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, 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.