24 February 2016

Going down the Proverbial Rabbit Hole

I have an alert on my computer! Every hour - on the hour - a man, in a loud whisper - states the time. For example, I'll be trolling the internet and hear this "It's 2 o'clock!" from the speakers on my laptop.  I look up to discover that it's 2AM. Yes, 2 o'clock in the morning and I've spent the last several hours 'online'.

Or as a dear friend says,
I've been traveling down the proverbial Rabbit-Hole! 

From Alice in Wonderland ... 

"The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well. Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next."

For me this typically starts with my desire to locate one piece of information. A question that needs an answered, so that I can continue my 'journey of discovery'. Frequently that elusive 'nugget of knowledge' is found on one of the following 10 websites. Many times all of these are open in tabs on my screen, with me clicking back and forth endlessly.
  • WorldCat.org
  • Find-a-Grave.com
  • Ancestry.com
  • DigitalArchives.wa.gov
  • Newspapers.com
  • Archives.gov 
  • ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov
  • Hathitrust.org
  • Wikipedia.org
  • Infoweb.Newsbank.com (historic Seattle Daily Times 1895-present)
However, the road to locating this 'nugget' is a long winding path with many offshoots that catch my attention! Eventually, I can't even remember what the original question was, and I've quintupled my list of questions. I've learned to write down the original question on a notepad next to the computer, in order to stay focused. Plus open a Word document on my computer to capture the list of new questions - to capture them for further exploration.

Today I was online researching a question that had nothing to do with anything Norwegian. I found myself on one of those offshoots, traveling deep into a list of books that piqued my interest. The subject matter was Norwegians AND the American Civil War. Below are links to the books I discovered. 

I thought others who read this blog might also find these books to be of interest.

I also wondered if others ever get caught up in the proverbial Rabbit Hole?  If so, I invite you to share your thoughts on it in the comments. 

Now I can get back to my original rabbit-hole question. :) 

14 February 2016

Thomas Andersen Stang • 1935 - 2016

Thomas Andersen Stang
aka Tom Stang
aka Tommy
(photo by Luci Baker Johnson)
On Friday (February 12) I attended the Celebration of Life for Tom Stang - a mentor and friend. The celebration was held at the Leif Erikson Sons of Norway Lodge in Ballard (Seattle, Washington). There were at least 200 people in attendance. It was truly a memorable experience. So many people, so many wonderful memories, and great food.

Robert Johnson sang a beautiful rendition of the Lord's Prayer.

The following poem was read:
Song of the River: 
Tribute to William Randolph Hearst

And at the end of the evening we all sang a song:
Las Oss Leve for Hverandre  
/ Let Us Live for Each Other

Tom - My Mentor & Friend
I can't recall exactly when I meet Tom, but it had to be sometime in the late 1990s. Tom was a friend.  A man with a friendly smile and twinkling eyes. He was a man with a wealth of information at his fingertips. Tom was someone I could ask ANYTHING and he would have a quiet (and accurate) reply.

I will miss this man and all that he shared with people in Seattle, the U.S., Norway, and beyond.

Obituary • Seattle Times • January 21, 2016
Thomas Anderson Stang - Born March 12, 1935 in Seattle to Norwegian immigrant Parents Christen and Hedvig Stang. He succumbed to lung cancer on January 14, 2016.

Tom grew up in Seattle and graduated from Garfield High School in 1952. He received his business degree from the University of Washington in 1956. He served in the United States Army. He returned to the University of Washington Law School, earning his Juris Doctor degree in 1962. He began his legal career as deputy prosecuting attorney under King County Prosecutor, Charles Carroll. When Tom's father became ill, he was appointed Honorary Norwegian Vice Consul. In 1967, his father passed away and Tom assumed the full responsibilities as Honorary Norwegian Consul. He continued his father's legacy and commitment as consul, providing Norwegian representation in the Pacific Northwest for 40 years.

Tom and Nancy Stang • 2007 (photo by Luci Baker Johnson)
In recognition of his outstanding services and contributions to the interest of Norway, His Majesty, the king of Norway awarded Tom "The Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, Knight 1st Class" in 1976. The King of Norway further bestowed the honor of "The Royal Order of Merit Commander" in 1997. Tom's family and commitment to the interest and heritage of Norway goes back to 1906 when his great uncle was appointed Honorary Norwegian Consul. Tom's contribution of 40 years meant that he and his family represented Norway in Seattle for 100 Years.

Tom is survived by his wife Nancy; sister Ingri Johnson (Richard); brother-in-law Kjell Schroder (Pat); nieces and nephews; special cousin Ann-Marie Simonson; and cousins in Norway.

Seattle's honorary consul of Norway hangs up his hat - A family tradition for more than 100 years
Nancy Bartley The Seattle Times - April 4, 2007

He's donned a Homburg hat and gloves to greet the king, forged connections between Boeing and Braathens, sat beside countless bedsides and issued more visas than he can count.

For 40 years Thomas Stang has been Seattle's honorary consul of Norway, continuing a family tradition going back more than 100 years to when his great-uncle started the city's first Norwegian Consulate.

But now Stang is retiring from the unpaid position.
For years, Stang has reported to the eighth-floor office at 1402 Third St., which houses the Norwegian Consulate, Stang Travel Service and Stang's law office. Throughout the day, Stang and his wife, Nancy, juggle consulate inquiries — Americans asking about immigrating to Norway, or Norwegians wanting to do business here — with selling airline tickets to Oslo and setting up wills and estates.

Even though the law practice is Stang's full-time job, he squeezes in meetings with the Seattle consular corps, keeps abreast of news in Norway and sometimes helps track down missing relatives in Norway. Once, he found the heirs of a deceased Norwegian citizen — who lived and died in Seattle but had distant family in the old country.

In retirement, he plans to use the boxes of records to sort and catalog the history of Norwegians in Washington and Idaho — the area he serves — to create a research archive.

When Stang's great uncle, Thomas Kolderup, started the consul in 1906, Norwegians were the largest ethnic group in the Puget Sound region and dominated the area's marine and fishing industries. It was a time when disagreements at sea were settled with fists, shipboard working conditions were poor and accidental deaths common. The consul's duties reflected as much.

Kolderup wrote reports about accidents aboard Norwegian ships, tended to the hospitalized, notified next of kin and dealt with immigration issues.

He served as consul until his death in 1932, when Einar Beyer was appointed and Thomas Stang's father, Christen Stang, became vice consul.

Christen Stang became consul in 1941. By then, shipboard working conditions were better, but consular duties still largely involved marine issues because many sailors were Norwegian citizens. If they were injured, fell ill or were accused of a crime, they needed representation.

Born in Seattle, Thomas Stang grew up speaking Norwegian, attended school in Norway, spent much of his life traveling there and married a Norwegian. He eventually became vice consul, but he never planned on taking over from his father.

Stang was a King County deputy prosecutor when his father died in 1967. He left the Prosecutor's Office to work for Stang Travel Service and was officially appointed consul by the king of Norway.

Stang had no sooner taken over when he was called to Harborview Medical Center to see a Norwegian sailor who was in critical condition after being hit by a truck. Stang was devastated when informed that the young man later died.

"Since then, I've sent a lot of bodies home," he says.

When a Norwegian citizen dies here, Stang makes the repatriation arrangements.

On the job
Stang was still new to his job when he received notice that Norway's King Olav was coming to Seattle for a visit. He asked for advice from Scandinavian Airlines' protocol adviser and was told to wear gloves and a Homburg.

Many official royal visits would follow, including King Olav again in 1975; his successor, King Harald, and Queen Sonja in 1995; and Prince Haakon in 1999.

Interspersed among them were many unofficial visits, in which the royals simply passed through, including Princess Martha Louise's visit to promote her book in 2005. On that visit the Stangs played chauffeur, taking the princess and her infant daughter to Poulsbo for a book signing.

While royal visits continue to be part of consular duties, marine and fishing issues over the years declined, Stang says.

Seattle used to have offices for Norwegian shipping companies, internationally prominent Norwegian marine architects and lots of fishermen. But the fish traps Norwegians favored were outlawed.

When the 1987 Norwegian International Ship Register went into effect, making it possible for ships to be registered in foreign ports and sail with foreign and lesser-paid crews, it put an end to the era of Norwegian mariners in Puget Sound.

As one area declined, another increased. Boeing recruited engineers from Norway in the 1960s, and since then Boeing planes have been sold to SAS and Norway's Braathens Airlines. Stang was heavily involved in smoothing the way for the international transactions.

His background in law, his ability to speak Norwegian and English, knowledge of both cultures and of whom to talk to and when, helped make the usually complex title transfers and liens on jets go quicker and easier.

A "remarkable record"

At one of a number of retirement parties honoring him, Dågfinn Melby from Boeing thanked him for helping in the company's dealings with Braathens.

Stang's boss, Consul General Are-Jostein Norheim in San Francisco, also praised him for his "remarkable record of service," at such a high level that over the generations, the Seattle consulate has come to have more authority than other consuls.

Stang, for example, can issue visas while many other honorary consuls cannot.

It's a role that Vice Consul Kim Nesselquist will assume upon approval from the U.S. State Department.

Stang has received two of Norway's highest civic honors: the Saint Olav Medal and the Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav.

Behind the ivory door at the Norwegian Consulate there are photos of kings, commemorative paperweights, Norwegian flags and faded travel posters.

"I don't want to retire," Stang says, as he sits behind a desk in a room stuffed with at least 40 years worth of boxes and files: life stories — his and others' — tucked among the pages.

12 February 2016

How Norwegians Died--Interpreted

Martin Roe Eidhammer is a native Norwegian who has come up with an intriguing and helpful list for genealogy-minded folks who are trying to make sense out of Norwegian church records.  In his recent blog post, Norwegian Causes of Death, he has created a list of terms used in times-gone-by, and interpreted them in English.  As both genealogist and registered nurse, he figured that this list was just the type of thing he could do to help the rest of us pursue our genealogy goals.  The causes of death described include somewhat recognizable terms such as "falt" (death by falling from an elevated position), and "kramper" (convulsions), but there are many terms most of us would not otherwise have a clue about.  So, if your third great grandpa died from "alderdomssvaghet," you can now check out Martin's list to find out exactly what that means.

Many thanks to Martin for providing this information.  You can visit the main page of his blog at:  Norwegian Genealogy and then some.

Chery Kinnick

17 September 2015

Poulsbo AYPE Viking #2: Peter Iverson

Peter Iverson, Mayor of Poulsbo, Washington, was part of the "Viking" contingent to represent his community in the Norway Day parade at the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYPE) in Seattle. See the explanatory blog entry for this series: Poulsbo Vikings at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, 1909.

Peter Iverson dressed as a
5th Century Viking
Beneath the bear skin and tough Viking demeanor displayed in Iverson's 1909 photograph (left), lay the heart and soul of a journalist and politician.  Poulsbo Viking #2 was a newspaperman for many years.  He also served as mayor, and as a senator represented the counties of Island, Kitsap, and Mason.

Peter Iverson was born on February 25, 1861 in Odda, Hardanger, Norway, and became a naturalization citizen of the United States.  After immigrating, he lived in Minnesota and Illinois before settling in Iowa, where he was a student at Humbodlt Academy and Cornell College.  It was there he published the Bode Bugle with his wife, Josephine.  In 1896, he visited Poulsbo, Washington on the west coast and was impressed by Dogfish Creek, a salmon bearing stream.  He returned to Iowa and convinced Josephine to move to the beautiful, Nordic-like Puget Sound area.  The couple packed up their two daughters, Julia and Eleanor, and three sons, Edward, Christie, and Henry, and arrived in Poulsbo, Washington in 1900.

Once in Poulsbo, the couple re-established their Iowa newspaper as the Kitsap County Herald, which began printing on February 1, 1901.  The paper was not able to support the family at  first, so Iverson, who worked as publisher and editor, also became an independent steam boat operator, using the Josephine L to work at log towing and other lumber enterprises to bring in extra income.  While Iverson was away from home on business--whether maritime or newspaper-related, or other pursuits--his family was required to get the paper out on a weekly basis.  Josephine served as a journalist and drew from her newspaper experience back in Iowa, and with the help of the children they managed the Friday publication deadlines.

It took the Iverson's about a week to get each issue out due to the involved printing processes at the turn of the 20th century.  Setting type backwards before the printing could begin was a slow and lengthy process, and everyone had their tasks to do in order to meet the print deadline.  Iverson's daughter, Eleanor, recalled that at age five, she was assigned the task of picking up newspaper type that had fallen on the floor.  One time in the early days of the publication, a disaster resulted in a missed printing when a printing form fell to the floor as it was being transferred to the press.  This jumble on the floor was called a "pi" in old journalism terms, and after that day the Iversons referred to it and any other day when all things went wrong as a "pi day."  The family sold the newspaper in 1936.

In addition to his newspaper business, Peter Iverson was elected mayor of Poulsbo shortly after its incorporation, and held the position for twelve years.  In 1913, he won a senatorial seat in the state legislature and held it for several consecutive terms.  As Senator, he fought for good roads, aid with clearing isolated land for farmers, and sponsored other measures for the development of Kitsap County.  Here is a link to a photograph of Peter Iverson, among the members of the Washington State Senate in the Legislative Building in Olympia, Washington, ca. 1911-1913.  In 1940, the family resided on Front Street, where they owned a home.  Iverson passed away at age 85 on February 13, 1946.


--Kitsap County Historical Society.  Kitsap County History:  A Story of Kitsap County and Its Pioneers
(The Society:  Poulsbo, Washington, 1977).

--"Peter Iverson Founder of Herald, Taken by Death." Obituary for Peter Iverson, February 1946.
--"Society hears story of papers beginning."  North Kitsap Herald, June 10, 2008:  http://www.northkitsapherald.com/news/19741684.html# (accessed 9/17/2015).
--U. S. City Directories, Bremerton, Washington, 1909-1936
--U. S. Federal Census, Poulsbo, Washington, 1910-1940
--University of Washington Department of Journalism.  The Washington Newspaper:  A Publication Dedicated to the Study and Improvement of Journalism in Washington, v.7-8 (University of Washington Department of Journalism; Washington Press Assoc.:  Seattle, Washington, 1921).
--University of Washington, Special Collections.  Peter Iverson papers, acc. #0218-001.
--Washington State Death Index, 1940-1996
Chery Kinnick

24 November 2013

Nearby Norwegians at Yulefest

The Nearby Norwegians spent Saturday morning over kaffe and conversation, enjoying the cultural festivities at the Nordic Heritage Museum's Yulefest in Ballard (Seattle), Washington.  We even took a few minutes to wish "God Jul" to Santa before all the little kiddies arrived and needed his attention.  After cookies, we went shopping among the craft vendors, of course! 

(Left to right) Back row:  Luci Baker Johnson, Cathy Lykes, Carolyn Merritt, and Barbara Holz Sullivan.  Front row:  Chery Kinnick, and Santa himself!

17 June 2013

The Scandinavian Celebration of Midsummer

Midsummer celebration (e-how.com)

The Midsummer Night and Day near the end of June (summer solstice) are called the Jonsok or Sankt Hans, both named after John the Baptist.  However, the roots of this special celebration surrounding the shortest night and the longest day of the year reach all the way back to pagan times, when everybody paid tribute to the powers of the sun god with bonfires signifying the defeat of darkness.  In addition, it was as good an excuse as any for a bit of "whooping-up," knowing as they did that soon the long, dark fall and winter months would engulf them.  And on this night out of the deep forests, down from the mountains, up from the rivers and fjords would come the magic creatures--the trolls, the hulders, the nisser, the fosse-grimmer and the nøkker--invisible partners in all the merrymaking..." [1]

File:John Bauer 1915.jpg
Trolls, as envisioned in 1915 by illustrator, John Bauer.
Wikemedia Commons

"How to Celebrate a Norwegian Midsummer" (synopsis):

--Decorate with plenty of alpine-like flowers, similar to those that grow in Norway.  You can also display strings of paper Norwegian flags and use the flag colors of red, white, and blue in table settings.

--Boil up a pot of shrimp.  They are plentiful in Norway in midsummer, and are typically served with homemade mayonnaise.

--Get your smorgasbord on.  Some suggestions are:  smoked salmon, pickled herring, Jarlsberg cheese, flatbread, lefse, and other Norwegian specialties.
--Offer shots of Akevitt to guests.  If you can't find Akevitt, then go with a Danish beer.

--Put on a pot or two of coffee, as "...true Norwegians drink it at all hours of the day throughout the year."
--Have a bonfire, or light as many candles as you can when the sun goes down, but don't set anything on fire!   Then, let your imagination take flight as darkness falls and shadows grow...  Ghost stories around the campfire, anyone?

[1] Bent Vanberg.  Of Norwegian Ways (Harper & Row:  New York, 1970)

28 May 2013

Ole Goes to War: Men from Norway who fought in the America's Civil War

On this Memorial Day, I remember all of the Norwegians who fought in the American Civil War.   

YES--Norwegians, who had not yet been naturalized as American citizens.

"One of every six Civil War soldiers born in Norway were named Ole" 
In 1996 Darell Henning, curator of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, asked Jerry Rosholt to compile a database of Norwegian immigrants who fought in the American Civil War. Jerry accepted the challenge and spent nearly the rest of his life dedicated to this project.

"At least 6,500 Civil War Union soldiers were born in Norway...and an estimated 300 Norwegians served in Confederate units." 

Jerry was a tenacious and thorough researcher, and used multiple resources in documenting his findings. He brought his reporter's sense of accuracy and his talent for storytelling to bear on one of the pivotal moments in American -- and Norwegian-American -- history.  The book he penned tells the story of not only the famous, such as Colonel Hans Christian Heg, but also the many, many other Norwegians who stepped forward to serve their new country.
Colonel Hans Christian Heg
Many have heard of Colonel Hans Christian Heg, the commander of the all-Norwegian Wisconsin 15th regiment. He was respected by his men for his fairness, his courage, and his confidence during the most dangerous battles. Hans Heg was born at Lier, near Drammen, Norway on December 21, 1829, the eldest son of Even and Sigrid. When Hans was 11 years old, his family came to America, settling in Norway Township, Racine County, Wisconsin.

Although I'm not a direct relative, I'm well familiar with the Heg family because my mother's Hegg ancestors were also from Lier, emigrated at about the same time as the Hegs, and also settled in Wisconsin. They were neighbors and peers of the Heg family. 
Colonel Heg also has a connection to the Pacific Northwest. His youngest child, a son named Elmer Ellsworth Heg, was born in February 1861 and was just two years old when his father was killed in the battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863. Elmer went on to achieve a college education, and re-located to Seattle in 1888, becoming a well known physician who specialized in pulmonary diseases. In the early 1900s, he owned a home on Seattle's prestigious First Hill. That property is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The book provides in-depth coverage of the soldiers who served in the Wisconsin 15th regiment, the lives they led in the ranks of the Union Army, and their fates during the war. It also tells of the 111 Union soldiers, born in Norway, who became prisoners of war in the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia. It provides a list of these men and where they enlisted.

To Each One His Story
Rosholt takes it a step further, and shares individual soldiers' lives with the reader.
"Perhaps more telling than vivid descriptions of battles, or long lists of those who fought and died, are the personal stories of men and women who immigrated to a New World only to be caught up in a civil war unparalleled in history."
Here are the love story of Ole Anderson and Mary Katterud; the life of Ludvig Bjorn, a pastor ordained in Norway; the tale of Knud Hanson, who was drafted in 1863 and died in Andersonville a year later; the story of Jens S. Jensen, who was from Bosque County, Texas and served in the Confederate Army; and many more. The book is also enriched with extracts from diaries, letters, and journals. 

Database Entries
Finally, there is a database of over 10,000 Norwegians who fought in the Civil War. There are fourteen pages of brief synopses that focus on individual soldiers: snapshots of who they were, where they came from, how they served, and where they ended up following the war. From ANDERSON to WROLSTAD, the book shares the story of men who fought hard and long in a war that changed history.

The book 'Ole Goes to War' can be purchased for a very reasonable SALE price of just $5 from Vesterheim. I recommend you add it to your library, if for no other reason than to acknowledge these soldiers who served this country.

What makes this even more desirable is that Vesterheim has maintained on online database where you can search for possible Norwegian and/or Norwegian-American ancestors who served in the Civil War. Norwegians in the Civil War is simple to use. You can even 'just browse,' if you aren't sure what name to look under.

Let me leave you with this. We owe a great deal to the men and women who have made the U.S.A. a place of freedom and possibilities. Our ancestors fought hard and long to make the life we are privileged to live: one that would make them smile.

@ @ @ 

About the Author: Jerry Rosholt
Jerry (Jerome Karlton) Rosholt was born to Carl and Edith (Solem) in January 1923 in Glasgow, Montana. He attended public school in Alexandria, Minnesota, and graduated college in 1948, with a degree in speech and business administration from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. His college years were interrupted by World War II, in which he served with the 95th Infantry Division. After graduation, he worked as a news reporter in Philadelphia (WRCV-TV), in New York City (WNBC), and for the Huntley-Brinkley Report, retiring from this role in 1988.

In September 2006, Jerry was awarded the St Olav's medal by King Harald V of Norway "in recognition of [his] great services to Norway, in particular [his] active involvement with the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum on its Civil War project." The medal was presented October 21st, 2006 in Decorah, Iowa, by Norwegian Consul General Rolf Hansen.

My friend Jerry passed away on Friday April 4, 2008 at the age of 85. He was survived by his three sons: Rhys, Dirck and Cort. However, his military service to our country, and his tenacious work on identifying Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans who served their new country, will forever be his legacy. 

Janet Blohm Pultz, 

Vesterheim Executive Director, said this about Jerry's work  

"Historians, genealogists, Civil War buffs, and most of all, Vesterheim, are forever in his debt."