Observing whatever tickles my fancy

Posts tagged ‘genealogy’

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.

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.