Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday : Virtual RootsTech

rootstech website banner

Last week was RootsTech 2013.  For several reasons I was not able to attend, but I really appreciate those who made it possible for me to vicariously experience what was surely an exception conference.

  • Thanks to RootsTech for not only streaming live the speakers and panels but also archiving them so that I can watch them whenever I choose.  (I was playing "Hide Easter Eggs" with my grandchild during many of those live sessions, and I wasn't about to skip that joy, even to see wonderful speakers being streamed live.)
  • Thanks to Dear Myrt for her interviews with presenters and vendors, now archived on her YouTube channel.  You can really learn a lot about new products and services in three or four minutes.
  • Thanks to all of the official RootsTech bloggers.  I've been enjoying your pictures and comments, plus I've found some new blogs to follow.
  • Thanks to Dick Eastman's wrap-up report that gave a real sense of being at the entire conference.
Maybe next year I'll be there or at least at one of the planned smaller conferences.  Until then, thanks for my virtual RootsTech experience this year.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Bit More to the Story

Wikimedia photo by David Lisbona
At times I like to take a break from my current research and take another look at some of my less involved research questions.  Doing so can sometimes add a little bit more to the story I already have.

The post I had about my Casanova relative generated a number of views; you can find it here.  I decided to do a little more digging into this part of my tree, and this relative has turned up with yet another wife, number five.  The record of this marriage popped up in an state database of marriages and divorces and was a real surprise.  Marriage number five turned out to be a short-term marriage during World War II.  I'm almost afraid to keep looking for more about this relative, wondering if I will find yet another marriage.  I've just glad he finally found and married his true love.

Last week I took the time to look for more information about The Day the Circus Was in Town.  This concerned the circus troupe I find listed in the 1940 census records for Sugar Valley, Gordon County, Georgia.

I spent some time at the Calhoun-Gordon County Library going through microfilms of old newspapers, looking for details about that circus.  Even though I scanned issues of the local newspaper that had been published before, during, and following the census enumeration (8 April 1940), I found no mention of a circus performing anywhere in the area.  This was in a newspaper that reported each week about the assembly programs at all the elementary schools in the county.  A circus in town would surely have generated a mention, probably even a front-page story with pictures.  Apparently the circus had just stopped in the area when the census enumerator came by.  No big circus, no performance, just a recording in individuals in the area.  Exactly what a census is intended to be. 

Neither of these additions turned out to be what I had expected to find, but that's the way it is when we're researching our family stories.  There is always a little bit more that's out there, sometimes additional facts, sometimes clearer insight, sometimes more questions, all reasons to continue our search.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Will You Be The One?

Something exciting is on the horizon.  One day soon the one billionth genealogy record will be transcribed and arbitrated on  That is billion, with a B, free records available to researchers.  Billion, with a B, records transcribed by volunteers.  Not bad for a project that started in 2006.

All of this information - census records, indexes for birth, marriage, and death records and more, records transcribed from around the world - has come through the work of volunteers.  Every time I use these free records, I am grateful to the unseen persons who are helping me in my research through their volunteer efforts.  It is also why I've been a volunteer transcriber over the past four years.  It is a small way to give back for the help I've received through the years.

If you want to join this volunteer initiative, visit FamilySearch to learn how to be part of this program.  You can work at your own pace, having about a week to transcribe the records you download.  You choose how many records as well as the type of records you want to work on at a time, plus you can work either online or offline.  As a part-time RVer, I can even transcribe in the woods by downloading ahead of time, then uploading when I find Wi-Fi along the road.

It was great to be part of's 1940 US Census transcription project a year ago.  It will be a cause to celebrate as we reach that 1,000,000,000 mark and start heading toward the next milestone.  Come be part of this project.  You might transcribe the one billionth record

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mystery Monday : Where's Kari?

photo by Steve Justonly on flickr
Ever since I found the path my Great Grandfather Peter Peterson Myren followed from Norway to North Dakota, I've been anxious to see how my Great Grandmother Kari Belle Myren arrived also.  I thought it would be so simple, just use the same search strategies and web sites that had worked with Peter.   Here is the link to Peter's story and the sites that were so helpful in learning about him.

It was simple to bracket a time for Kari's emigration from Norway.  She was present on her dad's farm in the 1875 Census of Norway.  According to information recorded on the 1900 and 1910 US Federal Census records, Kari immigrated to the United States in 1878 or 1880.  Final known date was the birth of her first son, Paul Myren, 1881 in North Dakota.  You'd think within a six year time period I should be able to find something helpful.  Welcome to the story of my current brick wall.  

For starters, I checked all the parish record books available on The Digital Archives of Norway using all the various name combinations, hoping to find that Kari had registered her intent to emigrate with the parish church.  I found absolutely nothing.  I had even less success using the Emigrants section of The Digital Archives of Norway.  Strike one.

Next plan was trying to figure out if Kari arrived in the US through Castle Garden, Ellis Island, or via landing first in Canada, again using the same web sites that had been so helpful with Peter.  Again nothing, even using wild card searches like "s*ver*" to search for any version of her original last name.  Strike two, nothing through these three web sites.

Then I decided to try looking for the emigration of any other family members.  The Overli-Belle-Siem book provided some information about Kari's father, Syver Hanson Belle Siem.  Her father came to American in 1882 together with wife Marit, his son Sivert, daughter-in-law Marit and grandson Sigurd after the Siem farm in Norway was sold.  Syver Hanson Belle (as he was now know) and his group joined another daughter Gunda and her family already living in Wisconsin.  Unfortunately the book has no mention of Kari's immigration.  Strike three.

At this point, I'd struck out, but I now focused on her older sister, Gunda, wondering if I could find Kari staying with Gunda at any time.  By 1880 Gunda was married to Erick Pedersen and was living in Jackson County, Wisconsin, but the census had no mention of a sister, sister-in-law, or anyone named Kari living with them or even nearby.

My Great Grandfather Peter is listed as a single farmer in the 1880 US Federal Census for Traill County, North Dakota, and their marriage apparently occurred shortly after the census .  The search through the entire 1880 census for Traill County, North Dakota,  revealed only Peter in that area, but no Kari.

That's my story for now.  My research record was lots of information as to where I didn't find anything.  I won't forget about Kari, I'll keep looking, and hopefully someday I will find her.  Until then, I'll remember this quote mentioned in Genealogy in Time Magazine.
"I have not failed.  I've just found ten thousand ways that won't work." --- Thomas Edison

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fourth Cousin, Twice Removed on My Mom's Side?

Photo by Damiaan on flickr
From time to time I will receive an e-mail, an Ancestry message, or some other communication from someone to whom I am somehow related.  That has happened four times in the past ten days .  I'm always glad to hear from new people and look forward to sharing information, photos, and stories with them.

One of the first things I want to know is exactly how we are related.  That's where a relationship chart can be helpful. has a simple to use Relationship Chart available as a pdf download or to bookmark.  I use it frequently to help determine my relationship with others as well as determining relationships between "cousins" who marry or those who live together, work together, etc. within my family tree.

If you haven't used a relationship chart before, it is pretty simple.  The relationship depends upon identifying the common ancestor I share with a new family contact.  Using FamilyTree's chart, I first identify my relationship with that common ancestor using the labels across the top line of the chart.  If that common ancestor is my Great Great Grandparent, I'll use the fourth column (outlined in red) as I determine this new relationship.

Next I use the label on the left side of the chart that corresponds to the other person's relationship to our common ancestor.  If the common  ancestor is that person's Great Grandparent, I would use the third row (outlined in blue) in determining our relationship.

Family Tree Magazine Relationship Chart

Follow where my column and the other person's row meet, and there is our relationship.  In this case, this new person and I would be second cousins, once removed.  The term once removed indicates that we are separated by one generation.  My father would be this person's second cousin since they are of the same generation.  Twice removed would mean that we were separated by two generations.

One reminder, frequently letters from the past and even census records used the term cousin in a variety of ways.  It could refer to an actual cousin, a relative in general, or someone with whom they shared a close relationship.  This first hit home as I started transcribing some family letters written during the Civil War.  The "Dearest Cousin" was sometimes written to a cousin, other times to a sister- or brother-in-law.  Once I expanded my definition of "cousin", the letters and their family references were much clearer.

Finally, to all my first, second, third, or fourth cousins, once, twice, or three times removed, on either side of my family tree, greetings!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Matrilineal Monday : Getting to Know "Aunt Thank"

Thankful Caroline Hammond Gaston
photo courtesy of Audley D. Gaston

My mother's family always referred to Thankful Caroline Hammond, my second Great Grand Aunt, as "Aunt Thank".  All I remembered hearing about her was that my Grandmother, Gertrude Thankful Andrews, was named after her, that Aunt Thank had no children, and "Aunt Thank" was the Andrews' family nickname for her.

All of this changed recently when I received an e-mail from a fourth cousin whose relative had married Aunt Thank.  This relative had looked at my tree posted on and contacted me about our mutual relatives.  We exchanged some information and stories, and now, thanks to a new cousin, I know a lot more about an interesting woman.

One story shared by my cousin was that Aunt Thank had an eye infection as a young child that left her very sensitive to light for the rest of her life.  Yet, even with this physical problem, Thankful was able to teach school for some years.  Before her marriage in 1862, Thankful lived with her parents while she was teaching at the local school in Sadsbury, Pennsylvania.(1)  Later, Thankful and her husband, Athelston Gaston, were living in Franklin, Iowa, with one of her sisters, and Thankful was once again teaching school.(2)  Apparently her vision problems did not prohibit her from teaching.

I had always heard that Aunt Thank had no children, but I have since learned through my new cousin that Thankful and Athelston Gaston had a daughter, Alma, who died at the age of two.  The cemetery where Alma is buried has apparently suffered the effects of time, so  I'm grateful to the volunteer who walked the cemetery in 1998 and recorded all the markers visible at that time.  The recorded information about Alma's marker reads "11 3/4" arch-top marble [headstone] : SACRED to THE MEMORY OF ALMA Dearly cherished child of ATHELSTON & THANKFUL GASTON, departed this life Dec 5, 1864, AGED 2 Yrs 7 Ms & 15 Ds" (3)

Apparently Thankful and Athelston opened their doors several times to care for children after Alma's death.  The 1880 census indicated an adopted daughter named Emma living with the family.(4)  Additional information about Emma has been virtually impossible to find; perhaps 8-year old Emma was actually a relative who lived with them for a while.  One more thing now on my to-do list.

In 1900, their 22-year old niece Grace Hamlin [Hammond] lived with them while attending college in their hometown of Meadville, Pennsylvania.(5)  Grace was the youngest child of Thankful's brother Thomas Benton Hammond who had died some years before.

Every so often, you stumble upon something unexpected.  Thankful, her brothers and sisters, had grown up in Rushford, New York.  According to a local history of the area, Thankful and all of her siblings had been involved in the Spiritualist Movement.  Thankful was even considered to be medium!(6)  Stumbling across this tidbit sent me Googling to learn more about this movement from the mid 1800s.

It can be difficult to have an accurate picture of someone from the past, but several things point to Thankful having been a special person in the Hammond family.  My mother never knew Aunt Thank, being born years after Aunt Thank died, but she always knew of Aunt Thank and had mentioned  Aunt Thank to me on a number of occasions.  More importantly, Aunt Thank must have had a number of fine qualities for my Great Grandmother Ruth Edith Hammond Andrews to name my grandmother, her first born, after her aunt, Thankful Caroline Hammond.  

Now that I've learned more about her, Thankful's quaint name is certainly a lot more interesting for me.

(1) Pennsylvania, Crawford, Sadsbury, p.826 [stamped], dwelling 246, family 24-, John Hammond [and family], accessed 1 Mar 2013, citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1100.
(2) Iowa, Story, Franklin,  p. 60 [stamped] L W Sibley [and family] dwelling 124, family 125; : accessed 2 Mar 2013, citing NARA microfilm M593, roll 420.
(3) Yoset, Thomas L. "The Barber Cemetery" in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, ( : accessed 10 Mar 2013).
(4) Pennsylvania, Crawford County, Fallowfield, ED 98, p. 152A [stamped] A Gaston [and family] dwelling 10, family 12; : accessed 2 Mar 2013, citing Family History Film #1255119, image 0517.
(5) Pennsylvania, Crawford, Meadville, ED 27, p 17A [written], dwelling 366, family 407, Athelston Gaston [and family], accessed 2 Mar 2013; citing Family History Library microfilm #1241399.
(6) Gilbert, Helen  Josephine White, ed., Rushford and Rushford People. Rushford, New York : Chautauqua Print Shop, 1910, digital images, ( : accessed 10 Mar 2013).

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday : My Rosemaling Box

Rosemaling Box, photo uploaded by Mary Perkinson Nelson

Today's treasure is relatively new, about 20 years old, but this small rosemaling box is a treasure that I'll someday pass on to a special relative.

About 25 years ago my mother made contact with a distant cousin who had compiled a personal history of the Overli-Belle-Siem family.  In this book there were several references to my third Great Grandfather, Hans Syverson Overli Belle.  He is described as "a successful farmer and an excellent painter and craftsman in wood ... [whose paintings] are featured and written up in Professor John Meyers book on Old Painting of Art in the Norway Valleys".(1)  This was my first exposure to the traditional Norwegian painting technique of rosemaling.

Later my mother found the box pictured above in a craft shop and brought it back for me as a souvenir of one of her visits to family in Wisconsin and North Dakota.  This time she had a lot more information to share with me about rosemaling, crafters that we both were.

There are a number of interesting web sites available for learning more about rosemaling, ranging from Wikipedia to flickr and Pinterest pictures.  Just Google the term and you will find enough to keep you busy for an hour or so  The craft is alive in the United States with a number of state rosemaling groups, conventions, and shows, as well as rosemaling teachers, classes, and books on technique .  There is even an interesting YouTube video showing some of the basic painting strokes which remind me a lot of tole painting.(2)

My wooden rosemaling box is only about three inches in diameter and one inch high, and its lid and side are covered with delicate brush strokes.  I keep the box sitting my dresser where it serves as a convenient place to drop loose buttons and stray pins.  It is also far more than a dainty handpainted box.  As I've been learning more about my Norwegian roots, it is also a reminder of a distant cousin, Norwegian ancestors, and a craft that originated several hundred years ago on rural farms in Norway.  Thanks, Mom.

(1) Chappelle, Marion Myhre. Overli-Belle-Siem Family. Riverdale, Maryland, 1980,  Privately held by Mary Perkinson Nelson.
(2) Rose, Linnea. "Freehand Rosemaling Tutorial" YouTube, 28 Jan 2008. : 2013.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Maritime Monday: Coming to "Amerika"

Unnamed immigrant sailing ship from Norway Heritage website

How does a person leave the land of his birth and start a new life in a new country, especially if it means that he may never see the rest of his family again?  I've pondered this recently as I've learned more about how my Great Grandfather Peter Peterson Myren left Norway at the age of 21 to emigrate to the United States.

Various US census records recorded Peter as having come to the United States in 1870, so this provided a starting place for me.  This sent me back to the Digital Archives of Norway to examine their parish records.  In Norway at that time, the clerks and ministers of the Lutheran Church were the record keepers for virtually everything that happened to the people within their parish, including Immigration and Emigration.  

Through the records of the Digital Archives of Norway, I located an Oppland Parish Minister's Book that recorded Peter's intent to emigrate to "Amerika", recorded on March 24, 1870.(1)  The big surprise was to see the intent for his older brother John also recorded on the same day just below Peter's name.  The parish register also indicated that 16 of the 18 people listed on that page planned on emigrating to America.

I spend some hours unsuccessfully searching both the Ellis Island website as well as the Castle Garden website for information about Peter and John and their arrival in America.  My search strategy changed when I found an interesting article on the Norway Heritage website relating how "from about 1853 the tide changed, and most Norwegian emigrant ships disembarked the passengers at the Canadian port of Quebec".(2)  No wonder Peter and John had previously been nowhere to be found landing on US soil.

Using the Norway-Heritage database of Passenger Ship Lists enabled me to find that Peder Petterson Myren of Lesje had been a passenger on the ship Mercator in 1870.(3)  The database also showed his brother John listed just nine names below Peter's name.

Next stop was the Library and Archives of Canada's website.  Their database of Passenger Lists 1825-1873 provided images of the actual ship's manifest for the voyage of the Mercator, leaving Bergen April 28, 1870, and arriving in Quebec on June 30, 1870.(4)  It was interesting to see the brothers listed with different spellings of their names.

Ship's Manifest, Mercator, arrival 29 Jun 1870, Quebec

From Quebec, Peter apparently followed the path of numerous Norwegian immigrants as he joined other Norwegians in Wisconsin.  His naturalization record showed that Peter had filed his declaration of intent for US citizenship in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.(5)   According to Peter's obituary, he lived in Wisconsin until he moved in North Dakota in 1880 and secured his homestead acreage.(6)  

So what was Peter's story of coming to America?  First he registered his intent to emigrate with the parish church in Lesje, Norway then traveled with his brother John from Lesje to Bergen, Norway.  From Bergen Peter and John sailed on the Mercator to Quebec, a trip lasting two months as they traveled in steerage with over 300 others.  Once in Quebec the entire ship was quarantined for several days (due to a measles outbreak on the ship) before Peter and John could actually set foot on land.  Peter then left Quebec and traveled to Eau Claire, Wisconsin where he resided for almost ten years.  In 1880 he moved to his eventual home in Hillsboro, North Dakota, attracted probably by the lure of free land .  As for his brother John, that's another block of research and surely another story.

And through all of this I kept hearing the words of Neil Diamond's America playing through my mind, especially when I first looked at the parish register's list of names of those who wanted to come to "Amerika".  Cue the sound track and sing along.

(1) Oppland Parish (Lesjaskog Lesja, Norway). Minister Book no. 9 (1854-1889), Espress Expatriate 1870, p. 289, entry 2, 24 Mar 1870, Petter Petters Myren; digital images; Digital Archives of Norway.
(2) Solem, Borge and Trond Austheim. "Hunting Passenger Lists, Chapter 1," 1999. online images, Norway Heritage. Norway-Heritage Hands Across the Sea. : 2013.
(3) "Passenger Lists 1825-1873, Norwegian Emigrant Search." Database. Norway Heritage. Norway-Hertage Hands Across the Sea, : 2013, citing National Archives of Canada C-4525 list 63.
(4) Library and Archives of Canada. "Passenger Lists, 1865-1922." Digital images. : 2013.
(5) North Dakota. Trail County. Naturalization Records. North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo.
(6) "Mr. Peter P. Myren ... " North Dakota Necrology, vol. 2, Aug 25, 1921 to May 29, 1923.  Microfilm. Bismark, North Dakota : State Historical Society of North Dakota. Article originally published in Hillsboro Banner (Feb. 16, 1923) : p3.