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.

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
Ancestry.com. 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