Joining Genealogy Societies

Before attending my first big genealogy conference in 2013, I had no idea of the number of genealogy and historical societies in existence. They come in all shapes and societies, covering a wide variety of ethnic groups and geographical areas–the world, in fact! Since this discovery I have joined at least 15 different societies. Why? Good question… and I have a pretty good answer.

Genealogical and historical societies are the caretakers of the records of the past. They preserve and share unique collections and databases, at times only accessible to members. The journals and newsletters they produce are full of wonderful stories and information pertinent to the area or ethnic group they represent. Besides sharing information, some journal articles are designed to teach methodologies, to demonstrate quality research. Most societies sponsor seminars, workshops, conferences, webinars, etc., all for the purpose of advancing the goals of genealogists everywhere. Often, society membership means a discount in event registration and on purchases at their store, if there is one.

Most of the societies I have joined are located hundreds, even thousands, of miles away from where I live. Even so, I have found my membership to be invaluable. Joining a society near me has provided me a chance to give back to the genealogical community through volunteerism, but there are many other rewards for membership. I have joined societies for every different state, sometimes county, in which my ancestors lived in order to have access to their special collections and to connect with others in the society who may have shared lineage with me. I have joined ethnic societies to help learn more about my ancestors’ customs, language, and life in their ancestral homeland. I have joined lineage societies to prove my research and to support their missions. I have joined professional societies in order to advance my efforts in developing a part-time business doing something I love.

If you are at all interested in family history research, I definitely recommend joining a society in your area, or anywhere your ancestors lived. You may even find family you never knew you had!

Proving Our Mayflower Descendants

Shout out to all my Olson/Church cousins! With the approach of the 400th anniversary in 2020 of the Mayflower landing, I decided I would work on my lineage papers to the Society of Mayflower Descendants. The New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS), of which I am a member, is making every effort to help the thousands–nay, millions–of descendants  of Mayflower pilgrims identify and verify their descendancy. Since my DAR application has already been verified and accepted, I didn’t see the link to our Mayflower ancestor, John Howland, as being much of a stretch. I submitted my Preliminary Review Form and my Preliminary Application to the California Chapter of Mayflower Descendants.

I am happy to report that I have received my official Application for Membership to the Society of Mayflower Descendants completed for the first seven generations, through our ancestor Solomon Lewis (1750-1839). Generations 8-13, from Lydia Lewis (1785-1873), wife of Asa Church (1788-1857),  to me, comprise the research and references I used for acceptance into DAR. I have the documents and references for all the vital events of each generation, some more derivative than others. With any luck, I will be able to use the same documentation for proving our Mayflower connection and satisfy eligibility requirements for the Society of Mayflower Descendants.

It makes me chuckle every time I think of my mother’s answer to my queries as a child about her ancestors. “Oh… we’re Heinz57,” she would always say, and end it at that. Well, I am finding out we are much more, and I am proud of our ancestral heritage. I have always loved this country, but knowing more details of the role our ancestors played in its early days increases that feeling ten-fold, at least.

As I learn more about my ancestors, their trials and sacrifices, their successes and celebrations, I am more and more in awe. We come from great stock. People of the land, mostly, but proud, courageous, patriotic people who helped make this country great. Those qualities are inherent in every one of us, my dear cousins. Our ancestors are a part of us, and we are a part of them. I LOVE GENEALOGY!!

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.