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!

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