Welte Family History Research

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For over 40 years, I have been researching my family history. Now that I'm retired, I can devote more time and effort into more research, compilation, and organization of that work! Over the past 12 years, I have been very fortunate in teaching genealogy classes, along with my computer experience, at Blackhawk Technical College. I've also created a business - "Field of Genes" - a "Ride-N-Seek" experience to help other families find their own ancestors.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

52 Ancestors: #18 He Could Dance! A Heartfelt Choice Made By Mom - Beryl Swanson Welte

I always wondered why my mom chose my dad as the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. They did a pretty good job of it because they were together for over 56 years. Her immediate answer was that, "He Could Dance!" (Click 'here' to view a song I dedicated to their love of dancing)

She told me that during the war years, she went with several male friends, but she always went back to her favorite guy in uniform, my dad, Irving. He was in the Marine Wing Service Squadron Nine, 9th MAW, FMF and he was discharged from the Marine Corps on October 15, 1945, one month after World War II ended. This picture was taken in Minneapolis in January of 1945. My mother’s parents really liked my dad and that helped make up her mind as to the person she wanted to marry.

She told me that at least one of the military men she dated went on to become a millionaire in California. However, he, and others that she went out with, were not very good dancers, so she stopped dating them.

Mom and her brother, Wendell
Minneapolis, MN abt. 1944
Another time she told her nephew, John, that she was sick and couldn’t go out with her date that night because she heard that my dad, Irving, was in town. The other gentleman came to the front door with a dozen roses as he was concerned that she was very sick. However, at the same time, Irving rang the doorbell at the back door for their date that night. My mom thought quick and told her nephew to answer the front door and to tell her date that she was too sick to come to the door. Her date gave my nephew the roses and he proceeded to ask her what he should do with the bouquet. She said for him to take them down to the basement! He asked her, “Why are you wanting me to take these beautiful roses down to the basement?” She demanded that he do so and he took the roses down the basement stairs without any more questions.

In the meantime, my dad was at the back door and she was very glad to see him. They went out that night and had a great time dancing! That is why I am here today and why I say, “The rest is history!”
Mom and Dad dancing in Norway
July 1983

Thursday, May 1, 2014

52 Ancestors: #17 Our Life's Passion Made Known To Us All

I never went to my high school prom because I was never asked. My mother never went to her senior prom because many of her male friends had already enlisted in World War II by the spring of 1943. School officials thought it would be best not to go through with the prom not only because of the shortage of young men, but also because it was a very sad time with the war effort going on in Europe, Italy, and the South Pacific.

Austin and his Great-Grandmother, Delores
I came across a story on Facebook of a high school senior in Ohio who took his 89-year-old great-grandmother to his senior prom. In the early 1940s, she was not able to go because money was hard to come by. He helped make it a special night for her as they danced to a special song by Frank Sinatra, a song which had been sung to her by her late husband.

The high school senior also remarked:

      “I respect my elders greatly. They have a great influence on my life.
      To be able to sit down and talk to them and learn from them and
      their experiences is a great thing.”

He gave me hope that there are others who feel like we do and the need to glean what we can from the older generation because they, too, will be gone someday. The same thing will happen to us so it is our responsibility to tell our stories and to thank our lucky stars that we are here to help others discover who they are! What a wonderful way to pass on life’s passion for knowing why we are here and who we will affect in our lifetime.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

52 Ancestors: #16 Beryl Swanson - A Flower Story About a Flour Sack Dress

“I thought you meant a ‘flower’ sack dress!” My almost-7-year-old granddaughter and I shared a moment a month ago that left me speechless, a smile on my face, and the great feeling that perhaps I have grandchildren who are interested in the stories about our family history. My 9-year-old grandson asked me last week if I had written a story for that week. I hesitated a bit, wondering what he was referring to, and then suddenly I realized that he was talking about the weekly stories I put together for this blog. I said, “Yes,” and he asked me, “What was it about?” With his limited knowledge of our tax system, I said, “Well, today is April 15, tax day, and I wrote a story about taxes.” He knows what sales taxes are so I will do a little more storytelling about our present-day income tax obligation at a later date.

I often sit down with my grandchildren to talk about events that have happened to me and those who came before me. I tell stories on their level so that they understand why things happened the way that they did.

I told my granddaughter that my mom grew up very poor in south Dakota and that they lost their crops during the destructive dust bowl days. Mom had to wear her sisters’ worn hand-me-down dresses to school. When my grandmother was able to buy flour, she would find the flour sacks that had a pretty design on the front. She would soak the dress to soften the burlap, perhaps with baking soda added to the mix, and then rub it back and forth between her hands to help make it wearable. Then she would cut out a dress pattern from the flour sack, paying special attention to the different kind of pattern that the company created on each sack, and she sent my mother off to school.

My granddaughter decided to draw some pictures to show how much she learned about my family “history lesson.” She drew the first picture with a dress that had a small flower in the middle as she thought I meant “flower” sack dress. I then drew a picture of what a “flour” sack looked like, but that didn’t stop her. She wrote “old days” on the first picture. I reminded her that she needed to use crayons to color the picture, but she said that she wanted to leave it the way it was because that’s what old pictures look like. I didn’t even know that she paid attention to that detail about “old” pictures from the past!

On the “New days” picture, she drew a “heart dress” and she colored it with crayons. Even though there were some bad times associated with the first picture of the “flower-sack dress,” the sun was always shining and the grass was still growing!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

52 Ancestors: #15 Welte Assessment for Taxes - 1864

Today is tax day! I’m sure that many Americans are finishing up their yearly wage data, exemptions, schedules, and payment vouchers that need to be completed and postmarked each year on this date. As the Bible says in Matthew 22:21 "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God's.” Keeping it simple regarding the separation of church and state, and notwithstanding the relationship between Christianity and secular authority, this phrase represents payment of taxes, as we have known it in our lifetimes, to various government entities. However, over the years of American Quaker history, there was opposition to Christians paying “general” taxes if used explicitly used for purposes of war and subsequently was forbidden.[1]

In 1862, in order to support the Civil War effort, Congress enacted the first income tax law and through the Act of 1862, it established the office of Commissioner of Internal Revenue. It was based on the principles of graduated, or progressive, taxation and withheld income on a person earning from $600 to $10,000 per year at the rate of 3%. Those who had incomes of more than $10,000 paid taxes at a higher rate. Not only were sales and excise taxes added, but an “inheritance” tax also made its debut.[2]

On www.Ancestry.com I checked in the Card Catalog and clicked on the “Tax, Criminal, Land & Wills” link. Under “Filter By Collection,” I clicked on “Tax Lists.” In the results list, I clicked on the “U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918.” I entered my ancestor’s surname, Welte, and I found several records for the state of Iowa. It shows the taxes incurred on his articles that he produced which were “Boots & Shoes to Order.”

[1] Philalethes (pseud.) "Tribute to Cæsar, How paid by the Best Christians, And to what Purpose; With Some Remarks on the late vigorous Expedition against Canada. Of Civil Government, How Inconsistent it is with the Government of Christ in his Church. Compared with the Ancient Just and Righteous Principles of the Quakers, and their Modern Practice and Doctrine. With some Notes upon the Discipline of their Church in this Province, especially at Philadelphia" (1715?) as found in Gross, David M. (ed.) American Quaker War Tax Resistance (2008) ISBN 978-1-4382-6015-0 pp. 23-42
[2] History of the Income Tax in the United States,” Source: Tax Foundation, Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved; (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005921.html : accessed 15 April 2014)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

52 Ancestors: #14 Bob Gosa and His Band of Brothers

It never ceases to amaze me how we make sacrifices to help others. For those who are sick and need special care, it is very important that we take stock in who we are and not forget how important others are to us. This is something we should think about every day to truly appreciate those of us around us who may not be as fortunate as we are.

820th Red Horse -Vietnam War
Tuy Hoa Air Base 1968
My husband, Bob Gosa, is one of those special persons who likes to help others. He thinks highly of his fellow Vietnam vets who spent the one-year obligation with him back in 1968-69. He knows of the dedication between military members and how sad it is whenever these guys have medical problems and do not survive.

Last year, Bob and I traveled to Wichita, Kansas, to visit one of these veterans who had been ill for some time. We spent a few days with him and his family, played music for him, and listened to him sing the words of some Beatles songs. It was a great time, but within two months, Bob’s friend lost his battle due to his illness. He talks about how surprised his friend was when he saw Bob and much fun they had talking about the times they spent together. Each story is important, especially the one that sparked happiness or created a memory that both of them shared. It is very sad to know that these guys are slowly leaving us, becoming distant memories, and being remembered as “special” to their families and friends.

Bob and I have now traveled again to be with another one of his friends who may be needing special attention. He is not only Bob’s friend who shares a love of music, but he came back from the Vietnam War and made a life with his wife and career. Twelve years ago, with the help of the Internet and a stroke of luck, Bob was able to find his Vietnam vet friends and they all met to talk about old memories, good and bad, and how they survived such a turbulent time.

It’s good to know that Bob has a deep-down, genuine concern about how they are doing with their lives. That’s why Bob is such a special person who makes the extra effort to be sure that they are doing alright and who talks about the special bond created among them so long ago. It is truly a “band of brothers” that existed then, and which still exists today.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

52 Ancestors: #13 A Picture Can Tell a Thousand Stories! The Swanson, Esterberg, and Lindau Family Members

I would like to say “A picture can tell a thousand stories!” Well, perhaps not a thousand stories, but there are many nuances of a family history that are waiting to be told whenever a picture is taken. I like pictures from the past because these are stories about people that, through my detective-like research, “pop out” at you and begs you to tell everyone more about what was going on that particular moment. For instance, look at this picture of the Swanson, Esterberg, and Lindau family members:

Back Row - George Swanson, Walter Esterberg, Alfred Esterberg,
Edwin Lindau, Joel Esterberg; Front Row - Thelma Swanson,
Teckla Swanson, Georgia Swanson, Maxine Swanson
My Aunt Maxine, in the striped dress, remembered it as a hot, dry, and windy day. This was taken on a Sunday and it appears that they are in their Sunday best, possibly going to a church function or a get-together. Most of the gentlemen in the back row were farmers and I see that they were dressed up in suits and vests. It also appears that Joel Esterberg, with the hat in his hand and the watch chain, probably took his hat off so that it wouldn’t blow away. I can just imagine what it felt like because I have been in that area near Huron, South Dakota, and it gets very windy and hot in August.

During the 1920s, dresses were becoming shorter as you can see in this picture. However, my grandmother, Teckla Esterberg Swanson, who is in the front row, still has a dress that is longer than probably what she was used to wearing only about 15 years before that. Her Uncle Alfred Esterberg is just behind her to the right. Teckla’s own brother, behind her to the left, wore glasses and always looked away from the camera because he had a sight problem. He never married, but he enjoyed traveling to many places including the Chicago 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair.

Teckla’s husband, my grandfather, George E. Swanson, is at the far left, holding their 6-year-old daughter, Thelma. He had been quite successful in farming up until the Stock Market Crash in 1929. Their one other daughter, Georgia, is the one in the front row next to Maxine. It appears that the daughters had very nice dresses, stockings, and shoes. Again, there was prosperity in farming in those days and the prospect for a good life on the South Dakota prairie.

The most interesting story from this one picture is the one surrounding the gentleman in the back row with the moustache and the light-colored newsboy cap. He was a cousin of my great uncles Alfred and Joel. The Lindau’s small dairy farm was on a high rise of land not too far from the James River, south and east of Huron. His name was Edwin Lindau and his second wife had taken this picture.

Edwin and his family were in San Francisco at the time of the Great Earthquake that occurred on Wednesday, 18 April 1906 at 5 a.m. He lived in the city at the time and when the earthquake hit, Aunt Maxine recalled hearing Edwin Lindau say the earthquake was so bad that it shook him to the ground. He also said that everyone went outside to the park until the shocks were over to escape the falling buildings. Then they watched what happened to San Francisco from the park.

He returned to Huron after his wife, Anna D. Swedland, died in California about 1908. Aunt Maxine always felt that he had much more and better living in California than in Huron. She felt their son was well educated and had a good position, but she didn’t think the son ever came to Huron.

I will never tire of looking at these old pictures because I know someone will say the same about the pictures taken during my lifetime!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

52 Ancestors: #12 Beryl Imogene Swanson and Some Not-So-Wonderful South Dakota Memories

Mom’s Young Years
In 1925, my mother, Beryl Imogene Swanson, was born on the rented Gardner farm in Broadland, near Huron, South Dakota. After her family moved to another farm in the surrounding area, she and her younger brother, Wendell, would play hopscotch in the dirt. They lived there until 1934 when they moved to northern Minnesota.

Back Row - Maxine, Teckla,
Front Row - Beryl, Thelma
When my mom was just a baby, her sister, Thelma, who was seven years old, wanted to hold her and my grandmother said it was okay. Thelma was trying to go down a flight of stairs at the time, but she lost her footing. My mom, who was in a blanket, fell out of her sister’s arms and tumbled the rest of the way on her head to the bottom of the stairs! My mother always said that she had a head injury that day and that was why she wasn’t as smart as her siblings. She always said that she couldn’t understand why her mother would allow a seven-year-old child to hold a baby while going down the stairs.

Gypsy Fears
In the South Dakota years, gypsies roamed the countryside. As a form of fear and punishment, my grandmother would tell my mother and her siblings that if they didn’t listen to her and do what they wanted, she would “sell them to the gypsies” when they came through the town.

The gypsies would have large wagons filled with what they were selling, along with their own worldly belongings, a team of horses in front, and straggler horses, dogs, and children lagging behind. They were considered an inferior group of people, and it was rumored they drove through cities and farmlands and snatched children from their families to sell them and make money. As a young child, my mother didn’t know any different and she was fearful when the gypsies appeared on the roads. In her later years, she finally found out that these stories were untrue.

End-of-the-World Fanatics
Even in the early days on the South Dakota plains, there were those who believed that the world would come to an end on a specific date. My mother told me of several times when complete families, with their so-called faith leaders, would go to the highest point in the area, a mound, or a ridge, and claim to be ready to “meet their maker.” The group would then stand and pray that they would be taken to see their God because they were ready to go.

After a few hours, however, no light appeared, no clouds parted, and no voice came from heaven. With heavy hearts, they dispersed and went down the hillside to wait for another day. My mother said that over a short period of time, the group would be there again, in their designated places, and pray for the end to come, but it never did!

School Day Taunts
My mom wore flour-sack dresses to the one-room country schoolhouse outside of Huron. Her mother used to get cotton flour sacks which happened to have a flower design. When she could afford it, her mother ordered material from Sears so that she could make mom’s dresses with straight seams. She remembered that her schoolmates used to say about her - “Here comes the girl with the flour-sack dresses.”

Mom’s sister, Georgia, sent clothes back home which were former “flapper” dresses that she had from nightclubs. Mom sometimes was embarrassed because these “flapper” dresses had sequins which did not go over too well at the one-room school house with the schoolteacher.

Depression Years
She and her parents lived through the Depression which was from 1929 through 1940 and was known as the “Dirty 30s.” Her mother was never able to really clean  because when the dust storms came through, lasting for several hours at a time, there would be an inch of dust on everything in the house. She remembered that the as the storm hit their house, she would see the dust “sift through” cracks in the wall. What made it worse was that there was no electricity or running water, but they did have an artesian well.

Even though my grandmother was a good cook, during the Depression, sometimes there was only oatmeal or raisin-sauce on bread slices that they had for dinner. Thank goodness there was a garden because that supplied much of the needed vegetables. If you were lucky, you could have meat or your own chickens or turkeys and have a nice Sunday turkey dinner.

With her hand-me-down clothes from her sisters, mom always tried to hide the pictures of her in her “snuggies” that fell around her ankles. Then to her surprise, one of the relatives would go through their photo albums and bring out the same picture!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

52 Ancestors: #11 Rocks, Weeds, Grass, and Stone

Rocks, Weeds, Grass, and Stone

I went back to find my life in the past
Safe in the thought that memories last
But with the setting sun where there once was a home
I could find only rocks, weeds, grass, and stone

Steps are all that remains of Zaiser School 
Bigfork, Minnesota

Silence surrounds me there all alone
I remember the places that I’ve always known
 Just like the wind, once here then gone,
They’re now filled with rocks, weeds, grass and stone

My ancestor’s graves lie there on the hill
Marked reminders of time that just seems to stand still
I can only imagine the wind carrying their souls
Up to heaven from rocks, weeds, grass, and stone

I try hard to find just what life somehow means
I close my eyes and think of lost dreams
Just like their graves and their homes that are gone
I now only find rocks, weeds, grass, and stone

If all of those souls came back here to earth
They’d probably smile and question life’s worth
Had they made a difference before being called home?
Or were they just memories in rocks, weeds, grass, and stone

I went back to find my life in the past
Safe in the thought that memories last
Those memories are with me, they’re all that I own
Till I’m buried beneath rocks, weeds, grass, and stone

Copyright © 2014 Deborah I. Welte Gosa. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

52 Ancestors: #10 Three Different Ways of Getting Around - The Welte Way

It’s great to know how our ancestors traveled from one place to another, and I know that this is the case for all generations. In the first example, family gatherings brought everyone together and before cars and trucks, there was “horsepower.” The next example is that having a nice car said much about how successful a man was in order to provide for his family and to be respected in the community. Lastly, it was not always about getting to a destination that mattered, but the interesting story about “who was driving what” that made for a good laugh.

My grandfather, William Welte, was an early homesteader in the northern Minnesota area of Bigfork. Here is a picture of the William Welte Rivernook Farm and the house in the middle of the picture where my dad grew up. In 1913, it looks like there was a family gathering or a holiday that brought everyone to the farm. The horses in the picture were, of course, one of the ways to get from Point A to Point B in the early days. I tell my grandchildren that there were no cars and that horses were very important to each family. The horses are covered with "fly covers" because with the northern Minnesota heat and humidity, the horses needed extra protection against big deer flies, horse flies, and mosquitos. Their eyes opened wide when I told them how big those insects get and that they really bite!

The next picture is William’s 1923 Willys Overland touring car. My uncle, Harold, pictured here as the eldest of William’s boys, sitting on the running board, had written on the border of the photo that this car was a “Red Bird” touring car with “maroon buff top Red wheels, 4 cyl” and the car was a Model 92 which boasted a “…rich Mandalay maroon finish, khaki top, nickel trimmings…” according to an old postcard[1]. His dad, William, who was a very influential person in the Bigfork, Minnesota area, died about six years later.

The Welte bus, driven by William, was another example of how important each vehicle was to transport children to the area schoolhouses in and around the Bigfork area. It even looks like him in the driver’s seat! But William was not the only one who drove that old bus. My own dad, Irving, had a frightening experience according to the story that his mother told me. My dad had turned up missing and she couldn’t find him anywhere. There was a river behind the Rivernook Farm and a wooden pile bridge that connected one piece of farm land to another. She pointed to the remaining pilings in the river of where the bridge used to be located and she said the next thing she knew, she saw the bus coming across the bridge. She knew that it wasn’t her husband, William, because he was in the house. She saw the bus slowly and gingerly cross the bridge at a slow speed, and she had a suspicious feeling that she knew who was driving the vehicle. It was my dad! He was about 7 years old and she figured out very quickly that he had to have a little help with reaching all of the controls. He had put a wooden block on the accelerator pedal so that he could push it down and drive the bus over the bridge. He did quite well, but he did get into trouble for it and he never did it again!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

52 Ancestors: #9 The Importance of Keeping Family Treasures

How sad it is when family members want to clean out their desks, closets, or attics, and then they quickly throw away memories such as letters, receipts, pictures, etc. without knowing that others think of them as treasures. These pieces of family history may never be seen again. It is very important that you let other family members know of your interest in these items so that they will not be thrown away.

I remember my mother told me about the time when her family was cleaning out her own maternal grandmother’s home after she died. They came across a phonograph player that was in the attic. My mother said that her mother didn’t see the importance of keeping such an ornate machine as the phonograph because it wouldn’t be needed anymore. My mother said that they just threw it out with the rest of the unwanted items and pieces of furniture. She said that she wished now they had not thrown it away because that machine would be priceless today in regard to our family history.

The phonograph was probably played quite a bit out on the South Dakota prairie because my grandmother, Teckla Esterberg Swanson, liked to play the piano, especially for church socials and dances. There was no electricity, so kerosene lamps were hung on the walls of the church where couples danced by the light’s amber glow. My mom not only remembered her mother playing uplifting ragtime tunes on their upright piano, but also mom closed her eyes and envisioned her mom’s wavy curls bouncing up and down, in time to the beat. I close my eyes and I can see that vision in my own mind’s eye and I can almost hear the music!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

52 Ancestors: #8 Everything is Relative

You’ve heard the statement that “Everything is Relative.” Well, that is correct as far as searching for family history is concerned.

I compare family history as when you go into a restaurant and sit down for a meal. As you sit there and wait for service, customers will start to get up and leave the restaurant after paying their bill. You then notice that when everything is set up again for the next group of people, they sit down and wait their turn in the process of being served. And again, when they are done, they leave and the next group comes to sit down.

I look at this at the same way as life itself. You are born, wait to be served by your parents, get schooled by teachers, learn all there is about what life has to offer, and then you “eat of the ‘fruit of life’ ” and learn from it. You also enjoy what you have in life just as you would a superb meal on the table.

Along the way, people you know will “visit your table” and enjoy your company. You marry and have children, and then grandchildren. In the end, after everyone is gone from your table, you are ready to “pay back” what you have received. You pay “what you owe” and for what you have received as if what you get has a high value. You will pay anything to show that you appreciate the “service” given by God and His greatness for this wonderful life that you are living.

In a sense, though, you will have to leave this world behind and assess your life. You will “get up from the table” and start to leave, but not without thinking of how nice it was when you were there.

After you are gone, others will remember you in a kind way for what you have done and get ready for the next group of family that is born. The next group of people will sit down and enjoy what you have enjoyed and think about their lives just as you did and enjoy their circle of friends and family.

As you can see, “everything IS relative” and comes around to complete the circle of life.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

52 Ancestors: #7 David Emanuel Nylen

David Emanuel Nylen was a very interesting man. He was my step-grandfather who was married to my father's mother, Martha Hansen Welte, who had been widowed in December of 1929 when she was 41 years old. She married Dave in 1937. From what I heard, at one time he was the manager of King Lumber in Bigfork, Minnesota. He was also quite a violinist who played at the fun events such as parties at local churches and halls. Before they were married to their spouses, Dave and Martha would entertain with his fiddle playing and her singing like the Jenny Lind of her day. I heard that they were very good.

As they had known one another before they married, when they each had lost their own spouse within the space of a few days in December of 1929, it seemed inevitable that they should get together and marry. Dave's wife was Annie S. Larson. They had two children who may have been twins from the birth and death information I found in the online Minnesota Historical Society website, and it appears that they died in infancy. I heard that the children were buried on the family farm, surrounded by a small white picket fence. I know that Annie Larson is buried in the Bigfork Cemetery near where the Rice and Bigfork Rivers come together. He died in October of 1970 and he is buried next to Martha, his second wife.

When I visited them at the house in town near the old Bigfork High School, he would show me around his woodworking shop. He was very good at working with all kinds of wood. I even have several of the pieces that he created.

He also had an old-fashioned toaster which opened up on each side. While he was taking out the toast, he would talk about the Kennedy family and how they made their money running moonshine! He did not like them very much. I would also watch him as he tipped his hot cup of coffee into his saucer beneath the cup. I learned later that this was so that the coffee would cool off as he drank from the saucer.
He never talked about his family who lived in Sweden and I never asked. I do know from his death certificate that his father's name was John Nylen and his mother's name was Mary Setterquist. He was born 5 Dec 1885 in Cokato, Wright County, Minnesota. 


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

52 Ancestors: #6 Citing Important Events and Serendipity

It is very important that as you find more names and dates in records, you need to reference where you found them. Not only do you want credibility and proof attached to each find, but you also want the next person to pick up where you left off and be able to find the same thing you did. As I pore through old parish registers from various parishes in Norway, the Norwegian words get to look familiar so I can put the Norwegian-English dictionary down for a bit.

There are many resources online that make it a lot easier to find what you are looking for. However, if you don’t cite where you found them, they will be lost forever. When others want to know more about certain details, it is easier if you can show valid evidence of where you found your facts. You will be more accurate with your continued research and have less conflicting data.

When I was going through the Norwegian “bygdeboks” (farm books) about 38 years ago, I spent a week going through every page, every day, but it was a wealth of information for each region of Norway. For those of us who have Norwegian ancestors, these books not only give us a flavor of the life back then with listings of occupations included next to each name, but it also showed lines going back, it seemed into oblivion, for each family. They were all written in Norwegian, but I was so happy to have found these books that I didn’t care.

I didn’t even know these books existed until I went to Norway and had the privilege of sitting down with my dad’s 2nd cousin, Arvid, which would make him my 2nd cousin 1x removed, and he pulled a book out from one of his cabinets in the living room. He sat down next to me and explained that our ancestors’ names, occupations, and other local area history of the Aust-Agder and Holt regions, where our ancestors lived and died, were in this farm book. He told me that I probably could get the same book in local historical societies or university libraries in the United States.

In this book, there were also pictures of area industries and large farms and estates. He showed me a picture of a large estate of the Aall family who owned the Nes Verk iron works. Then he motioned with his arm toward the window, pointing in the direction of the road, and he said that the estate was not too far away, and that one of our ancestors had worked there as a taxidermist. He tried to explain, in his broken English, who that person was and he pointed to his name in the book. He was Peder Hansen, who is my 2nd great grandfather on my dad’s side, and I could just feel that I was close to really discovering who my ancestors were and what they did in Norway. I remembered when my dad came off the plane, walking down the steps from the airplane door, he looked over at me and said, “We’re home!” and I can still see his smiling face in the afternoon sunshine as he went inside the airport. I was lucky enough to be able to travel with my parents to Norway on that July day in 1983.

I do remember that I had written each detail of our trip to Norway because I knew that my memory would fade over time, and that it would come in handy one day. In my many boxes of papers, books, and pictures, I just came across a 6-year period of notes 40 years ago that I had written down, but had forgotten about, detail by detail, of important events happening at the time. I also found lists of notes for pictures that I had taken back then, over almost the same period of time. We didn’t have Facebook to share pictures, or Flickr or Picasa, to have immediate sharing of memories with others.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

52 Ancestors: #5 Anton Hansen and His Daughter, Martha Antoinette Hansen

Anton Hansen



Martha Antoinette Hansen

Like father, like daughter. There is quite a resemblance between them, and I think they were both beautiful people who are a part of my family history. They are of Norwegian heritage and I can see that she looks a lot like him, but that she probably took after her mother around the eyebrows. It’s too bad that she did not know much about him because he died when she was about 3 ½ months old. His name was Anton Hansen.
Family legend was that he played violin in the Norway Symphony Orchestra. Then as the years went by, that story became quite diluted. After many years of research, the story was that he played piano. Little did I know, in reality, he worked in a factory and he probably contracted tuberculosis from his occupation which was listed on Martha’s baptism certificate as a “tredreier” meaning “wood turner” or lathe operator. He died young at 26 years of age.

According to Norwegian parish registers covering travel between cities in Norway, in August of 1888, he and his family relocated from Holt in the Aust-Agder area to Grønland Parish, Oslo. His family consisted of his wife, Anna, and twin daughters, Tordis and Petra, who had just turned 2 years old. His wife was about 7 months pregnant with my grandmother, Martha, who was born 3 Oct 1888, and she was baptized in Grønland Parish.
It must have been a very sad and trying time with young children, including a newborn, when Anton died in January of 1889. I can just imagine the stress that Anna was going through when this happened.

Two of her brothers had already immigrated to Escanaba, Michigan, so she decided to come and live with them. She traveled with her one remaining twin daughter, Tordis, and my grandmother, Martha, and they came through Ellis Island in August of 1892. Martha was almost 4 years old, so she didn’t have much memory of that life-changing trip. While she was alive, I never asked about any remembrances that her mother talked about, or her own, of that day.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

52 Ancestors: #4 Teckla Carolyn Esterberg

I don’t remember much about my grandmother, my mom's mother, as she died when I was a young girl. Her name was Teckla Carolyn Esterberg, and she was born in 1886, in Huron, Dakota Territory, the daughter of Swedish parents who had immigrated to America in the late 1800s.

According to my mom, my grandmother was very regimented and stern. She was 38 years old in 1925 when she had my mom, but as she was the fourth girl, they had hoped for a boy. She always felt out of place as she felt she wasn't really wanted. Two years later, however, her parents were very happy when they finally got their boy, Wendell, in 1927.

My mom and Wendell were inseparable and went through a lot growing up in South Dakota and Minnesota. They were times that my mom would grow angry about and shake her head and say how such a bad time it was. Her dad would try to drown his problems with drink to help get him through the rough times, and my mom said that there were many of those! She was afraid of her dad when he had too much to drink and would sit on his lap and say how much she loved him. She did not want to get on the bad side of him because he would go off the deep end and talk about how angry and unlucky he was, and then he would take out his frustrations on her mom and her brother, Wendell.

In the spring of 1954, Teckla became very sick because of a series of strokes that affected her brain. My mother felt sad when she visited her mother in the hospital, because her mother didn't know who she was when she saw her.

I remember when my grandmother died in March of 1955, we went to Minneapolis for the funeral. I was, however, too young to actually attend the funeral so I stayed with other relatives. I remember many of those who came for the funeral were talking softly among themselves, reminiscing about fond memories, and then they would often use a tissue to wipe away tears. I was standing behind a wingback chair and I didn't know exactly why everyone was doing that, but I knew it was a very sad time and I was very happy not to be a part of it.

When we went past the cemetery on our way home, mom started to tear up and put a tissue up to her nose. I know she was having a rough time, knowing that her mom had just died. I believe that we were in our 1951 Mercury at the time and I remember my dad turning to her and telling her to calm down a little, not be so emotional, and that everything would be alright.

Teckla with Wendell, Johnny (her grandson), and Beryl (my mother)


Thursday, January 16, 2014

52 Ancestors: #3 Walter Alfred Esterberg

My great uncle, Walter Alfred Esterberg, was born on 27 Oct 1890, in Huron, South Dakota. His parents, born in Sweden, immigrated in the middle to late 1800s and settled in what was known as Dakota Territory. He was the second and last child, born four years after his sister Teckla.

He never married or had children, but he enjoyed his four nieces and one nephew. In South Dakota, he lived with his mother, Anna, after his dad died in 1913. After she died in 1933, Walter inherited the farm.

He really loved to travel which consisted of a series of train trips. During one train trip, his brother-in-law, George Swanson, helped with the farm which had cows, chickens, geese, and pigs. Another of his train trips was to the World’s Fair in 1933, where he had a gold pin fashioned with my mother’s name, Beryl, and gave it to her.

Walter wrote a letter in 1941, where he talked about the weather and his farm responsibilities, but he was having a difficult time with pain in his stomach, and he wrote that he was going to get it checked out. Months later, his sister, Teckla, my maternal grandmother, had to help take care of him because he was too ill. After only three months, he died in a Huron hospital on 10 June 1941, from carcinoma (cancer) of the stomach. Three days later he was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery, located on the east side of Huron, with graveside Odd Fellows services.

Picture shows Walter Esterberg, with his nieces, Maxine and Georgia Swanson - about 1913, on the farm outside Huron, South Dakota.