Categories
View Teri Hjelmstad's profile on LinkedIn
 

 
Archives

Author Archive

52 Stories #13—Childhood Homes

Back in the 50’s and 60’s, when your dad worked in the oil business you moved around a lot. The petroleum companies liked to give people some experience in their various field offices, so they transferred people every couple of years. My dad, a petroleum landman, needed to acquire knowledge of the various oil fields operated by his company. Our family packed up and moved several times to accomplish that.

Dad took a job with The Ohio Oil Company in 1954, right after he graduated with a degree in business from the University of Wyoming. They sent him to Casper, Wyoming for training, and my mom and I moved in with my maternal grandparents in Rapid City, South Dakota for the summer. I was still an infant.

That fall, my dad began his first assignment in Bismarck, North Dakota. Our little family took up residence in an upstairs apartment across the street from his office. I have a couple of vague recollections of living there, but we did not stay long.

Soon my brother was on the way. We moved to larger accommodations, the ground floor of a small house. Another family lived in the basement. Again, I sort of recall the place, and again, we did not stay long.

When I was 2 ½, we began renting a house all to ourselves. Constructed a few years earlier for a raffle, this house was known locally as “The Dream House”. It sat across the street from the North Dakota capitol building and had two bedrooms, a living room, a small kitchen, and a basement. My brother and I shared one of the bedrooms and slept in bunk beds. The house had a nice, fenced yard where we spent many hours playing with the neighbor kids. Another brother arrived while I was in kindergarten.

All too soon, the time came for my dad to move on to another assignment. We relocated to Sidney, Nebraska while I was in the first grade. This time we rented a 3-bedroom house. I had my own room, and my brothers shared a room. We quickly made friends with the kids at school, but my dad did not like Nebraska. He requested a transfer almost as soon as we arrived.

We moved again, to Casper, Wyoming, when I finished the second grade. My parents looked for another house to rent. Nothing seemed suitable. The situation became more and more desperate as the company wanted us settled and the start of a new school year loomed. Finally, my folks decided to consider purchasing their first house.

The Ohio Oil Company had rebranded itself as Marathon Oil by that time, and several other “Marathoners” were buying newly-built homes on the east end of Casper. My folks joined them, and we moved into our new house amongst all the other oil people just before school started. My mother did not really care for the house, but she thought it would be temporary quarters for just a couple of years. Little did she know.

The company philosophy had changed by then, and people stayed in one place. My parents lived in that house for the next 23 years.

The ranch-style house, located half a block from the elementary school, had three bedrooms, 1 ½ baths, and dirt for a yard. My parents got to work right away planting grass and a couple of saplings. They had earth moved to flatten out the lot. They installed clothes lines. My mom disliked the salmon-pink exterior of the house and quickly prevailed upon my dad to repaint it blue.

I occupied the smallest bedroom and again my brothers shared another. My mom decorated my tiny room in a way she liked but I hated. She painted three walls pink and put fussy, floral wallpaper on the fourth wall. She installed a puffy, white curtain on the window and put a canopy over the bed. I lived in that overly-feminine room until I started junior high.

By then, I had a baby sister. When she outgrew her crib in our parents’ bedroom, she moved into the pink room. I helped my dad build a new bedroom in the basement and moved down there as soon as it was completed. I was thrilled with my good fortune.

I kept that room until I married eight years later. I loved its big window, large closet, and double bed. Best of all, it had privacy and space away from my mothers’ cigarette smoke. I spent hours down there reading, listening to music, and playing my guitar.

Of all the bedrooms I had during my childhood, I liked that last one best. I had it to myself, and the décor pleased me. I do not recall doing much to personalize it, but I did get to choose the floor tile, the wallpaper, and the bedspread. That was enough to make me happy in a room of my own.

Historic Newspapers Come Up Short

My ancestors Thomas Sherman and Katherine Whoever-She-Is lived south of Indianapolis around the time of the Civil War. At least I think they did. He registered for the Civil War draft at Nineveh, Johnson County, Indiana in 1863, but that is the only mention of him in that location. I would like to find more.

This week I combed all the Indiana historic newspaper databases I could find searching for Thomas’ name:

  1. Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/) has nothing for the 1860’s Nineveh area.
  2. Hoosier State Chronicles (https://newspapers.library.in.gov/) has several newspapers from Johnson and nearby Bartholomew County, but few issues from the 1860’s survive. I found no mention of Thomas or any of his family.
  3. Library of Congress Chronicling America (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) has no newspapers from the Nineveh area during the 1860’s.

Thomas and Katherine seem to have been very obscure people who resided in a sparsely-populated area. He lived in Indiana between census years, and I have not found a likely candidate for her on the 1860 census. His name did not appear on the Johnson County land ownership plat for 1866-7. I have spent another week searching for them only to turn up nothing.

Not to be discouraged, I still have more to do before I can claim to have made an exhaustive search for these people. Slowly I am working my way through my research checklist. I still need to search church records and tax lists. These records present more of a challenge to locate, so I looked in other places first. Surely my ancestors left behind more than a Civil War draft registration.

52 Stories #12—My Career as a Genealogist

Have I had a career? I have had jobs, but I never stuck with a single line of work through my adult life. The only activity that would count as a career for me has been my study of genealogy and family history.

My coming-of-age years paralleled the movement for women’s equal rights. During my childhood, no one’s mother worked for money, and I never expected to either. The idea that having a job was somehow inappropriate and undesirable for women never left me. I liked the idea of staying at home, answering to no one, setting my own schedule, and pursuing my own interests, namely genealogy. This appealed to me more than any job ever could.

But times were changing, and as I entered adulthood, women needed to enter the workforce just to stay even with the sort of life my parents had. I went to college and on to law school. From there, I followed my dad into the oil business where I did contract and land title work for a major oil company.

This interesting, challenging work provided a good living, but boy, was the work environment a pressure-cooker. I spent hours at the office, longing to spend more quality time with my young boys, only to arrive home just in time to give them dinner and put them to bed. What an impossible schedule! It was a relief when my company closed the local office and left for Houston, a place I knew I did not want to live. I resigned my position. I had gleaned what I needed from that job—a good financial start and a much better understanding of all the legal documents a genealogist must discover and analyze.

I spent the next several years at home, happily raising my kids and beginning my genealogical research in earnest. I learned my way around the Denver Public Library genealogy collection, the Denver branch of the National Archives, and my local Family History Center. I joined a genealogy club and attended conferences and seminars.

In the meantime, the boys grew older, and they wanted to participate on sports teams. Each year required more and more team travel with more and more expense. The time came when again I needed to find a paying job. I resurrected my old teaching certificate and began substituting in the school libraries.

A few years later, I hired on part time with the public library to get a regular schedule. Working there just half-time allowed me to continue with my genealogical research while getting paid to learn valuable computer and reference skills. I stayed there for over a decade and never again took a full-time job.

Today, I am at home again, and I devote as much time to genealogy as I can. The other jobs I have had enabled me to pursue this, my true passion. I have documented the lives of generations of my family and preserved the information for posterity. This is the happy, fulfilling life I wanted for myself, and I will never retire from this career.

 

 

A Plat as a Census Substitute

My mysterious German ancestor lived in Indiana during the Civil War. I believe she had already immigrated to the U. S. by 1860, but I have not located her on the 1860 census. By the time of the 1870 census, she had died. In between these years, she purportedly married my great-great grandfather and bore a daughter.

Verifying this information presents a real challenge. How I wish Indiana had taken a state census in 1865. This couple’s daughter, my great-grandmother Anna Petronellia Sherman, was born in April that year. This little family would have been listed on a state census. Research on my German ancestor would have taken a step ahead.

But Indiana did not take a census that year, and I have found very few records from that decade. This week I looked at one of them, an 1866 plat of Johnson County, Indiana. The Sherman family lived there for a time. The map serves as a substitute of sorts for the absence of a mid-decade census.

I ordered this map from the Family History Library in Salt Lake, and it came on two microfiche. The map had separate sections for each incorporated area in the county as well as a broader map showing all the landowners in the rural areas. The writing was faint, and it appeared in different orientations throughout the maps. This made it hard to view on a microfiche reader.

I spent upwards of two hours looking at this plat to see if I could locate any familiar names:

  • Anna Petronellia Sherman, was born at Edinburg in 1865. The plat showed the layout of this town and identified local businesses, but it did not place names on individual residences. I found no clue of where, or if, any Shermans still lived there in 1866.
  • My great-great grandfather, Thomas Sherman, and his older brother Anderson registered for the Civil War draft at Nineveh in 1863. The plat for Nineveh did label individual residences, but again I found no mention of a Sherman family in 1866.
  • My great-great grandmother is identified in family records as Katherine Stillenbaugh/Stanabaugh. I continue to work under the hypothesis that she was part of the extended Stilgenbauer/Stillabower clan of German immigrants who lived south of Indianapolis. There was a “Stigenbauer” residence next door to the Post Office in Nineveh in 1866. This puts the Shermans and the German family in the same county at about the same time.
  • I found no mention of any Sherman or Stilgenbauer landowners on the farms in the county. For the Shermans this was not a surprise. They were blacksmiths and owned little, if any, farmland over the years.

After examining these plats, I have little new information. I do have a better understanding of the neighborhoods my ancestors frequented. I took down the names of all the householders in Nineveh because some of these people would have been acquaintances of my family members. Their records may mention my own family.

My local family history center received the Johnson County plat microfiche on extended loan, so I can view them again if I uncover other information about my families. I still wish Indiana had taken a census listing all heads of household in the mid-1860’s, but these plats provide something of a census substitute.

52 Stories #11—My First Paycheck

Everyone remembers their first job. These work situations provide us with places to learn basic workplace skills such as reporting on time, following directions, and getting along with others. Then we get that great reward—money of our own. Many of us feel real dismay when we realize for the first time just how much of our hard-earned cash goes straight to Uncle Sam.

I found my first job when I was seventeen years old. I worked that summer at the front counter of the local Tastee Freeze fast food franchise. There I waited on customers by preparing frozen treats like ice cream cones, malts and milkshakes, sundaes, and floats. I also took orders for hamburger and chicken meals. We had no cash registers and accepted only cash at the Tastee Freeze, so I learned to add up a ticket quickly and to make change correctly. One day someone handed me a one-hundred-dollar bill, the first time I had ever seen such a thing.

A married couple owned the Tastee Freeze, and they worked alongside the teenagers they hired. She was pretty nice to all the high school students who worked there, but he was not. In fact, I remember choosing him as my subject a few years later when I had to write a school paper about the worst boss I ever had.

He shouted at us when he did not think we worked hard enough or did not focus on the job. In the evenings, after it got dark, he often sat outside in his car, watching us through the restaurant windows to see if he could catch us doing wrong. One night after the place closed and our crew prepared to go home, we stopped to check the work schedule for the next day. Our boss had erased several names from the schedule, in essence firing people in that way instead of speaking with them directly. He said they had not shown proper respect for his expensive equipment, and he seemed to have no interest in re-training them or giving them a second chance. I thought him very unfair.

I stayed at this job through the summer, disliking the work environment more and more as the weeks continued. I left shortly after school started that fall. I had made enough money that summer to save a bit and purchase desired items I would not have had otherwise. I knew I would miss a regular paycheck in the coming months, but I would not miss this overbearing boss.

Working at the Tastee Freeze did provide me with some fundamental job skills. At subsequent jobs, I put them to use, and since then I have had a great appreciation for kind supervisors. I worked much harder for them than I ever did for my first boss.

A pleasant workplace became a real priority for me, and late in life I left another job because of another difficult boss. During the intervening years, when I had employees to supervise, I hope I treated them better than the Tastee Freeze guy treated his first-time workers.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #61 & 62—Henric Miettinen & Anna Toivain

At last we reach the end of my series on the stories of my ancestors. Over a year ago, I took up the challenge of writing about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I began with my parents and worked backwards. At the end of last year, I had written about 52 ancestors, but it seemed a shame to stop part way through a generation. I elected to continue to relate what I know of each of my third great-grandparents. The final couple on this list is Henric Henricson Miettinen (ca. 1804-1836) and Anna Andersdöttir Toivain (1802-a. 1858).

Henric was born at Halivaara in the Karelian region of Finland about 1804. He lived there all his life and worked as a farmer.

On December 27, 1819, he married Anna Toivain in the Juuka parish. She was from the nearby village of Kajo. Together they had seven children:

  1. Carin, b. 1821,
  2. Henric, b. 1823,
  3. Christina, b. 1827,
  4. Margret, b. 1829,
  5. Johan, b. 1830,
  6. Anna, b. 1832, my great-great grandmother, and
  7. Brita, b. 1835.

Like so many Finnish men of the time period, Henric had a short life. When he was thirty-two years old, he contracted a fever. He died on October 22, 1836 when my great-great grandmother Anna was just four years old. Henric was buried in Juuka parish.

His wife survived him by a number of years. She lived until at least 1858. The previous year, she had attended the local kinkeri, or religious meeting, in Juuka parish where confirmed Lutherans were required to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the Lutheran faith. In 1858, her name appears on the communion register, but no record of her has been found after that.

 

Genealogy Projects in The Works

My genealogy world seems to speed up in the spring. I have several events ahead that get in the way of doing much research these days:

  1. My husband/tech advisor and I will offer a presentation to our Norwegian study group next month. In a program called The Push and the Pull, we plan to discuss why people left Norway and why they settled where they did in the United States.
  2. We have two great genealogy seminars coming up in the Denver area. David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society will speak to the Colorado Genealogical Society in April. Dr. Fritz Juengling, a German consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, will address the Colorado Chapter of the Palatines to America in May. A new neighbor of mine who is interested in genealogy will attend these seminars with me.
  3. My most ambitious trip this year will be a choir tour through the Reformation sites in Germany and the Czech Republic. My family has been Lutheran since the 1500’s, so I am eager to find my spiritual roots. We will add a few days to the choir tour to visit my husband/tech advisor’s ancestral villages in Germany. In order to get ready for this trip, I am spending much of my free time singing instead of doing genealogy.

Once I have completed the planning for these events, I will get back to my day-to-day research tasks. I cannot believe we are almost through the first quarter of the year, and I am nowhere near finished with all to searching I want to do for this’s year’s project on my elusive German ancestors.

 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #59 & 60—Henric Lambin & Walb Ruottin

My third great-grandfather Henric Mårtensson Lambin came into the world on December 2, 1806 at Nunnanlax, in the old Swedish county of Savolax and Karelia. Three years later, the Swedes ceded their Finnish lands to Russia, and Finland became a Grand Duchy. Henric lived most of his life as a subject of the Tsar of Russia.

Henric’s parents had him baptized in their local Juuka parish on January 5, 1807. This parish lies on the western shore of beautiful Lake Pielinen, near present-day Koli national park and the highest point in Finland. The land is heavily forested and known for its soapstone deposits.

Henric grew up to be a farmer. When he was twenty years old, he married Walb Johansdottir Ruottin (b. abt. 1808) from the nearby village of Ahmovaara. The wedding took place in Juuka parish on October 14, 1827.

Henric and Walb had two known children, Henric (b. 1832) and my second great-grandfather, Matti (b. 1835). The family originally lived at residence no. 24 in Henric’s home village, Nunnanlax.

By 1837, they had moved on to the village of Kuhnusta. There, Henric soon was stricken with typhoid fever and died at the age of 30 on February 10, 1837. He was buried in the Juuka parish.

Walb remarried the next year on September 1, 1838, again in Juuka parish. Her second husband was Christer Mårtensson Karjalain (ca. 1811-1842). Walb and Christer also had at least two children, Eric (b. 1839) and Christina (b. 1841). When Christina was just a few months old, Walb tragically lost another husband. On June 2, 1842, 31-year-old Christer died of a heart attack.

A few years later, Walb married for the third time. On April 14, 1850, she and Anders Rompanen were married in the Juuka parish. His fate is unknown.

After 1850, Walb’s name appears as Walborg in the church communion book for her son Henric’s household in Kuhnusta. The final listing came in 1860 when she would have been about 52 years old. It is unknown how long she lived after that. Probably she, too, is buried in the Juuka parish. Here is the current church building, built in 1851:

Centenarians in the Family

We have some longevity in our family. My own father will reach the age of ninety this year, and several of his cousins lived into their nineties, too. One claimed she would be the first Reed to live to the age of 100, but she did not make it. Maybe my father will claim that accomplishment.

Some of his more distant relatives have lived even longer than that. I know of two well-documented cases of women in our family who passed the century mark:

  1. Maggie Sherman Hendricks (1872-1976). Maggie was my dad’s first cousin, twice removed, on his father’s side. The daughter of Anderson Sherman and Sarah Jane Prewitt, she was born in Indiana. She died at age 104 and is buried in the Greenlawn Cemetery in Franklin, Indiana. The family story says that Anderson Sherman’s maternal grandmother, who was my dad’s third great-grandmother, lived to be 111 years old. Perhaps Maggie (and my dad!) received some good genes from her.
  2. Lula Mae Riddle Ferris (1893-1999). Lula Mae was a Michigan farm wife and my dad’s first cousin, once removed, on his mother’s side. Her parents were Ethan Henry Riddle and Sophronia McClish. The maternal line for both Ethan Riddle and my dad comes from New England stock which is known for longevity. When Ethan’s daughter Lula Mae passed away at the age of 105, she had come close to living in three different centuries. She is buried in Leonidas Cemetery in St. Joseph County, Michigan.

I wonder whether these people were glad to live that long. My dad does not seem to get much enjoyment out of life any more, and he is still many years younger than these cousins lived to be. With the infirmities of extreme old age, one must give up many of the things one once enjoyed. That is why the adage says we all want to live longer, but we do not want to grow old. I would agree with that.

52 Stories #10—Family Hobbies

Sometimes we become interested in a hobby because we learned it at our parents’ knees. I have a couple of hobbies like that.

Mom’s Hobby—Embroidery

My mother liked to embroider in her spare time. I can recall often seeing her embroidery hoops out with a project underway. She kept a bin of embroidery floss in many colors for use in her newest creation.

Mom used to embellish our bed and kitchen linens with colorful designs sown on pre-stamped items like pillow cases and kitchen towels. She knew how to do the standard stitches like back stitch, chain stitch, cross-stitch, French knots, and satin stitch. She sewed with great precision, but she always tied knots in her threads. I later learned this practice is a no-no in embroidery world.

She taught me to embroider when I was in the fourth grade, and I liked it immediately. I, too, began decorating household items. Later, when my high school graduation time rolled around, I needed a white dress to wear beneath my white graduation gown. Mom made a dress, and I decorated both sleeves with an embroidered design. I still have that dress.

When I got older, I learned about a specialized form of embroidery from Norway called Hardanger. Family members say my mom’s Norwegian grandmother had been proficient at this, but Mom had never learned to do it. The family and cultural connection of this type of embroidery intrigued me, so I took a lesson and then taught myself more about it. Last year I earned a Cultural Skill pin in Hardanger Embroidery from the Sons of Norway.

After my mom died, I found a lot of embroidery supplies and embroidered items among her things. She had learned embroidery from her own Finnish mom, and some of the things I found had belonged to my grandmother. I kept it all. Now I have a large stash of embroidery floss and needles, lots of patterns, and several pieces that both my mom and grandmother completed.

Dad’s Hobby—Genealogy

My Dad always showed an interest in his family history. When I received a blank family tree chart as a teenager, he helped me fill it out to the best of his knowledge. Right away, I was hooked.

Dad put me in contact with other members of his family who pursued genealogy and knew about our family history. I learned that his family goes back to colonial times in America.

When I reached adulthood, I began to take genealogy classes. I completed the National Genealogical Society course in American Genealogy in 2004.

Over the years, I have worked hard to build my family tree. Dad took a continued interest in my findings and encouraged me to keep digging at our roots.

Today, I have notebooks and file cabinets full of family information. I maintain an online family tree. I have prepared numerous written character sketches for my ancestors several generations back. I love genealogy more now than I did when my dad first introduced me to the hobby.

These hobbies, one from my mom and one from my dad, have given me so much enjoyment over the years. I enjoy pursuing both, and both give me sense of connection to previous generations. They truly qualify as family hobbies.