In full dork mode.

Hi, I’m Mike Spry, novice writer. My wife and I grew up surrounded by large extended families in the small towns and hamlets of northwestern Minnesota.  As kids, our whole world consisted of about 100 square miles along the southern boundary of the White Earth Indian Reservation. We left in 1983, one month after graduating college, and spent the next 24 years living in the Intermountain West. We made many day trips to Yellowstone, Glacier, the Tetons and the Sawtooths and loved the beauty of the region. But we always wanted to be back in Minnesota. In the “Wizard of Oz” Dorothy (played by Minnesota native Judy Garland) speaks the truth: “there’s no place like home.”

But what is home? What makes it so special? It is too easy to start painting nostalgic word pictures of family gatherings and traditions here. But there is another true saying: “you can’t go home again.” Many family members are no longer with us and their descendants grow further and further apart. The old familiar places of our youth, such as the mom-and-pop grocery store, Grandma’s house, and the tree forts we built, are long gone. The quiet lake shores we knew as kids are now crowded with McMansions featuring 6 bathrooms and imported Italian marble.

But Minnesota is still home for us.  What makes it so?  This question is at the root of the themes I explore in this blog.  These include building our new home on 5th Crow Wing Lake, exploring the history of my French-Canadian and Ojibwe ancestors (see Before There Was a Minnesota page), and a memoir about my relationship with my Grandpa Ray (see Going Fishing with Grandpa page). I’m not really sure where these writing projects are going, but I thought I would share them and get feedback.  I’m hoping those who visit this site and read what I write will ask questions that make me consider other perspectives. Mostly, I hope you enjoy reading my writing and will encourage me to continue.


19 thoughts on “About

  1. Holly Cow, I started looking for info about your selling Emmaville and discovered your Blog pages.

    My only comment is that I will follow this blog while waiting for the Book.. In the meantime now that you are back in Crow Wing we will get together. By the Way Girtz did the work at our home. He had me in the front bucket of his excavator raising me up and down left and reight to get the best view..He is a pro. Bill


  2. I finally had a chance to do some pleasure reading and decided to peruse your blog posts. I have mentioned an appreciation of your talent for writing before and I wish to further affirm my esteem. Your posts regarding the history of your family and of the area are of particular interest to me and I look forward to reading more.


  3. Hello,
    I happened to come across an article on this site in which the author beautifully describes a bitter-sweet visit to the Sandy Lake Tragedy Memorial in Minnesota. The story was posted on 10/25/15. After reading it, I realized right away that this was the same Memorial that my late father (who was a branch chief for the US Army Corps of Engineers, and staunch supporter of improving rights for Native Americans) had worked so hard to help make happen.
    I recall my father telling me about the tragedy itself, and how he had to argue and fight fiercely with his own superiors in the US Government to negotiate a green light for approval in favor of allowing the memorial to be built, sometime around 1999-2001. I also recall that my Dad, (Stuart Jackson), specifically mentioned how difficult it was for him to persuade government leaders to allow the memorial sign text to be truthful about the tragedy of 1850, or at least not to gloss over it in disrespect. Dad read the same words from that sign to me that you illustrate in this article about your visit to Sandy Lake.
    In it , you mentioned : “I was surprised to find a detailed description of the Sandy Lake Tragedy that pulled no punches regarding the white leaders involved.”
    Well, I’m proud to answer that question in memory of my father, who played an instrumental part in at least achieving some long overdue justice (although still inadequate in the wake of that horrible injustice done in 1850). In any case, Dad told me this year before cancer took him, that helping get the Sandy Lake monument approved was one of his proudest moments as a person and as a professional. I’ll always remember him for fighting the good fights for people who have been victimized — I hope to visit the monument, as you already have. Thank you –


    • Chris:

      Thanks so much for sharing the story of your father; we need more people like him to remind us of our “real” history. I’m glad my post sparked a good memory for you. The USACE did a great job of interpreting the history of the place and creating a beautiful recreation area. I hope you get a chance to visit Sandy Lake – its a special place.



  4. Hi Mike,

    I am a new follower of your blog. I stumbled across your page while googling info on White Earth Reservation following stories from my father. I found out that yes, through my great grandmother Emilia (Amelia?) Spry (married to Jonas Bellefeuille) I believe we share common ancestors. Your writing has made my ancestors seem “real” and the Grandpa you describe could be my father- fishing, making cool things from scrap, etc.
    Keep on writing- your memories describe the midwest (I’m a WI girl!) of my childhood.


    • Kelly:

      I’m glad you found my blog! Amelia was my great-grandfather Pete’s sister, and Mitchell and Amelia Spry’s fourth child. I am also glad to know my writing helps you visualize our ancestors. I started this project because we had no stories of the Sprys – we didn’t know where we came from. If you have some stories to share, please do. Best wishes –



    • I also stumbled onto this blog and I am so happy to have done so. Amelia Spry and Jonas Bellefeuille are my grant grandparents. Their son Theodore Nester is my grandfather. Thank you for all the information you have posted and continue to post


  5. Mike, I suspect we are cousins through a Trotochaud connection. I have been researching this family since 1996 or so. I would have started much sooner, but having to work full time as a physician and having only the vaguely remembered family name “Tresho” to go on, set me back decades on my search. I have been looking for info about Pierre Duvernay who migrated to Minnesota between 1840 & 1850. The following is what I have & that wasn’t well documented. Until I found your blog I didn’t know there was anything definite about when Pierre got to MN and who his parents & siblings were.
    Name: Pierre Trotochaud
    Sex: Male
    Father: Joseph Trotochaud (1770-1826) (presumed)
    Mother: Louise Trudelle (1774-1857) (presumed)

    Individual Facts
    Birth 1815 Quebec
    Birth 14 Jun 1815 St. Joseph Parish, Maskinonge, QC
    Emigration abt 1843 (about age 28) Canada to USA
    Census 11 Jun 1849 (age 33) Living in Little Canada Precinct, 3 males, 3 females in household
    Census 1 Jun 1880 (age 64) US Census, White Earth Indian Agency, Becker, MN
    Occupation 1 Jun 1880 (age 64) Farmer
    Census 1895 (about age 80) MN state census, White Earth
    Occupation 1895 (about age 80) Farmer
    Residence 1895 (about age 80) MN state census states living in state 45 years
    Death 8 Dec 1906 (age 91)
    Alt. Name Peter Trotochaud
    Burial findagrave 101043583, St. Benedict’s/Calvary Catholic Cemetery, White Earth Twp., Becker, Minnesota, United States

    1. Angelique Blair (1828-1908)
    Children Margaret Trotterchaud (1845- )
    Sophia Trotterchaud (1846-1922)
    Peter Trotochaud (1850-1869)
    Amelia Trotterchaud (1852- )
    Moses Trotterchaud (1856-1880)
    Lizzie Trotterchaud (1857-1920)
    Joseph Trotterchaud (1860-1943)
    Nancy Trotterchaud (1862- )
    Antoine Trotterchaud (1863-1891)
    Delphine Trotterchaud (1867-1952)
    Herman Remie Trotochaud (1868-1951)
    Christine Trotterchaud (1872-1891)
    Peter Trotterchaud (1877-1913)


    • Have really enjoyed your blog. My great, great grandmother was Sophia Trotochaud. She married Pierre (Peter) Vizenor (Vezina) . The Vizenor’s can be traced to St. Roch L’Achigan, Quebec, Canada..
      So interesting to know the connection to Madeline Island, and Sandy Lake.
      Somewhere I’ve seen the spelling: “d’Autrechaud”
      Karen S.


      • Karen:

        Thanks for your comment – good to hear from more cousins! I’ve encountered about a dozen ways to spell the name Trotochaud. I think they stem from census takers and other record makers hearing the name and then guessing at how its spelled.

        I have seen Sophia and Pierre Vizenor’s graves at Calvary Cemetery in White Earth. Have you visited?

        I hope you’ll keep in touch. I guess I better get back to writing the blog –



  6. Larry Vizenor (1949-2015) is a descendant of Pierre Trotochaud. He and his widow had been doing research starting about the same time I did on his ancestry. He was not able to trace Pierre’s ancestor before his arrival in Minnesota. I did match a Pierre Trotochaud in British North American born 1815, who vanished from British records at about the same time (1840s to 1850) as Pierre Trotochaud arrived in MN – so I “presumed” the ancestry I referenced in my earlier reply. I met Larry online using Google – I found posts he had made that referenced the Trotochaud family, and we corresponded by email for years after that until Larry passed on 24 months ago.
    Larry and I collaborated on locating a possible Trotochaud family in modern France, going by the spelling “Tortochaut”, who also originated very close to the village Louis Trotochaud came from when he migrated to New France in 1737. There was only one Trotochaud who came to the New World from France, to the best of my knowledge, so that family name is very useful to trace. There is more than one male descendant of a Trotochaud all-male line going back to 1737 in North American, and there is another in modern France that we located. They have the same Y chromosome. It is extremely likely we all have a common male ancestor. This linkage has very rarely been done by anyone before, or so I’ve been told.
    Please check my genealogy web page on my g-g-grandfather Jean Baptiste Trotochaud .
    “Marge Trotterchaud” – not her real name, from France, has a Facebook page & she would like to hear from her (presumed) North American cousins. She is particularly interested in Trotochaud’s who have intermarried with the native American population.


  7. If my presumed ancestry for Pierre Trotochaud is accurate, he was both 3rd cousin and 1st cousin to my g-g-grandfather Jean Baptiste Trotochaud.
    .Now I’ll have to read everything you’ve put on this blog.


  8. Hello!

    Thanks for all your hard work on this blog. I just found it while researching our mutual ancestor Elizabeth Spry, who married Eusebe Bellefeuille, who is my grandfather’s grandfather. I’m working on my BFA in creative writing right now and have an assignment involving writing a poem about ancestry. I’ve got a decent book of Theodore Bellefeuille’s genealogy, but I wanted to know more about Elizabeth who was my original generational namesake (I have since changed my name). Even just glancing through some of your posts, I’ve learned so much! I’m geekin’ out.

    Anyway, I should really be in bed but I am extremely excited to read everything you’ve put on this blog. Ancestry’s been on my mind a lot lately and this blog is such a find! I feel so grateful for all your hard work and am very excited to read!

    Thank you.


    • Eliot:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog. I’ve had a lot of fun researching the Spry side of the family. I’ve got a photo of Lizzie and Eusebe I will send you.

      Your cousin,



  9. Hi Mike,

    I got my wife a year perscription of ancestry.com for Christmas and after going over some of her family I got interested in mine. I knew maternal grandmother, Leona (Johnny) Spry, grew up by White Earth so I Googled White Earth and came across your Blog. My Great Grandparents are Frank and Josephine Bellefeuille Spry so we would be 3rd cousins. I really enjoyed reading your blog. I spoke to my parents about my mom’s ancestry and they gave me a family tree that they had gotten from a cousin that trace Bellefeuille back to Thomas Rivard born 1571 Normandy France. I haven’ had a chance to


    • Hi David:

      Thanks for your interest in my blog. I’m curious to know more about your grandmother and her family – we know very little about that generation of cousins. Looking forward to hearing more from you.



  10. I am so happy to have come across you’re blog. I come from a long line of Bellefeuilles; my great grandma was born on the rez – may she rest in peace. This blog has been a great read so far, thank you!


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