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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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.