Categories
Unique Visitors
29,788
Total Page Views
501,245
View Teri Hjelmstad's profile on LinkedIn
 

 
Archives

Preserving the Work

We genealogists spend a lifetime compiling family histories. How can we preserve this information for posterity?

Our descendants often are not as interested in our family trees as we are. Notebooks and folders of information can end up in the trash when children do not want to house them. Digital files disappear when a computer becomes outdated or subscriptions lapse.

Some options exist for preventing the loss of genealogical work:

  1. Write a book. When I began working as a genealogist, many of the people I met had this ambition. A book offers a place to gather family trees, family photos, and family stories. The writer can distribute copies to relatives and hope some of the books survive. The odds get better if one donates a book to a genealogical library near where the family lived. Although I still see some people working on ancestry books today, the time and expense required for this option deter many people from choosing to write them.
  2. Contribute to online family trees. I have posted my father’s family, so far as I know it, to the online tree at Family Search (www.FamilySearch.org). A cousin in Finland has put much of my mom’s family on the collaborative site, WikiTree (www.wikitree.com). The LDS church runs Family Search, and they vow to preserve information in perpetuity. I do not know the long-term plans for WikiTree. Downsides to this option include the time necessary to input or clean up data and the danger that someone else will edit in bad information.
  3. Apply for membership in heritage societies. Only recently did I become aware of this as an option for preserving one’s family history, but it makes sense. These societies require detailed, sourced applications tracing family trees back multiple generations. They preserve the submissions. You can use this method to place your family tree with groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, or the Mayflower Society. Many such organizations exist, and often people can qualify for one or more. One woman I know belongs to nine heritage societies, and she joined in part to preserve her own family tree work. Some of the societies offer assistance in preparing an application.

I have already used a couple of these options. I documented my grandmother Grace Riddle Reed’s heritage back to her colonial ancestors and distributed the book to family members about twenty years ago. After that, I began annually writing ancestor character sketches and sending them around as Christmas gifts. I have completed these as far back as my second great-grandparents, except for the one line I do not know yet, Grandma Grace’s father.

We all need to find ways to preserve the family history we collect. Doing the research may offer the biggest satisfaction in genealogy, but we owe ourselves the knowledge that someone, somewhere will save what we collect.

Old Photos

A woman sitting next me at a genealogy meeting earlier this week told me about a family photo album she acquired recently. It had been for sale on eBay.

She recognized it because she had seen it in person, years ago. Its owners no longer wanted it but did not make the effort to offer it to other family members. Instead, they posted it for sale online. Genealogists cringe at this behavior.

I had my own experience this month with family photos belonging to another. My mother’s cousin on her Finnish side inherited their grandmother’s photo album.

It contained many images of relatives in Finland, all taken a hundred years ago and more. None had labels.

A few years ago, this cousin visited me and brought along the album. She had no idea who the photo subjects could be, and she asked me for help in identifying them. It saddened both of us that I recognized no one although I could see a strong family resemblance to my Finnish grandmother.

The cousin took her album home again, and that was that. She died a couple of years later. I assumed the album passed down to her son. I did not pursue the idea of acquiring a copy of the unfamiliar contents.

Last fall a couple of our more distant cousins in Finland contacted me. We began exchanging family information, and they asked about family photos. I mentioned the cousin’s album.

They wondered whether I could get my hands on it. Perhaps they could identify some of the people.

Their interest encouraged me. I contacted the cousin’s widower and explained that I may have discovered a way to add some value to her album. I asked for scanned copies of the photos to share with our Finnish cousins.

He replied that he had no interest in keeping these pictures. Nor did his son. He would send me the originals.

The photos arrived in the mail a few days later. My husband/tech advisor has scanned them all.

I will e-mail them to my Finnish cousins to see if they recognize anyone. When I visit them next time I am in Helsinki, I will take hard copies of those and some other family papers. We plan to meet at the new Oodi library in Helsinki to discuss our family history.

Without their encouragement, I may not have acted to preserve these photos. They, too, might have ended up on eBay or in the trash. Instead, I now have digital copies that I can share with all my Finnish-American cousins. With some luck, I may be able to tell them who some of the people are. I just wish my mom’s cousin was still around for this exciting opportunity.

Unwed Mothers

We continue our research on our Nordic ancestors. We are trying to accomplish as much as we can before our upcoming trip to Norway and the Baltic. My husband/tech advisor, an accomplished Norwegian genealogist, has worked his way far back on several of my Norwegian lines.

He has identified an interesting phenomenon in Norway. German researchers mention the same curiosity. These societies had numerous unwed mothers.

I do not know why this occurred so often in Norway. In Germany, the laws of the time encouraged illegitimacy in a couple of ways:

  1. The German states issued marriage licenses only to those men who owned property. They thought they could eliminate poor families with this policy. They found out that people would pair up, married or not. Many illegitimate births occurred during this time.
  2. German inheritance laws made it important to have a family. One did not want to marry a barren wife. Better to verify that she could produce at least one healthy child before marrying her.

Perhaps Norwegian couples had similar reasons for the birth of so many out-of-wedlock children. We have not yet investigated the applicable Norwegian laws.

If social policies did not encourage this behavior, I can think of only one other reason for it, an immoral society. This seems implausible. Why would Norwegians be less moral than their neighbors?

We need to find the true explanation for all those uægte children.

A Place for a Family Tree

Have you ever used WikiTree? This website (https://www.wikitree.com/) offers social networking to build a world-wide family tree. Speakers at genealogy events often mention it.

I had never made time to visit this site until recently. Then one of my newly-discovered cousins in Finland told me she was posting our shared family tree on this site. I decided to take a look.

This week I set up an account and located her tree. She has done a tremendous amount of work, tracing our shared Lampinen family line back many generations. I found that this site provides a great place for us to collaborate.

As a native Finn, she has advantages in pursuing Finnish research that I do not have. Sites like Ancestry or Family Search hold all the records from Finland that I can reach. I have trouble determining the methodology the record keepers used, and I find it difficult to decipher the words.

My cousin knows the Finnish language. Plus, she can visit the repositories where the records are kept if she needs to. She, rather than I, suits the role of Finnish researcher for our extended family.

On WikiTree, I can add the particulars from my American Finns to supplement her work. Together, we can add an entire family to the world-wide family tree.

Nordic Trip Preparations

As Easter approaches, I think it offers a good time to switch gears a bit. I have focused so far this year on extending my Norwegian lines as I prepare for a trip to Norway and the Baltic. My husband/tech advisor has been a tremendous help in this.

He and I traveled in Norway once before, in 2013. We thought at the time that my family originated in Nordland, just as his is from Hedmark. We identified my ancestral farms in Nordland and visited many of them. Unfortunately, we had not worked back in time nearly far enough.

Turns out, a few of my family members were not born in Nordland at all. Some migrated there in the first half of the 1800’s, probably to take advantage of the opportunity to make a better living in the fishing industry.

I had four great-great grandparents in Nordland. After these past four months of research, we know more about their roots than we did during our last trip:

  1. Lorents Nicolai Möller Andersen (1854-1919). Nick, as he was known, was born at Bø in Nordland to parents who had resettled there. Anders Bentsen (1823-1857) and Anne Larsdatter (1819-?) both came from the area northeast of Bergen, along the famous Sognefjord. Their families lived in this region for as far back as church records go.
  2. Karen Marie Johansdatter (1851-1916). Karen, Nick’s wife, was born at Dønnes, also in Nordland. Her family, unlike Nick’s, appears to have lived there a long time. Both her father Johan Larsen (1824-1876) and her mother Sara Andrina Möllersdatter (1816-1880) were baptized in Nordland’s Alstahaug parish.
  3. Sivert Knudsen (1843-1907). Sivert was born in the remote Øksnes municipality of northern Nordland. His parents, Knud Sjursen (1816-1885) and Brita Kristoffersdatter (1816-1887) eloped there in 1842. They were originally from the Voss municipality of Hordaland, east of the city of Bergen.
  4. Martha Karoline Dorothea Hansdatter (1841-1900). Sivert’s wife Martha also was born at Øksnes, as were her father, Hans Enok Pedersen (1813-1898) and grandfather, Peder Andersen (c1768-1828). Her mother, Maren Anna Serina Andersdatter (c1812-1886) came from nearby Bø. This family had long lived in Nordland, at least for several generations.

I can see then that two of my ancestors, Karen and Martha, had Nordland roots, but their husbands did not. Suddenly, I have two more areas to visit the next time I go to Norway.

Luckily, the itinerary for my upcoming trip by chance includes both these places. My train route from Oslo to Bergen will go through Voss where Sivert’s family lived. Once I reach Bergen, I will take a ferry tour of the Sognefjord, the home of Nick’s family.

With these discoveries and plans in place, I will take the opportunity now to work on my Finnish lines a bit. I plan to meet a third cousin or two while I am in Helsinki. They have been hard at work on our shared Lampinen family tree, and I want to do my part. Until we leave, I will assemble what information I can to share with them.

I Take My Turn Offering a Norwegian Genealogy Class

Last weekend I led a discussion for our Sons of Norway genealogy study group. Earlier this year, we had a planning meeting to schedule topics for the months ahead, and I drew April. This approach frees up our leader, my own husband/tech advisor, to work on other things. No one must do too much if we each take responsibility for an occasional program.

My topic was organizing genealogical research. I am no expert at this, as you would see if you peeked into my office. I thought about it awhile, and I realized I could not do a formal presentation on this subject. I have no expertise to offer.

Instead, I decided to lead a discussion where all participants could share what they know. We could learn from one another and take away any good tips offered.

I did some background research and located a couple of books on organizing your genealogy research. From these, I prepared an outline to guide the discussion. I made copies to distribute to everyone who attended.

I was pleasantly surprised when ten people gathered for our meeting. This is more than we have had in a long time. We even had a couple of visitors.

We had a lively discussion with most people confessing that their records could use better organization. We were all reassured to learn that no best way to organize exists. Systems used by the group members included paper systems in file folders and notebooks, spreadsheets, and digitized records. Most everyone uses a genealogy software program to keep track of family groups. We talked about the pros and cons of each system for filing documents and maintaining research calendars.

I circulated the reference books and copies of some paper organizational helps like family group sheets and research logs. I also showed the notebook I keep on my Norwegian ancestors and explained how I have it organized.

The best tip I gleaned from this meeting was that I do not have to take the time to reorganize everything I have collected. If I want a new system, say a digital one, I can begin with materials I am using for my research today. Once I identify a consistent file-naming system, I can then go back and scan older items as I refer to them. Eventually, it will all get done without me trying to do it all at once.

I think we had a very successful genealogy session. Several people in the group had requested this topic, and the discussion format seemed well-received. A wise genealogist told me once that if you offer a good program, they will come.

In case anyone is interested, we looked at these books on genealogy organization, both available at my local library:

  1. Smith, Drew. Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher
  2. Scott, Kerry. How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Organize your Research and Boost your Genealogy Productivity

Living on the Land the Vikings Trod

My amazing husband/tech advisor remains diligent in searching for my Norwegian ancestors before we embark on our trip to Norway this year. He continues to seek information on my third great-grandparents, Anders Bentsen (1823-1857) and Anne Larsdatter. They lived in Nordland, the cod fishing area of Norway that lies north of the Arctic Circle. They married there, but independently they had each moved there from someplace else.

Earlier this year, my researcher tracked Anders’ birthplace to the Sognefjord north of Bergen. He suspected Anne may have come from there, too.

Recently, he learned that she did, but from much closer to the mouth of the fjord than Anders’ family lived. Her family resided in the Gulen municipality of Nordre Bergenhus which lies around the Gulafjord, a southern offshoot of the Sognefjord.

In the online Norwegian national archives, he located the church records for young Anne Larsdatter who lived on the Floli farm near the village of Eivindvik.

Eivindvik? Wow!

The western Vikings used to meet there for their Gulating, an annual assembly to discuss political matters and taxation. They also used these gatherings to resolve civil and criminal complaints.

Two ancient stone crosses found near the village of Eivindvik are believed to be about 1000 years old, erected there after the Vikings who met at the Gulating gathering embraced Christianity. The worshippers probably gathered around these crosses until they could build a church.

We now know that Anne Larsdatter came from this historic place. She was born at Floli in 1819 and was baptized in the old Gulen church in Eivindvik, one of the oldest church sites in Norway. Floli, just east of Eivindvik, is now a national historic area.

Anne was confirmed there, too, in 1835. The pastor noted that her religious knowledge was mediocre, but her behavior was immaculate.

Why would Anders and Anne leave their families and this well-settled area to move far north? They needed to make a living. The Norwegian population grew rapidly in the 19th century, and existing farms could not accommodate everyone. Many people moved to northern Norway where the fishing industry prospered.

Anders and Anne followed the crowd. They met, married, and started a family. Sadly, Anders contracted a fever when he was just 34 years old, and Anne was widowed with two small children in 1857.

The hunt for her fate after Anders’ death continues.

 

Adventures in DNA

Every week I log in to a couple of DNA testing websites to see whether I have any new matches. Recently, a few relatives on my dad’s side of the family have tested at these sites as well. Comparing their match lists with mine allows me to speculate on how my unfamiliar matches might be related to me.

I find this particularly interesting because several of my closest matches were adopted. I would like to know how we are related. Three people come to mind:

  1. A man in Florida matches my dad at the second cousin level. This man’s mother was adopted. As far as I know, no one in previous generations of Dad’s family lived in Florida, so I have no idea where this match fits into my family tree. He does not seem too interested in helping me puzzle this out.
  2. The same goes for a match in Montana. Again, this adopted woman does not want to correspond much although I have more to offer here. My dad had several family members who settled in Montana. Perhaps this woman is related through them. But without more information from her to go on, I cannot fit her into my tree, either.
  3. The final match, the closest one, is to a woman who was adopted from a foundling home near Lincoln, Nebraska in 1930. The third match and I have corresponded several times hoping to discover her parentage and how she is related to us.

She and I have made a little progress. When my second cousin on my father’s paternal side did a DNA test, she did not match my third match. This means the Nebraska baby does not belong to the Reed side of my dad’s family. Instead, she belongs to my grandmother’s family.

The third match’s family lived in the same area around McCook that my grandmother’s family did from 1885-1954. Only problem in placing the adopted baby into my family is that we do not know who Grandma’s father was. Without this information we do not know whether the baby is related through our known Riddle line or through my unknown great-grandfather’s line.

The match’s birth certificate provides the clue of a surname, probably her mother’s. I do not recognize this name as anyone related to me.

Two possibilities, then, come to mind. One of the baby’s parents may have been related to my unknown Nebraska great-grandfather. In that case, of course I do not recognize the surname on the baby’s birth record. Or perhaps the baby’s father was one of my known Riddle relatives.

Without more DNA testing, I think I will not find an answer. It would help to locate a Riddle descendant to see whether my third match also matches them. Doing this will be difficult because so many of us are double cousins, and their DNA would not help in sorting this out. We need a Riddle cousin whose family did not intermarry with the Reeds.

In the meantime, I will stay in touch with my DNA cousin in Nebraska. She would really like to identify her birth family, and I am her best evidence.

A Nordic Vacation Draws Closer

This weekend our traveling companions will visit us to put the final touches on our plans for a trip to Scandinavia and the Baltic. My husband/tech advisor’s brother and his wife will join us later this year to see the lands of our roots. We have scheduled time in several spots of significance to us:

  1. After landing in Oslo, Norway, we will take the train north to Hamar. The guys’ Norwegian family, before their immigration to America in the 1880’s, lived on various farms around Lake Mjøsa in the Ringsaker district of Hedmark. We have been there before, so we will rent a car and drive the other couple around to see all the sites we discovered in 2013.
  2. Back in Oslo, we will catch another train. As we cross the country toward Bergen, we will travel through the Voss municipality of Hordaland. My great-grandmother’s grandparents lived in this region before they moved north to the cod fishing grounds of Nordland in the 1840’s. One local history claims the couple left Voss because their families disapproved of their marriage between members of different social classes.
  3. From Bergen, we will take a ferry tour along Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, the Sognefjord. My great-father’s grandparents lived along the fjord. This couple, too, left their birthplaces for the fishing grounds of Nordland. A possible reason for their move is the lack of opportunity in Voss for an illegitimate son.
  4. We will fly to Copenhagen, Denmark from Bergen. There, my husband/tech advisor’s ancestor Jorgen/Georg Rasch once served as court musician to the King of Denmark-Norway. A well-regarded lutenist, his likeness is painted on the ceiling of a building in Copenhagen. We plan to see it.
  5. A cruise ship from Copenhagen will take us around the Baltic Sea with a stop in Helsinki, Finland. I hope to meet some of my Lampinen relatives there.

With our visitors this weekend, we will finalize plans for our shore excursions from the cruise ship. In addition to Helsinki, we have stops in Estonia, Russia, Sweden, and Germany. This voyage means a lot to me. My Finnish family sailed on the Baltic when they left Finland for America in 1905, and now I get to sail on the same sea.

I hope my sister-in-law enjoys the trip, too. She has no Scandinavian or Baltic ancestors, but she looks forward to seeing Norway and taking the cruise. A visit to this part of the world has been on her bucket list. I am sure we will find many fun things to do that are not related to genealogy.

We are looking forward to seeing these family members and finishing up our trip plans this weekend. Anticipation is building up for all of us.

Bergen Roots

Before I travel to Norway later this year, I had hoped to discover the roots for one of my ancestral couples, Anders Bentsen (1823-1857) and Anne Larsdatter (ca. 1820-?), I had not even begun the search when my husband/tech advisor already was off and running to find answers.

He has had tremendous success in locating Anders’ family over the last six weeks.

As I suspected, Anders, like so many others, had migrated to Nordland from an area closer to Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city. Anne did, too, although her family is proving more difficult to trace. But for Anders’ paternal family, someone has already tracked it back to the early 1600’s and posted it on Family Search.

My husband/tech advisor was able to link Anders into this paternal family through his father, Bent Iversen, a name we knew from family papers. He located Anders’ baptism record in what was then the county of Nordre Bergenhus. Anders was named as the son of Bent Iversen and an unwed mother, Kari Pedersdatter. He probably was born on the Kjørnes farm in the Sogn municipality. Kari lived on the Kjørnes farm, and all of Anders’ baptism sponsors lived there, too. Bent Iversen lived some distance away on the Mestermandplatsen farm. He never married Kari, choosing someone else instead.

The Sogn area north of Bergen is now the fylke (county) of Sogn og Fjordane (Sogn and the fjords). The farms where Kari and Bent resided lie along the famous Sognefjord, the longest and deepest of western Norway’s fjords. I will be traveling on a ferry along this fjord during my trip. The excursion is completely serendipitous because we had no idea that I had family origins along the fjord when we booked passage on the boat.

Finding Anders’ baptism record solved another little mystery as well. It provides his birth date as December 24, yet previously-found sources claimed an October 16 birth date. The December date is more likely correct. A closer inspection of Anders’ death record revealed the source of the erroneous October 16 information. If one reads straight across the parish record line entry for Anders’s death, one comes to an October 16 birth date.

It turns out, these far-right columns on the form are for stillbirths. Anders certainly was not stillborn. The record is simply misleading. Instead of recording Anders’ September 11 death and an infant’s October 16 stillbirth on separate lines, the pastor put both records on one line. Without translating the column headings, it was so easy to assume the birth date was for Anders instead of the baby.

We have learned a lot about my third great-grandfather, Anders Bentsen so far this year. He died in Vesterålen, Norway after living there just a few years. He had migrated in the 1840’s from the Sognefjord north of Bergen where people have lived for over a thousand years. Perhaps my roots there go back that far. I would be exciting to come from Viking stock.

Now we have two women in Anders’ family who we are eager to learn more about—his wife, Anne Larsdatter, and his mother, Kari Pedersdatter. My husband/tech advisor is on the case. Stay tuned.