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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.

Genealogical Scavenger Hunt

I’m in the midst of hunting for dead people. During the winter months I seek the paper trails that my ancestors may have left. Sometimes, when the genealogy websites don’t have the answers you have to find other ways to find them.

This past week I conGenerationstacted an Ohio church that I thought my ancestors attended in the mid-19th Century. One of the members was generous with his time and went out of his way to find information for me.  In the end, the question I initially contacted the church for was not answered but little nuggets of gold were gleaned.

My great-great grandfather’s first wife did come to America with him and lived in Ohio until 1854, when she died.  Their first two children were born in France but they had two others in America, one who died young.  Four months after his first wife died, he married my great-great grandmother. The two of them added 5 more children to the family.  One of their children also died young. I never knew these two children had existed. They have now been added to the family tree.

This information now has me fleshing out this particular family.  I’ve been fairly successful.  I’ve found marriage records of many of the great-grand aunts and uncles. (Is that the correct term?)  I’ve found a few of their death records.

But the first question remains…..is my great-great grandmother’s father’s name Charles or Christoph?  Our family has always assumed that it was Charles because of the “CH” written on a baptismal record. In January Ancestry.com uploaded baptismal, marriage, and burial records from Wurttemburg, Germany.  That’s where my great-great grandmother was born. There is a baptismal record that is a close match for her.  The birth date is one day off (I’m okay with that) but the father’s name was “Christoph”, not Charles. Sibling, parent, and grandparent names are similar to the names of her children. There’s a notation that she emigrated to North America in 1854. I think it’s a match but I want to confirm the father.  There must be a document in America that proves it. Until then, I’ll pencil Christoph in with a notation of uncertainty.

Alsatian Whine?

The Trolls have held the hill in the battle to find my Elusive Norwegian.  I’ve fallen back as far as the hills and valleys of Alsace.Alsace coat of arms_2

It is in these hills and valleys that my great-great grandfather grew up.    It is in Alsace that he married his first wife and had a child.  He served in the French Army from 1837 to 1842.  Within 5 years of after getting out of the army he emigrated from Alsace to America. Within a few short years after that he gave up all loyalty to France and its King and became a US Citizen.  We have a photo of him as an old man with medals pinned on the left breast of his coat.  Proud of his service?  Perhaps.  But in census records this man never said he was from France.  The records almost always say “Alsace”.  If not Alsace it was Germany.  I blame the census takers for that.  Alsace Lorraine was always changing hands between Germany and France so it’s understandable that they would be confused.

If you’re interested, the Bas-Rhin has incredible genealogical records online for free.  You can browse birth records, marriage records, death records, etc.  It’s fantastic….as long as you know where your family came from.   While browsing through the archives I found when my great-great grandfather married his first wife.  I learned that they had a daughter.   I discovered that he had at least four siblings (two brothers and two sisters).  I found his father married to his second wife.  And, nearly 171 years to the day, I found his father’s death certificate.  Thank you Archives of the Bas-Rhin!  If Moselle would follow your lead and put their information online I would be even more happy.

Alsace, some day I will visit you.  I will walk your hills and valleys.  I will gaze upon your rivers and forests.  I will drink your wine.  Some day, Alsace, you and I shall meet.

Alsace coat of arms

The Elusive Norwegian

Obsessed!  That’s the only word I can use in what seems to be my eternal search for a certain Norwegian ancestor.  She can’t be found!  Beyond the scribbled note on a scrap of paper with the marriage date of her and my great-grandfather, which also includes the names of their parents, there is no other information that shows she existed prior to 1884. None! (Ingen!)

I’ve turned over rocks.  I’ve flipped over leaves.  I’ve dug into the dirt and only found the withered roots of the tree.  It’s as if the Norske trolls have taken and hidden her in the hills of Western Wisconsin.

Trolls. Drawn by Laura Seielstad. 2013

Trolls. Drawn by Laura Seielstad. 2013

If she only had a rare last name: a name taken from the farm where the family had lived, like her husband did.  But did her family do that?  No.  They had to use the “son” after her father’s, father’s name.  What?  Her maiden name was Anderson.  Which means somewhere back in time someone’s first name was Anders (aka: her grandfather).

Anderson, it’s a simple enough name; so simple that there are tens of thousands of the buggers running around Western Wisconsin as I write.  Back in the 1800s there were only “thousands” of them.  Here’s the rub, her dad’s name was Hans: Hans Anderson.  (No, he’s not the writer of fairy tales. That was Hans Christian Andersen. He’s Danish, not Norwegian.)

Try typing Hans Anderson into ancestry.com or familysearch.org and see where it gets you.  Even after narrowing it down with Hans’ wife’s name, and the area they supposedly lived in between 1865 to 1880, I still come up with nearly 640 names to dig through.  And I dug!  But did I find a connection?  Did I find the daughter?  No.   Those rotten Norske Trolls!

I’ve not given up.  The trolls will not defeat me.  They will give up my great-grandmother in the end.  I must simply sniff them out.  I must find that single document that links me to a Norwegian Parish.  Once that precious item is found names will spread like wildfire as the Norse in Norway are excellent record keepers, unlike the emigrant offspring who changed their names as the wind changes direction.

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.