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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Marsha Hoffman Rising 1945-2010

I was saddened to learn of the recent (Feb 17th) passing of Marsha Hoffman Rising. Marsha was a gifted and accomplished genealogist. She turned her love of the hunt into a career. Her expertise helped thousands of aspiring family historians. Marsha believed in the importance of weaving the rich and colorful fabric of our ancestors' lives, rather than simply creating charts filled with names.

Her book, The Family Tree Problem Solver; Proven Methods for Scaling the Inevitable Brickwall, had become such a well-worn friend in my collection that just three weeks ago I replaced it with a shiny new copy.

I offer my heartfelt condolences to Marsha's family. And I hope that she is now socializing with some of those ancestors she worked so hard to find.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Morgan H. Clarke's Well-Written Obituary

There's nothing like a well-written obituary; a death notice that contains the names of people and places connected to the deceased. Yesterday I received a copy of such an obituary from Joseph Berger at the Washington County Free Library in Maryland.

For some time I have been trying to clarify the relationship between my grandfather and a gentleman who might be his great-grandfather. I located a likely candidate, but it was hard to decide if it was the real deal or just a maze of interesting coincindences.

Harold Clarke Mueller's grandparents Ella and William Penrod Clarke lived with his family in the 1920 Chicago census. William and both his parents had been born in Maryland. As a young man, William traveled to Springfield Ohio where his daughter (Harold's mother) Ellen Gertrude was born.

Norman Clarke also lived in Springfield. There was reason to believe he and William were brothers, but not enough evidence to prove or disprove this theory. While William relocated to Chicago, Norman and his wife Hester moved to Dayton Ohio. Hester died and Norman later remarried in Chicago. Another coincidence, or proof of a relationship between these two men?

William and Ella moved to Michigan in late 1910. According to the 1920 and 1930 censuses, they farmed in Van Buren County. Harold visited his grandparents often. He liked Michigan and moved there after retiring from his trucking job.

In the meantime, Elmer Eugene Clarke appeared in Chicago. He and his parents had been born in Maryland. His children had names similar to those listed with my likely candidate in an earlier census. Not names like John or Mary, mind you, but names like Lyman, Zora, Morgan, Hester, and Stella. But how to prove these three men were brothers?

Enter that well-written obituary. According to the August 30, 1910 issue of the Daily Mail (a newspaper in Hagerstown Maryland), 80 year old Morgan H. Clark died at the home of his daughter Mrs. John Highbarger (Zora). He was survived by (among others) the following children; William Clark, Michigan; Norman, Dayton, O; and Elmer, Clarence, and Harry in Chicago. Bingo!

Of course there are other ways to confirm the connection between these men and I'm hot on the trail of several. But Morgan's obituary confirmed that I am barking up the right family tree.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday's Tithe ~ Rootsweb Mailing Lists

Networking has always been a favorite past time of mine. I save time and money by getting recommendations for everything from make-up to mechanics. Genealogy is no different.

Rootsweb offers a multitude of mailing lists based on surname, geography, study subject and more. A friendly (for the most part) group of people ready to lend a hand when the going gets rough. Quasi-experts who can offer suggestions for a next step or a different approach.

Newbies frequent these lists. Since we were all new at one time, here's an opportunity to lend a helpful hand with very little effort.

Found a great website? Mention it on a list. Read a great how-to book? Share the title and author's name online. Visited a helpful historical society? Praise them in public. Going to a genealogical gathering? Extend an invitation on your favorite mailing list.

It's free, easy to do, and your thoughtfulness will be appreciated by someone who was previously uninformed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bengta Johnsson Clarin from Västerstad

Bengta. Bless her heart, she recorded the members of her family on the births page of her Swedish bible.

Bengta. She became Bettie when she came to America. Bettie lived in Chicago for just seven years. In that short time she married Carl Larsson Klarin and they had four children.

Bettie died 13 days after giving birth to her fourth child. She wasn't able to record the child's name in her bible. What became of that child is as of yet unknown.

It was her death certificate that provided the clues to her hometown. Seeing her name in the parish records of Västerstad, Malmöhus, Sweden made her a young woman again, full of hope and promise. Considering a journey across the ocean where her life would be improved. Filled with joy as she found love and started a family.

Bengta. That's how I've placed her in my mind. Pretty Bengta Johnsson from Västerstad.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Madness ~ Who is Betty Boberg?

My great-great-great-grandfather Carl Tolf "was lying dead at #5926 Sangamon St...on the 18th day of March A.D. 1890...from heart disease" as documented on a coroner's report. There is only one witness at the hearing; her name is Betty Boberg.

Betty lived at the Sangamon St address with her husband August and their two children. The coroner's report says Carl lived there too. Not sure if that's correct; his wife and at least four of his children lived in Batavia Illinois.

I followed Betty and her family through many census records, city directories, and the like. Her obituary says Betty (Tolf) Boberg. But her father's name was Turse Johns. Her mother's name was Mathilda Tolf, but I can find no connection (as of yet) between Mathilda and Carl.

Could Betty have been a niece somehow? A second cousin perhaps? I can't find any evidence of a relationship between Carl's surviving family members and Betty's family. I haven't found anything in the Swedish parish records that connects the two families.

I'll continue to watch for clues as to Betty's identity, but for now I'll just have to wonder.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Site-seeing Saturday ~ Svenarum, Jönköping, Sweden

This church (kyrka in Swedish) is the place in which my Åman and Tolf ancestors worshipped during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The design is simple, but the feelings it invokes are deep and complicated.

A few clicks on my keyboard and I'm a world away, seeing a place my ancestors frequented for the important events in their lives; baptisms, weddings, funerals. In Sweden, they would also have visited the church to share their plans to leave the parish. Did they look back over their shoulders as they walked away?

Google and other sites can bring a wealth of geographic pictures to family historians. Mapping sites with satellite capabilities allow us to see our ancestors' hometowns in real time. Mortgage and real estate sites offer photos of homes we may never visit, but can see on our computer screens. The first home owned by an immigrant ancestor. The apartment building an aunt mentioned in a family story. These pictures make the events real. They imprint the memory of an ancestor on our own memories. This is a part of family history we shouldn't overlook.

It's important to get the facts ma'am; those names, date and locations. But it's equally important to color in the stories of our ancestors and their descendants.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thursday's Tithe ~ Find A Grave

Making resolutions for an upcoming calendar year is nothing new. I've made (and broken) my share of them. My genealogical resolutions so often are set aside because the living interfere with my search for the dead. (You know how families frown on us spending all our free time in front of a microfilm reader.)

Last year I discovered Find A Grave and resolved to enter my ancestors' vitals. A perfectly honorable goal. And who's to say I didn't meet my goal? No one. And therein lies the problem.

This year I resolved to tithe a portion of my genealogical energy for the greater good. Share my resources as so many others have done with me. Which brings me back to Find A Grave.

Have you noticed there are other obituaries on the page with your ancestor's? Me too, and I often wonder who might be looking for them. So this year I modified last year's resolution. And I'm sharing the revised resolution with you for two reasons. 1.) I'm now accountable to you, and 2.) I hope you'll resolve to do something similar.

I promise to enter one new obituary for every day I have been a contributor on Find A Grave. This means I have a little catching up to do. Last night after entering my daily dose of death notices, I searched for a few of the names in my own tree.

Guess what? I found long lost ancestors because another contributor had entered their names. Karma? I can't be sure. But I'm almost positive that if you add your family to this millions-strong list of grave-sites, someone out there will be eternally grateful.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

John Peterson's Livery Service

I found John Peterson's obituary fairly quickly. Rewound the microfilm and put it back in the box.

Then I remembered that a week after her mother's death, John's wife had published a note of thanks to the friends and family members who sent flowers and helped in other ways. Could she have done the same thing after John died?

So I took the microfilm back out of the box and put it on the reader. Scrolling back to the date, John's name caught my eye. And then I saw this amazing picture.

The Batavia Illinois Herald ran a weekly contest series in 1938. They posted a "Old Timer" photo and readers would guess who was in the picture.

Serendipitously, John Peterson's 1913 picture was the Old Timer photo of the week just two weeks before he died. How lucky that he may have gotten to see his likeness. And how fortunate for me; I was the descendant to find it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Harry C. E. Swanson

About ten years ago, I was at the West Batavia Cemetery taking pictures of ancestors' headstones, when a lichen-covered marker spoke to me. (Not literally of course, or I would have started looking for a new hobby.)

This headstone had some kind of gravitational pull. No matter where I walked, or what pictures I took, somehow I ended up back at this particular marker. It belonged to a little boy, just nine years old. Surrounded by headstones unlike his in design.

Because I couldn't shake the feeling, I took a picture of the headstone. A few years later, I followed up with research about this young man.

From the November 4, 1892 Valley Chronicle in St Charles, Illinois; "Fatal Foot-ball...Little Harry Swanson, son of a Swede living on the John Warne farm in this city, was injured while playing football at the west side school about three weeks ago. It was not considered that he was badly hurt at the time, but he began to grow worse, and finally died Tuesday. It seems that in trying to get a kick at the ball, he was jammed against the projecting stub of a limb of a tree, inflicting internal injuries with the above result. He was a bright little lad of about 9 summers, and his parents have the sympathy of all in their affliction."

Then there was another article; "The notice published in this paper two weeks ago, about Peter Swanson's boy, was not exactly true in all particulars. The article said that the boy was hurt some three weeks before while playing foot-ball on the school ground. The boy's parents tell us he was hurt by being pushed or thrown against a tree by Fred Miller, and that only 4 days before his death. Of course the boy was hurt by carelessness, and no one thinks Fred did it purposely. Mr. and Mrs. Swanson have the sympathy of everybody in their bereavement."

You may have already surmised that Mrs. Swanson was Carolina (Tolf) Swanson, my great-great grandfather's sister. Because Harry was born and died between census years (the 1890 census has since been destroyed), I might never have found him. His persistence paid off. His story was heard. It's now been shared. Harry has an honorable place in our family history.

This young man born in 1883, taught me to stand quietly for a few moments in each cemetery I visit. I scan the horizon slowly and listen for voices that are just waiting to be heard.

Many thanks to Gary King of the Batavia Historical Society for adding Harry's headstone picture to Find A Grave.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday Madness - Lawrence Carl Youngberg

Lawrence Carl Youngberg is a mystery man who appears on the Tolf branch of my family tree. His mother, Frida Katrina Tolf gave birth to Lawrence October 12, 1887 as documented by a Chicago, Cook County, Illinois birth certificate. This is a mere five months after Frida married Carl Johan Youngberg, and I presume the reason all of Lawrence's subsequent records show his birthdate as October 12, 1888.

Lawrence grew up in Hyde Park, a neighborhood on Chicago's south side. He and his younger sister Myrtle attended the Swedish Evangelical Mission church in Pullman. They were both married in this church; Lawrence to Alma Sandstedt in November 1909, and Myrtle to Joseph Friend in March of 1913.

The 1910 census reveals that Alma and Lawrence lived with her widowed mother and two unmarried brothers. Lawrence worked as a manager in a grocery store. The couple's first child, Dolores Lorraine was born October 1, 1913. In 1920, it appears Lawrence is the head of the household, renting part of their home to Alma's older brother August and their mother.  A second daughter, Evelyn was born April 3, 1921.

By 1923, the family of four had moved to their own house on Rhodes Avenue. A 1928 Chicago City Directory shows that Lawrence worked as a salesman. Then the plot thickens...

Alma's brother has taken over as the head of household on Rhodes Avenue in the 1930 census. Alma is listed as a widow. Yet when Lawrence's mother Frida died in 1937, her obituary referred to her as the dear mother of Mrs. Myrtle Friend and Lawrence Youngberg.  And Myrtle's 1941 obituary refers to her as the fond sister of Lawrence Youngberg. Neither obituary uses the word "late" to describe Lawrence, so was he still alive? But if that's the case, where is he?

Can't find him in the 1930 census, he doesn't appear in any city directories, no WWII draft registration pops up during a search on Ancestry. Maybe he wasn't alive?

A search of the Illinois State Archives, spelling Youngberg every imaginable way, reveals nothing. Lawrence doesn't appear on the Social Security Death Index. Maybe he wasn't dead?

Perhaps the church records are hiding a clue as to Lawrence's whereabouts, or to his demise. But until I am able to look at those records, Lawrence will continue to be a mystery.