Wednesday, September 24, 2008

One Farm or Two?

Grandmother was a Fjeld.  She married a Nussberger from Wisconsin shortly after they met in a hospital at the end of WWII.  If I remember correctly, Grandfather was wounded (yet again!) and Grandmother (this is the part I am certain of) had been badly injured in an automobile accident.

Grandmother was from North Dakota.  Her ancestors had been in the Dakotas since the Dakotas were mere territories.  The Fjelds can be found in the 1885 Dakota Territory Census living in Nelson County, where most of them remained into the late 20th century.  Some still live there today.  In fact, the farm belonging to Grandmother Fjeld's branch of the family remained in family hands until the 1970's when Great Grandmother Fjeld sold the farm.

You will not find the Fjelds in the 1885 Dakota Territory Census by searching under the name, Fjeld, for census takers usually spelled family names the way they sounded or simply "Americanized" them for this particular census.  It is helpful to know that American Fjelds often pronounce their name "Field."  In this case, if you search on the name, "Field," you will find all of Grandmother Fjeld's then living ancestors, as well as living collateral family members with the surname, Fjeld.  In short, all those who immigrated to America.

Ingeri Mælum av Lie, Grandmother's great grandmother, is listed as "Ingrary Field."  Her age is given as 50 even though she was 53 years old at the time.  Perhaps the census taker rounded.  Perhaps not.  In any case, it is clear from perusing the U.S. censuses in which this immigrant ancestor appears that she had little patience for census takers, even Norwegian census takers.  She likely considered them a nuisance at best, nosey at worst.  Grandmother's great grandmother died in January of 1916, six years before Grandmother was born.

Another feisty woman, and an immigrant ancestor to boot, lived on until 1952 - Grandmother's grandmother, Kari Knudsdatter Ruse.  Kari Ruse married Ingeri's thirdborn son, Martin Olsen Fjeld, and she was from the Old Country.  She was from the same sokn that Ingeri Mælum av Lie hailed from - Bruflat subparish in the Valdres region of Norway.  She is the likely source of the information my own grandmother had on her Norwegian family tree, which she wrote down and stashed in a book she gave to my mother when my mother was a girl:

The family story is that the Fjelds came from Norway and lived on the Fjeld farm in that country.  What succeeding generations neglected to mention in the telling or else forgot altogether was that there are many Fjeld farms in many Norwegian fylke.  Mother certainly neglected to mention it.  Actually, I don't think Mother knew.  Mother had never heard of Bruflat until I discovered it in my own research.

Another fact that I must mention is that I did not have access to this simple pedigree chart when I started my research.  Truthfully, I only came across this pedigree chart a couple of months ago when Mother gave me all the family photo albums, books and negatives in her possession.  She was afraid my brother would file them in the circular file - either some Saturday when she was at work, without her knowledge or her consent, or, upon her death, as he has threatened to do with most of her items.

Some people just don't know what they have!

Armed with nothing but a family story, I marched into my research of the family farm in Norway as wide-eyed and innocent as any of the patriotic soldiers that marched to war at the beginning of our Civil War.  Therefore, it was with no small dose of consternation that I discovered my ancestors living on Thorshaugen farm in the 1865 Telling.  Ice cold water had been doused upon my research and the realities of war were sinking in...

Perusal of church records found my ancestors living alternately on Thorshaugen farm and Fjeld farm.  Now, I was truly confused.  I had read that sometimes farms were known locally by one name and were listed by authorities under another name and I thought that this must have been what happened in the case of Thorshaugen/Fjeld.  Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that parish priests could choose which name to use in their own records, often alternating between several different names for the same farm.

Enter the real estate records.  These records show Thorshaugen farm being sold by Ole Knudsen Thorshaugen to Even Mikkelsen Byfuglien before 1868 (I don't now recall the exact year).  A daughter of the latter - Berthe Evensdatter - was born at Thorshaugen farm on 26 December 1868.  Meanwhile, records show my ancestors living on the Fjeld farm, or Midtfjeld and, indeed, the years following the sale of Thorshaugen are the years in the parish records wherein my ancestors are shown living on Fjeld farm.  That clinched it.

One farm or two?  Thorshaugen and Fjeld are clearly two separate farms.

Oluf Rygh and the Matrikkelutkastet av 1950 state that Thorshaugen is an old farm, either a part of Bakke or another name for the Bakke farm itself.  The Fjeld and Midtfjeld (Fjeld Mellem) farms are different farms entirely.  Looking at a map, they are quite a distance from each other.

For those who are curious, Wikipedia has a list of farms in Bruflat:

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Breech-Birth Luck

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I found it excessively easy to find records on my female relatives, as well as whereabouts, husbands, and married names.  In fact, it is usually through a female ancestor that I discover bits and pieces of the puzzle regarding male ancestors and my family history.

This is, of course, quite backwards from the normal experience of genealogical research.  Let us say, that breech is the natural way my intuition works.  It is the natural way in which synchronicity plays a role in my research.

At the risk of sounding like a lunatic in desperate need of a fancy white jacket with extra long arms and walls with white padding, I firmly believe that certain of my ancestors - female ancestors - are assisting me in my research from beyond the grave and that their male counterparts are desperately ducking discovery.  Hmm... sounds like waking life!

But I digress.

The point is, my luck with research runs counter to the normal experience, which brings me to surprises.

In the same post, I mentioned my ancestors had a few surprises in store for me.  One such surprise involved Thorshaugen farm.  I had - quite wrongly, I might add - assumed that my immigrant ancestors had lived on Thorshaugen farm most, if not all, of their lives.  At least as long as Ingri Olsdatter Mælum av Lie and Ole Knudsen Fjeld had been married.  At the same time, I had assumed - quite wrongly again - that Ole Knudsen Fjeld had immigrated to the United States as well.  This assumption led to the further assumption that Ole Knudsen had died soon after his arrival, or during the journey to America itself, as he appeared nowhere in the American records from 1865 onwards.

Then I discovered the Norwegian immigration records of Ingri (Mælum av Lie) Fjeld and her children.  Nowhere did Ole Knudsen Fjeld appear in these records.  Perhaps, he had immigrated alone?

Really?  Then why were there no U.S. records, no U.S. census records, no property records, etc., involving Ole Knudsen Fjeld?  Ingri appears in all the censuses after the 1880 U.S. census and in not one of these does her husband make an appearance.  Ingri even appears in the 1885 Dakota Territory Census, living in Nelson County, North Dakota.  No Ole Knudsen Fjeld there either.

It was time to face the fact that Ole Knudsen Fjeld may have died on Norwegian soil before his wife immigrated to the United States.

At this time, the Digitalarkivet of Norway was in the process of uploading parish records to their web site.  This meant that some records were online, but others were not.  At the time of my research, most were not online.   This dearth of information held especially true for Bruflat parish records, which, I had read had been burned during WWII.  Or, at least, the records for the years that I needed had burned.

Therefore, over a long period, I returned to the parish records on a weekly or monthly basis, praying for records.  Finally, the Bruflat parish records for 1866-1893 were uploaded.  I spent months searching because I had never laid eyes on Gothic handwriting, which is very different from our own.  Many Gothic letters are unrecognizable to modern readers.  To make matters worse, some letters have multiple forms in the Gothic, which vaguely resemble some of our modern cursive letters, but which usually turn out to be different letters entirely in the Gothic.  Nor did i speak or read Norwegian.

I was illiterate.

Frustrated, I Googled away and taught myself to read Gothic handwriting.

Once I had learned how to read Gothic handwriting, I combed through every page in the deaths and burials section of the 1866-1893 Bruflat i Sør Aurdal klokkerbok.  I was looking for Ole Knudsen of Thorshaugen or Fjeld farm.  In previous searches through the Bruflat parish records, I had discovered births of some of Ole and Ingri's children and that their residence changed from Thorshaugen to Fjeld farm to midt Fjeld farm.  I had two theories:

  1. Thorshaugen, Fjeld and midt Fjeld were names for the same farm.

  2. Thorshaugen, Fjeld and midt Fjeld were names for different farms.

That is why I was searching for an Ole Knudsen who had died while residing at either Thorshaugen or Fjeld farm.  On page 198, I found what I had been looking for... and  it left me breathless because I had expected to come away from the klokkerbok empty-handed and blind. (Klokkerboks are not easy to read.)

The answer to why Ole Knudsen Fjeld did not appear in the American records with his wife, Ingri, stared back at me in all its starkness, as if to say, "Boo!"

Ole Knudsen, Farmer, Fjeld farm, died 17 December 1873, buried 11 January 1874.

A single line.

Mystery solved.

Next up:  Thorshaugen and Fjeld - One Farm or Two?

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pioneering Women Part II

Kari Knudsdatter Ruse

Kari Knudsdatter Ruse was born on the 17th of July in 1867 on the Ruse (Lundeseie) farm in Bruflat sokn in the Sør Aurdal parish of the Valdres region of Norway.  Traveling aboard the Island, a steamship, Kari Ruse arrived at the Port of New York on 7 July 1888.  Alone.  She would later marry Martin Olsen Fjeld - son of Ingeri Olsdatter Mælum av Lie and Ole Knudsen Fjeld - in about 1891, probably in Our Savior's Lutheran Church in rural Kloten, Nelson County, North Dakota.

Children of Kari Knudsdatter Ruse and Martin Olsen Fjeld:

  1. Ole Martinsen Fjeld* (1892-1954)

  2. Christian Martinsen Fjeld (1893-1993)

  3. Clarence Martinsen Fjeld (1895-1916)

  4. Inger Martinsdatter Fjeld (1896-1976)

  5. Alma Martinsdatter Fjeld (1899-1974)

  6. Agnetta Martinsdatter Fjeld (1900-1902)

  7. Albert Martinsen Fjeld (1903- ????)

  8. Melvin Martinsen Fjeld (1905-1989)

  9. Agnes Martinsdatter Fjeld (1909- ????)

According to parish records (Bruflat i Sør Aurdal, 1866-1893), Kari Knudsdatter was born to parents Knud Syversen Ruse and Anne Arnesdatter (of Hovde farm, as marriage records reveal) on 17 July 1867 and baptized on 29 September 1867 in Bruflat Kirke.  Siblings of Kari Knudsdatter Ruse are Syver, Arne, Martin, Anders, Ole, and Kristian, the latter three being her younger siblings.  This family can be found in the 1865 Telling living on the Ruse farm.

Ancestors of Kari Knudsdatter Ruse:

  • Knud Syversen Ruse, Father

  • Anne Arnesdatter Hovde, Mother

  • Syver Thidemansen Ruse, Paternal Grandfather

  • Marthe Olsdatter, Paternal Grandmother

  • Arne Syversen Hovde, Maternal Grandfather

  • Kari Andersdatter, Maternal Grandmother


  • Bruflat i Sør Aurdal, 1866-1893

  • 1865 Telling for 0540 Søndre Aurdal

  • Sør Aurdal 1825-1840 Ministerialbok

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pioneering Women Part I

Ingeri Olsdatter Mælum av Lie

Ingeri Olsdatter Mælum av Lie was born on 5 December 1832 on the Mælum av Lie farm in Bruflat Sokn in what was then the parish of Sør Aurdal (now Etnedal).  She married Ole Knudsen of Lie farm around 1855 and later lived on Thorshaugen and Fjeld farms, both in Bruflat.  Her husband, Ole Knudsen, died on Fjeld farm in December of 1873 and Ingeri left Norway nearly 10 years later aboard the Angelo with her youngest children.  Her two eldest sons had already immigrated to the United States.

Children of Ingeri Olsdatter Mælum av Lie and Ole Knudsen Fjeld

  1. Knud Olsen Fjeld

  2. Ole Olsen Fjeld

  3. Martin Olsen Fjeld*

  4. Anne Olsdatter Fjeld (and possible Marit Olsdatter Fjeld)

  5. Inger Olsdatter Fjeld

  6. Christian Olsen Fjeld

  7. Christopher Olsen Fjeld

  8. Olava Olsdatter Fjeld

In the Sør Aurdal parish registers of 1826-1840, we find Ingeri's parents listed as Ole Andersen Mælum av Lie and his wife, Anne Knudsdatter.  The marriage record of this couple can be found on page 395 of the Sør Aurdal 1825-1840 Ministerialbok.  Here, we find that Anne Knudsdatter is from Espelien farm and, in fact, that Ole Andersen was living on Granum farm at the time of their marriage.

Children of Anne Knudsdatter Espelien and Ole Andersen (Granum) Mælum av Lie:

  1. Knud Olsen Mælum av Lie

  2. Ingeri Olsdatter Mælum av Lie

  3. Anders Olsen Mælum av Lie

  4. Ole Olsen Mælum av Lie

  5. Maria Olsdatter Mælum av Lie

  6. Andreas Olsen Mælum av Lie

  7. Tollef Olsen Mælum av Lie


  • Sør Aurdal Parish Register 1826-1840, page 95, line 12

  • Bruflat i Sør Aurdal Klokkerbok 1866-1893, page 30, line 25

  • 1865 Folketelling for 0540 Sør Aurdal

  • Bruflat i Sør Aurdal Klokkerbok 1866-1893, page 198, line 3

  • Sør Aurdal Ministerialbok 1825-1840, page 395, line 28

  • Sør Aurdal Ministerialbok 1825-1840, page 50, line 94

  • Sør Aurdal Ministerialbok 1825-1840, page 3058, line 39

  • Sør Aurdal 1841-1849, page 111, line 82

  • Sør Aurdal 1841-1849, page 183, line 27

  • 1865 Folketelling for 0540 Søndre Aurdal, page 207

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Can't is a Four Letter Word

In my previous post, I discovered that the Zentz web site that had drawn me into genealogy - and my Norwegian roots - had ceased to exist.

Then I got to thinking.

As opposed to rearranging my prejudices.


Somewhere, someone is archiving something everywhere. Even if the archives are incomplete. Hmm... fun and games. Or more accurately, my Fun and Games folder of bookmarks. In this handy little folder is the link to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Fun and games indeed.

I decided to give the Wayback Machine a try. It was worth the effort, because it worked. The Wayback Machine has archives of the Zentz web site from July 12, 2001 to August 6, 2007. They have nothing for 2008. Why, I don't know. The last time I accessed the Zentz site was April 14, 2008 to check my link from the blog post of the same date. So, I'm guessing the Zentz site went down sometime between April 14, 2008 and August 22, 2008. Who knows? When it came down is not all that relevant. What is relevant is that you can still view it through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. It's what genealogists of the future will be using to trace our footsteps.

You Can't Go Back

I recently discovered a site called - a sort of My Space for genealogy buffs. While exploring the site and deciding whether I wanted to join or not, I flipped over to my tab and started looking up other researchers who were researching Fjelds in North Dakota. In the end, I wound up looking at Selmer Fjeld, who is also in my family tree. At this point, I do not remember whose tree I was looking at on, but I remember a Tina Haug in that tree...

It occurred to me that there was also a Tina married to a Selmer Fjeld in my own family tree, so I switched to look at my family tree. No Tina. I had neglected to add that bit of information to my tree, probably because it is not part of my direct line and I have been neglecting some of the more recent Fjeld family members in favor of their Old Country counterparts. My research lately has been focused on parish records and real estate records in Norway.

Time to return to the U.S. for a bit!

Then, I remembered my roots. My roots in family research, that is. The Gary Zentz tree sprung to mind. I knew Tina was in that tree. I just wanted to see if the two Tina's were the same person. So I typed my grandmother's name into the Google search engine as I had always done when looking for the Zentz tree in the past...

The only entries that popped up were my own entries for this blog and other web sites I am a member of. I typed in Gary Zentz. I typed "Ole Knudsen Fjeld." Some of the old links are there, but they no longer connect to an actual web page, so the Zentz site is gone. The link that I posted to the Zentz site in another blog entry is broken.

Elsewhere on the net, I read that the Zentz site can be found through So I paid a visit to the LDS web site and typed in "Peter Zentz" as instructed. Nothing. It no longer exists there either. The skeleton has turned to dust, so to speak, and the ashes have been blown to the four winds.

It's the end of an era. But when did it end? I have no clue because I have been out of town and without personal Internet access for a few months. Ca ne fait rien. It matters little, for I have come so far in my own research that the information I have on the Fjeld family from Bruflat exceeds that of what Gary Zentz posted on his web site.

Still, it is a little sad. His research made my research possible.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

As Promised...

The Military Career of Oliver S. Aas

Oliver Samuel Aas was the son of Fjeld Township enumerator, Samuel S. Aas. Born on 3 October 1898 in Aneta, North Dakota, Oliver is listed as a teacher in the database, North Dakota Military Men, 1917-1918. The information in this database is derived from Roster of the Men and Women Who Served in the Army or Naval Service (including the Marine Corps) of the United States or its Allies from the State of North Dakota in the World War, 1917-1918. Vol. I-IV. Bismark, ND, USA: Bismark Tribune Co., 1931. In particular, Oliver Samuel Aas is listed in Volume I Aaberg to Flagg.

According to this work, Oliver S. Aas was inducted two days after his twentieth birthday and was sent to the University of North Dakota, where he served in the Students Army Training Corps until Halloween of 1918. Then, he was sent to Central Officers Training School in Camp Grant, Illinois, where he remained until he was discharged as a Private on 12 December 1918.

Not much of a career.

His army number was 3,455,562 and he was a registrant of Barnes County, North Dakota. So it is likely that we may find other Aas relatives in Barnes, North Dakota around this time. In WWI Civilian Draft Registrations, another database, he is listed as residing in Grant, having a relative in Valley City, North Dakota, and the state is listed as South Dakota. Looking at his actual draft registration card, we find that Grant is in South Dakota and Oliver claims to be a teacher there at Milbank Schools in Milbank. Oh, and the relative listed as living in Valley City? One S.S. Aas. Probably Oliver's father, Samuel. Valley City is in Barnes County, North Dakota, for those who don't know.

Two years later, the 1920 U.S. Federal Census finds Oliver S. Aas living as a lodger in La Moure, La Moure, North Dakota in the the Frederick Muralt household. There, his profession is listed as a high school teacher. So Oliver Aas, not unexpectedly, returned to teaching after the Great War.

He would later move to Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the 1939 passenger list of the S.S. Talamanca would reveal. In fact, he lived at 4817 East Lake Harriett Boulevard. There is an Oliver S. Aas listed as having died 22 Mar 1950 in the Minnesota Death Index, 1908-2002, in the county of Hennepin.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Samuel S. Aas Family - Initial Findings

What Can You Glean From A Census?

Samuel S. Aas was the census enumerator for Fjeld Township, Nelson, North Dakota in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. As far as I know, he is no relation to me. However, I thought it would be interesting to find out a little bit about our enumerator. The 1900 U.S. Census is an important one for genealogists, as it lists birth month and year for all those enumerated. Therefore, the enumerator's attention to detail and ability to obtain accurate information from the populace is of prime importance and, in a township wherein most of the inhabitants are Norwegian speaking, it is of utmost importance. Language barriers may have been an issue.

We find Samuel S. Aas in the 1900 census in Ora Township, Nelson County, which he also enumerated. What we learn about Samuel Aas is that he was born in Norway in December of 1854 and that he is a farmer by profession, as are many of his neighbors. We also learn who Samuel Aas' housemates are - his wife, two daughters, two sons, a stepson, his brother, and one servant. Living next door, on her own, is one Mary S. Aas, born in April of 1838 in Norway. It is telling that Mary S. Aas is listed as having immigrated to the United States in 1870, as is Samuel Aas himself. Could Mary Aas be Samuel Aas' mother? We don't know yet. It may be a simple coincidence that these people lived next door to one another in the 1900 census and happened to immigrate the same year. However, I am leaning toward the probability that Mary S. Aas is a relative of Samuel Aas. Possibly an aunt.

Samuel's wife, Agneta, was born in April of 1858 in Norway and immigrated to the United States in 1880, according to the 1900 census. We have little reason to doubt the veracity of the information regarding Samuel's family, as he took down the information himself. Unless he had something to hide, of course. We will assume, for now, that he had nothing to hide and that the information he provided to the census enumerator - himself - is accurate. The census also reveals that Samuel and Agneta had been married for six years and had five children, all of whom were alive in 1900. This implies the couple was married around 1894 and, indeed, their first child, Selma, was born in March of 1895. So, unless Agneta was pregnant before the couple married, they probably married before June of 1894 (approximately nine months of pregnancy, old style counting). This couple's youngest child, Agnes, was born in March of 1900 and was 2 months old at the time of the census. However, the census was supposedly taken on the 15th of June. This means the actual data was either taken in May or little Agnes had not yet reached 3 months of age on the 15th of June. If the latter is true, we know that Agnes was born after the 15th of March, else she would be listed as having obtained the ripe old age of 3 months. Not that it matters, but we can assume Agnes read (or reads) the predictions for either Aries or Pisces in the horoscope column of the newspaper, if she read such things at all.

Samuel Aas' stepson, Carl Hulberg, a school teacher, was born in Norway in December of 1879. This means either that Samuel Aas was previously married to a woman who had herself been previously married and had a child from that marriage or Agneta Aas had a child from a previous marriage. However, Samuel Aas is listed as having immigrated to the United States in 1870, remember? Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that the former is the case. Rather, Carl is the likely biological son of Agneta. In any case, this means that the marriage between Samuel Aas and Agneta was not a first marriage for at least one of the spouses. Namely Agneta. Given both their ages in 1894, it is likely (but not impossible) this was not a first marriage for either spouse - Agneta would have been 36 and Samuel 40 in 1894.

This possibility implies it will be extremely difficult to trace Agneta's immigration to the United States - worse, it will be more problematic to uncover her "maiden" name. If Carl Hulberg is Agneta's biological child, then we may find that Agneta immigrated with her infant (and, probably, her husband) under the name Hulberg. We must be careful with Norwegian "surnames," however, as these are usually farm names rather than true surnames, but sometimes they are not necessarily the names of the farms the immigrants lived on - they may be farms that were more famous than the ones actually lived upon. In addition, the Norwegian immigrant would often immigrate with one name and adopt quite a different surname once he or she arrived in the United States. This is compounded by the likelihood that the surname would be Americanized or simplified. Some immigrants did away with the farm name altogether and adopted their patronymic name instead. If we are lucky, we will find Agneta in the 1880 U.S. census under the name Hulberg, but she will have had to immigrate fairly early in the year for this to occur. It would be better to search the territorial and state censuses between the years of 1880 and 1900 for a match. Perhaps, we will be able to find Agneta and Carl in the 1885 Dakota Territory census.

John S. Aas, brother of Samuel S. Aas, was born in January of 1852 in Norway and immigrated in 1868. Therefore, their neighbor, Mary S. Aas, would have been 13 years old at John's birth. This implies that Mary S. Aas is not John's mother. She may still be Samuel's mother, but this is unlikely as well. Nineteenth century Norwegians did not usually marry until they were at least twenty and Mary would have been 16 at Samuel's birth. No, it is far more likely that Mary S. Aas is an older sister (who never married), a cousin, or an aunt of Samuel and John. Again, it must be noted that we cannot truly assume Mary is related to Samuel at all - the census does not provide us with this information. Nor can we reasonably conclude such information from what information the census does provide. We will have to look to other sources for confirmation. The previous reasoning is performed should other records confirm a relationship between Mary S. Aas and Samuel S. Aas.

Samuel Aas has two sons - Oliver and Alexander. Alexander is the eldest, born in December 1896, while Oliver was born in October of 1898. There will be more about Oliver, who has a military record, later. All of the Aas children were born in the state of North Dakota.

Returning to the question, "What can you glean from a census," it turns out the answer is plenty! Especially if the census in question is the 1900 U.S. Federal Census.

Next up: the military career of Oliver S. Aas.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Stumbling Over my Tree: Part II

Not Looking for Anything at all...

Further proof that when you cease seeking, you will find it and, sometimes, what you find you never knew you wanted to discover.  I found the "family mother load" when I entered my grandmother's name in Google's search engine and I was not looking for it.  I was deliberately seeking nothing at all, hoping to psyche out the search engine.  Well, that failed miserably.  In essence, the search engine psyched me out!  Score one for the search engine and zero for me.  Google's search engine psyched me out well enough to to distract me from playing my game of "Let's see what Google doesn't have."  [I am of a naturally skeptical phrase of mind and, having repeatedly heard and read the statement, "Google has an entry for everything," I, of course, felt compelled - much like Renfield is compelled to devour insects - to test this theory.  I thought - and still do think - that this was impossible.  "Everything" is impossibly infinite.  I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the probability that Google's contents are impossibly infinite, although this is certainly possible.  After all, there exist black holes in cyberspace, why not infinities?]

In summary, what I uncovered when I typed my grandmother's name into Google's search engine was my grandmother's family tree - my family tree - taken back to the immigrant ancestor.  Or so it appeared.  (More on that later.)  I also discovered that Joe Nussberger was not my grandfather.  Noble was my grandfather.

'Who is Noble Nussberger?' I thought.  'Joe's brother or cousin?  And why had I been lied to all these years?'  That was more than I could accept - I had to Google "Noble Nussberger."  Now, Google failed me.  Its search engine gave me one result - the Gary Zentz GEDCOM wherein I had found Rosella Fjeld's ancestry.  In other words, the same tree I was already looking at.

The gears in my brain started turning.  Having been baptized a Mormon - as well as a Lutheran - I thought, 'Hmm... the Mormon church is a repository for genealogical records because it's part of their belief system to research family heritage.'

Time to visit the Mormon church on the web!  Er... Latter Day Saints.  My visit uncovered Family Search dot org... and some records.  (I really was ignorant about family history research then, as ignorant as they come, in fact.)  Gary's GEDCOM was also on this web site.  However, I must clarify that I found nothing on "Noble Nussberger" on this site.  Rather, failing that, I entered only the surname Nussberger and waded through lists of people until I found "N Nussberger."  Joe Nussberger had died 20 September 1989, six days before my birthday.  This "N Nussberger" had died on the same date.  He also had the same residence zip code as Joe Nussberger at death.  Coincidence?  I think not.  "N Nussberger" was the Noble Nussberger I was looking for and "N Nussberger" and "Joe Nussberger" were one and the same.  Or, at least, it was highly probable they were the same individual.  Joe must have been a nickname?

At this point, I did not question why the name, Joe, was taken as a nickname.  In my opinion, the answer was obvious - the man had an unusual first name and it was very common to call people "Joe" in the Forties.  So that was probably where the name came from.  I always knew him as "Grandpa Joe" or "Pops."  It was not until later that I learned to question the obvious.  In this process, my mathematical training was a boon.  It formed and informed the basis of my thoughts, theories, and research.  The mathematical methods of proof stood me in good stead.  I knew that all things not proven, all things not backed by documentation, were tentative at best.  Downright falsehoods at worst.  (There are some individuals out there who quite literally and purposefully invent their family trees.  Many of them are published authors.)

It was not by accident that Joe was chosen as a nickname, but I would not learn this until I became a subscriber to Ancestry.  All over the web, I could find nothing on the Nussbergers, nothing on any Nussbergers.  It seemed as though I had found the one entry Google did not possess.  Nor Yahoo! for that matter.  Sure, there were Nussbergers and Nusbergers on Family Search, but those do not appear in search engine results....

So I gave up on Nussbergers for awhile, thinking that if I waited long enough, something would appear.  Also, I decided to work with what I had - the Zentz GEDCOM, which would become my guide.  I looked up things like "Norwegian ancestry" on the web and found guides on research.  Then I found the digitalarkivet!  At first, I used the English version, which is still mostly in Norwegian, and I spent days wading through the 1865 census, looking for Fjeld farm, Ole Knudsen Fjeld, and Ingri (Mælum Av Lie) Fjeld.  To no avail.  I knew they were from Bruflat, Etnedal, Norway, so I refined my search by subparish and their first and patronymic names.  Eventually, I found them - living on Thorshaugen farm in Bruflat.  I thought that they had taken the name of a more famous farm - a farm they had never, in fact, lived on - when they immigrated to the United States as many Norwegian immigrants did.  With a name like Thorshaugen, I could see their reasoning.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.  My ancestors had a few surprises in store for me and, it seemed, they wanted to be found.  They wanted a voice.  Here is the truth...

I would find this especially true with my female ancestors.  I found it excessively easy to find records on them, as well as whereabouts, husbands and married names.  It was the males who did not wish to be found!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Stumbling Over my Tree

I had very little information to work with when I first began tracing my roots:  my father was adopted and the only thing I knew about my mother's heritage was that her mother was named Rosella Fjeld, her father was Joe Nussberger, and her grandmother was Nellie Butterfield.  At the time, I had no access to any family photos or records.  My mother had talked often about a place called "Nelson," where my grandmother's family lived.  My grandmother had died a few years before I was born, Nellie Butterfield was long dead, and my grandfather had died when I was a teenager.  So talking to these people was not an option.


I had only childhood stories my mother had told to rely upon in my research.  No written information, no family bible.  I did have one advantage over those who came before me, however.  Google.  I had Google.


The universe must have been on my side, too, for when I typed "Rosella Fjeld" into the Google search engine, I hit the family mother load.  A researcher named Gary Zentz had uploaded a GEDCOM to the web that included Rosella Fjeld's family tree, as it linked to his family tree.

Link to the Gary Zentz Web Site


To be honest, I was, at the time, not actually looking for a family tree.  I was not looking for anything at all, literally.  I simply wanted to see what would happen if I typed my deceased grandmother's name into Google's search engine - a woman who had died 31 years BG.


Plenty happened.  If it hadn't, I wouldn't be writing this post.



Screen shot of my Rosella Fjeld search

OMG!  OMG!  OMG! was all I could say when I found this web site.  The "Oh my gods" would repeat as I clicked through the links and found my name and my siblings' names in the tree.  At this point, my mother, who was visiting, had to come to the kitchen table, where I was sitting with my laptop, and say, with not a little irritation, "What are you doing?"


I showed her.  "Oh my god!" she said.  I didn't know whether to jump for joy or freak out.  I was leaning towards freaking out.  My name is posted all over the Internet... identity theft! identity theft!  Time to let the coolness sink into my brain....  When I finally calmed down, I looked at the entry for Qywyntyna again and realized there was nothing there but a name.  No birth data, no ssn, nothing an identity thief could use.  Nothing but my mother's maiden name, but you had to be looking for it.


Then I noticed something - Rosella Fjeld was listed as having married a man named Noble, who was also listed as my mother's father.


Joe was not my grandfather...

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Welcome to Fjeld Township, a blog about Nelson County, North Dakota ancestors, especially those from Field and Rugh townships. Other genealogies will be welcome and explored as well. As long as they are Nelson County genealogies, that is. I have chosen to call this blog Fjeld Township after my ancestors from Field Township. I am a direct descendant of Ingri (Mælum Av Lie) Fjeld and her son, Martin Fjeld, both of whom can be found in the 1885 Dakota Territory census. They left Bruflat subparish in Sør Aurdal (now part of Etnedal) in Oppland, Norway in March of 1882 aboard the feeder ship Angelo. They arrived in Boston and settled in Field Township, North Dakota. Allied families include, but are not limited to, the Stigens and Ruses, all of Bruflat.

I welcome your comments and suggestions and, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask. Feel free to sign my guestbook. I also welcome new additions to my findings and will be happy to accept any information you have on the families I list in Fjeld Township. I am also open to fellow bloggers who would like to contribute to this blog by becoming one of its bloggers and contributors.

Expect random acts of genealogical kindness, complete with sources, listed as footnotes (with links, where appropriate) at the bottom of posts.