View Teri Hjelmstad's profile on LinkedIn



Join Your Bygdelag

Anyone who has some Norwegian heritage and an interest in learning about Norwegian ancestry or native culture does not have to look far. Norwegians in America have long banded together to share their Norwegian ways.

Most descendants probably know of the fraternal organization, the Sons of Norway ( Women, too, can join this club and enjoy getting together for Norwegian food and activities.

Maybe fewer know about the numerous Bygdelagenes groups that focus on areas of origin in Norway. My family certainly never mentioned these organizations, so I do not think any of my Norwegian-American ancestors belonged to one. Most of the Bygdelagenes seem centered in Minnesota and Wisconsin whereas my family settled in faraway Montana.

I never knew the term Bygdelag until last weekend when I attended a Norwegian genealogy meeting. There I learned that over 30 of these groups exist, and each focuses on heritage from a particular county, or fylke, in Norway. Since my family emigrated from Nordland, I could join the Nordlandslag ( Descendants of those from the far north in Norway, (the counties of Nordland, Troms, and Finnmark) belong to this group.

Maybe I will look into joining. Other members of my Norwegian genealogy group have found Bygdelag memberships fun and helpful. For just $15 a year I would receive a newsletter and the opportunity to attend an annual get-together called a stevne.

I cannot make this year’s June stevne in Minnesota, nor can we get to my husband/tech advisor’s Hedmarken Lag stevne in Wisconsin in August, but perhaps we could plan for one in the future. We do have relatives and ancestors in both states, and I am always looking for that next genealogy road trip.

Look for your Bygdelag and find some like-minded Norwegians today!

Will the Real John Carter Please Stand Up?

My Carter ancestors, Mary (Templeton) and John Carter, were born in Tennessee and settled in Kentucky after the War of 1812. The family migrated to Coles County, Illinois from Wayne County, Kentucky to become original pioneers in 1830. They remained in Illinois where John died in 1841 and Mary in 1857. Both are buried, side by side, in the Ashmore, Illinois cemetery.

Together, they had nine children who survived infancy, Susan, Shelton, Nancy, Bailey, Thenia, Jane (my ancestor), Joseph, Elizabeth, and Catharine. I have spent many hours in 2015 researching this family.

Once I had plenty of information on all these folks, I hoped to post my findings on Family Search’s family tree. Imagine my surprise when I found Mary Templeton Carter already there with two husbands, both named John Carter.

One was her true husband, John Carter (1790-1841) who was born in Tennessee and died in Illinois. The other was obviously a different John Carter (1795-1864) who had been born in North Carolina. All of Mary’s children were erroneously attached to him!

This week I have tried to untangle this mess on Family Search. To begin, I was not familiar enough with the software operations necessary to complete this task. I have learned as I have gone along, but I am still not finished.

The project is worth the time, though. John Carter of North Carolina needs to find his own family. So far as I know, he does not belong in mine.

Genealogy Road Trip (And a Wedding!) Ahead

Summertime looms, and with it comes my annual genealogy trip. This time we will head south for my niece’s wedding in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Of course I want to attend this lovely wedding in the historic Wren Chapel at the College of William & Mary. Both the bride and groom attended this school. What a fabulous setting for them!

Because I live in Colorado, the question of how I will get there has already arisen. I thought about flying because Virginia lies so far away from here. But I really, really hate the ordeal that flying has become. Trying to remember all the TSA rules while packing, enduring embarrassing security checks at the airport, and sitting in an uncomfortably squeezed airplane seat for hours– all have a chilling effect on purchasing that airline ticket.

And then I remembered that the route from Denver to Williamsburg could retrace the steps of my ancestors as they moved west. What if I drove to Virginia, stopping in all the ancestral counties along the way? The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. My husband/tech advisor agreed to the plan.

So we will travel through the upper south with these stops along the way:

  • Texas and Wright Counties, Missouri where my grandfather, Owen Herbert Reed, was born in 1896 and my great-grandmother, Petronellia Sherman Reed, was buried.
  • The Richmond, Kentucky area, home to my Day and Sherman ancestors.
  • Wayne County, Kentucky where my great-great grandmother, Jane Carter Reed, was born in 1824.
  • Greene County, Tennessee where my third great grandparents, Mary Templeton and John Carter, were married in 1816.
  • Lunenburg and Augusta Counties, Virginia, home to my Day and Howe ancestors.

I am working hard on these ancestral lines this spring to ready myself for this trip. I can’t wait to see this part of the country.

A Surprising Connection

During the past year, my husband/tech advisor and I have become active members of our local Sons of Norway chapter. Among other Norwegian cultural pursuits, the lodge offers access to a Norwegian genealogy study group. They meet once a month to exchange information on researching Norwegian families.

At my first genealogy meeting, I recognized another woman whom I had seen at other genealogy events around town. I had not realized she is a fellow Norwegian. I amazed to learn that her family had settled in the same rural Montana county as my Bentsen family. We both have roots in Sheridan County.

Anyone doing research in that county knows that the bible of information is a series of books called Sheridan’s Daybreak. My own relatives contributed articles, but no copies of either the writings or the book series came down to me. Today the books sell for hundreds of dollars, so I am not in a hurry to purchase them. Denver Public Library does not own a set, and no place will send them out on inter-library loan. As far as I know, they have not been digitized.

But guess who has a complete set of the books? The nice woman at the Sons of Norway lodge! She has offered to let me search it for my family articles. I am thrilled to find out all about those collateral relatives, the Bedwells, Flemings, Overbys, and Scollards.

All homesteaded in the harsh climate of northeastern Montana at the turn of the last century. On this land close to the Canadian border, they grew wheat. My family still owns the original homestead in addition to other acreage they picked up along the way. I am so eager to find out about their lives by reading Sheridan’s Daybreak.

Thank you, Donna!


Carter Cousins II

Recently I wrote that my great-grandfather Samuel Harvey Reed (1845-1928) had several Reed cousins known to me. He also had numerous Carter cousins on his mother’s side of the family, but I knew virtually nothing of them, not even their names.

Well, throughout the month I have looked at many U.S. census records, and I think I now have a pretty complete list of the Carter cousins in Samuel’s generation. A revised list follows, with new names in bold:

Children of Susan Carter and John Austin

  1. James Austin
  2. Mary Austin
  3. William Austin
  4. Edith Austin
  5. Thomas Austin

Children of Shelton Carter and Eliza Jane Ashmore

  1. Joseph B. Carter
  2. Jane Carter
  3. James Carter
  4. Mary Carter
  5. John W. Carter
  6. Samuel Carter
  7. George Robison Carter
  8. Edith Carter
  9. Jane L. Carter
  10. Louis S. Carter

Children of Nancy Carter and Robert Boyd

  1. Susan C. Boyd
  2. Caleb Boyd
  3. G. R. Boyd
  4. Gus Boyd
  5. Tabitha J. Boyd
  6. Mary Ann Boyd
  7. John Boyd

Child of Bailey Carter and Mary Ann McAlister

  1. John M. Carter

Children of Thena Carter and Solomon Collins

  1. John J. Collins
  2. Elijah Collins

Children of Joseph Carter and Martha Jane Collins

  1. William J. Carter
  2. Thomas B. Carter
  3. David W. Carter
  4. Mary J. Carter
  5. Alice M. Carter
  6. John A. Carter
  7. Delilah B. Carter
  8. Jacob S. Carter
  9. Margaret Ellen Carter

Children of Elizabeth Carter and James Cox

  1. John W. Young
  2. Susan J. Young
  3. Harvey Young

To this list, I should add the names of Samuel Harvey Reed himself, as well as the names of his own siblings, the children of Jane Carter and Caleb Reed:

  1. Samuel Harvey Reed
  2. Mary C. Reed
  3. Martha Ann Reed
  4. George Robert Reed
  5. Thomas B. Reed
  6. Emma Jane Reed
  7. John Carter Reed
  8. Thomas Logan Reed
  9. James N. Reed
  10. Ida May Reed
  11. Albert M. Reed

So this makes a list of 48 grandchildren for the Carter patriarchs, Mary Templeton and John Carter, Illinois pioneers of 1830.

Illinois Research—Genealogy Trails

My roots run deep in Illinois. About 1830, my great-great grandparents, Jane and Caleb Reed, moved from Kentucky to Coles County, Illinois. Young children at the time, they traveled in covered wagons to their new home with their parents, Ann (Kirkham) and Thomas Reed, and Mary (Templeton) and John Carter.

The families settled near each other, and descendants remain in Coles County today. Consequently, I am very interested in Coles County records from inception to the modern day. I love when I locate something online.

One source that I have found quite valuable in researching my Reed and Carter families is Illinois Genealogy Trails ( About 15 years ago, volunteers dedicated to putting historical and genealogical information online began this wonderful website.

This week I have spent time pulling marriage information from their online index to Coles County marriages. Both Jane and Caleb came from large families, and I found the dates and spouses for all their siblings’ marriages.

This marriage index offers just one example of the information one can find at Illinois Genealogy Trails. You can bet that I plan to spend more time on this website. They encourage submissions by users, too, so I may contribute an obituary or two.

Sites like Illinois Genealogy Trails make needed records so much easier for us to find. We can quickly move ahead in our research with all this at our fingertips. I feel fortunate that my ancestors chose Illinois.

My Irish Heritage—Or Not

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up next week, I began thinking about all those Americans who celebrate their Irish heritage that day. I used to be one of them.

I grew up in a small Wyoming town among many Irish-Americans. The locals even chose the name for my high school, Kelly Walsh High School, to honor of one of them. The Irish had settled in Wyoming over a hundred years earlier when they arrived to work on the trans-continental railroad.

Surrounded by so many Irish descendants, I probably felt like I fit in better if I, too, had Irish ancestors. Besides, I thought I had understood my paternal grandmother to have told me so.

Turns out, she claimed nothing of the sort. She said that our Reed family was “Scotch-Irish”. In my naiveté, I took this to mean we were Scotch and Irish. Never mind that Scotch is a beverage, not a nationality.

Only years later did I learn that the correct term, “Scots-Irish” referred to the American descendants of the Ulster Scots of Northern Ireland. These Presbyterians had come originally from the Scottish Lowlands to settle on the Irish plantations. Later, many of them moved on to colonial America. There they lived mostly on the frontier, as my family had.

I should have shown more suspicion about my supposed Irish roots for that and other reasons. Our family did not have a recognizable Irish surname (Reed?). My dad’s family was mostly Presbyterian, and we have not a Roman Catholic to be found.

Although I can no longer celebrate an Irish heritage, I can and will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I have pulled out my St. Paddy’s Day decorations and purchased my corned beef. My grandson and I have baked cookies decorated with green sugar. We are ready. Erin Go Bragh!

Publishing Your Research: Harder Than It Looks

We genealogists spend hours and hours (and even more hours!) on our research. We interview relatives, wade through online databases, visit courthouses and cemeteries. All of this results in mountains of information for our family trees.

What should we do with all of it? Professional genealogists exhort us to publish, publish, publish our family histories. They advise us to disseminate our information as widely as possible in order to preserve it. Heaven knows our own kids will likely throw out all the lovingly-collected documents and family group sheets once we are gone.

Last weekend I attended a workshop hosted by my local genealogy Computer Interest Group (CIG) on how to take a family history from computer to published page. The idea was that periodically along the way a genealogist should stop and compile the research results so far. Take these and use an online service to prepare a small book for relatives and for placement in public genealogy collections. No need to wait until the research is finished to do this. We all know we never will be finished with it.

For the workshop I attended, the presenter had a family line all ready to go to the online publisher. She has done this several times before. Before the seminar, she had taken her manuscript to a local printer to get a test copy, and everything looked beautiful. As we watched in a live presentation of how to build this into a keepsake book using a well-known online publisher, the service refused to accept her work. They deemed it too short for the book dimensions she had always used before.

What changed, and why? The site gave no warning of new rules. Our speaker now needs to go back and re-format everything to a different size that we hope will be more acceptable.

The first session of this workshop had given me several good ideas for books I could make to preserve histories of my own family and precious belongings. Now I wonder if I can face the same disappointment with the online publisher that we saw at this seminar.

Rules change, seemingly arbitrarily, and with no notice. Taking time to prepare a work that is accepted one day and not the next is a huge waste of one’s time. This experience makes me very wary of trying this myself.

Carter Cousins

My great-grandfather, Samuel Harvey Reed (1845-1928) came from the small town of Ashmore, Illinois. I always knew he had a big family there.

Mostly, I knew of all the Reed cousins. One Reed descendant wrote a book called The Reeds of Ashmore back in the 1980’s. He traced our Reed line from Samuel’s grandfather Thomas, an original settler in Ashmore. I have used this book a lot, and consequently I am familiar with the names of Samuel’s cousins on his father Caleb Reed’s side:

  1. Daniel Reed
  2. Nancy Jane Reed
  3. Caleb Robertson Reed
  4. William Fred Reed
  5. Mary E. Reed
  6. James Reed
  7. Kate Reed
  8. Susan Ann McAlister
  9. Thomas Alison Walton
  10. Nancy Jane Walton
  11. Jerome G. “Aris” Walton
  12. Martha Ellen Walton
  13. Nevada Dorcas Walton
  14. James Thomas Galbreath
  15. William Riley Galbreath
  16. Anna Eliza Galbreath

All these cousins lived near Ashmore, and Samuel obviously knew them well. In 1872 he even served as a witness for Mary Reed’s will shortly before she died at age nineteen.

These Reed cousins comprise only half of Samuel’s extended family. His mother Jane Carter, also from Ashmore, had many siblings, too. Thus Samuel had Carter cousins as well. This year I am finally working to identify the grandchildren of John Carter (Jane’s father), and so far I have this incomplete list:

  1. Edith Austin
  2. Susan C. Boyd
  3. Caleb Boyd
  4. G. R. Boyd
  5. Gus Boyd
  6. Tabitha J. Boyd
  7. Mary Ann Boyd
  8. John Boyd
  9. John M. Carter
  10. John J. Collins
  11. William J. Carter
  12. Thomas B. Carter
  13. David W. Carter
  14. Mary J. Carter
  15. Alice M. Carter
  16. John A. Carter
  17. Delilah B. Carter
  18. Jacob S. Carter
  19. Margaret Ellen Carter

I am confident I will find the names of even more Carter cousins. I am in the process of working through the census records for all of Jane’s siblings to see how many I can locate. Samuel Reed must have been related to nearly everyone in Ashmore!

Genealogy Comes To Me

Several times recently, an opportunity from genealogy world has landed in my lap. This happens because of doors I have opened. It works this way:

  • When took down the genealogy message boards last year, I followed the advice of several genealogists to make final posts before the boards converted to a read-only format. I put updated queries and contact information on the boards for each of my surnames. Since then, several Carter researchers have contacted me. One provided an extended Carter DNA analysis with a hypothesis as to where my branch fits in to the Carter family. This provides a wonderful start to my Carter research this year.
  • Last month I began attending the Norwegian Cultural Skills group for genealogy offered by my local Sons of Norway lodge. There I met a woman whose Norwegian family settled in the same county in Montana where my Bentsen family homesteaded a hundred years ago. She owns the out-of-print, three-volume history of Sheridan County, Sheridan’s Daybreak. She has offered to do some look-ups for me! I hope she can find information on some of my collateral relatives. All of my grandfather’s siblings married into families (Bedwell, Fleming, Leader, Overby, Scollard) that also settled in Sheridan County.
  • On a sadder note, I learned this week that the Colorado Genealogical Society will lose its meeting site next year. The Board has decided to move to the Denver Public Library and gather there on Saturday mornings. After more than twenty years as a member of this organization, I have decided not to follow them in this move. I prefer an evening meeting, and my Saturdays are already too full. This decision to discontinue my membership will free up some time and money for other genealogical pursuits.

So the work continues to move ahead. Sometimes I just have to do something to nudge it along.