Saturday, March 7, 2009
Awhile back, so many moons ago that I cannot remember so much as what season had just passed, I ordered the death certificates for most of my Fjeld ancestors (and a few others) from the State of North Dakota. I attempted to order the birth certificate of my grandmother, Rosella Fjeld, too because the death records that I have found for her list an incorrect birth date of 4 November 1922, but the State of North Dakota wouldn't provide that record. They probably thought I was trying to run some identity theft scam against someone who was still alive. Grandmother died in 1967, but North Dakota may not be aware of this fact. Or, if they are, perhaps her death is too recent to allow release of records.
In any case, I have the death records of all my direct Fjeld ancestors who came to the States. I also have great grandmother Fjeld's father, Ole Knudsen Stigen's death certificate. There is a wealth of information on these North Dakota death certificates: occupation, cause of death, parents, date of burial, place of burial, name of undertaker, birth date and place of birth, spouse... you name it, it's on there. The information I have found on them is relatively accurate and jibes with my other research and other sources, although there are some errors -- for example, my great grandfather's wife being listed as "Otina Fjeld." A minor error, as this is probably a typo - should be Oline Fjeld.
Ole M. Fjeld's occupation is listed as farming and stock and grain in particular. I knew he was a farmer, but I didn't know what sorts of things he farmed... although I knew he owned cows and goats because I have a picture of his farm with those sorts of animals in the picture. Birth date is listed as 9 April 1892, which is true, and death date is listed as February 18, 1954. Parents are listed as Martin O. Fjeld and Kari Ruse and the informant is Mrs. Ole M. Fjeld, which accounts for the accuracy. So why is her own name incorrectly spelled on the death certificate? More than likely, a typo. There is a also a question on the certificate asking if the deceased was ever in the U.S. armed forces. In this case, the answer on the certificate is no. Ole M. Fjeld did register for the draft in WWI, but he was never called. Great grandfather died of cardiac failure due to a coronary occlusion at 3:20 p.m. at McVille Community Hospital after a four day stay -- and yes, I got all this from his death certificate. He was buried 23 February 1954 at Our Saviors Lutheran Cemetery in Field Township, Nelson, North Dakota. Great grandfather's social security number is on the death certificate, but I won't list that here.
By contrast, the death certificate of Ingri (Mælum av Lie) Fjeld seems to list very little information. The informant is Ole M. Fjeld's father (my second great grandfather), Martin Olsen Fjeld, the son who travelled with her from Norway to the United States. Ingri's date of birth is listed as 7 December 1832 and her date of death is listed as 20 January 1916. The birth date differs from what we find in the Norwegian parish records, which list Ingri's birth as 5 December 1832. Perhaps the parish records are wrong, or, perhaps, Martin Olsen gave an incorrect birthday for his mother. He was grieving after all. From her death certificate, we learn that Ingri was widowed when she died, was 24 years of age at first marriage, and had 8 children of whom 6 were actually living. The names of her parents are listed as Ole Melum and Anne Aspelien and this is pretty much what we find in the old parish records, although spellings may differ. "Aspelien" is a misspelling of Espelien, a farm in Bruflat parish, Valdres, Norway. "Melum" is yet another spelling of Mælum and is a shortened form of Melum af Lie. Other spellings include Molum and Mellum (there are others). Date of burial is listed as 25 January 1916. A place of burial is not listed. So, the question remains, where was Ingri Fjeld buried? On one of the Fjeld farms perhaps? Or at Our Saviors Lutheran Cemetery? Time to pay a visit to the cemetery...
Then there is the death certificate of Ole Knudsen Stigen, who died 24 April 1937 at 5:30 a.m. of senility somewhere in Rugh Township, Nelson County, North Dakota. Date of birth is listed as 9 March 1854 and occupation is listed as retired farmer, although it doesn't say what he farmed. His spouse is listed as Ragnhild Stigen of Aneta, who is also the informant. Ole K. Stigen was buried 28 April 1937 at Sogn Cemetery. His parents are listed as "Knudt Knudson Uhlen" and "Bertha Elefson," the latter of which is an Americanization, for in Norway his mother would have been known as "Bertha Elefsdatter," meaning daughter of Elef. Uhlen is a farm in Norway and is indeed the farm listed in the parish records. We are not, unfortunately, provided with Berthe Elefsdatter's farm name. Perhaps, Ragnhild (Renden) Stigen did not know which farm her husband's mother hailed from. Or perhaps, she did not care to provide the name. Or it was provided, but not listed. Parish records to the rescue! Norwegian parish records list Berthe Ellefsdatter's farm as Fuhre in Stange, Hedmark, Norway.
Enough. The idea is that a lot of information can be found on a death certificate. There are a lot of clues there, even if the information provided doesn't seem like much at the time.