Vesterheim Museum & Decorah Genealogical Society

The Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa, is dedicated to Norwegian heritage. (I learned about it while researching places that might help me with my BCG portfolio projects.) It contains an amazing collection of Norwegian artifacts depicting life in Norway and in immigrant America. The craftsmanship of the items on display is beyond description. Walking through the four floors of exhibits, not to mention the many buildings on the grounds behind the museum, one can experience life in 19th century Norway, leaving a beloved family and homeland for America, and the immigrant’s life in their new home. Visiting a site such as this always puts me in awe of the fortitude of our ancestors. We owe them so much. Learning about their lives is one way to show our gratitude for their sacrifices.

This trunk came with Bertha Knuddt. Skaug to America in 1857. It belonged to my husband’s great-grandmother, immigrant from Norway. It is a treasured family heirloom. Many of these are on display in the Vesterheim Museum, along with hundreds, possibly thousands, of other finely-crafted items.

As I continue on this journey to certification, I am amazed by the many unexpected turns my path has taken. One of the staff at the museum, upon learning of my interest in genealogy, suggested I visit the Decorah Genealogical Society. This was not on my radar, but I was ecstatic to find a new repository of information. For anyone interested in researching ancestors from Winneshiek County, Iowa, Norwegian or otherwise, I highly recommend you visit the Decorah Genealogical Society.

The librarian/archivist on staff the day I visited was wonderful! She helped me find Norwegian emigration records and birth records I had not yet located on my own, taught me about Norwegian internet sites I had not used before, and took me on a tour of their society’s abundant resources. At least six rooms filled with books, microfilm, maps, and more. What a goldmine I stumbled into!

You just never know where and when you will find that one record, that one repository, that one person who will help break through a brick wall. The joy is in the journey!


Rinaldo Family Discoveries at Augustana College

Been a few days and several hundred miles on this family history journey since Augustana College, but here is the second part of the last post. The focus is my great-grandmother, immigrant from Sweden, Maria Christina Rinaldo. Let me begin first with information acquired through ArkivDigital in 2015, and the Swedish AD Seminar in Lindsborg, KS, of the same year.

  • First and foremost, “Rinaldo” is a military name. Different from patronymics and farm names, these were given to soldiers when there were too many of the same surname in a regiment or company. According to the person helping me with my research in 2015, soldiers and their children would either keep their military names, or revert back to the patronymic or farm name, when service terminated. Apparently, our ancestors retained the military name. More fun!
  • Maria Christina Rinaldo was born 30 July 1842 in Vimmerby Parish, Kalmar county, Sweden, to Johan Rinaldo (b. 4 February 1810, Vimmerby) and Stina Carin Calsdotter (b. 11 October 1822, Vimmerby). She was baptized/christened on 7 August 1842. (Witness/Godparent information still needs translation.)
  • She was living with her parents and a brother, Carl Johan (b.  30 May 1844, Vimmerby) in the farm village of Hjerpekullen.
  • Maria Christina was moved out of the Frödinge parish records on 18 April 1869. She was traveling as a “Pigan,” meaning maid/maid servant from Ahlstade (now Alsta) to North America.
  • I learned that the Rinaldo surname was actually a military name. Her grandfather’s military record in 1817 shows that Corp. Jonas Rinaldo was 5’10” tall and married. At the time, he was serving for/from Hamratorp. He had served over 14 years. (Other notations on the muster roll have not been translated yet.)
  • A Swedish household record for Maria’s grandfather, Jonas Rinaldo, for 1818-1820, shows him living in soldier’s cottage, no. 101, in Hamratorp, with wife Anna Nilsdr. (most likely a second wife), and four children: Anna, born in Frödinge, and three others born in Vimmerby–Karin, Lars, and Nils Johan (Maria Christina’s father). More translation of this record is needed, also.

At the Swedish Immigrant Research Center, I learned a little more.

  • The word “trumslagare” before her father’s name on her birth record means “drummer.”
  • Also from her birth record, her mother, Stina Carin Carlsdotter, was 19 years old at the time of Maria’s birth.
  • From the emigration database, Emibas, we found a record of emigration for her brother Carl Johan. He emigrated 1 January 1868 “from Solnebo, Vimmerby landsförs, Kalmar län (Småland) to Nordamerika.” (Source: Emibas migration file ID: Vimmerby landsförs H 1868 059; citing Household Examination Roll, p. 303.)
  • In an attempt to locate Maria Christina’s passenger record, several Rinaldos from Vimmerby ended up in Jamestown, NY.

Genealogy is a never-ending journey that takes us to unexpected places. I love this journey and look forward to discovering more as I move forward. The last two days have been about Norwegian research. More on that later.

Olson Family Discoveries at Augustana College

Yesterday I had the rare opportunity to visit the Swenson Swedish Immigrant Research Center (SSIRC) at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. (Interesting factoid: Mississippi River was at flood stage.) The archivist/librarian on duty was extremely helpful in translating some documents I already had from ArkivDigital and in locating possible emigration/immigration information for my great-grandparents, Nils Olson and Maria Christina Rinaldo. I wanted to share a little of what I learned with my family today. I hope you find it interesting. First, our Swedish immigrant ancestor Nels Olson.

Information found previously in records found through ArkivDigital in 2015:

  • Nels Olson (birth record), born “Nils”, 26 July 1841, Jonstorp parish, Malmöhus län, Skåne province, Sweden; father=Olof Nygren, b. 5August 1816, in Väsby, Sweden; mother=Sissa Nils Dotter, b. 19 April 1817, in Jonstorp,
  • Nels’s siblings, as of 1846 household record, all born in Jonstorp, were: Johanna, b. 26 November 1842; Christina, b. 5 September 1844; and Lars, b. August 1846 [couldn’t decipher day]. Note: There may have been others, but I have not yet pursued this.
  • Nels went to America in 1868, but was not “written out” of the parish records until 1869.

What I learned at the SSIRC yesterday:

  • The word “hussaren” before Olof Nygren’s name as father of Nils means “the light cavalryman.”
  • The word “rymd” with Nils’s first emigration note in 1868 means “escaped, deserter, fugitive…” Basically, it means he left without proper travel papers. Why? Unknown.
  • When Nils was born, the family lived in the farm village of Teppeshusen.
  • Evidently, the family moved from Jonstorp to Väsby, leaving Väsby in 1866, then lived in the farm village of Ljusbergshus, Allerum, Malmöhus (Skåne), when Nils left for America in 1868.
  • Nils was a tenant farmer (“Husman”) when he emigrated.
  • Swedes were tested for literacy and religious knowledge annually, and our family was no exception.
  • Johanna Nygren, who appears to be Nils’s sister, emigrated 6 November 1865 “from 281, Helsingborgs stadsförs, Malmöhus län (Skåne) to Köbenhavn amt, Danmark” (Source: Emibas migration file ID: Helsingborgs stadsförs M 1865 045)
  • Another possible, unmarried sibling of Nils, Olof Nygren, b. 22 May 1848 in Jonstorp, emigrated to America 29 March 1870 “from Södra Danhult 2, Väsby, Malmöhus län (Skåne)” (Source: Emibas migration file ID: Väsby M 1870 005, citing Household Examination Roll, p. 99.) I need to locate his birth record to confirm this relationship.
  • From the Demographical Database for Southern Sweden (DDSS) for those “Born in Jonstorp Parish, 1689-1894,” Sissa’s birth information was found. (Remember: She was Nels’s mother.) Her father, Jöns Olsson, was a tenant farmer in Teppeshusen. Her mother, Gunnil Siunnasdoter, was 42 when she bore Sissa, indicating she most likely had older siblings. Her parents were married when she was born. (Original Source of this information came from Jonstorps kyrkoarkiv C I : 2) Note: Why she went by Nils Doter, rather than Jöns Doter, is as yet unknown. More research to be done.

More about the Rinaldo family in a separate post. I am off to Vesterheim, the Norwegian museum here in Decorah, IA, and to the Giants of the Past museum in Spring Grove, MN, the first Norwegian settlement in Minnesota. Doing research today for my husband’s family.


A Special NGS Moment

NGS Family History Conference 2018 ended a few hours ago. Now to put all of this new-found knowledge to work. I attended about 15 sessions, reviewed successful BCG portfolios, reconnected with friends, ate some great food, and bought a few souvenirs.

It was interesting to learn about how many Dutch immigrants settled in this area of Western Michigan. Over the past twenty years I have been researching my father’s paternal line in earnest. I have discovered that they came from Ostfriesland, which included northwestern Germany and northeastern Netherlands, not far from the North Sea. The Davids branch, his paternal grandmother’s line, have roots in the Netherlands. I have located records for the Brinkman line in Marienhafe, Engerhafe, and Siegelsum, all part of the province of Hannover, kindgom of Prussia, during the years before their emigration.

One of the highlights of the conference for me was a special presentation shared by Yvette Hoitink, a certified genealogist from the Netherlands, at last night’s NGS banquet. She shared a heartfelt story of a Dutch tradition that occurs every May 4th and 5th–Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking) and Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag), respectively. At about 8 pm, after explaining the significance of these two special days, Yvette invited everyone at the banquet to stand in silence for two minutes in honor of those who lost their lives in WWII, and in wars since, fighting for freedom from tyrrany and oppression. The following link explains those special days in the Netherlands.

The more I study and learn about my family’s history, the more I want to learn and know. Maybe it is the same with you. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.” As I come to know more about the lives of my ancestors, about my roots, I am beginning to understand what parts of me come from each of them.