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; newspapers.com

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.

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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.

Clothing Clues from Family Pictures

So I have a wall of family pictures directly behind my desk – I like to think that my ancestors are smiling and encouraging me at my work 🙂  Pictures are such an interesting snapshot in time – capturing the social, economic, and personality status of the subjects.    The picture that I leveled my gaze at this morning was a portrait of my great grandparents, Christen and Agnethe Christenson with their young daughters Clara and Cora.

ChristenAgnetheClaraCoraChristenson
Christen, Agnethe, Clara and Cora Christenson ca 1908; author’s collection

]I wanted a large picture of them so you could see the details that tell a story about their life at this snapshot in time]

The Christensons lived in Winger, Minnesota when this picture was taken.  Agnethe Rindahl immigrated from the Lillehammer region of Norway when she was 10 years old and Chris was born in Wisconsin to Norwegian immigrant parents.  Their age at marriage seems unusual for the time – Agnethe was 29 – listed as “servant” in the 1895 and 1900 census, and Chris was 31 – a shopkeeper/postmaster in Winger.  They were living with their parents and other siblings so perhaps it wasn’t so unusual during that time to have to combine incomes for economic stability?  After their marriage in 1903, they set up a homestead in nearby Garden township, probably farming wheat, barley, oats, sugar beets, or potatoes – the regional crops.  Clara was born in June 1904 and Cora in October 1906.

Going back to the picture, zooming in on the 3 white circles on Agnethe’s bodice – they are beautiful pieces of lace or tatting.  There is also lace around her neck.  These perhaps were part of her wedding trousseau or taken from another dress?  She also has a long necklace that has lighter beads (pearls?) tight around her neck and the long section looks like cording with larger beads every 12 inches.  Is it tied down by her lap?  It fades out there. She is also pregnant with their first son Gilbert – a loose waist is evident compared to the cinched waist styles of the times.  Her hair looks it is curled on each side of her head and daughter Clara’s hair seems to be crimped or curled also.  Curling irons and hair crimpers were available from the Sears & Roebuck catalog in 1900 for around 50 cents (plus postage).

The girls also have beautiful crocheted lace on their dresses.  Baby Cora has a lace collar with matching trim around her cuffs and dress with a thicker lace underskirt.  Perhaps this is her christening dress?  Does she have a pearl-ish pin at her throat?  Clara looks like she is wearing a short pearl necklace on top of her scalloped collar.  She also has a ring on her middle finger and a ribbon in her hair.  Perhaps the doll came from her father’s shop or was handed down from her mother.  It has blonde hair, a decorative sash, sleep eyes (eyes that opened and closed) and some sort of blanket or coat that is fuzzed around the the head.  I don’t know much about antique bisque dolls, so would appreciate any info about the cost or style from that era.

Chris looks like he is wearing a heavy woolen high button 3 piece suit with a rounded collar shirt and striped tie – dapper.  No pocket watch or rings that I can see.

So it is interesting and unexpected to see that my Minnesota farm family has a bit of luxury what with the porcelain doll, pearls, lace and crimped hair.  Marrying at a later age and being a storekeeper before farming allowed them some extras that reflected their status in the community.  Have you ever used the clothing and accessories in your family pictures as clues to their lifestyle and personality?  Now I want to go look at some more pictures!

 

 

Joyeux Noël

If there were traditions to be observed when I was growing up, they were mostly Scandinavian.  Which makes sense as I am roughly 75% Scandinavian.  The other half of my 25% is French Canadian and unfortunately we don’t have much information on that side of the family or keep in touch with cousins as we should (I’m trying to remedy that). Now that we are in the merry season of Yule, I wonder how the French Canadian side of the family celebrated and what kind of traditions they may have had.

La bûche de Noël

A delicious sponge rolled with jam or cream or chocolate filling, decorated to look like a traditional Yule log.  I tried to make one once complete with meringue mushrooms and it did taste good…

Le réveillon

Christmas Eve was the time for the réveillon – a nightlong dinner and dancing party traditionally held after Catholic midnight mass . The word itself comes from the verb réveiller, which means “to wake up”. People would sleep during the day to be fresh and ready to feast and frolic on Christmas Eve. The réveillon usually was the biggest feast of the year – a large banquet where traditional dishes abounded –  tourtière (a uniquely French-Canadian meat pie), ragoût de patte (pig’s feet stew), ragoût de boulettes (meatball stew), turkey, vegetables, pea soup, meat pâté, roasted chestnuts, maple cream pie, etc etc. This is also where la bûche de Noël would be served.  Gifts were opened after the feast and party.

I’m sure there were many small things, like in every family, that my French Canadian side did out of tradition.  I wish I had more pictures of that side, or knew more stories, or had some relics from them.  I guess I could step up my game and try some of this holiday dishes (maybe my second bûche de Noël would be prettier) in order to feel closer to my francophone family.

Parris family
The Joseph Parris family, ca 1890; the only picture in the author’s collection

Cara Jensen is owner of Sherlock Homes historical consulting & genealogy, where she provides expert services on cultural preservation and ancestral discovery. She is a member of the National Genealogical Society, National Council on Public History, and American Association for State and Local History. You can find Cara on Twitter @cjjens

The Recipe Box

I’m sure many of you have a collection of family recipes.  I think our tastes are a blend of genetic, cultural,  and regional factors – I know some of my favorite recipes have been added since we’ve moved ‘south’ to St Louis – flavors and tastes that I hadn’t been exposed to as a child.   But have you stopped to recognize and document the stories behind the recipes?  Who gave this recipe to you and how did they come across it?  Was it something they grew up with or something they discovered?  I was reminded of this as I asked my Aunt Linnea for her pecan pie recipe this morning.  She is also a Southern transplant, so I’m thinking her recipe came from her time in South Carolina, not from her childhood in Minnesota. (I also have her chex mix recipe 🙂 )

Nea and David 2016
Aunt Nea; author’s collection

I  have my French Canadian great grandmother’s recipe for cream cake, which my  mother remembers eating for her birthday.  I’ve tried making it several times, but I think recipes that are generations older suffer because our ingredients are different now.  The cake I made was dry, but maybe that’s just how it was? (or I just need to become a better baker – lol)  My cousin asked for the recipe and has had it for her birthday too.

Esther Parris
Great grandmother Esther Parris ca 1910; author’s collection

image6
1st attempt at cream cake; author’s collection

Amy and Abigail and creamcake
Cousins Amy & Abigail and their cream cake; author’s collection

I have my neighbor’s cheese ball recipe, which she made for my husband every time we got together for dinner – he makes and eats it now in her memory.  I have my mother’s recipes for peanut brittle, gingersnaps, and ham balls.  I have my husband’s grandmother’s recipe for Danish æbleskiver, which we turn in the pan using HER mother’s steel knitting needles.  I have a handwritten note from my Korean friend for ‘BBQ’ with differing ingredients for pork and beef.  My mother-in-law has given me her recipes for bran muffins and her famous caramels.  I remember making tomato soup in the hot summer with my best friend’s family and think of her when I make it now.

Lela aged 14
husband’s grandmother Lela Rattenborg Jensen; author’s collection

IMG_1898
my kids making æbleskiver; author’s collection

What recipes do you have in your collections that have come from family and friends?  Do you know their stories and secrets?  I certainly need to document my recipe box more carefully and deliberately!

Surf and Turf

Being the granddaughter of Minnesotan farmers and growing up in a rural community, I am familiar with the agrarian life. Familiar with slowing down for tractors towing grain laden wagons in the Fall and the beautiful sight of parallel rows of green sprouting from black fields in the Spring.  So when I started looking into another vein of my Norwegian heritage, the ones who lived on an island hugging the Arctic Circle, I was curious and intrigued as to how they lived.

My Johnsons lived in the Helgeland region, the southernmost part of North Norway.  This region is characterized by mountains with names like ‘Seven Sisters’,’Rødøy Lion’ and the ‘Dønna man’ rising up from the ocean.

Nord-norge-north-norway-Mountains-in-helgeland
Alexander Erdbeer @CC

Kristoffer Johnson and his wife Ingri Jorgensdatter, my 2nd great grandparents, lived on one such island.  How their life must have been.  Boats, nets, salt in the air, fish smell, sounds of sea birds – so different than the landlubber lifestyle to which I am accustomed!  Especially the food – I imagine they did not dine on pork chops, beef steaks and corn on the cob as I did (though maybe the mashed potatoes?).  What cycles did they observe that would correspond to the planting and harvesting seasons that a farming community depends on.  The children would have grown up playing in and around the sea instead of my backyard cornfields and creekbeds.

Kristoffer and Ingri immigrated to the United States in 1880, bringing their children Ida, Jørgen (my great grandfather George), and Ragnvald, settling in western Minnesota.  How shocking for them must the transition have been to go from coastal views to the endless plains! They adapted and survived.

I look forward to visiting Helgeland (it motivates my daily Norwegian language lessons) to learn firsthand the sights, smells, tastes, and sounds of what my ancestors experienced.  But until then, I will try to find out more about my Arctic island ancestors – maybe trying to incorporating more seafood into my diet in their honor, much to the chagrin of my meat and potato loving husband – haha!

 

Call the Midwife

Tina Johnson's Mother
Marit Stavem Paulsdatter (1843-1926), family collection

So my 2nd great grandmother (stor bestemor – I have to keep practicing my norsk)  was a midwife.  Marit Stavem Paulsdatter was born 25 April 1843 in Lesja Norway (middle upper central-ish) and immigrated with her husband Amund Olson to Minneapolis in 1869.  I have family lore that she went to Oslo to study as a midwife, but cannot find any verification. (Yet!!) She was listed as “Mrs A Olson, midwife” in the 1871 Minneapolis city directory and was listed in the 1880 census as being a ‘housekeeper – midwife’ (husband Amund was listed as a stonemason).  The 1882 Minneapolis city directory gives her a separate listing as “Mrs Mary Olson, midwife” – this is a big deal as women did not very often get a recognition for their work, and probably meant she was either advertising or well known in her community.  Also, her husband being a stonemason could have conferred her some status.

By this time, she had 2 children and another on the way (my oldemor) yet she still kept practicing.  The 1885, 1890, 1894 (now as Mrs. Marit Olson) ,1897, 1901, 1903, 1907, and 1910 Minneapolis city directories listed her at the same address.

In 1910, she was listed in 2 censuses  – not impossible as they were taken over the course of several months.  She was in her usual location in Minneapolis, (though interestingly listed as divorced and her husband Amund was not living with her) then she was listed as living with her daughter’s family in Pembina, MN.  It makes sense as her daughter was expecting her 5th baby and probably needed expert midwifery mothering!

Marit was living in Minneapolis with her youngest single daughter Ella in 1920 while her (ex?) husband Amund was living in Pembina MN with their other daughter and her family.  She passed away at the home of her daughter in 1926 at the age of 83.

So Marit seems like an interesting woman – educated in Norway as a midwife, immigrating to America, raising her own children, divorcing or separating from her husband, and continuing her profession until into her 70th years.  Proud to be her barnebarn.

p.s. – feel free to contact me at 314-292-9153 to learn more about your ancestors — CJ

Loyalist to Mormon – Syphers continued

I’ve decided to really dig in to this branch of my family because it is so intriguing, has several plot twists, and is an international thriller (from New Brunswick to Maine, Ohio, Utah, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, and Minnesota).  These Syphers relatives seem to have it all.

So in the last post, I found the Loyalist claim that Lodewyck Syphers had made in 1784 to the British Crown for compensation for his “losses to the Rebellion”.  They were settled around the Grand Lake/Gagetown/Jemseg area just downriver from Fredericton (sorry, just need to post another beautiful picture to remind me to plan a visit)

 

Grand Lake, NB via wikipedia commons
Grand Lake, NB via wikipedia commons

So Lodewyck Syphers’s eldest granddaughter, Sarah Ferndon Syphers, married a William Henry Earl in 1814ish and they became part of the Mormon Pioneers – William was baptized in 1843 as a member of the Ordained Seventy, ordained in the Nauvoo temple in 1846, and made the Mormon Trek to Utah.

William and Sarah were married in New Brunswick, where their first four children were born, then they moved to Scarborough, Ontario in 1823 (birth records are so useful for tracking migrations), where their next six children were born. I assume this is where they became familiar with the Mormon religion as they then picked up and moved to the Nauvoo Temple in Illinois where Sarah was baptized in 1841. They may have been baptized in Toronto as well?  From “The History of the Church in Canada”  –

“Parley P. Pratt’s 1836 mission to Toronto was equally impressive. One of the first people baptized in Toronto, Isabella Walton was the key to several important conversions. She introduced her brother, Isaac Russell and his friend Joseph Fielding to Elder Pratt, and before long, they joined the Church. Her friend John Taylor and Joseph Fielding’s sisters Mary and Mercy also joined. Branches were organized in Toronto, Scarborough, Churchville, and Markham.”

I happened to check the Cypher spelling in the LDS temple records index that I’m browsing and found a bunch of baptisms at the Nauvoo Temple in 1841!  They all were at the instance of Sarah Syphers Earl – William, her father, Lodavich, her grandfather, William, her great uncle, and Elizabeth, her great aunt.  Now I know these baptisms weren’t in person, as they all were not living.  It seems in 1841, Joseph Smith revealed the ‘baptism for the dead’ doctrine  – so Sarah was able to act as a proxy for her deceased family members.  Interesting who she chose or didn’t choose, isn’t it?

31122_all_054_04
members performing baptisms for the dead via lds.org

 

I don’t mean to spend too much time on an indirect line, but I find that information can be pieced together when every angle is approached.  So we have established that the elder sister of my 3rd great grandfather was heavily entrenched in the Mormon community.  Now let’s see if any other siblings followed… stay tuned for next time!

 

 

 

 

American Loyalist Claims – Lodewick Syphers, my 5th ggpa

I’ve written about my Dutch ancestors of Sleepy Hollow and how they were prominent settlers of the Tarrytown/Poughkeepsie area in the late 16- early 1700s.  That side is named ‘Storm’ and here is my mother and I during our trip to Sleepy Hollow last year repping the family crypt: (it was around Halloween and the cemetery was quite busy, headless horseman and all you know…)

But today’s story is about the descendant side of Petronella ‘Nelle’ Storm, granddaughter of the above Dirck Storm, and her marriage to William Syphers (sometimes seen as Cyphers, as in my other post) around 1732.

Their son, Lodywyck, (Lodewick, Lodewyck (etc., etc.,) was born in 1737, married at the Reformed Dutch Church in Hackensack, NY, in 1770 and then fled to New Brunswick as a Loyalist.  I’ve really been fascinated with this part, wanting to know the reasoning and the drama, I’m sure it was quite horrible.  It’s made a great story too, telling people that my Dutch ancestors were Loyalists and fled to Canada and settled a place off the Saint John River called “Syphers Cove” (yes it’s still there – need to plan a visit!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Saint John River near Fredericton, photo courtesy of Canoe New Brunswick

So today, I just decided to revisit ye olde Syphers side on my family tree to see if there was any new info to be found, when up popped up the “American Loyalist Claims” for Lodewick Sypher.  Amazing!

To the Commissioners appointed by Act of Parliament to inquire into the Losses and Services of the American Loyalists.

–The Memorial of Lodewick Sypher late of the Province of New York but now of Nova Scotia

Thereth,

That your Memorialist was ever uniformly and steadily attached to His Majesty’s Person, and the British Government, and was opposed to the measures of the American Congress.  That he joined the Royal Army in 1776 and rendered them every service in his power for the suppression of the Rebellions and the reestablishment of the British Government in America.

That in 1770 he was attainted by a Law of the State of New York – for having joined the British Army, and, his Property an account and appraisement of which is herewith presented, was Confiscated, Sold, and applied to the use of the State.

That your Memorialist has thereby lost his <underlined>all and is reduced to great Want, and Distress, and by the unfortunate determination of the Rebellion, he has been obliged to leave his Native Country, and has removed to Nova Scotia.  In full confidence that he will there have extended to him the benefit of the late Act of Parliament for the Relief of the American Loyalists.  He prays that you will take his case into consideration in order that he may be enabled under your report to recieve such aid, and relief, as his Losses and Services may be found to deserve.  He further prays that time may be allowed him to produce further Proofs of the Facts contained in this Memorial of also of his losses by the Rebellion.

–Lodewick Sypher, by his attorney, Isaac Ogden

Newman Street No. 64

19 March 1784

So this gives a bit more info – I’d like to find out where their land was, and what occupation Lodewick followed, etc.  He stayed in Nova Scotia up to his death in 1822, when one of his sons, William Syphers, moved a few miles west into Houlton, Maine and my line continued from there.  That line became Mormon which makes for another interesting story that needs much more research…

Until then.

Tuesday Twigs: Creative Muses

Everyone should be listening to their muse and expressing outwardly their creative juices.  Too often we do not.

Clio, muse of History
Clio, muse of history, my inspiration; image in public domain

I thought today to climb around in my family tree looking for ways that my ancestors expressed the creative.  Let’s sing, dance, and be merry!

In the 1950s, my 2nd cousin once removed, Verjean Mardelle Rancore (such a creative name, right?) sang at 4-H meetings, was in the 4-H sewing club, and was cast in her high school play, “Aaron Slick from Pumpkin Creek”.  In 1956, she was cast as Aunt March in the all-girl production of “Little Women” at Falls City (Oregon) High School.  [1]

She won the ‘Homemaker of Tomorrow” contest at her high school in 1956 (love that name, huh?) and was eligible for a scholarship and a trip across the United States. [2]  Verjean was valedictorian of her 1956 graduating class and attended Pacific University at Forest Grove, Oregon, where she studied optometry. [3] [4]

She married Charles Simpson in 1960 and disappeared from the newspapers.  Then this from the 11 May 1963 Oregon Statesman:

verjean Rancore

But then look what I found from the Pacific University online site!!

“Boxer Love Story: Jean (Rancore) Simpson ’60 and Chuck Simpson ’60, O.D. ’61

by Jean (Rancore) Simpson ’60
Friday, February 14, 2014

Chuck and I attended Pacific from 1956-1960. We worked at the movie theaters in Forest Grove to put ourselves through College. Chuck was an optometry student and I graduated as a secondary teacher. Meeting at the theater and working together for 3 years, we became good friends. I had a few different boyfriends at that time and never thought of Chuck in that way. We made a bet my senior year on a Pacific football game. I lost and had to buy us coffee; that was our first date.

He asked me to a dorm party for Christmas, and by the time Christmas break was over, he had asked me to marry him. I said yes but we didn’t announce our engagement (because in those days, you announced it in a special way at a sorority meeting, etc.). My roommate had gotten engaged over vacation, and I didn’t want to steal her thunder. I got my ring from Chuck on the second of February; he couldn’t wait until Valentine’s Day as he had planned. We announced our engagement and planned an August wedding.  As the end of school approached, we decided separate summer homes and a big wedding was a waste of money, so we made plans for May 7.  We were married in Old College Hall on May 7, 1960 and spent a weekend honeymoon at the Oregon coast. We graduated with a BS a couple weeks later.  Another year at Pacific got Chuck his OD and boards passed. Then we left for the Army in Penn. where our 1st child was born.

We eventually settled in Baker City, OR (on the dry side) with 2 daughters and a very happy life. Chuck died in 2003, long before he should have. We had been married 43 years. I still remember our days at Pacific and wish he were here.”

So I guess this turned into more of a quick biography than a melange of creative glitter – thank you for your indulgence.  I guess this could be a theme as I am always looking for those special details about people.  Creativity manifests in so many different ways and the outlets certainly change according to the times.  How will your creativity be remembered by the future historians?

 

Sources:

1 –  The Oregon Statesman [Salem, OR] Wed 25 Jun 1952 pg 15: Newspapers.com

2 – The Oregon Statesman [Salem, OR] Wed 31 May 1950,pg 2: Newspapers.com

3 – The Oregon Statesman [Salem, OR] 7 May 1956, Sun, pg 11: Newspapers.com

4 – The Oregon Statesman [Salem, OR] 13 Sep 1956, Thurs pg 9: Newspapers.com

5 – http://www.pacificu.edu/about-us/news-events/boxer-love-story-jean-rancore-simpson-60-and-chuck-simpson-60-od-61

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