29 January 2009

Love That Lutefisk!

L U T E F I S K (pronounced [lʉːtəfɪsk], an eight letter word that, when uttered aloud in my childhood home in St. Paul, Minnesota, sent my brothers and I running the opposite way with our fingers holding our noses. Lutefisk is literally 'lye fish', as posted in Wikipedia.com , because it is made using caustic lye soda derived from potash minerals. My 87 year old father LOVES lutefisk. He claims to be Norwegian by marriage and has grown to love "the stuff." Each fall he dusts off his lutefisk apron and is one of the many servers at his (Lutheran) church's annual Lutefisk Dinner, serving over 800 people in one evening.

It's a Scandinavian delicacy that has to be seen to believe. I found a video on Youtube.com that does an excellent job of telling the story of lutefisk. To get to the bit on lutefisk, fast forward to 2:00 where the narrator talks with Warren Dahl, the co-owner of Ingebretsen's in Minneapolis.

What really caught my attention was an article that appeared in the Minneapolis - St. Paul StarTribune.com on December 20, 2008. Reporter Curt Brown interviewed my families friends, Dick Sundberg and Dennis Slattengren, at the St. Paul Corner Drug store just three blocks from my childhood home, where my octogenarian parents have lived for nearly 50 years. My folks are regulars for the nickel cup of coffee. "Lutefisk: A Holiday stinker (but a Minnesota keeper)" takes the viewer on a journey in pursuit of LUTEFISK and other Scandinavian delicacies.

For even more information on lutefisk, check out Gary Legwold's book, "Last Word on Lutefisk," a comprehensive collection of facts, fiction and folklore surrounding this simple fish with the unforgettable scent.
And to close this blog entry, which reeks of a tantalizing aroma ...a cheer from Pacific Lutheran University located just south of Seattle near Tacoma:

"Lutefisk, Lutefisk, Lefse, Lefse, We're the mighty Lutherans, Ya sure, you betcha."

Luci Baker Johnson

28 January 2009

Nearby History Enters a New Era

All five members of the Nearby Norwegians have been involved with Nearby History writing, research, and oral history seminars, held in Seattle at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). The seminars are what inspired the name of our writing group, in fact. Each year, the autumn research seminar ends with an evening event when participants make short presentations about their projects. On January 14th, Chery Kinnick and Cathy Lykes were among the historians who presented to a group that included friends, family, history enthuasists, and interested members of the public.

Pictured at Nearby History Presents on January 14, 2009 are (l to r): Dr. Lorraine McConaghy, Luci Baker Johnson, Chery Kinnick, Cathy Lykes, Barbara Sullivan, and Carolyn Merritt.

Over the past 10 years, the program has grown and reached out to hundreds of local writers and researchers engaged in various types of projects. Dr. Lorraine McConaghy, Nearby History's program creator, facilitator, and instructor, has indicated that although not all of the writing projects deal with locations near to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, they are all "near to the heart."

Lorraine McConaghy plans to retire from her position as MOHAI's lead historian within a few years, in conjunction with the Museum's upcoming move to Lake Union Park in 2012. McConaghy is handing off the coordination and teaching with Nearby History to co-worker and writer, Helen Divjak, in the hope that it will continue to thrive and grow as a community outreach program. You can read an article by Helen Divjak detailing the background of Nearby History: "Nearby History Celebrates Ten Years."

Beginning this year, in coordination with the centennial celebration of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Nearby History seminars will focus on a selected topic each year. It is a different model from past years when participants could chose their own topics. We look forward to seeing Nearby History continue to inspire writers and researchers for many years to come. The program has been largely responsible for our growth as writers and researchers, and we owe many thanks to Dr. McConaghy, our mentor and friend, and to MOHAI.


Chery Kinnick

Get Original at Footnote

A good part of a genealogist's research includes locating original documents that can provide facts that are so critical to telling the stories of our ancestors. Footnote.com, a database of documents and images, seeks to enable researchers in that quest.

Founded in 1997 as iArchives, Inc., Footnote is a subscription based web site that features searchable original documents that provide users with an unaltered view of the events , places and people that shaped the American nation and the world. At Footnote.com all are invited to come to share, discuss, and collaborate on their discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues. For more information, visit www.footnote.com.

Read the original press release for the launching of Footnote.com.

I heard about Footnote.com at a genealogy conference this past fall and was told that NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) had a free copy for researchers to use since they contributed a lot of their documents to be scanned. So, I tried it out and found documents I had not found for my research subject in other ways, including items from several vintage newspapers, and naturalization and passport applications from 1899.

I did other searches and did not have good results, since the scanned newspaper articles would pick up the first name (but it would be someone else) or the last name, but not always the two together. I didn't read the instruction for Boolean searches. I found that the first two or three hits were the best.

The Footnote.com results page gives you a quick glance at the first bit of the article or document so you can decide if it is the one you want. The results page looks a lot like the wonderful and valuable Brooklyn Eagle historic newspaper pages. Also, you can print free at NARA for a donation (or not). Try it out at a NARA branch to see if you can find what you're looking for, or subscribe to Footnote.com via the website.


Barbara Holz Sullivan

27 January 2009

What About That Viking Ship I've Heard So Much About...?

Research is underway to actuately chronicle the life of the viking boat that sailed from Kirkland to Seattle for Norway Day, August 31, 1909. Olaf Kvamme, a local historian and long time member of the Nordic Heritage Museum, has been conducting this research which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Museum's Nordic Journal. You can see a short clip of a film taken in 1909 when the boat arrived at the AYP landing.

The actual viking boat is 'no longer around' but the Nordic Spirit is a Norwegian fishing boat constructed 150 to 200 years ago does exist. It was donated to the Nordic Heritage Museum in the 1980s, it sat unused until 2008, when museum supporters set out to refurbish it for the 100th anniversary of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 2009. Read more about the ship at The Nordic Spirit blog.

"The Nordic Spirit is a late 18th- or 19th-century fishing boat from the northern fjords of Norway. It was given to the Nordic Heritage Museum by Volvo-Penta of America in 1980, after serving as an outreach tool for the Swedish company. In the early 1960s Volvo reimagined the vessel and outfitted it with Viking-style embellishments.

Today, the Nordic Heritage Museum believes that the next life of the Nordic Spirit should begin in the spring of 2009, with its display at such events as the celebration of Norway’s Constitution Day (May 17), the Northwest Folklife festival, and the Ballard Seafood Festival, culminating with the centennial celebration of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYP), to occur late in the
summer of 2009. The restored Nordic Spirit will reenact the sailing of the Viking, which opened Norway Day at the AYP Exposition in 1909. The celebration of Nordic participation will be a major component of next year’s centennial retrospective. Held on the University of Washington campus, the 1909 AYP attracted 3.7 million visitors to Seattle's first World's Fair and showcased
Washington State as an international city.

The Nordic Heritage Museum recognizes the restoration of the Nordic Spirit as a way to both honor the past and inspire current and future generations. The restored Nordic Spirit will be a testament to the tradition of Scandinavian shipbuilding and adaptive reuse. The vessel has already had two lives: as a Norwegian coastal fishing boat in the late 18th or 19th century, and as an interpretive reproduction in the mid-20th century. Much-needed restoration of the vessel will enhance its current role as an educational object for the Museum’s ongoing cultural programs."

Local newspapers have published stories about the past, present and future life of the Nordic Spirit. Below are links to these stories:

The Seattle Times Local News, September 3, 2008, "All hands on deck to help Norwegian vessel ready for fair centennial."

Ballard News Tribune, December 9, 2008,
"Nordic Spirit Will Sail Again."

Luci Baker Johnson

26 January 2009

New Lands, New Lives

Looking for a great READ on Scandinavians in the Pacific Northwest?

We have just the publication for you!
New Land, New Lives: Scandinavian Immigrants to the Pacific Northwest

by Janet E. Rasmussen

University Press of Washington 1993 0-295-97711-6 / 9780295977119 paperback 334 pages, 41 b&w photos, notes, bibliog New Land, New Lives captures the voices of Scandinavian men and women who crossed the Atlantic during the early decades of the 20th century and settled in the Pacific Northwest, after 1910. Based on oral history interviews with 45 Danes, Finns, Icelanders, Norwegians, and Swedes-more than half of them women-the book is illustrated with family photographs and also includes background information on Scandinavian culture and immigration.

Murray Morgan, with the Tacoma News Tribune said "Rasmussen's selections capture the textures and tones of ordinary life. They show how the cultures the immigrants had known in the Old World influenced their reaction to the New World and the way they influenced life in the Pacific Northwest. As Rasmussen notes, the stories 'affirm human experience as the stuff of which the fabric of history and culture is woven.' This is a fascinating book."


Janet E. Rasmussen is now the pastor of First Mennonite Church in Urbana, Illinois. She accepted this position in May 2008 following the completion of her Master of Divinity degree in Theological Studies at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.

Janet grew up in Paxton, IL and graduated from the University of Illinois. She earned her PhD. from Harvard University in Scandinavian Studies and was vice president for academic affairs and profession of modern languages at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln. She has published widely on Scandinavian women writers and immigrant women. Just prior to her seminary work she provided start-up leadership for The Want Center for International Programs at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA.


Luci Baker Johnson

06 January 2009

Vanishing Generation Interviews

The Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle sponsored oral history interviews with elderly Scandinavians in the effort to collect and preserve the unique history of the Ballard community in Seattle. There are 19 interviews with Scandinavians of varying backgrounds posted on the HistoryLink.org website under the "People's Histories" category.

Lynn Moen interviewed and Morris Moen videotaped Arnold Reinholdtsen (b. 1928) on July 17, 2000 for the Nordic Heritage Museum Vanishing Generation Oral History Project. Arnold, of Norwegian heritage, is an impressive story-teller who describes his life in the fishing industry and recounts many humorous vignettes of Norwegian Ballard...
Read Reinholdtsen's interview at: HistoryLink.org, Essay 5759

In one story, Reinholdtsen tells of his father-in-law coming to Seattle with three other Norwegians in a Model T, and a claw-foot bathtub secured to the roof. When the brakes on the Model T went out, there was no money for repairs, so the three of them would get out at each hill and let the car down slowly with a rope.

In another, Reinholdtsen relates: "I remember when I was in the Sea Scouts, the skipper of the Sea Scout ship said that he was a Fuller Brush man. And he said that Ballard was the worst route in the city because those little Norwegian women wouldn’t buy anything unless they absolutely needed it."

Oral history provides irreplaceable personal insight to history, forever documenting details such as the saying Reinholdtsen indicates the "old timers" always used when they were out in the middle of the ocean: "Well, we’re here now, we might as well make the best of it."

The Vanishing Generation Interviews are a reminder of the preciousness of cultural experience that is acquired and stored slowly, one person at a time, and always best digested by the reader/listener with a healthy dose of humor, open-mindedness, and even skepticism. Wouldn't we all love to have such documentation from our own ancestors? Make your own elderly relatives a priority for oral history interviews in 2009!


Chery Kinnick