Arrière Grand-Mère

I’ve always wanted to learn more about my French side. If there was a time machine and I could hitch a ride, one of my first stops would be to meet my great grandmother, Esther Parris Hallberg, the youngest daughter of French Canadian immigrants Joseph Parris and Delia Boivin.

Esther Parris ca 1910; author’s collection

I try to glean bits of mannerism and culture through the stories that my mother tells of her Grandma Hallberg. How she often cried when the children left for school in the mornings, how she made special birthday meals for each grandchild and didn’t allow their siblings to intrude on their special time (mom said her little brother would stand at the screen door and mope but not be allowed inside). When her sisters would visit, they would speak French and drink pony beers and sometimes loudly argue and be dramatic – Oh là là!!

Latrobe Bulletin 2 Sep 1966;

Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures of her or her side of the family to examine, so I pour over details of face shapes and clothing in an attempt to learn via osmosis. Perhaps I got my height from her side as I am the same height as my grandmother (5’3″) and she looks to be taller than her mother Esther. Perhaps that’s where I got my curly hair also? My mother says we have her silly sense of humor and her penchant for laughter. Whenever emotion or tears penetrate our staid Scandinavian exterior, we say, “there’s that French side…”.

My grandmother Wava Mary with her parents Esther Parris and Carl Hallberg (a Swede); author’s collection

Since I don’t have a time machine, I will have to rely on these anecdotes and pictures to tell her story. I am trying to find and collect Parris descendants and have reconnected slowly but steadily with cousins who will hopefully add their anecdotes and pictures so that the persona of the Parris family will be honored and remembered for our next generations. C’est la vie!

This post is part of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, a year-long blogging project focusing on family history stories. This week’s prompt is “I’d like to meet.”

Cara Jensen is owner of Sherlock Homes historical consulting & genealogy, where she provides expert services on cultural preservation and ancestral discovery.


What’s in a Name?

Gullak Christenson ca 1860; personal collection

My paternal 2nd great grandfather was named Gullak. He was named for his maternal grandfather but the name was not passed down any further. A quick google search for ‘Gullak’ shows a sites for a personal finance app on the first three pages and genealogy pages for two people named Gullak on page four. Not much.

When I search the Norwegian National Archives for “Gullak” in the 1865 census, it results in 174 hits. Hmm. That is an unusual name then even for Norway. When I open the search up for variants, the results include Gulak, Gulek, Gullik, Gullek, in addition to Gullak.

Looking in my Norwegian English Dictionary by Einar Haugen (lovely gift from my Norsk bokklub, tusen takk), the word “gul” is “yellow” or “gold”. So “gullfisk” is “goldfish”, “gullboste” is “dandelion” and “gullgutt” is “apple of the parent’s eye, mother’s darling boy”. Also interesting and perhaps relevant is that Gulen is the Old Norse term for the Sogn region of Norway – the area where my Gullak lived.

The Nordic Name database shows that Gullak is a derivative of the Old Norse Guðleikr or a combination of Gud – “good” and Leik – “game, play, amusement”. It also mentions that the name has become a vocabulary word in Norwegian in the form of gaulik = ‘fool, joker, jester’. Perhaps my forebearer was a bit of a prankster?

I’ve always wondered about this name – it certainly is unusual and I’m glad to have dug in to a bit of the history about it. Now I’m going to go try to find any more Gullaks in my tree!!

This post is part of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, a year-long blogging project focusing on family history stories. This week’s prompt is “unusual name”.

Cara Jensen is owner of Sherlock Homes historical consulting & genealogy, where she provides expert services on cultural preservation and ancestral discovery.

Loss of Faith

The depth and breadth of the ties to Mormonism in my mother’s family have remained a constant intrigue.  I’ve posted before on the connections to Joseph Smith in Ohio and the family’s migration patterns following splinter sects to different states after his death but always have wondered where and when the faith ended in my direct descendancy.  My mother certainly doesn’t remember her grandparents practicing and I can’t even find a LDS or similar church in their rural Minnesota community.   So it would have to be prior to their move from Iowa to Minnesota in 1913.

To me, the easiest thing to start with is looking at marriage records.  Was the couple married by a JP or someone of a particular faith.  Let’s start with the children of LaMay and Marian Syphers Fuller, residing in Otho, Webster County Iowa:

Fuller kids
Carrie, Irene, David, Alta and Fern Fuller ca. 1903?; author’s collection

Alta Alma Fuller (my ggrandma) was married 19 Feb 1904 to Oscar Lindstrom by Francis Fawkes, pastor of the Otho-Kalo Congregational church, with witnesses Helen Nor[d]strom (groom’s niece) and Guy Fuller (bride’s uncle).

Florence Fern Fuller was married 2 Nov 1909 to Clarence Kingsley by SM Magowan, JP in Ft Dodge.

David Harry Fuller was married 21 May 1907 to Elizabeth Heatherington by SM Magowan, JP in Ft Dodge.

Carrie Leona Fuller was married 6 Jan 1906 to Arthur Nims by James Martin, JP in Ft Dodge.

Irene Estelle Fuller married Alfred Kallstrom in 1914, in Hubbard County Minnesota – no marriage license found yet.

Alright, let’s go back to the previous Fuller generation – siblings of LaMay – to look for marriages made by a minister:.  They were the family that I suspect followed the Mormon/LDS schisms and moved quite a bit from New York to Ohio to Wisconsin to Illinois to Iowa.

Almira Fuller was married on 1 Jan 1857 to Adam Palm in Shabonna Illinois – no marriage license found yet.

Homer Fuller was married on 23 Jun 1874 to Luella Williams in Webster County Iowa – no marriage license found yet.

Frank Forcet Fuller was married on 15 Sep 1875 to Laura Wright in Webster County Iowa – no marriage license found yet.

Frances Fuller was married on 16 Jul 1874 to Frank Jacques in Webster County Iowa – no marriage license found yet.

La May Freemont Fuller was married on 23 Dec 1883 to Marian Syphers in Scranton Iowa – no marriage license found yet.

Lew Guy Fuller was married on 13 Mar 1913 to Adella May Parsons in Chickasaw County Iowa by Burton Marsh, New Hampton Congregational Church minister.

So far there are many marriages by JPs and 2 by Congregational ministers.  Nothing related to Mormon or LDS.  And a whole lot of no records. Sigh. Guess I will have to wait until I can find those Fuller marriage licenses to know for sure but I suspect that my Iowa sect of Fullers stopped practicing after they left Shabonna Illinois (there was a Mormon sect there that I’ve written about),  Perhaps I should search the LDS site for marriage records – that will have to be my challenge for next time!

This post is part of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, a year-long blogging project focusing on family history stories. This week’s prompt is “challenge.”

Cara Jensen is owner of Sherlock Homes historical consulting & genealogy, where she provides expert services on cultural preservation and ancestral discovery. 

52 Ancestors #24 – Heirlooms

This week’s theme was pretty easy for a change – we are using my 2nd great grandfather’s traveling trunk in our front hall as mitten/hat/scarf storage – an everyday heirloom.

Gullak Christenson was born 5 December 1846 in Borgund, Laerdal, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. (A beautiful area that I wish to visit someday)

Laerdal mountain pass, via Wikicommons

He was one of two sons in a family of eight daughters with parents Kristen Kristenson and Kari Gullaksdatter.  He emigrated from Norway. leaving from Bergen on April 23, 1869 on the ship S. S. Maryland and arriving May 30 in Quebec, Canada.  He made his way to Greenwood township, Vernon County, Wisconsin, which was founded by Laerdal immigrants in 1863. (Need to suss out the story of that place also).  He married and farmed and eventually planted his family in Polk County, Minnesota, where my grandfather and father were born.

The trunk remained in the family, and I feel extremely lucky that it landed in my hands, as it could have gone to any of the 100s of descendants that call him great-great grandfather.  It is a round-top, embossed tin, wooden trunk with leather handles. Somewhere along the line it lost the interior shelf – there is a place for it to sit.  It is lined in a wood-looking paper, which is peeled in areas, but otherwise it is in great shape for being schlepped across the ocean and a few states.  I’m so glad that this little bit of my family history can be used everyday, not just kept as a sacred relic or packed away for a special occasion – it is a great conversation starter too!

Gullak Christenson, personal collection

Gullak’s trunk, an everyday heirloom

52 Ancestors #18 – Where there’s a will….

Sigh.  I have a family mystery that will probably never be proven through my research methodology – who is the biological father of my maternal grandmother?  I have been working and working on this for years – it really shouldn’t matter and I sometimes think I should just let it go, but then… I get an itch.  Sometimes it will come during other research projects when I find a new database or research source and I’ll search it desperately, hoping to find new information.  More often than not, it becomes a dead end.  Until today.

My grandmother Wava Hallberg, was supposedly born 25 August 1908 in Minneapolis, MN.  I say supposedly since her original birth certificate was said to have been ‘burned’ and a new one was issued about 10 years later, listing my great grandparents, Esther Parris and Carl Hallberg as her birth parents.  As all family stories go, there is always fact in the fiction, but fiction in the fact too.  I guess Esther was elusive about her time in Minneapolis and meeting Carl Hallberg – she was the youngest daughter of 10 and moved from Duluth, MN sometime between 1905 (she was listed in that year’s MN census in Duluth) and 1909 (when she married Carl).  That’s another contributing fact – Esther and Carl married at St. Rosary Catholic Church in Minneapolis on 15 July 1909 (have that record!) – 10 months after Wava was born.  So if you count back 9 months from her birth date (25 Aug 1908), conception would have been Novemberish 1907, right?

Carl Hallberg was born in Sweden in 1882, came with his parents to MN in 1883, then moved to Halbrite, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1903 (and was in the same place for the 1906 Canada Census).  He then ended up working for the Pillsbury Flour Mills in Minneapolis and marrying Esther Hallberg in 1909.  So was he in Minneapolis during the conception timeframe?

So here’s what I found today.  A border crossing record from Canada to the U. S. for ‘Carl Holberg’ from March 1909!

CarlHallberg border crossing U.S., Border Crossings from Canada to U.S., 1895-1956

Even though the name isn’t spelled correctly, the age, origin, and name of his father match my Carl Hallberg.  So this doesn’t put him into Minneapolis until March-April 1909, so barring an earlier record for his migration to and from Canada, it would have been hard for him to be the father of a child conceived in his absence.   It is also interesting that he married Esther a mere 4 months later – what a whirlwind romance!

I feel a bit more satisfied finding another piece to add to the puzzle, but it certainly has not been completed.  I’ll keep this week’s topic in mind ‘where there’s a will, (there’s a way)’ as I continue to work to solve this family mystery!

Wava, Esther, and Carl Hallberg, ca 1928
Wava, Esther, and Carl Hallberg, ca 1928

52 Ancestors #15 – How do you spell that?

I have found that spelling errors in records are often because of transcription errors – the style of writing has changed drastically through the years and reading the flowery script made by fountain pens is definitely an acquired skill.  But sometimes even records which we think should be ‘official’ often have spelling variants for the same family name and even the same person.  Here is one example in my family tree – Syphers, Sypher, Sifers, Syffer, Cypher, Seyfer all have been given for the same family of my 2nd great grandmother, Marian Henrietta Syphers.

Here we can see clearly in the 1870 census for Houlton, Maine, the spelling is Syphers:


She is living with her widowed mother Sarah and her three brothers look like they are working the farm.  Her father David is here on the 1840 census for Houlton, Maine but the transcription on lists his name as Fypher.  I can clearly see the difference between the “S” script and the “F” in the name Folley from above – can you?


David’s uncle John Tompkins was born 16 Aug 1775 in New Hackensack, New York – his baptismal records from the Dutch Reformed Church Records from New York and New Jersey show a spelling of Seyfer for his father.


Here is another example of the permutation of the name from the Civil War pension files of a William Sypher (I honestly don’t know YET where this guy fits in my tree, there are so many Williams and Sarahs)


Unlike some researchers, I’m not disturbed at the fluidity of names – I don’t get caught up too much into the semantics, as long as the other vitals line up with the person, then it is all good.  Just part of the fun of digging into the past!



52 Ancestors #13 – A One Letter Difference

This week’s 52 Ancestors theme is “different”.  As I perused my family tree for inspiration, a distant relation, whom I hadn’t dug very far into, popped out – Cora Kompelien – her name is one letter different than mine – Cara.  Just by chance, I entered “Cora”  into the search box of my tree -surprise, surprise – there were 4 Cora’s total!  We’ll start in alphabetical order:

Cora A Brodsho is my 2nd cousin 2x removed,  She was one of 13 children born to Jens Brodsho and Clara Jensven, Norwegian farmers in Wild Rice township, Norman county, Minnesota.  Home life must have been a bit harsh, as her father, like his mother before, was declared insane and admitted to hospital for 2 years (1917-1919).  By that time, Cora was married and had moved with her husband, Carl Rots, to Harvey, Illinois, a southern suburb of Chicago, where her husband worked for the steel mills.  They had 2 girls, Grace and Bernice.  Cora Brodsho Rots continued to live near Harvey until her death in 1980.  [An interesting side note:  Cora’s mother Clara left her husband Jens after his return from the mental hospital.  She took their 4 youngest children and went to Montana, where her oldest sons were homesteading.]

Cora Ellen Christenson is my grand aunt.  She lived a short life – from 1906 to 1908, so I don’t have a wealth of information on her.  I do however, have the privilege of having her baby portrait, complete in a beautiful oval frame, hanging on our hall wall.

IMG_1551Cora Jorgensdatter is the wife of my great grand uncle.  She was born in Norway in 1890, immigrated to the United States and settled in Brown county, Minnesota, where she married Rangvald Johnson in 1926.

The final Cora is the one that I found first.  Cora Kompelien was born in Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba, Canada in 1916.  Her mother died 2 years later and all the children were shipped to various relatives in Minnesota.  Here is the manifest of her border crossing in to the United States, with her twin sister, Millie.  Cora was raised in the family of her aunt, Karen Hole Olson and her twin went to live with cousins.  It seems strange that they weren’t kept together.

Cora border crossing
image via Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1956

So there you have my Coras.  What started as a silly way to define the “different” topic really led me to find some interesting information on the distant twigs in my tree.

52 Ancestors #10 – The Storms of Sleepy Hollow

This week’s 52 ancestors theme is “stormy weather”.  I happen to have some storms in my background, but not of the rainy kind but Dutch colonists of New Amsterdam and Sleepy Hollow!

Dirck Goris Storm, my 8th great grandfather, was born in 1630 in Utrect, Netherlands and immigrated to North America (I was about to say United States, but that designation wasn’t around yet) in 1662 with his wife Maria van Montfoort and their 3 young sons.  He received a land grant in the new town of Haarlem and became Secretary of Brooklyn in 1669.

“Manual of the Corporation of the City of New-York,” 1863The Harlem waterfront as it appeared in 1765. The steeple of the Reformed Low Dutch Church can be seen at the far right. Just below are what appear to be headstones.

Dirck moved his family up the Hudson to the Philipse Manor tract in Westchester County in 1697, and that was where his family settled  and expanded.  The tract encompassed 52,000 acres of prime Hudson riverfront and was used as center of agriculture for the Dutch settlers and their families.

Dirck Storm was the first recorder of the Old Dutch Reformed Church of Sleepy Hollow and a prominent member of the Tarrytown community.

Old Reformed Dutch Church ca 1776 courtesy of

I am so thrilled to find an account of Dirck’s life and times written by another cousin, Raymond William Storm, in 1949 and can’t wait to pore over every page!  My family is planning a trip to NYC this Fall and we will definitely be visiting the Philipse Manor,  Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and the Tarrytown area.  I can’t wait to walk the grounds of my Storm ancestors and imagine what life was like for them (hopefully there won’t be any “stormy weather”!


Storm, R. W.. Old Dirck’s book : a brief account of the life and times of Dirck Storm of Holland, his antecedents, and the family he founded in America in 1662. unknown: Reproduced by photo-lithography, 1949.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge

I’m entering the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge as posted by Amy Johnson Crow over at “No Story Too Small“.  I’m really excited to participate as it will give me a chance to flex and practice my writing skills and compile a great “book” on my ancestors by the end of this year!  The premise is that you choose one ancestor per week and write on a chosen topic regarding that ancestor.  The first week’s topic is “Fresh Start” – here goes and hope you enjoy!