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Genealogy Lost and Found

These old trolls aren’t laughing anymore.  They first appeared in my post about my elusive Norwegian a few years back.   They had hidden her in the hills of Wisconsin and I was unable to find any new information about her.  After years of attacking their troll brick walls I beat them down.  They lost the battle.


Norske Trolls. Drawn by Laura Seielstad. 2013

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on my site. I came on to see what was up. While reading some of my old posts I noticed the ones about the Norske ancestors.

First – Lost in Østen – I originally wrote that I thought my great-great grandfather may have been in one of the Oklahoma land grabs but wasn’t sure. He was not a part of that history.  He was, however, an employee for the railroad that was laying track in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma.  It was there he died, while trying to claim his Civil War pension.  He never got it.  They denied it twice.  He was supposed to meet with them for a third time but he died a few days before that meeting.

Second – The Wayward Norwegian – that was about my great-grandmother who the trolls had hidden.  There wasn’t a scrap of new information to help find her but I fought on.  In the end the troll battlement gave way.  It took two years of hard-core research and tackling the challenge from a different angle.  In the end, she didn’t come to America at a young age with her parents as her obituary stated.  She came without them at the age of 19.  Before, I didn’t know if she had siblings, let alone what their names were.  But now I know their names, some of their spouses and children.  And thanks to a “what the heck, I’m going to take that ancestry.com dna test” moment (which was to disprove a myth on a different branch of the family) there was a confirmation.

Before this contact I was 60-80% certain that the family I found in Rogaland was my great-grandmother’s. I had 10 pieces of circumstantial evidence but even with that I wouldn’t have said that I was positive that it was her and her family. Two months ago, more than a year after spitting into the plastic tube and sending it to ancestry.com, I had a message from someone who wanted to make contact.  We shared names.  Our dna is so close that ancestry has us as “extremely confident” of the relationship.  The person who contacted me is the great-granddaughter of one of the sisters of my great-grandmother’s name match. That was the confirmation. And let me rephrase part of that sentence “…sisters of my great-grandmother”.  It’s no longer a “name match”.  It is my great-grandmother and I have never been so pleased.

Help Needed: Translating Gothic German Script

In January Ancestry.com uploaded baptismal, marriage, and burial records from Württemberg, Germany.  I discovered this in February.  Since then I have been in a mad dash to find anything about my Württemberg great-great grandmother and her kin. I found her and started digging my way to find her parents, grandparents, etc.  Now I’m stuck on one of those branches, unable to find my way through the twisting vines.

Below is a record of interest.  It was found in the baptismal section of the records but was written differently than the rest.  My problem: I don’t read or speak modern-day German, let alone attempting to read Gothic German script.

jacob leonhard steinle birth record 1749 not like others (3)

I’ve Googled my way to translation sites, found sites with sample script, and still can’t make out many of the squiggly letters.  I can make out the names…obviously….and I discovered that Jacob was a wine gardener (farmer).  (Still trying to figure out how you “grow” wine.)  I really want to know what this says.  I think the word “fever” is in there and for some reason I’m thinking the last word on the second line translates to “Bubonic”.  With that word in mind my brain goes into wild imaginings of family dying from the plague (“Bring out your dead”) and somehow a kid was born in the middle of it all.

Jacob, my ancestor, you are a frustration.

Lost in Osten

It has been a delirious few days of genealogical discovery.  Pure giddiness.

It goes like this:  on Sunday I was distractedly surfing the net for …. well, I don’t remember what my initial surf was about but I ended up surfing to Norway and wandering through the Oppland Fylke (county) where some of my kin lived.  (As a side note: if you’re ever in the area drive through Gudbrandsdalen.  It’s gorgeous!)

Back to the surfing.  Something must have hit my one working nodule of brain matter and I typed my great-great grandfather’s name, his whole name, in the “Google” search box and pressed enter.  Now, in the past this method has never worked when I’ve sought him out.  He has hidden behind the multitude of Norwegian names that he could use.  (Have I ever mentioned the insanity of Norwegian naming practices.  The last name could be “son” attached to the end of their father’s name.  Example: dad is Ole.  He has a son.  The son’s last name is then Oleson, or Olson, or Olsen….and so it begins.  There is also the possibility of the last name being the place they were born, or last lived, changing as they move.   So Ole Olson from Bergen becomes Ole Olson Bergen.  But let’s say he moves to Oppland Fylke.  Guess what, he might be called Ole Olson Oppland.  Oy ve.)

It surprised me when Google came up with 2 hits on his name.  I stared at it for a very long time before clicking on the link.  But I did…I clicked….and I was stunned.   You see, I didn’t know if this guy had died or had ditched his wife and 3 children in Norway.  I decided years ago that he abandoned his family and I’ve held him low regard ever since.  However, that never stopped my curiosity of finding him; discovering the reason of why he would leave his wife and young children behind.  All I knew is that I couldn’t find him in Norway and was mostly unsuccessful in finding him in the U.S.  Until this week.

osten olsen strand gravestoneMy great-great grandfather did leave his wife and kids in Norway.  I don’t know if he ever contacted them after that.  I doubt it.  He came to America in the early 1860s.  In 1864 he enlisted in the 43rd Infantry Regiment from Wisconsin.  He served during the Civil War.  He didn’t fight in any major battles but provided guard detail for the railroad in Tennessee.  He mustered out in 1865.  After that I have no information other than his gravesite in Oklahoma.  He died in 1893.

In 1893 there was a “land rush” in Oklahoma.  Remember your history class?  The “sooners” of Oklahoma? That’s when the federal government opened up the land for “first come first serve” land grabbers.  Apparently there were 4 or 5 of these land grabs.  1893 was one of the last.  A dusty race to find a hunk of land.  Some people died of heat stroke, stampedes, greed.  I don’t know if he died during the 1893 land grab.  It’s possible.

I’ll never know why he left his family.  Did he come to the U.S. to find a new home for his family? Was he going to send for them once he found a place in the land of opportunity?  Was he going to work, save money, and then send for them?  Did he simply abandon them?  Only the past knows the answers.  I will try to find some answers: where did he live between 1865 and 1893? What kind of work did he do?  Did he marry someone else?  These answers will take time.

Finding him gives me comfort.  I now know where he went after leaving his family.  He served his new country in the war between the states.  He settled the frontier.  I know where he is buried.  That satisfies my curiosity but I’m still disappointed that he left his wife and children behind in Norway.

August 1, 1864

One hundred and forty-eight years ago today, my great-grandfather shamelessly took 2-3 inches of column space in his newspaper, the Fort Scott Daily Monitor, and publicly announced surprise that there had yet to be (at 10 a.m.) a great hoopla over his birthday.

On August 1, 1864 Dave turned 28.

Today, on the 176th anniversary of his birth (holy cats!) I dedicate this blog to him and share with you his 1864 “plea” for birthday wishes.

Though it be more than a century humor me, and give him a hearty birthday “Hurrah”.  I’m sure he’d be tickled that the world could, and maybe would, serenade him.  Happpy birthday DB.

Fishing – I Don’t Get It

This weekend my city has been hosting a bass fishing tournament.   Apparently this is such a big deal that some sporting network has sent cameras to film it.  How interesting can it be to watch a fishing contest?  The question struck me early this morning while I working in my yard.  It was 6 a.m. when I heard a magnified voice blaring from somewhere within a 2 mile radius of my home.  It took a while to figure out that it had to belong to someone at this “amazing” fishing contest.  But really, what does an announcer “announce” for fishing?

“It looks like Boat 3, owned by Bobby Bass, has started his engine.  Yes, indeedy, that’s a fine sounding motor. “

“And look at that.  Boat 5, owned by Freddy Frog, has found a spot on the river and has turned off its motor.  He must have found a good spot to drop his line.”

“And there’s Boat 1, owned by Charlie Sheepshead.  He appears to be baiting his hook.”

I get fishing as far as fishing for a meal.  What’s the adage:  “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”  That makes sense to me.

What doesn’t make sense is hopping on a boat and hanging out on the river all day fishing.  Catch and release, catch and release……boring.   It’s obvious that I did not inherit the gene from my Grandpa.

Uncle Don & Grandpa with their catch. Some time in the 1930s or 1940s

My Mother’s Hands

The veined hand guides needle and thread through the fabric.  Slowly, patiently, over many months the design emerges.  “Walk in Love…”

My mother was a master at needlepoint.  Many a day I would sit with her on the porch and watch her work magic with needle and thread.  I miss those days.  Below are some of the tapestries she created for our church.  Some were made to honor those who have passed.  In memory of her, I share her work with you.

The Future of the Tooth Fairy

I’ve been reading the book “What-the-Dickens” by Gregory Maguire.  It’s a book for older kids, I’d say the 8-12 year old set.  As a kids books it’s a fairly fun read.  The gist of the story is this: a cousin is watching his three much younger cousins through a hurricane.  While the cousins ride out the storm he tells the kids a tale about an orphan Skibberee named What-the-Dickens.  The cousin weaves a tale of the orphan and how tooth procurement fits into his life.

In the book the skibbereen, aka tooth fairies, trade cold cash (coins) for the lost tooth.  In my days it was only a quarter.  I’ve no idea what children are given these days but I’m certain they are overpaid for their baby teeth.  Anyway, as I’ve been reading this book I’ve been wondering what the tooth fairies are going to use in the future for trade.  Eventually we are not going to use money.  Even now the Canadians are phasing out their penny.  Soon it will be their nickels.  And most of us are using debit cards to make purchases.  I don’t remember the last time I used cash.

In the future what happens when Junior loses his tooth and puts it under his pillow?  What will he expect to find in the morning?  Will he recognize currency?  Coins?

What’s the option for the tooth fairy?  Debit cards for 5-year olds?  Gifts like the future version of I-Pods?  I-Pads? Bicycles?  Will they go simple and hand out candy?  They can hardly do that.  That would horn in on the Easter Bunny’s gig.

Whatever happens, I hope the tooth fairies figure out what their new trading item will be otherwise they will go the way of fairy tales themselves and live on the edge of extinction.

(Somewhere deep within the Black Forest of Germany there lives a lonely fairy tale.  It spends its days seeking a partner to procreate with and replenish the species. Godspeed tooth fairies and fairy tales of all kinds.)

A Wednesday Night in March

From my chair on the porch this evening I see that the neighbors across the street are grilling out.  That is not necessarily odd in March in the northern climes.   A hint of warm weather (anything over 40 degrees F) and folks stoke the grills to cook up burgers, brats, steaks, and the occasional chicken.  What is odd is that everyone is in t-shirts.  T-shirts….in March….grilling out.

Oh, look at that.  There’s a new arrival.  It’s great grandma carrying an envelope and … a yellow wrapped package!  (Is it a dinosaur?  Is it a Mrs. Potato Head?)

It’s a birthday party.  A birthday party. Outside. In March.  How often does that happen up here?  Wonder if the moon is blue tonight.

Finding Olaf

Genealogy is like visiting a favorite relative.  You never really know what you’ll learn.

While trailing a particular branch back to Alsace last night I got bored with the limited number of leaves to turn over so on a whim I jumped across a few family branches and landed with the Norwegians.    It was there I decided to take a swing at my grandfather’s brother, Olaf.

The Norske side of our clan is a tad dysfunctional and Olaf certainly follows in his own grandfather’s footsteps….(if one only knew where those footsteps led.)   Here is what I know, and what I’ve learned about Olaf.

Olaf interests me because no one seems to know anything about him.  He annoys me for the same reason.  Somewhere along the line he “disappeared”.  No one ever talked about him as I was growing up so there has always been limited information.  All we have is one photograph.  He’s 15-16 years old and stands near a chair dressed in his best suit.  It’s a confirmation photo.  It’s a black and white photo that shows he has dark hair and probably blue eyes.  He looks incredibly uncomfortable.

A tidbit I discovered about Olaf from local census records and city directories is this:  he worked as a baker (alongside his father and brother, my grandpa).  Years ago, when I was looking something up at the county clerk’s office, I made an incredible discovery.  Olaf had gotten married.  his wife’s name was Marietta.  They had three children: 2 girls and a boy.  One of the girls died by the age of two.  The son died before the age of 20.   The surviving child died in 1980 at the age of 66.  Marietta and her children are all buried in a nearby cemetery.  But where is Olaf?  There is no death record.  There is no obituary.  No divorce record.  Where did he go?

I followed the trail of the surviving child.  What I discovered was this:  she married and had children who married.  The surnames of these progeny are names of classmates of mine.  Were these classmates relatives?  To this day I am not 100% certain, but I have a hunch about one of them.

Back to last night.  I’m on the LDS genealogy site and type in Olaf’s name.  Two records pop up:  a WWII draft registration card and a death record.  I can view the draft card.  Birthdate matched Olaf.  He admitted his birthplace.  Bingo!  Found him!  In 1942 he was in Amarillo,  Texas.  And guess what?  He’s married to a woman named Lydia.  Remember, above I wrote there was no divorce record from the first wife (who died in 1954).  It’s at this point that I start cursing the s.o.b.  Did he abandon his family?  From the information I found he had split prior to his son’s death.  This is where my previous statement about Olaf being like his own grandfather, and the dysfunction of the Norskes come into play.  Olaf’s grandfather abandoned his family too.

I view the death record.  Olaf died in Amarillo in 1951.  He died on the day of the month in which I would be born ten years later.