, fun and a little bit scary. Not only will the “Trail of Terror Ghost Tour” help to seek out more than just the simple folk of old Fort Collins, it will keep us on our toes for some of the more savory and dangerous characters. After the chance to get your wits about you, we can look forward to tomorrow’s travels which will be old fashioned and one of FOCO’s favorite modes of transport; bicycling. Not to worry, we are not heading for the mountains yet. There are many stops in mind that involve partaking at many Brown Bottle emporiums and local, fabulous food trucks. This is going to be “red hot”! This is the day to sleep in and let yesterday’s headache’s be the Rocky Mountain “High” for today. You can’t take a trip to Fort Collins without venturing a quick trip to Estes Park for a little relaxation and refreshing, clear, mountain air. Take the time to drink in the spectacular scenery and maybe pick up a t-shirt or two before dinner. Who wants Italian? Mama Rosa’s riverside patio will hit the spot before we say good-bye to our Rocky Mountain “Hi”. Tomorrow’s a big day, so catch some z’s. Today we plan to go hunting. What? Hunting for your ancestors. Some you may already know about. The experience will change the way you look at the past and consider your own present. Virtually, we’re going on a Family Dig! This day will zip along. Food and drinks will be delivered at regular intervals to keep our brains hydrated and nourished. This travel through time will be a whirlwind of information and reflection. You will find yourself wanting more. No worries. The big wide world of DNA can introduce you to your more ancient roots, a possible 1/2 sibling and/or an unknown birth parent. Be careful, this can be very addicting and before you know it, the knowledge of your own ancestral family will have increased exponentially. People, long gone will seem to come alive. Their accomplishments, good or bad will be exciting and illuminating. You will never think of your ancestors the same way again. Let’s start digging! Shovel’s not required. It’s the last day to really experience Fort Collins. Let’s take a gander at its “Museum of Discovery” and get a taste of what this place was really like in its early days. Afterward, the kids can explore and participate in more of the museum’s educational and “hands on” experiences, like the “Music and Sound Lab”. It’s a sure thing that the kids will leave “jazzed” by their experience. Next off, with only a short walk ahead, we can surrender to our hunger for a Fort Collins favorite; Beau Jo’s Colorado Style Pizza. It’s a “must eat”!. Oh! I almost forgot! Top off your awesome visit with this FOCO family favorite and mine: “Walrus”, Home Made Ice Cream. Yum! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I sincerely want to recognize my whole family: my husband, Clayton who is always there to encourage & advise, but still believes in me when I tell him, “I want to do it myself”. Each of my children: Bryan who helped me start the business, made me a website and taught me how to use it; Drew who is always asking me about my, “Dead People” and giving me a never ending cycle of new marketing idea’s; Tanner who always wants to hear me talk and learn about how cool our ancestors were, good and bad and Tessa, who despite my insecurities, makes me believe in myself, regardless of my age, gender or any other excuse I can come up with. I don’t want to forget that I have the most amazing daughter in law’s, Janel, Misty and Amber and my son in law, Jacob. They have all been subjected to me asking, “Do you want to look for your dead people?”. They have all, of course, said “they would love to”! I am truly blessed. Thank you Mom and Grandma!!