Norway to Wisconsin: My Brick Wall!
I began working on my family history when I was in middle school and the assignment was to do a family tree. My dad drew a great tree for me and we began to call the grandma’s and grandpa’s to find out what they knew. Back then it was just fill in a name and dates if you knew them. Well there were quite a few that I did my grandparents did not know. Over the years I have made some great progress. While I have other brick walls, my Norwegian ancestors were always my biggest.
Back when I did the family tree I knew that my grandmother was Margaret Lorene Hanson and that her parents were Henry Anton Hanson and Rika Guritz. We knew when they died as we had been to the cemeteries many times. We also knew that Henry’s father was Anders (Andrew) Hanson and even the dates of his birth and death as we had been to his tombstone also. We however did not know about his wife or their parents.
Then I went to college, got married and had children. In other words life happened and my genealogy was put on hold. Eventually I started up again and found out about census records. Well these little gems were wonderful! Now mind you this was when you had to crank a machine and look at the same roll of film for hours. The thrill of finding someone was enough for a huge happy dance!!!
So in the 1870 census I find Andrew Hanson and Caroline with their 3 children Annie, Henry and Christian all living in Argyle, Lafayette County, Wisconsin (that was a big happy dance). In 1880 they are in Superior Township, Dickinson County, Iowa with Anna, Henry, Chris, August, Oscar and Sarah.
I start to ask more relatives and word comes that Caroline was really Karen and her last name was Andersdatter. Well okay but I of course needed proof. Anders dies in 1899 a few years after Karen and there is an article in the Spirit Lake Beacon.
A Citizen of Superior Township Hangs Himself and a week later in the same paper a retraction by G.H. Anderson Brother-in-Law.
It was evidently caused by the act of a sick man, who was not morally responsible for self destruction. January 27, 1899 Spirit Lake Beacon, Spirit Lake, Iowa
Once again a happy dance this is a bit of proof to investigate as he has that last name of Anderson (don’t get me started on that whole naming thing…drives me nuts!).
Since I can’t find a death certificate for Karen I start to look at G.H. Anderson and see if I can make a connection there. Nothing pans out and I can’t place Karen and Gilbert (G.H.) as siblings. So while looking at Gilbert I also look at his wife Olena. These two families moved together from Wisconsin to Iowa. I eventually find an obituary for Olena and find there is a sister Randy (Ragnild) and investigate her also. I find a great deal of info on these two ladies but nothing concrete to help me find out why they all moved together or how they are related.
Then I learn about the 1925 census from Iowa. What a gem! It lists the names of the parents and so I find my Henry and lo and behold his father is Andrew Hanson and his mother is Carrie Olson.
Ancestry.com. Iowa State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Microfilm of Iowa State Censuses, 1856, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925 as well various special censuses from 1836-1897 obtained from the State Historical Society of Iowa via Heritage Quest.
What?? Who??? Now Olson is a new name that I had not heard. Further research finds nothing and I leave this family alone for a long long time.
Then this year I was vending at the Dane County Area Genealogical Society Fair for the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society and sat down to talk to Jerry Paulson from the Norwegian American Genealogical Center & Naeseth Library (NAGCNL). I explain my problem and he of course sits down and says well let’s look around a bit. A few minutes later he tells me that he has found my great grandfather’s birth record and some of the other children as well! Well of course as anyone would I have tears in my eyes. I have looked for this man’s birth record for many years and never found it.
Jerry then takes down some notes and we all head home. Over the weekend I do some more digging and send him some more info about this Randy as being Karen’s sister. He also had been digging and found Anders and Karen’s birth, marriage and when they left Norway. PLUS MORE! Well can you say double happy dance???
Downside was that Jerry was leaving for a week vacation and I had other things going on and I had to wait two weeks. Of course I said make me an appointment for the Monday you come back. So I waited for those two weeks (longest of my life I think!). Then I headed to 415 W Main Street in Madison and waited until the doors opened and Jerry arrived.
We got going as soon as he took off his coat and he began to show me what he found. Birth records for all of Anders and Karen’s children. Which I then went to the microfilm found and copied off my great grandfather’s!!
Record retrieved from NAGNCL Wiota Lutheran Church Ministerial Records 1855-1890 Wiota, WI.
Then we looked at Anders and Karen’s marriage record which showed her father to be Anders Olsen.
Oppland county, Gran, Parish register (official) nr. 12(1856-1874) Marriage records 1859, page 823-833, http://www.arkivverket.no/URN:NBN:no-a1450-kb20070206620190.jpg
Not only do I have that information but in Norway they have farm names and my Hanson’s came from the Egge Eiet Farm! How do we know that….by looking at the wonderful emigration record!
Norwegian American Genealogy Center Members Only Site retrieved by Jerry Paulson October 2011
Oppland county, Gran, Parish register (official) nr. 12(1856-1874) Emigration records 1860, page 1144-1145, http://www.arkivverket.no/URN:NBN:no-a1450-kb20070206620343.jpg
My head was spinning. It was not over yet because the great thing about Jerry and NAGCNL is that he took the time to then show me how to use FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/ and Digitalarkivet http://arkivverket.no/Digitalarkivet to assist in my research. What great tools! Plus I can use them at home (just have to decipher the Norwegian handwriting!)
At home I found more info on Digitalarkivet with the help of FamilySearch including the names of Karen’s grandparents on both sides. This puts me back to the late 1750’s so far in Gran, Oppland, Norway. Am I done?? Not by a long shot. I have more things to investigate at NAGCNL and of course more to find on Digitalarkivet but it broke down the wall that had been hanging over me for so long. So now instead of remembering the Hanson/Oleson family as a brick wall I can remember them by the courage it must have taken to come here and move from one state to another to find their home.