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!!

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.


Turning Point

Journey to Certification, Part 3:

Defining moments come to everyone, probably more often than we realize. One of those defining moments came for me during our visit to Minnesota for the Olson Family Reunion in July, 2014. The journey with my sister B. and Aunt L. was so much fun! Seeing my aunts reunited was heartwarming. Reconnecting with cousins we haven’t seen for years (some for over 50 years) was a true blessing. But it was one cemetery visit, with memories of burying our other sister still fresh in my mind and heart, that brought it all home for me. I understood at that moment what I was to do with the rest of my life.

I had been dragging my sister B. around for a week, taking her to every cemetery I knew of where ancestors were buried. She helped me walk up and down rows and rows of markers trying to find the names on my lists. Our travels took us from Albert Lea, MN, to Sioux Falls, SD,  and then south to Sibley, IA. Of course, there was an agreement made my sister that, if she was going to go with me to cemeteries, then I was going to take her to Falls Park while visiting Sioux Falls. Not a problem. Aunt L. accompanied us on that excursion, too. It was a fun day for all.

One of our last cemetery visits took us to Sibley, IA. Before leaving on our road trip, I found the cemetery where our grandfather, Peter Brinkman (1890-1914), was buried. We never knew him. He died two months before our father was born. According to Google Maps, the cemetery was south of Sibley, out in the middle of a corn field. I wasn’t even sure whether it still existed. It was called the Hope German Presbyterian Cemetery.

Our first stop in Sibley was at the Chamber of Commerce. When asked about this cemetery, the woman in the office said she had never heard of it. She sent us to the public library, just a block away. We had no idea what we would find there.

The main librarian hadn’t heard of the cemetery, either. However, they just happened to have a binder of a compiled list of all the cemeteries in Osceola County, recently donated to the library. The man who compiled the work listed the name of every person found, dates on the inscription, the cemetery in which they were interred, and the town where that cemetery was located. (There may have been other pieces of information, too, which I don’t recall now.) She brought out the binder and let us look for our grandfather’s name.

“There! There it is! Oh, my gosh!! I can’t believe it! Hope Cemetery! We found him, B.! We found him! The cemetery does exist!” I was so excited, I think my heart took a leap or two!

There was another young woman helping at the counter. When I showed her the entry for our grandfather, she said, “I think I have been to that cemetery with my grandmother.” She went straight to the computer and printed out directions. Almost there, I thought, an anxious lump growing in my throat.

Well, the drive to find the cemetery was interesting, to say the least. The directions wanted us to turn off of a nice paved road onto a dirt field road. I started to turn, determined to get to our destination. Being a country girl married to a rice farmer, driving on field roads didn’t intimidate me. However, we didn’t make it more than 50 feet, or so, and there was a huge mud puddle. A thunderstorm had come through and dropped a bunch of rain for two days. Next to the puddle was a sign to the effect, “Enter at your own risk.” We decided, since we were not in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, it would be best to heed the warning. There had to be another way to get to the cemetery. Thank goodness for GPS!

After backing up, we were back on pavement, at least for a while. Eventually, we found ourselves on a public dirt/gravel road, obviously maintained by some road crew. While I drove, my sister concentrated on the Google Map and the car’s GPS map. Finally, she says, “We are very close.” We passed a cornfield, a long row of trees, and a white farmhouse with a sign that read “Olson.” All of a sudden she said, “We missed it. We have gone too far.” Slowly, I backed up from the corner, past the farmhouse, past the row of trees, slower and slower. Then, I stopped.

There, between the cornfield and the trees, was a road, covered with grass/weeds, green from the fresh rain. Our eyes barely caught sight of something at the end of the road–a cyclone fence. Could that be it? I backed up just a bit more, and there it was. Beyond the fence we saw headstones! Heart racing, I drove slowly to the edge of the fence. We got out and looked around.

The cemetery was not very big, maybe 30 or 40 headstones at most. Many of them had the surname of Frey, another ancestral name on our father’s side. We walked around for a short time, then my sister proclaimed, “Oh my gosh! We found it! He’s here! I don’t believe it.” We stood in front of our grandfather’s headstone, the closest we had ever been to him in our lives, held each other, and cried. They were tears of joy in the discovery, but also tears of sadness. We were sad that we never knew him, but even more, we were sad that he never knew his son. How much our father needed him as a child! We just stood there for a while, thinking out loud, relishing the experience, and took lots of pictures.

That was my defining moment. That was the moment I knew that I had to pursue genealogy with a purpose.  I needed to find out about my ancestors more deeply. Who they were. How they lived. Where they came from. I wanted to learn more about genealogical research. I decided then and there that, once back to California, I would turn this dream into a reality. I didn’t know how, but I knew this would be my new path in life–a life-long passion turned into a new career, possibly.