Sunday, May 19, 2013

Church Record Sunday - Swedish Records and Patrinymics

I put off researching my Scandinavian ancestors for some time because I was worried about dealing with name changes. I thought it might prove to be very tedious. But once I took the plunge (I subscribed to Genline), I found the experience to be fun and fairly easy! The records are actually quite good and for the most part very legible. The farther back you go the more difficult the handwriting becomes but I was able to find several generations!
Anna's birth record
My great grandmother, Annie Peterson, was born in Sweden and immigrated with her parents. I knew where they were from so that started my search. I searched "Jonkoping Lan, Odestugu" and found Annie's birth record, her parents marriage record, their household registers and a moving out record that said they moved to "Nordamerica."

American records listed Annie's mother as Malena Swenson - the Swedish records list her as Maja Lena Svensdotter. The household register lists birthdates as well as names, and the women in Sweden always went by their maiden name so it was easier to be sure you had the right couple. Some of the records list page numbers of family registers and that helps as well. Sometimes it requires a page by page search of a hundred or so households.

Malena's birth record tells me her parents are Sven Mansson and Brita Stina Isacsdotter. By looking for their household register I was able to locate all of Malena's siblings and their birthdates as well as the birth dates for Sven and Brita. And when I looked up those records it named their parents and I was on a roll! It was a little more effort to put into my RootsMagic database - keeping all the names straight - and occasionally I found myself lost - the reuse of names can become a jumble as you look at records for Sven Mansson and Mans Svenson over and over.

Here is my Swedish pedigree 'at-a-glance' (meaning without all the specifics and citations):
And YES! Brita Stina Isacsdotter and Peter Isacsson turned out to be siblings!

Andrew and Malena's household examination record

By using resources I found on Genline and on the internet, as well as the book "Your Swedish Roots," I was able to read and learn quite a bit of Swedish in the process. I really enjoyed it. Now on to the Danes!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Benjamin Schmidt and Catharina Siebert Schmidt - Dundee Valley Cemetery

Benjamin P. Schmidt - son of Peter Schmidt and Katherine Voth - and his wife,  Catharina Siebert - daughter of Abraham Siebert and Anna Jantz - are buried in the Dundee Valley Cemetery in Barton County Kansas. They were married in Karlswalde, Russia 27 November 1864 and immigrated to the United States in 1875. They had twelve children.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sentimental Sunday - Goodbye to an Old Church - Bergthal Mennonite

Church dedication 1915
This almost feels like it should read "Sunday's Obituary." It makes me sad. Some of my cousins called me today because they saw an article in USA Today and the Wichita Eagle about a small church closing in Kansas.

It was the church that our Mennonite ancestors helped start in Pawnee Rock, Kansas.

I looked the article up online and then followed the link to the original article that was in the Great Bend Tribune.

"Landmark Bergthal Mennonite Church closing its doors"
[this link now requires a subscription to see all of it but you can still see a photo as of May 22]

You can read some of the story there - it has some great photos -  but let me just add to it.

I did not grow up in Pawnee Rock. My grandfather, Harvey Schmidt, was born there. His parents grew up there. His father immigrated when he was a year old and they settled in this area with a group of immigrant Mennonites from Russia.

I never attended the church in this story - Bergthal Mennonite. But it has always been a part of the family story. When we lived in Kansas, it was a frequent road trip to go to Pawnee Rock for an afternoon of family history.

The first church was the stone church:
The old stone church that my ancestor Benjamin Schmidt helped build.
In later years, a monument to this church was built and placed at the side of the highway. It was a small model of the building made from the stones of the original building.
Plaque on the monument naming the immigrant settlers

Aunt Judi at the monument around 1960

Arlin and Nancy by the monument - around 1960
Later the roadside monument was damaged by vandals and moved to the basement of the church building.

The congregation built a frame church in 1899 and then a brick building in 1915.

Frame church 1899
 The brick structure won't make it to it's centennial year. Like many rural congregations it has been dwindling in size and currently only 14 people regularly attend. They have decided to close and to tear down the building.

A few years ago - 2004 I believe - I went to Pawnee Rock and met with the church historian and distant cousin of mine by marriage, Ruth Deckert. Ruth had many stories to tell and gave me a tour of the church and the town of Pawnee Rock. The church is a ways outside of town - to say it is a rural church is more than accurate. It has a cemetery with it and I think I am related to almost everyone in it! I took lots of pictures and lots of notes. Ruth was a great guide. She has since passed away and I know the community of Pawnee Rock misses her.

I do know that small rural churches have a difficult time. It makes me sad that it will be torn down but I understand their decision. Watching it fall down would be even harder.

Perhaps I will be able to make it to their memorial service on May 26 - or sometime in June before it is torn down. I have a feeling that the history shared in these last days will be worth the trip.

June update: [See the new memorial marker here and my follow-up blog here, regarding the memorial service in May.]

Friday, May 3, 2013

Faces From the Past - Family Reunion?

My parents found this photo in some old junk from an auction. These people are not related to me in any way, but the picture is so fun to look at. This was probably taken in Kansas somewhere.

Here is a couple of zoomed in shots . . .