Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Workday Wednesday : Looking at "The Way We Worked"(1)

"The Way We Worked"
Johnson City Public Library, Johnson City, TN

The Johnson City (TN) Public Library is currently hosting "The Way We Worked", a traveling exhibit developed by the Smithsonian Institute as part of their Museum on Main Street program. We are able to have the exhibit available locally through the sponsorship of the Tennessee Humanities Council. It was a fascinating exhibit to view, one I hope will be in your area someday.

Seeing "The Way We Worked" has also led me to look back at the variety of occupations about which I have written in some previous blogs. These include:

Gold Miner Samuel Hillhouse

Homesteader Peter Petersen Myren

Land Agent  Thomas Smiley

Minister  Albert Bell Vaughan

Musician Gertrude Andrews Myren

Painter Hans Syversen

Soldier Raleigh Spinks Camp

Surveyor Ernest Perkinson

Tax Collector (and Singing Teacher) Elijah Hillhouse

Teachers Charlotte Vaughan  and her sister Louise Vaughan

Tufted Spreadmaker  Nelson relatives

And finally, the post about the Citizens of Wildcat Cherokee County, Georgia

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some photos of other relatives at work.

(1) "The Way We Worked",

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday's Tips: Looking Beyond Just BMD Records

It’s that old familiar story. A couple meets. They fell in love. They get married. They live happily ever after. The big three, Birth, Marriage, and Death Records (BMD), provide an outline of the story, but they just don’t give enough details.

Take, for example, the marriage of a Perkinson family cousin, Louie Dean Stephens, and her husband, Robert Lee Hays, Jr. Louie Dean was born and raised in Georgia, graduating from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia.(1) Robert, according to every census record, was born and raised in Oklahoma. How did these two meet?

Several years ago I was researching in several Georgia libraries. At the Marietta (GA) City Library, I found an obituary for Robert L Hays.(2) It gave me some clue as to how these two probably met. It turned out that Robert had been a student at the Georgia School of Technology in Atlanta, the university more commonly known as Georgia Tech. Louie Dean, meanwhile, had attended nearby Agnes Scott College. For many years, girls from the all-girls Agnes Scott College were invited to parties at then all-male Georgia Tech and vice versa.

Following their marriage in June of 1926, the couple, according to census records, city directories, and obituaries, lived in several different places. They resided in Memphis, TN, Richmond, VA, and later lived for over 30 years in New York City. Not what most would expect of a girl from the small town of Woodstock, Georgia, and a fellow from Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Looking back at the obituary from the Marietta Daily Journal, I also learned that Robert had been active in Civil Defense activities and was the director of Civil Defense for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.(2)

Last week I stumbled upon a great website for learning more about Georgia Tech, SMARTech. Most of the digitized materials are research and scholarly publications, but the website also has online copies of several Tech publications. Included were The Blue Print (yearbook) as well as past issues of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine, the student newspaper, and campus humor magazines.

Through materials on SMARTech, I learned more about Robert L Hays, Jr. After looking online through several years of The Blue Print, I found Robert listed as a senior in the 1925 edition.(3) I downloaded the pdf file onto a jump drive and spend some time looking through the yearbook. Besides finding several pictures of Robert, I also learned something about his years at Georgia Tech.

Robert Lee Hays, Jr, class of 1925

The yearbook mentioned that he was from Oklahoma, a member of Beta Theta Phi fraternity, a member of Scabbard and Blade (military honor society) and a Mechanical Engineering graduate.  In the short, humorous biographical sketch, it also said that he “had the girl” as well as an impressive military record in Georgia Tech’s then mandatory ROTC program.

The highlight of browsing the yearbook was finding this picture of Robert and Louie Dean in the ROTC section.

ROTC Regimental Staff, Georgia School of Technology, 1925

Robert L Hays, Jr. was the highest ranking cadet officer of the ROTC regiment at Georgia Tech in 1925. Pictured next to Col. Hays was the regimental sponsor, Miss Louie Dean Stephens. A year after Robert’s graduation from Georgia Tech, the two married.

Searching through Georgia Tech Alumni Magazines available online through the Georgia Tech Alumni Association, I found more information concerning Robert. In the April 1953 issue, Robert was pictured along with information of his appointment as an assistant Vice President of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.(4) Later, there was a brief obituary for Robert in the Feb 1960 alumni magazine. The obituary noted that Robert had been in charge of building services for the Metropolitan Life Insurance offices in New York City and had been with the company since the late 1920s.(5)

Thanks to a college yearbook, I now had an idea as to how these college sweethearts met, and the two articles in an alumni magazine provided a closer look at Robert's career. I also appreciate my husband, himself a Tech graduate, for passing on to me so many details of Tech history, traditions, and lore. After all, it is things like this which provide those details about relatives that help us better know them as persons.

(1) Agnes Scott College, Silhouette, published 1922; accessed through
(2) "Ex-Mariettan's Husband, Dies", Marietta Daily Journal, Nov 25, 1959.
(3) Georgia School of Technology, The Blue Print 1925, published 1925; accessed through
(4) “News of the Alumni by Classes”, Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine, Mar/Apr 1953; accessed through
(5) "News of the Alumni", Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine, Feb 1960; accessed through

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mappy Monday : Here Comes the Syversen Family, part 3

The Syversen Family
created using

Between 1870 and 1900, a number of members of the Syversen family immigrated from Lesja, Oppland, Norway, and settled in the United States. Following their move, family members usually took on a variety of surnames. The primary ones found through US and state census records or engraved on cemetery markers are shown above.

By 1900, the family members were scattered across the midwest and were known by a number of different surnames. Yet, they were still family. Below is a brief look at the Syversen family after they came to the United States.

Patriarch Syver Hansen kept the surname of Hansen. A few years after immigrating, he died in Jackson County, Wisconsin.

His oldest daughter Anne Syversdatter and her husband Haldor Ericksen remained in Norway, but all five of their sons immigrated to the US in the 1870s. The brothers at times lived near each other but eventually were scattered across the country.  Son Elias moved to Wabaunsee County, Kansas and was known as Elias Holvorson for many years. Their second son Syver moved to Umatilla County, Oregon. Lars went by the name of Louis Halverson after his move to Garvin County, Oklahoma. Their fourth son Mathias. known as Mat Halvorsen, lived in Morrow County, Oregon. Ole, their youngest son, ended up in California. Three versions of a surname, four different states, and that is just one part of the Syversen family.

Hans Syversen, the son whose immigration started this series of posts, eventually lived in Day County, South Dakota, and took the surname of Belle. His sons Hans, Ole, Anton, and Otto continued to reside in South Dakota but used the Belden surname, Belden being the name of the farm area where the family has resided in Norway. Anton was later known as Anthony Belden while his brother Otto was sometimes referred to as Oscar Belden.

Another daughter, Ronaug Syversdatter, married in Norway and later immigrated to the Trempealeau, Wisconsin area with her husband, Syver Johannansen.

Guro Syversdatter seems to have been the first family member to immigrate, coming to the Chicago area around 1870. After her marriage to Erick Pederson, the family lived in Jackson County, Wisconsin. Through the years, several family members would stay with Guro and Erick after they first arrived in the US.

The second son, Syver Syversen also lived in the Jackson County, Wisconsin area. Syver, however, was known as Siver Siem, Siem being the name of another farming area in Norway.

My Great Grandmother, Kari Syversdatter, immigrated to the US before 1881 and married my Geat Grandmother, Peter Petersen Myren, They homesteaded in North Dakota, and a descendant of theirs still owns the family farm. Two of Kari and Peter's daughters preferred to use the surname of Myron while the rest of their siblings, as well as the parents, chose to use the name Myren.

It has been interesting to follow the various paths taken by members of the Syversen family. As shown on the map above, by 1900 the siblings and cousins were scattered across the country. Each seemed to have a surname preference, and although many were farmers, they also followed a variety of career paths. My research in following the family has also led me to contacts with other family members living across the US today.

I chose to write this post without my usual citations, but trust me, they exist. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in the sources used for the information presented here.

A final thank you to Thomas MacEntee. His Genealogy Do-Over encouraged me to be more systematic in my research and in recording the information I located. Without these tweaks to my methodology, I probably never would have been able to write this post.

Now, I think I'll take a look at some of those Bright Shiny Objects I came across in this journey.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Here Comes the Syversen Family, part 2

Lesja Church, Oppland, Norway
photo by Henny Stokseth, Wikimedia Commons

I've been on the immigration trail of my Great Grandmother Kari Syversdatter Myren for the past several years, trying to see how she left the village of Lesja in Oppland, Norway and came to North Dakota.  Previously I had described some of my efforts in a post written in March, 2013. After my relative ease in finding how her brother Hans Syversen came from Norway to the US, I hoped to be more successful in learning about Kari. I would use the steps that had worked so successfully with Hans.

1. Use the Norwegian census records for 1865, 1875, and 1885 to establish the last census year in which the family or individual was recorded as living in Norway. (Digital Archives of Norway). Also, check US Federal census records to see when the family is recorded in the US.

Kari was listed as living with her parents, Syver Hansen and Marit Olsdatter, in both the 1865 and 1875 census of Norway but not in the 1885 census. The first census which records Kari as living in the US is the 1885 Dakota Territory Census.(1) In this 1885 census Kari, now married to Peter Peterson Myren, was listed as the mother of two children, ages 3 and 1, both of whom were listed as being born in the Dakota Territory. This sets Kari's migration bracket as being between 1875 and 1882.

2. Check local parish records to see if the family or person is listed as a "Removal", the column heading used for individuals notifying the church of their intent to move out of the area or to emigrate. (DAofN)

Several months ago I was looking for something else in the Lesja Parish records and stumbled upon the Migration Record for Kari.(2)

At the time I first found this record, I made a note in Family Tree Maker about the other person, Marie Hansdatter of Belden Farm, who was planning to leave Lesja the same time as Kari. I wondered who Marie was, a neighbor, friend, relative. As I started planning to write this post and was considering resources to mention, I had one of those "duh" moments. Marie Hansdatter, born in 1858, living on Belden Farm is in all likelihood the "missing daughter"t of Kari's brother Hans Syversen and also Kari's niece,  It now looked as if these two girls might be planning to travel together to America, leaving Norway on 25 April 1878. Surely two women traveling together should be easier to track than one person traveling alone.

The Digital Archives of Norway has digitized a number of records related to immigration. In their "Emigrants From Oslo 1867-1930", I found a record that might belong to Kari.(3) The database provided the following information about a Kari Hansen, a possible name for Kari since her father was Syver Hansen. Here is the information provided about Kari; my comments about the information are written in red. These are the reasons I say it might be for my Kari rather than being certain.
  • Names:  Kari Hansen possible name
  • Gender:  female
  • Age:  24  Kari's age in 1858 would have been 25
  • Residence:  Oier Oier is a parish located in an area close to Lesja, Oppland
  • Position:  a Girl term usually means a servant girl who isn't part of the family
  • Date of emigration:  23 June 1878
  • Port of departure:  Oslo
  • Destination:  White Hall Wisconsin Kari's older sister Guro had immigrated to American about 9-10 years earlier and resided near this town in the 1880 US Federal Census
  • [Ship] Line:  Hero This ship only took passengers from Oslo to Liverpool, after that the person had to travel to the east coast of England to board a ship to travel to America
  • Freight cost:  paid sometimes this indicated that the person emigrating held a prepaid ticket from Oslo to their final destination, in this case, Wisconsin
"Emigrants From Oslo" is a database, not a digitized record which I could browse for myself. No matter which search terms I used, I was never able to find a similar record for Kari's niece and possible traveling companion, Marie Hansdatter. Nor did I ever find listings for Hans Syversen's family as they had prepared to leave in July of 1878 as seen in a previous post.

3. Study US Federal Census records to see the year recorded for immigration, number of years in the US, or information on naturalization. (

In the 1900 US Federal Census, Kari Syversdatter Myren was reported as coming to the US in 1880 and being in the US for 20 years. According to the 1910 US Federal Census, Kari had immigrated to the United States in 1879. The 1920 US Census recorded Kari as coming to the US in 1878 and being naturalized in 1890, the same time as her husband Peter Petersen Myren. The census of 1930 also provided the same 1878 date for immigration. So, in a number of different census records, Kari is recorded as coming to the US between 1878 and 1880.

4. Search for the family or individual in immigration databases and ships' passengers lists.  Use sites such as Ancestry.comFamilySearch.orgLibrary and Archives of CanadaThe Ships List,  Castle Garden for immigration 1820-1892, Ellis Island, or Steve Morse's One-Step Search.

This step kept me busy recording "no record found" on my research spreadsheet. I searched for both Kari and her niece Marie Hansdatter without success. I used NorwayHeritage's databases to make a list of possible ships on which Kari might have sailed with a later April 1878 departure date. Some docked at New York, others in Philadelphia, or Quebec. Then over several days, I searched more than 25 ships' passenger lists accessed through and was not able to find either girl listed as a passenger. Not giving up, I tried searching a list of passenger lists for ships departing England in late July of 1878, the time listed in the Emigrants From Oslo database. Still no success.

For those ships docking at Quebec, I searched the immigration databases found on the Library and Archives of Canada website. Next I tried searching in the Castle Garden database. Again, no records using either website.

Kari Syversdatter's date and means of arrival in the United States continues to be a mystery. It is obvious that she left Norway. Obvious that she lived for over 40 years in North Dakota. There is just that gap between leaving Norway and residing in North Dakota that continues to be so elusive. When I compare my efforts concerning Kari with those on behalf of her brother Hans, it has seemed much easier to track a male through the immigration process.

But wait, there's more ...

(1) 1885 Dakota State Census, Traill County, [population schedule], Hillsboro Township, p. 5, dwelling 428, family 440, for Petter Petterson [and family]; North Dakota State University Archives, Fargo, [microfilm # unknown].
(2) Oppland (Lesja, Norway), Parish Register (Official) 8, 1854-1880, Migration Records 1878, p 587; Digital Archives of Norway.
(3) Emigrants From Oslo 1867-1930, "Kari Hansen"; accessed Digital Archives of Norway.