11 March 2013

Online Norwegian Newspaper Research

Foreign Language Press Survey

Its purpose was to translate into English and classify selected news articles appearing in the Chicago area foreign language press from 1861 to 1938.   
"The Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey is a collection of translations of newspaper articles originally published in Chicago's ethnic press between the 1860s and the 1930s. The Chicago Public Library administered the project that created this collection in the 1930s, with funding from the U.S. Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). 
The Press Survey was one of many initiatives during the Great Depression that employed Americans to document and enrich national culture. 
"Translators and editors organized nearly 50,000 articles from 22 ethnic groups according to a hierarchical subject scheme created for the project. In total, the Survey produced approximately 120,000 sheets of typescript. The paper sheets are now cared for in the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago, and several institutions hold copies of the microfilm. The Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign digitized its microfilm copy and contributed the files to the Internet Archive. In 2009 the Newberry Library received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a new digital transcription of the Survey.

The 1930s project intended to offer English-speaking researchers and students access to primary materials on ethnicity and urban life in one of America's great polyglot cities during a formative span of its history. 
"In subsequent decades the Survey has been invaluable to scholars and students of Chicago history, and it has been used effectively in high school and college classrooms. This digital collection is intended to provide broader and better organized access than has been possible with paper and microfilm. The Survey translations have considerable value for teaching and research in immigration studies, urban history, the history of popular culture, and many other fields."
(The above wording comes directly from the Foreign Language Press Survey web site. The live links and reformatting of the text are my reinterpretation of the content.)

 What does this have to do with Norwegian-Americans?

The serendipity of random Google searches can lead you to some interesting, previously unknown, web sites. This was the scenario for my locating this online database. It's a bit unusual in that it's a digitization of a transcription initiative that occurred over 80 years ago. It makes the result of WPA workers' tenacious hard work accessible to researchers of the 21st century.  

I've spent some time on the website, which contains collections from 21 different ethic groups, such as Chinese, Italian, Polish, Croatian, and Russian. One of the ethnic groups is Norwegian. The collection holds transcriptions from one journal, five books and eleven newspapers. Below is a list of these items. I've provided a bit of annotation beyond what is available on the website, including live links to  descriptions of the Norwegian newspapers.
  • [newspaper] Chicago Record-Herald (a daily published in Chicago, 1901-1914)
  • [newspaper] Chicago Times
  • [newspaper] Chicago Tribune
  • [newspaper] Dansk Tidende og Revyen (a Chicago weekly from 1921-31, published in Danish)
  • [newspaper] Illinois Staats-Zeitung (a German weekly published in Chicago, 1848-1922)
  • [newspaper] Revyen (a weekly published in Chicago, 189?-1921)
  • [newspaper] Scandia (a weekly published in Chicago, 1867-1???)
  • [newspaper] Skandinaven (a semiweekly published in Chicago, 1866-1941)
  • [newspaper] Svenska Kuriren (a weekly published in Chicago in Swedish, 18??-1929)
  • [newspaper] Svenska Nyheter (a weekly published in Chicago in Swedish, 1901-1906)
  • [newspaper] Svenska Tribunen-Nyheter (a weekly published in Chicago in Swedish, 1906-1936)
  • Norwegian American Technical Journal (published in Chicago in English, 1928-1967)
  • [book] A History of the Norwegians of Illinois, A. E. Strand, 1905
  • [book] History of Norwegians of Illinois
  • [book] History of the Norwegian People in America, Olaf Morgan Norlie, 1925
  • [book] Life Story of Rasmus B. Anderson, Rasmus B. Anderson, 1915
  • [book] Norwegian Sailors on the Great Lakes, by Knut Gjersit by NAHA, 1928
The Skandinaven was one of the oldest and longest-lasting of the newspapers. It was established by three Norwegian immigrants:  John Anderson, Knud Langeland and Iver Lawson. The Library of Congress has microfilm of this newspaper in its collection. You can also find it at three historical societies (Wisconsin, North Dakota, and New York), and at Luther College and Harvard University. But if you don't have access to these institutions, the Foreign Language Press is the next best thing. Not everything has been transcribed, but it's a beginning, and it will make you anxious to see more. 

If you choose to explore this resource, I would be most interested in hearing about what you find. Please post your feedback and comments below. 

08 March 2013

The Seattle Sunday Times: May 26, 1901 (#1)

Here is an example of what you would find when reading the newspaper column: Normannaheimen This is a transcription of what appeared: spelling, grammar, and verbiage exactly as it appeared. I've placed nouns in bold text to make for easier reading. 


The Seattle Sunday Times, May 26, 1901

The rush for Alaska is something abnormal, and of these myriads of gold seekers, Scandinavians constitute a large percentage. Cohorts of Swedes, Norwegians and Danes have arrived in Seattle the last three days from the gloomy prairies of the East. Some are bound for Cape Nome, others are trying to compromise with their ideas for new fields.

Miss Anna and Emma Yngve and Mrs.Lizzie Carlson returned to the city Wednesday from Cedarhome, where they attended the funeral of their father, E. O. Yngve, who died from heart disease a week ago. Mr. Yngve was born in Sweden and has been one of the foremost citizens of Cedarhome for years.

B. K. Salverson, cashier of the Citizens’ Bank in Appelton, Minn., has also tried his hand at journalism. A few months ago he started to issue the Appelton Tribune, shortly after the bank failed, and Mr. Salverson found himself in a cark cell trying to scrape together his senses.

People talk so much of Scandinavian authors, Ibsen and Bjornson seem to hang on the tongue of every Norwegians reader. True, they are eminent writers, but Wergeland was not their inferior. He was the Byron of the North, Norway’s darling, a poetic genius, an original thinker.

“In unity there is strength.” Why can’t the Scandinavians work in harmony? A number of Scandinavian literary societies have sprung into existence the last two decades, but many of them have withered like the dew before the morning sunbeams. It is now afloat that a Scandinavian literary society is to be launched in the city, and it would be well if Norwegians, Swedes and Danes could come together like brothers and sisters and build a monument of literary worth.

Eugene Chilberg left for Nome on the Ohio Thursday. For years he has been working in his father’s bank, but for a short change he chose the North, being employed as chief clerk by the Pioneer Mining Company, one of the wealthiest concerns of Nome.

Mrs. Julian Blaker embarked on the City of Seattle Wednesday evening for Dawson, where her husband is interested in mining pursuits.

T. Ramsey, a pioneer of Stanwood county, stepped aboard a car on the Great Northern Wednesday, 8 p.m., for his native soil in Norway. As the trail rolled along he shouted, “I’ll return in a year to die beneath the Stars and Stripes.”

Peter Legue, ex-county auditor of Snohomish county, stated to a friend the other day that he would not accept the nomination of state senator at the coming Republic convention.

The rumor is current that Mr. G. Anderson is about to start, Norwegian-Danish weekly in Seattle. Mr. Anderson has been secretary and general correspondent of the Tacoma Tidende for some time, with office in this city.

Ole Finnoy, formerly of Seattle, has written his friends that Alaska is all right. He is a mechanic by trade and has found lucrative employment in the frozen territory.

B. H. Miller and Martin Christenson left Friday evening for Alaska. They are going via Skagway with their thoughts focused on some field yet untrodden by prospectors.

Ernest Skarstedt, the well-known Swedish-American author, is expected in Seattle in the near future.

Miss Olga Prestlien, who has presided in Seattle for some months, was called to her former home at Silvana the other day on account of her mother’s illness.

C. V. Lindberg, once editor of Vestra Posten, has located on a pleasant piece of ground at Brownsville. He is gifted as a humorous writer, and the romantic feature of the country will undoubtedly yield to his pen.

L. O. Stubb, a prosperous farmer in the Stillaguamish Valley, was in Seattle on business Wednesday.

C. M. Thuland has abandoned the so-called law practice in Seattle and steered his lot to the gold fields in Alaska. He sailed on the Ohio for Cape Nome Thursday.

The Norwegian poet, Kristofer Janson, is sowing his thoughts broadcast in Denmark. Not long ago Rev. Uffe Birkedal saw the light through another pair of glasses. Janson was called for and a free church popped into existence. The poet scattered flowery words to the people who soon commenced to see the star in an unwont horizon.

Prof. Theodor S. Reimstad has written, a soul-stirring song, “Hjem’ til Norge,” which he has dedicated to the Viking Company, now en route for Norway.

News has reached this country that old Rev. Deinboll of Bergen is dead. He was born in 1810 and up to his death was healthy and vigorous.

According to report from Harmar, Norway, the sale of liquor has decreased the last two years twenty per cent.

The Baltic had a large gathering last Saturday evening, and the status of the lodge is prognostic of healthy work.

A. B. Klaeboe, the pioneer druggist of Juneau, Alaska, has been doing considerable business in Seattle the last few days. It is Mr. Klaboe’s intention to start a drug store at Stanwood.


Digging for 'gold nuggets' in historical newspapers, specifically The Seattle Daily Times

Generally speaking, our ancestors did not live isolated lives. When they came to America, they gravitated to communities where there were other Norwegians: Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and yes, Washington. Washington may have been the primary destination for some, but often it was the goal of a second migration from the Midwest. They came in search of more land and new opportunities, and sometimes even for the prospect of finding GOLD. 

The key to immigration or second migration, either one, was communication. Immigrants sent and received numerous letters across the ocean and over the great plains. These letters contained encouraging words and sometimes pleas of homesickness. But often the 'news-print' reached for and read around the hearth of the immigrant home was the newspaper. That could be the neighborhood news gazette, or it could be the weekly Norwegian newspaper, like the Washington Posten, with its first issue published in Seattle on May 17, 1889. Equally important, however, was the newspaper of their newly adopted country. In this region that would be the The Seattle Daily Times.
The Seattle Times originated as the Seattle Press-Times, a four-page newspaper founded in 1891 with a daily circulation of 3,500. Alden J. Blethen bought the newspaper in 1896 and renamed it Seattle Daily Times.
Within the newspaper you find numerous features: news, business, sports, society, and local. In many newspapers you also find, near the back of the paper, a section dedicated to neighborhood news. In The Seattle Daily Times you would find columns from Ballard ('Ballard Notes'), Fremont, Redmond, West Seattle, and many other neighborhoods. The newspaper hired individuals to solicit, gather and report news from the various neighborhoods. Each such person was a neighborhood correspondent:
Correspondent (noun) a person employed to report for a newspaper or broadcasting organization, typically on a particular subject or from a particular country. 
In this region, the The Seattle Daily Times had an additional correspondent whose focus wasn't on a region or neighborhood, but on an immigrant heritage. Thomas O. Stine was hired by The Seattle Daily Times to establish the Normannaheimen column, which reported news of interest to Scandinavian-Americans. It first appeared on May 26, 1901 (page 9), using the first graphic (see right) as its column banner. The exact title of the column changed over the years, as did the format and style of the banner. To the right are images of the various column banners that I've found. These are some of the column titles that were used:

  • Sons of Scandia
  • Sons of Norway and Sweden 
  • Sons of Scandia Countries

In the June 29th, 1902 edition of The Seattle Sunday Times, the following notice appeared on page 36.
"All Scandinavian news intended for publication in the Sunday Times should be mailed to Thomas O. Stine, P.O. Box 599, or 1911 Sixth Avenue, Seattle, Wash. News otherwise directed may be mislaid and get too old for publication."
Stine, and others who followed in his footsteps, wrote for a particular audience: the Scandinavians who lived in the region. The information contained in the column varied widely, but typically included items like these:

  • the comings and goings of individuals, listed by name
  • new business ventures established; businesses bought and sold
  • news about what was happening in Norway (or Sweden, etc.)
  • talk about Scandinavians who went to Alaska in search of gold
  • talk of politics, who was or was not running for a public office
  • the arrival of public figures: authors, religious figures, politicians
  • births, marriages and deaths of Scandinavians, both locally and abroad
  • announcements about various Scandinavian societies
  • church news and announcements  
The correspondent might also include his own 'editorial commentary' about a particular issue, or publish a statement from someone within the community. Sometimes the person was named, and in other cases it was left up to the reader to ascertain the author.

I would encourage you to spend a little time time exploring The Historic Seattle Daily Times, 1900-1984. You can access it online at the Seattle Public Library (SPL), by going to (1) Articles and Research, then (2) Genealogy, then (3) The Historic Seattle Daily Times, 1900-1984. You can do all of this from the comfort of your home if you have a SPL library card. This resource is made possible through a generous grant from The Seattle Public Library Foundation.


What makes these newspapers even more accessible today is computer technology and a software program often referred to as OCR.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the mechanical or electronic conversion of scanned images of handwritten, typewritten or printed text into machine-encoded text.
Companies and organizations have been running original or microfilm copies of historic newspapers through an OCR process, to digitize them and make them more readily accessible to the public. The OCR program does this by dividing each individual page into elements such as blocks of text, table, images, and so on. Lines are divided into words, and then into characters. Once the characters have been singled out, the program compares each of them with a set of pattern images stored in its database. It analyzes each stroke edge, the lines between the text characters, and the background. The software then makes a 'best guess decision' on what each character is. The resulting transcribed text is loaded into an 'everyword index', which contains almost every word. The index is then searchable by a 'search engine,' which makes it possible for you use a 'keyword search' to find archived pages that have particular words on them. 


I would like to pass along a couple pieces of advice for when you use a search engine to look for items in a digitally archived newspaper:
  1. Fancy Graphics and Pictures. If you type the word 'n-o-r-m-a-n-n-a-h-e-i-m-e-n' into a search engine, it won't provide results from the first image on this page. The OCR process does not detect graphics or other images - only characters (letters and numbers). So this column banner itself would not appear among your finds. A reference to 'normannaheimen' in the text of the column (or in the text of another article) would show up in the search results, however.
  2. Not all of the issues are available in this database -- some are missing. For example, in 1900 there are NO Sunday editions of the newspaper. Also, it only has one issue (December 22nd) between October 30 and December 31st. In 1901 there are only three issues of the Sunday edition: May 26, July 28, and September 8. It isn't until February 9th, 1902 that the Sunday edition begins to appear regularly in the archive.
  3. Begin with a broad search. You'll want to begin your search broadly, instead of with an individual's full name. If you get too many results, you can always narrow the search. Suggestions for searchable words include surnames, the name of a club or association, the name of a community (such as Cedarhome), or the name of a church.
  4. Be patient and give yourself permission to read the other items on the page. They often provide context for your search, and they sometimes lead to serendipitous finds. On a page that had a worn or damaged original, the OCR software might have misread "Cedarhome" as "Cederhome", for example, but your eye would find it (on a page turned up by a different search) where a literal search on "Cedarhome" by the software would not.
  5. Printing. If you decide to print out something you found, be sure to note the publication name, the date, and the page number where you found the piece, right on the print-out itself. I promise you, you won't regret this step, as you may want to refer back to the source sometime in the future.
To get you started, here are some dates and page numbers where you will find the SONS OF SCANDIA column. In future postings I hope to share some of what I've found in these columns. It can be quite exciting to think that you are now reading what your ancestors read over 100 years ago.

October 12, 1901, p. 13

January 18, 1902, p. 21

June 8, 1902, page 31

May 15, 1903, page 31

December 20, 1903, page 53

July 24, 1904, page 20

03 March 2013

Scandinavian [Lutheran] Cemetery on the Snohomish / Skagit County line

This past week I did a friend a favor that took me outside my normal routine. In fact, it took me 50 miles north of my home in Seattle, to back roads I hadn't traveled before, on the outskirts of Stanwood, Washington. I enjoy the serendipity that can occur when one is 'out and about in a new neighborhood' like this, so I decided to do a little exploring. Driving north on Cedarhome Road, I found myself at the north edge of Snohomish County, on the border it shares with Skagit County. I had come to the end of the road, and needed to turn right or left. I chose left. Within about 500 feet I saw a sign on the right hand side of the road: Scandinavian Cemetery.

I just had to stop and check it out!  

It wasn't a large cemetery; in fact, it was on the small side. The sign was the only indication that the cemetery even existed. You had to drive on the grass between two farms to get to the entrance about 200 feet back. I stopped the car, and spent about an hour walking around the cemetery, taking pictures and musing about the fact that I had found this simple treasure.

When I returned home, I went online and learned more about this 'simple treasure'.


ESTABLISHED:   Circa 1907

HISTORICAL NOTE:   Milltown Lutheran Church was located on the site of the Scandinavian Lutheran Cemetery.  The church was torn down many years ago and its congregation split between Fir-Conway, Our Savior's and Freeborn Lutheran Churches.  This cemetery is also sometimes referred to as Milltown Lutheran Cemetery.  – "Passport to the Past", by Stanwood Area Historical Society and Lincoln Hill High School.

DIRECTIONS:  From Interstate 5 (north or south), take exit #215.  Go west onto 300th St. Turn immediately right onto Old Highway 99. Turn immediately left onto 300th  St. Continue on 300th St for 2.4 miles to 4-way-stop. Turn right onto 68th Ave NW (a.k.a. Cedarhome Road). Follow for 2 miles to stop sign. Turn left onto County Line Road and proceed 0.2 miles. Cemetery is on right hand side. The drive into the cemetery goes between two fenced farms, back a short way off the main road.
CONTACT: Fir-Conway Lutheran Church 360-445-5396 
I then went on www.findagrave.com and did a little more exploring. I extracted the following surnames found in the cemetery. I also went through my photos and uploaded about a dozen more headstone photos that I had taken, and which were not already on the website. There were about 100 headstone photos on the website, and about 200 graves total. (This was the first time I had ever uploaded any photos to this site. It was easy, and the immediate gratification was a plus.)
SURNAMES:  Barden, Bransmo, Brevik, Bustad, Chappel, Coss, Dahl, Ekrem, Evensen, Falling, Flones, Fluke, Glade, Hanson, Haugen, Haugen-Kvalem, Jemmingsen, Hendershot, Imislund, Kvalem, Larson, Leed, Lund, Melley, Nordahl, Nyquist, Odegard, O’Neal, Paulson, Peep, Petersen, Reines, Robertson, Wobertson-Wimmer, Rued, Sater, Seabury, Slater, Smock, Strom, Vaara, Visten, Walter, and Zoberst.

The rest of the Story...

As I was exploring the cemetery online, I made an unexpected discovery. I found a recipe for Hardanger lefse and a Seattle Times newspaper article written in 2004 by a friend of mine, staff reporter Nancy Bartley. I guess you could say, 'It pays to get snoopy.'

I was randomly clicking on the various 'names of the deceased' on the www.findagrave.com, and clicked on one for THORA ROMOLA BUSTAD SEABURY. She was born in 1923, and passed away in February 2007, almost six years before the date of my visit. When I got to the page, there she was in a photo with a friend, each of them holding a lefse rolling pin. Below this picture was another one, this one of a recipe for Romola Seabury's Hardanger Lefse.  What a delightful surprise!  

As I sought to get a closer look at Romola's photo, I stumbled upon the text of Nancy's Seattle Times newspaper article, which was published on Wednesday, December 22, 2004. The title of the article was Passing Down Tastes of Beloved Norway, and the full article had been uploaded to the find-a-grave website! 

I did a little more digging, and found the obituary for Romola Seabury that had been published in the Stanwood / Camano News on March 7th, 2007.  So I copied it, and posted it to the find-a-grave website as well.  I also found that her husband, Harold W. Seabury, had passed away just three months later, on May 12, 2007.

Why? Just because. :)

I went meandering, and came away with a few good nuggets of discovery.  I 'gave back' by taking some photos and posting them on a website. I got a new Hardanger lefse recipe. I got a history lesson. And hopefully, I made someone smile today.