29 April 2018

It all started with a virtual flower

This image is borrowed from www.militarymuseum.org
and is just a sample of the kind of flag Ole's unit carried.
It all started with a 'virtual flower' placed on a Find-a-Grave memorial page for a man named OLE HANSON. There was very little information about the man: just a death date of Nov 30, 1896 and the fact that he was buried in the Lewis and Clark County Poor Farm Cemetery in Helena, Montana. That’s it – just that tiny bit of information.

However, there was also a flower left by a woman named Charleen Spalding on July 25, 2017. She left the ‘flower’ with this simple statement: Ole was born 10/9/1837 and died 11/20/1896.” Basically seven words.

This is the image taken from the 'virtual
flower' left by Ms. Spalding.
This got me to thinking, ‘I wonder what else she might know about Ole?” I clicked on the link with her name and read her brief bio, which stated “…I live in Helena, Montana and research cemeteries in Lewis and Clark, Broadwater, and Jefferson counties. I may have more information than what is posted on Find A Grave and will be glad to share that information…” So, what did I have to lose? 

I sent her a ‘cold email’ that outlined what I knew about Ole and asked if she might be able to share any additional insight.

Two days later she sent a response telling me she was under the weather, but would respond when her health improved. I immediately acknowledged her reply, thanked her, and said I looked forward to hearing back from her when she could. That's the end of most stories that begin this way, but not this one. Two days later I got a second email, and this time she confirmed and agreed with me that this is ‘my Ole’. She shared the records she had, and the additional information that he was buried in section 4, row 10 of the cemetery. She also noted that there are “NO tombstones or markers in the Poor Farm burying grounds.” She then explained that she had attempted to get the ‘owner’ of the online Find A Grave memorial to transfer the ‘maintenance’ of the memorial, but had had no luck so far. I told her I would make the appeal, and perhaps because I’m a relative, the owner would make the transfer. The appeal has been made, but no response to date.

In my email back to Charleen I also included a P.S. stating that I was ”working on an article for the Ringerike-Drammen District Lag newsletter (the BREV) about Ole and his older brother Gustav; both of whom fought in the Civil War and survived. They immigrated with the rest of their family from Lier, Norway in the summer of 1853.” End of discussion, I thought.

Nope! Today, less than a week after all of this began, I received another email from my new friend Charleen. The email contained MORE details for un-puzzling Ole’s story. The email came with two attachments of newspaper articles SHE had found in the Library of Congress newspaper collection: one from the Helena Weekly Herald dated June 1874, and the other from the Anaconda Standard dated September 22, 1896 (3 months before Ole’s death). PLUS, she sent a nine-page typed annotated chronological history of the Lewis and Clark County Poor Farm/County Hospital that she had written, which was last updated in October 2015.

I'm just GOBSMACKED!  

I can hardly believe that all this took place in less than a week, AND it has launched a whole new chapter in my ‘family history’ storytelling. I have a ways to go, but this is most certainly a huge step in my research on Ole Christian Hansen, a six year veteran of the 2nd California Cavalry, Company K & M (September 27, 1861 – July 12, 1866), who mustered out at Camp Douglas, Utah Territory and lived the remainder of his life in and around Helena, Montana. 

Ole was 58 when he died and was buried, hundreds of miles from any family, in a poor farm cemetery with no headstone for his grave.


This just shows that anything is possible – you just need tenacity, perseverance, thinking outside of the box, and a little bit of luck and you too could find a new friend – by leaving a virtual flower. 

If you are curious and want to see the memorial page for Ole, go to www.findagrave.com and search for Memorial ID #39251462. You can also find him in (my) Norwegians in the Civil War virtual cemetery: 

I'll share more on this project in another blog post.

20 February 2018

"If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Writing this blog can sometimes feel like exactly this statement. I can put a great deal of thought and consideration into writing a post, BUT if I don’t find an appropriate venue to get this post to spread across the internet, then does it have value? Is blogging about writing what one feels and/or experiences, or is it about the desire to be heard, and possibly understood? 

I don’t have the answer to this philosophical thought experiment (question). I do, however, have anecdotal experiences that demonstrate the dilemma of ‘writing for the sake of writing’, posting the entry on a Norwegian genealogy Facebook Group and being told, by an Administrator, that ‘it’s not an appropriate post’ or simply deleting the post with no explanation. It’s both frustrating and humiliating / humbling.

Genealogy vs. Family History

I read a blog post titled What is the difference between Genealogy and Family History. Nathan Murphy (a blogger on FamilySearch.org) posted it in August 2013, yet I find it relevant today. He spoke of an action that took place on June 2013, in which Wikipedia merged two Wikipedia articles (“Genealogy” and “Family History”) into a single article titled Genealogy. But truthfully, are they the same? I think not.

This is my opinion (belief, conviction, sentiment, etc.): Genealogy is the building of a family tree or pedigree, using printed records/sources (vital records, census entries, city directories, passenger lists, newspaper articles, etc.), that shows how one generation is connected to the next. Some have referred to this as building the skeleton.

Family History , on the other hand, is the study of the genealogically proven family AND their FAN Club (friends, associates, and neighbors). Family history is ‘putting meat on the bones of the ‘skeleton’. It aims to understand the lives our ancestors lived, beyond just who their kin were. Family history is, in essence, the social history of our ancestors. Family history incorporates genealogy, but genealogy is not the end game.

The End Game

I’ve been engaged in both genealogy and family history for the past two decades, both personally and as a volunteer at a number of libraries, archives and similar institutions. With the advent of Facebook (started in September 2006) and my discovery of various Norwegian Genealogy ‘Groups’ found on Facebook, I’ve noticed that there appears to be a disconnect between ‘doing genealogy’ and ‘developing a sense of one’s family history.’ It has been my experience that people often begin with what I call ‘bagging the ancestors.’ That is, building a family tree ‘as far back as possible,’ resulting in statements like “I have over 10,000 people in my family tree,” or “I can trace my family back to Moses,” or something similar. I get that they are proud of this achievement, but for me it seems to be a fairly shallow result. I see that approach to research as ‘a mile wide, an inch deep.’

It’s not my intent to put these researchers down, but that is not the way I choose to reflect on my family’s ancestry. I want to put ‘meat on the bones’ of my ancestors. I want to understand who they were as individuals, how they interacted with their surroundings. What they thought, experienced, witnessed, observed, and even dreamed about. Why did they take the actions they did: immigrating, moving across the country, choosing one neighborhood over another, building their chosen craft / occupation? How did they happen to fall in love and marry (or not marry) their partner in life? What did they teach their children, or even the neighborhood children? Who did they interact with: their grocer, their doctor, their minister, their friends, their bosses, their enemies, etc.? What made them tick? These are the stories that I desire to ‘tease out’ of the materials that I explore.

This goes far beyond just transcribing a document in a foreign language or interpreting a vital record. It’s digging deeper to understand these people’s lives. This involves researching and reading contemporary records: journals, diaries, books, and newspapers, for example. It’s building an arsenal of information that helps to understand these individuals within their social history.

To this end, I’m launching a new Facebook Group about Norwegian genealogy and family history, which allows and even encourages the discussion and sharing of resources (finds, discoveries, etc.) that help to build one’s ‘family history.’ This group is not exclusively about Norwegian genealogy, but instead about Norwegian-American Family History. I will continue to be a member of the various Norwegian Genealogy Groups (see list below), but I am encouraging others to join this new Group as well.

It’s not my intent to be ‘mean spirited’ or in anyway to denigrate the existing groups, but I can see how this may be viewed. I’m hoping that if you see the advantage of this ‘new group,’ you will join it and encourage others to do so as well. I hope you will find the posts and discussions to be meaningful and useful in building your family history story. I see it as a place free to discuss books, articles, journal pieces, diaries, etc. To suggest, to hypothesize, to inquire about the life of our Norwegian-American ancestors – beyond just the facts.

To learn more about the group, or to join this new Facebook Group check us out at NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN FAMILY HISTORY. 

I look forward to making your acquaintance and/or friendship.

08 February 2018

Sámi Jienat - Voices of Sápmi (Music documentary)

Sámi flag
Sámi Jienat – Voices of Sápmi is a music/documentary (58 min) which follows the adventures of a Sámi choir as they practice and perform yoik – the traditional Sámi way of singing – and in doing so rediscover their unique heritage. It was released in 2013 and  premiered at the 2014 Tromsø International Film Festival in Norway in the ‘Films from the North’ category. It was also shown at the 2014 Skábmagovat Indigenous Peoples’ Film Festival in Inari, Finland.

I recently watched the film, on Vimeo, and was inspired by both the yoiking and the stories told behind when, why and how people yoik. In particular I found these two quotes to be thought provoking.

"In the old days people usually yoiked together in weddings and suchlike." 
"It was said that everybody yoiks with their own voice. In the same way as the bird sings with its own voice."  
The film provides the novice or non-Sami a sense of the history of yoiking, the importance and personal nature of yoiking, and the sentiments that are ignited by the one who yoiks. 

Sit back, pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and experience a culture that is not often discussed or shared. 

04 February 2018

Poulsbo AYPE Viking #10: Tenander Iversen

Tenander Iversen, 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.

Tenander Iversen was born in December 1864 to Iver Torkolson and Karen Knutson in Tysfjord, Norway.  He arrived in America in about 1887, and became a naturalized citizen about ten years later.  In Astoria, Oregon, he worked as a day laborer, and married Karen Hansen there on August 14, 1897.  The couple relocated to the Kitsap Peninsula of Washington in about 1901.  They had four children:  Gudrun (Nelson), Clifford, Rudolph ("Rudie"), and Arthur ("Art").  Rudie and Art continued to live in Poulsbo to help with the family livelihood.

Iversen ran a butcher shop on Front Street in Poulsbo.  Part of the shop extended out over the bay so that meat and fish scraps could be dumped at will.  No doubt, the local marine life was quite content with that arrangement.

The specialty of the Iversen butcher shop was lutefisk, which is brined and reconstituted dried fish.  It is a traditional Norwegian food that has been known to separate real Vikings from the wannabes.  Each fall when schooners returned to Poulsbo from the Bering Sea, Iversen piled salt-dried cod--the main ingredient for lutefisk--in front of his shop.  Rumor has it that the practice ended after a few local dogs were seen marking their territory there.

Lutefisk produced by the Iversens was said to be "light, tender, and melted in your mouth."  It was a popular addition to community dinners around the Puget Sound for many decades.  So, it seems a bit strange that Mr. and Mrs. Tenander Iversen once donated a large bologna to a Poulsbo Orphans Home Thanksgiving dinner.  Perhaps the discerning children did not welcome lutefisk as much as their elders from the old country?

After a long life as a Poulsbo businessman, Tenander Iversen passed away at the age of eighty-three on August 19, 1948.  He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Bremerton, Washington.


--Ancestry.com.  Oregon, County Marriage Records, 1851-1975 [database on-line].
--Ancestry.com.  U.S., 1940 Federal Census, Poulsbo, Kitsap, Washington [database on-line].
--Driscoll, Judy. "Stories of Early Poulsbo Thanksgivings," Kitsap Sun, November 18, 2008, http://archive.kitsapsun.com/news/stories-of-early-poulsbo-thanksgivings-ep-421472528-358366411.html/.
--Driscoll, Judy. "The Iversen Brothers Were Local Lutefisk Pioneers," North Kitsap Herald, October 18, 2013, p.A11, https://issuu.com/pnwmarketplace/docs/i20131017134556883.
--Find-a-Grave (Tenander Iversen), https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/157908077.
--Poulsbo Centennial Book Committee.  Poulsbo:  Its First Hundred Years (The Committee:  Silverdale, Washington), 1986.
--U.S. Federal Census, Poulsbo, Washington, 1910-1940.
--Washington Death Index, 1940-2014.
Chery Kinnick

02 February 2018

Scandinavian Inspired Craft

It's never to early to get a head start on your holiday crafts.  Shown here are some Scandinavian-style wall hangings, made by one of our very own Nearby Norwegians.  Inspiration was provided by the rosmale-like border and other quilting fabrics from American Jane Fabric, "Lorraine" pattern group.

Chery Kinnick

10 January 2018

Book Review: Let the Northern Lights Erase your Name

If your ideal day includes curling up with a good book, either an e-book or a traditional book, than you likely live in the Pacific Northwest, or more specifically Seattle. According to Amazon, Seattle is the most well-read city in the nation in 2015 and again in 2016. Personally speaking, I read a lot. Mostly non-fiction, but occasionally fiction. The last book I read was 'Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name' as an ebook from my local library.

Having read it in one day, I consider it to be a quick read. The book was published in 2007 by Ecco and has 687 reviews on GoodReads.com. The setting is in Finland, but beyond that I'll let you experience for yourself.

Good Reads: Description
"Far, far north, sitting above the Arctic Circle, Lapland is a world made of ice; a place both foreign and perilous that unexpectedly lures New Yorker Clarissa Iverton from what had finally become a comfortable life. At 14, her mother disappeared. Now 28, and just days after the death of her father, Clarissa discovers that he wasn't her father after all, and the only clues to her true heritage are a world away. Abandoning her fiancé, she flies to Helsinki, seeking to uncover the secrets her mother kept for so long. While piecing together the fragments of her mother's mysterious past, Clarissa is led to the Sami, Lapland's native "reindeer people," who dwell in a stark and frozen landscape, under the northern lights. It is there that she must summon the courage to confront an unbearable truth, and the violent act that ties her to this ancient people."

About the Author: Vendela Vida

Her writing has been described as spare, elegant and haunting.

Born on September 6, 1971 in San Francisco, CA, the daughter of Paul & Inger Vida. Her father Paul descends from a Hungarian family, and her mother Inger is Swedish born. Vendela is an American novelist, journalist, and editor; married to writer Dave Eggers, she lives in the Bay Area. She is the author of five books, and a writing teacher. Here are some more links about this author. 

05 January 2018

Norway • Digizitation

The National Library of Norway is digitizing its ENTIRE collection.

Yes, you read that sentence accurately!

In a article published by the Atlantic, on December 3, 2013 journalist Alexis C. Madrigal penned the sub-title "Between this and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norsk people are set for the future." The article was published in the 'Technology" section of the periodical, so this may have gone unnoticed by Norwegian-American family historians. You can read the article for yourself on the Atlantic's website.

The news-story stated that "By law, 'all published content, in all media, [must] be deposited with the National Library of Norway,' so when the library is finished scanning, the entire record of a people's language and literature will be machine-readable and sitting in whatever we call the cloud in 15 years." This is simply amazing. The Norwegians are a people that are preparing for the deep future. "Suddenly, the Norwegians become to 27th-century humans what the Greeks were to the Renaissance."

"If you happen to be in Norway, as measured by your IP address, you will be able to access all 20th century works, even those still under copyright."

What does this mean for us here...in the United States?
Not all is lost. As I sit here in my studio in Seattle, some 4551 miles from Oslo -- a journey of 11 hours and 10 minutes by air-- I have some access to this amazing digitization initiative. It does take some patience and tenacity. Take your time, be patient, and don't give up. It's kind of like mining for gold. Yes, much of the site is written in Norwegian (obviously), but some is in English and trusting that you can pick out some words is encouraging.

Here are some suggestions to get started. 

1. This is a link to the section of the library that has been digitized: https://www.nb.no/nbsok/search.

2. On the left side of the page you will see these options: Category • Period • Sorting • Language. You can limit your search using these fields. However I suggest that you begin more simply and search on a general subject, like Sami. When you do this you'll see that you get the following hits (as of 1.5.2018)

  • Newspapers (17,802)
  • Books (679)
  • Radio (2476)
  • Program reports (3711)
  • Journal (587)

You can click on any of the categories and it will help limit your search. I've found it useful to limit the search by 'Period', such as 1800-1899. You'll see that some are written in Norwegian, some in Sami and some in English.  Note: You will even see other languages, like Swedish, Norwegian Bokmål, Danish, German, Norwegian (Old Norse), etc.

3. When you click on the link, wait.  It may be slow, but it will then provide you with a digitized version of the book. You can then use the toolbar to view the image. AMAZING. To help you get started, here are links to some of the 'gold nuggets' that I found:

4. You will notice that all of the titles listed above are in English, but the actual book is in Norwegian. My search engine, Google Chrome, automatically translates (if I say yes to the prompt) SOME information into English. NOT the digitized item, but what will get me to the item. Also, some books were published in Norway, but others were published in America and have been deposited in the National Library. 

5. Search for something!  Explore the search options. Be patient. Some books will be accessible by your US IP address, and some won't. If you find a book that is limited to a Norwegian IP address, then go to Worldcat.org and see if that book is available in a library closer to home. 

I would be very interested to hear about what you discover. Please share your finds in the comment section of this blog.

Tusen Takk