During my lifetime, genealogy has progressed from a paper-and-pencil hobby into one requiring a sophisticated knowledge of technology. For the past 30 years, the Computer Interest Group (CIG) of the Colorado Genealogical Society has pushed us along the learning curve.
This week the club celebrated its 30th anniversary with a potluck supper and a program given by several of the members. We looked back at the early days of the club, when members pondered the big questions of whether to purchase a computer (they were so expensive!), and how to make the best use of one (spreadsheets? software programs? modems?). We then looked to the future, with demonstrations of portable scanners and camera technology.
Over the years, all the techies in the group inspired me to keep upgrading my hardware and learning new applications. Years ago, I attended a CIG Symposium in the United Methodist Church basement where they demonstrated several genealogy software programs. From information gleaned that day, I chose my first program and stepped into the computer age.
Now I attend CIG workshop meetings to share information with other users of the same genealogy program that I use. I attend program meetings to find out about social media and the world of genealogy websites. It would be hard to gather all this knowledge on my own. Belonging to this club has helped a Luddite like me use modern tools to find family information in the most efficient way.
We are always encouraged to “Bring a Friend to CIG”. We welcome anyone desiring a little technological help, or some genealogy fellowship. For more information, see the CIG website http://www.cogensoc.us/cigmain.htm
For the past several years, my husband/tech advisor and I have prepared genealogy-related Christmas gifts for our extended families. This gives us the incentive to digest our findings for the year and distribute the information. Here is what we will send out this year:
- For the Hjelmstad and Walz descendants, a map detailing the European points of family origin in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. The map also shows emigrants’ ports of departure in Europe and ports of arrival in the United States.
- For the Bentsen descendants, family group sheets and biographical sketches for the members of the Norwegian immigrant generation and a copy of the only photo I possess of one of the couples, Karen and Nick Bentsen.
- For my husband’s Norwegian family, this year’s rosemåling Christmas ornament from the Sons of Norway. http://www.sofn.com/
Last night we put the finishing touches on our maps and documents. Everything will be ready to mail out soon!
Recent news about deaths from natural disasters, accidents, and crimes made me wonder how many deaths in my own family occurred this way. These events cut a life short, so they usually make the news. As a genealogist, I try to collect this information as part of my research. I have found several news stories in my own family tree.
Working back in time, here is my list of our twentieth century fatal events:
- Hugo Alexander Mattila (1918-1987) died in a home fire in Gainesville, Florida,
- Betty Karoline Johansen Harrigan Cummings (1904-1954) was murdered by a local handyman in her Seattle, Washington home,
- Johan Martin Johansen (1889-1947) drowned in the Gulf of Alaska after being swept overboard from a fishing boat during a storm,
- Alexander Mattila (1878-1945) died due to trauma from being hit by a train as he walked home along the railroad tracks in Hibbing, Minnesota,
- Francis Edmonds (1876-1944) fell from a horse and broke his neck while herding sheep in the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana,
- Rose Wilhelmina Mattila Porras (1896-1941) froze to death in a snowbank in Hibbing, Minnesota,
- Owen Herbert Reed (1896-1935) died from injuries received in a truck accident near Brighton, Colorado.
Only one of these deaths, the Seattle murder, resulted from a crime. Another, the drowning, occurred during a storm. The rest were accidents.
Now we find ourselves well into the twenty-first century, and we have had no deaths from anything other than natural causes. With all the danger in our modern world, we can count ourselves lucky.
Attention, all you Norway researchers! As promised, here is the link to my husband/tech advisor’s guest post on UpFront with NGS: http://upfront.ngsgenealogy.org/2013/11/using-norwegian-digitalarkivet-search.html
That time of year has rolled around again where I refocus my genealogical efforts from research to writing. Every November I choose an ancestor or ancestor couple as a writing subject. For Christmas, I distribute my finished product to my children and siblings and also to any interested cousins descended from that ancestor. I like this method of preserving and sharing my research.
After my trip to Norway this summer, naturally I decided to write about Norwegian ancestors. My four Norwegian great-great-grandparents all lived in the same area of Nordland in the latter half of the 19th century, so I will prepare a compiled work on the four of them. I will include three items with the Christmas gift this year:
- Family group sheets for the Karen (1851-1916) and Nick (1854-1919) Bentsen family and for the Sivert Knudsen (1843-1907) and Martha Hansdatter (1841-1900) family,
- My only photograph of Karen and Nick Bentsen, and
- A character sketch I will write about the lives of these four people.
Amazingly, I have collected quite a bit of information on these ancestors, even though Sivert and Martha never left Norway. Much of that is due to the tireless efforts of my husband/tech advisor who has become quite an expert in navigating the online Norwegian archives.
He has a writing project of his own. He will share his expertise in Norwegian research in an upcoming guest blog post for Upfront with NGS, the National Genealogical Society blog. Stay tuned for the link when it appears.
Today is All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, a secular name by which it is more commonly known. People will dress up in costumes and celebrate at parties complete with jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, spiders, witches, etc. My young grandchildren can hardly wait to rake in the candy when they go out trick-or-treating tonight.
Yet October 31 historically has had a much more religious significance. Christians have long kept vigil this night for the observance of All Saints Day tomorrow.
Of even more significance to my family is that October 31 marks the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. On All Hallows Eve in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Church to protest the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church. This shocking act marked the beginning of the Reformation and the Lutheran faith.
Luther’s teaching spread far, and the Nordic countries quickly left the Roman church to embrace Lutheranism. My mother’s family in Norway and Finland followed the state-mandated Lutheran tradition for hundreds of years.
The Lutheran church records in these countries still exist. They provide valuable genealogical information to me in their lists of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and burials. With these records, I can trace my family back many generations relatively easily.
So Halloween means more to me than just another secular party day. In addition to All Hallows Eve, it is the birthday of the Lutheran church. This year my Lutheran congregation celebrated, not with candy and costumes, but by performing Bach’s cantata #80 based on the great hymn of the Reformation, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. I celebrate Reformation Day today, not just Halloween.
Supposedly, if you go back far enough back in time, someone has already researched your ancestors or else someone else concurrently works on them. Together the researchers build the family tree. Problem is, this rule of thumb works for my husband/tech advisor but not for me.
Several times he has found a new ancestor, and others promptly pick up on the information and disseminate it. Several people work on these lines simultaneously and all contribute something.
This week he located the birth record for his ancestor Maria Joanna Keulers in 1799 in the Limburg Province of the Netherlands. You can bet that other Keulers researchers will take this information once we post it, and they will run with it. The work will advance.
I never seem to encounter such luck. The researchers I worked alongside for years are either too elderly to continue or have passed away. How I wish I could find someone else working on any of my troublesome ancestors:
- Daniel Sherman, born around 1800 in New York. Married Rebecca Howe Day in Morgan County, KY on 4 Sep 1826. Children included Polly A., Anderson O., Evaline, Emily E., Eliza A., Thomas, Gilla Ann, John, and Jasper. Who were Daniel’s parents?
- Unknown mother of Anna Petronellia Sherman. The daughter was born 1 Apr 1865 in Indiana to Thomas Sherman and, according to family legend, a German girl named “Katherine Stillenbaugh”. After the death of the German wife, Thomas remarried. He and Alice Farris were parents to Anna Petronellia’s half-siblings, Charles, George, Ethel, Claude, and James Sherman.
- John Davis Riddle, born around 1821 in Pennsylvania. Married Olive Hall Dunbar in Summit County, OH on 12 Jan 1843. Children included Tamson Rebecca, Theodocia Orlinda, Isaac Newton, Ethan Henry, Laura Ruamy, John Hoxey, Seymour Alfonso, and Olive Delila. John and Olive also raised their grandson, Aden Ralph Riddle, son of Tamson. Who were John Davis Riddle’s parents?
- Unknown father of Grace Riddle. She was born in Palisade, NE to Laura Ruamy Riddle on 30 Aug 1896. Grace had three identified half-brothers on her mother’s side: Francis, Louis, and Joseph all born in Michigan to Laura and George Edmonds.
Surely some of the people mentioned above have descendants who enjoy family history. How I wish I could find them.
We all know that in genealogy we must carefully work backwards in time, verifying each fact for each ancestor. One mistake, and we run the risk of spending precious research time on the wrong people.
Earlier this year, we ignored this rule somewhat. We did some hasty research in an effort to glean as much information as we could before our trip to Norway. Did we spend time investigating the wrong ancestors? Yes and no.
In my husband/tech advisor’s line, we did take a wrong turn with the identity of one female ancestor. Luckily, the entire family comes from the same area in Norway. We visited the correct place despite the research error. We have since amended our family tree.
For my family line, we visited the island of Dønna in Helgeland, purported home of my great-great grandmother, Karen Marie Johansdatter Bentsen. We went to Titternes Farm, where she was born.
Imagine my surprise this week when I came across a family tree for her on Ancestry.com that is nothing like the tree I have built. It names different parents with origins in Denmark. Panic! How could I have made such a massive mistake?!
I pulled out everything I have collected for Karen Marie and reviewed all the evidence carefully. Everything points to the Helgeland origin. I do not think I have been researching the wrong ancestors; I think the person who contributed the tree to Ancestry made an error. Of course that tree lists no sources.
This happens when we take shortcuts. We need to do our research correctly so we do not waste our time and publish erroneous information.
I am glad to find that Karen Marie really seems to be from Dønna. It is a lovely place.
A large percentage of Americans claim at least some German ancestry. My mother-in-law came from a German-speaking heritage, so my children are about ¼ German. We have lots of Germanic ancestors to research in this family!
Alas, German research can be notoriously difficult. You get nowhere unless you can identify the village of origin for your ancestor. People spend years looking for a clue to this elusive fact.
One group that can help with this is the Palatines to America (PalAm). This national organization dedicates itself to finding German speaking ancestors and their place of origin in Germany, Austria, Alsace, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Poland, Russia, Denmark, Netherlands, East Prussia, Pomerania, Brandenburg, Silesia, Galicia, Bohemia or other German speaking areas.
We in the Denver area are blessed to have a local PalAm chapter. Twice a year they bring in a nationally-known speaker with expertise in German research. Today Baerbel K. Johnson, AG, a professional genealogist who works at the Family History Library as International Reference Consultant, presented a program in Denver. Wearing traditional German dress, she spoke to a large crowd of German researchers on several helpful topics.
My husband/tech advisor and I are thinking of taking a research trip to Germany next year. Ms. Johnson’s program today gave us many helpful tools for planning a productive trip. Thanks, PalAm, for offering this opportunity.
Not much to report this week because we had new flooring installed on the main floor of our house. We spent a lot of time moving furniture around.
My beautiful new floors got me to thinking about the housing my ancestors inhabited when they came to the western United States over 100 years ago. Certainly they did not start out with multi-level homes and lovely oak floors. They lived in sod houses, or soddies.
I wonder how they felt about that. My great-grandmothers Laura Riddle and Petronellia Reed had lived in nice homes in Michigan and Illinois. It must have been difficult for them to get used to living in a house made of dirt. Laura eventually worked her way up to a nicer frame house in Palisade, Nebraska. Petronellia hated her life on the Wyoming prairie, sold her homestead, and moved to Missouri. There she also lived in a frame house.
And what about my other homesteading family, my Norwegian ancestors, Ole and Sofie Bentsen? They had lived in fishing villages in Norway. Last summer I visited a fisherman’s cottage at the Helgeland Museum in Dønna, Norway. It would have been similar to the housing the Bentsens left behind when they immigrated. Similar in size to a soddy on the American plains, it even had a grass roof. Perhaps life in a soddy did not seem so strange to them.
Yet the Bentsens, too, eventually upgraded to a frame house on their farm near Redstone, Montana. Even if they did not mind the soddy as much as Laura and Petronellia did, they weren’t satisfied to stay in one forever. Like the rest of us, they continued to upgrade their housing.