Sunday, 30 August 2015

Robert W Anderson 1920-2001 (Week 35) Theme: "School Days"

Amy Johnson Crow's suggested theme for this week of "School Days" relates to the time of year of this post: "Many kids have returned to school by this time. What do you know about your ancestors' school days? Do you have any yearbooks? Have you found him or her in a local school census?"

The only family member for whom I have yearbooks is my grandmother Idella Edwards, but since I have already written about her in an earlier post, I was a bit stymied as to how to deal with this week's theme. Then it came to me: what better time to write the story of my Uncle Bob? I have always loved his oh-so-serious university graduation photograph. I remember as a child that the family was very proud of his achievement in graduating from university after having served in the Second World War.

Uncle Bob and I shared a love of poetry; he lent me his huge stack of books of poetry for a prolonged period when I was a teenager. Uncle Bob and I also shared a passion for family history. In fact, Uncle Bob is the one who got me started with this obsession. So this week, here's to you, Uncle Bob!

Robert Warren Anderson, Bachelor of Science in Agriculture c. 1950
Bob was the oldest of the six children born to my maternal grandparents Ingwald Anderson and Idella Edwards. Born 27 December 1920, he was one of many Andersons to add his birthday to future Christmas and New Year's Celebrations.

As an aside, while looking through materials to prepare this story, I did come across this wonderful and educationally-relevant photograph of a business school class presumably somewhere in the Dakotas from 1909 where my grandfather Ingwald was 17 years old. He is in the center of the back row with the arrow pointing to him. Perhaps the "ACC" in the background will enable someone to provide more details about this group. That same year, he homesteaded in Canada and was a farmer for the rest of his life.

Back to Bob - his childhood was spent on the family farm in the Lancer/Abbey area of southwestern Saskatchewan. Times were tough, but the Anderson children always seemed to have good times together and fond memories of their adventures.

Bob with his Dad Ingwald and sister Kathryn mid 1920's

Bob's mother Idella Edwards had been a school teacher for whom education was very important. Bob went to Ararat Springs School in the Lancer/Abbey area of Saskatchewan, a typical one-room schoolhouse common on the Canadian prairies at the time. Grades 1 to 8 were all taught by one teacher. Grades 9 and 10 could be completed at the school by Correspondence, but students wishing to complete the last two years of high school had to be inventive to find ways to live in a city or town that had a high school. My mother, for example, was essentially housekeeper and babysitter in exchange for her board while attending Grades 11 and 12 in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. There were no frills, no optional classes and certainly no year books or professional school photographs in these little country schools. Surprisingly, perhaps, most children obtained a good basic education in schools such as Ararat Springs and never felt that their education was lacking. Bob was, I'm sure, an excellent student who developed a love of history, science, music, poetry and literature that made him an interesting and well-informed person throughout his life.

Family fishing trip - siblings Jack, Kathryn, Elinor, Helen (in front), Bob
Bob was always the "Big Brother" looked up to by his brothers and sisters
In later years, Bob wrote a lot of memoirs that were published in "Western People". One story described the Christmas concert (called "Christmas Tree") held at Ararat Springs School at 7 o'clock on Christmas Day 1919, which would have been one year before Bob was born but these school Christmas concerts followed a similar pattern for decades. Weeks were spent memorizing and preparing songs, lines and drills. Parents helped by making costumes and a raised stage complete with stage curtains (often borrowed from some home's window!). Red and green crepe paper streamers were hung and a Christmas tree put up. Invitations were issued in advance and an admission price of 50 cents was charged (25 cents for children). Supplies including French creams and candles, sugar and coffee were all ordered from the Eatons' mail-order catalogue. Presents were also ordered from the catalogue for all 52 students. (Yes, there were 52 students in that one room schoolhouse that year, and we think today's classes are overcrowded!) Older girls were to receive an apron or embroidery; younger ones a ribbon, collar, beads, brooch or note paper and very young ones a doll. Older boys were to get a tie, belt or jack knife; the younger ones a comb, pencil set or pencil box and the very little boys a toy top. After the program was over and all the gifts distributed by Santa Claus, the seats were pushed to the walls and a fiddler tuned up. Wax was sprinkled on the wood floor, the piano joined in and then the dance began. Coffee, sandwiches and cake were served, but by then, many of the children were asleep on the desks. The celebrations ended after midnight, then the teams of horses were hooked to rigs, Model T's and A's were warmed up, sleepy children bundled aboard and the crowd dispersed. Quite a Christmas night!

Bob with sisters Eunice and Kathryn on their way to school
with lunches packed in the jam cans

He also described how he and sister Kathryn built a perfect snowman in the middle of the road on their walk home from school. Unfortunately for them, their widowed teacher Mrs. Gardiner, nearing retirement age, small and frail, had mistaken the shape of the snowman for her two hounds. It turned out she had made the long walk down the road to investigate, causing her asthma to worsen. Bob was given 200 lines to write and Kathryn 100: "I will not loiter on my way home from school." They had to open the school dictionary to find out how to spell "loiter", but he commented that "we did not have to read on to learn its meaning."

Ararat Springs School early 1940's- after Bob completed Grade 10 and left home
Sister Elinor standing second from left and brother Jack third from right

Bob completed Grade 10 at the little country school of Ararat Springs in June of 1937. The 1930's had been the "Dirty 30's" on the Canadian prairies and the Andersons had suffered badly as had thousands of other families during the drought and depression. There was a complete crop failure that year, so with no local work to be had and no further schooling in the cards for him at that time, at the age of 16 he took the train hundreds of miles across Canada to find work in Southern Ontario. Although jobs were scarce, he was able to find work on a tobacco farm that paid the princely sum of $20 per month plus board.

He stayed in Ontario for a year before returning home and said he was very fortunate to land a plum job as a labourer at the Agricultural Research Station at Swift Current, Saskatchewan for $65 per month. He worked there until he enlisted in the Canadian Army in the spring of 1941. He never did get overseas but was promoted to Lieutenant and served in both Canada and the USA. At War's end in 1945, he was at Fort Benning, Georgia, training as part of the Canadian Pacific Division.

Now in his mid 20's, Bob finally completed high school in 1946. He then moved north to Saskatoon where he obtained his B. Sc. (Agriculture) at the University of Saskatchewan. During his undergraduate summers and for two post-graduate years, he continued to work at the Research Station in Swift Current.

Bob was always a good big brother to his siblings. Although not well off himself at the time, he managed to lend his sister Elinor enough money to enable her to become qualified as a teacher. She laughs when she recalls that it took all her meager earnings as an underpaid teacher in another of Saskatchewan's one-room school houses to repay him before she got married and stopped teaching.

In the early 1950's he was research assistant for Saskatchewan's Royal Commission on Agriculture and Rural Life. By 1954 he bought some land near his parents' farm and began farming the next year. After his father's death in 1958, he took over the home farm and, with wife Yvonne, farmed there until the mid 1980's and raised son Blair who now operates the farm.

Bob, Yvonne and Blair

One of the projects that Bob undertook during his quiet winter months as a grain farmer was to compile a family tree for the family. When he did this in the 1970's, it meant painstaking letter writing. This was long before the days of home computers and internet searches. He prepared all the family trees by hand. An example of just one page of Bob's work is set out below.

Early Bullen Family Tree Compiled by RW Anderson 1970's

It is Bob's record of our earliest known ancestors in America, Samuel Bullen and Mary Morse, that set me off on the genealogy trail when computer research became available some 20 years after Bob prepared this tree. Whenever I made a discovery, I loved to share it with him. For our family reunion in the year 2000, Uncle Bob and I jointly wrote and self-published a family history book for the family called "Roots and Branches" compiling all of our combined discoveries. We had so much fun discussing the project, even though, as you can see in the photograph below, we tended to get ostracized at family gatherings such as this one at the Lancer Chokecherry Festival. I've always loved this photograph of the two of us because it reminds me of the passion that we shared for our family history.

Co-authors Barnard and Anderson discussing the family history book
Chokecherry Festival, Lancer, Saskatchewan c.1999
Never one for big celebrations, when he turned 80 the family had to use a bit of subterfuge to get him to his surprise party. Trying to think of what would entice him out for the evening, the family invented a special imaginary showing of a film about the Galapagos Islands. That did the trick! However, I've never been sure that he wasn't disappointed to discover that the outing was only a party for him rather than a much more interesting film about the Galapagos!

Uncle Bob died within the year at the age of 80 on 23 September 2001.

"I'm at peace with the world.
No more races to be run.
Friends and family light the days,
And glad I'll go when night has come."
(Poem by R.W. Anderson)


  • Anderson, R.W., Personal memoirs written 12 September 1998
  • Anderson, R.W., "Prairie Boys: A Lesson in Spelling", Western People, 5 June 1986
  • Anderson, R.W., "School Pageants Were Important", Western People, 22 December 1988
  • Anderson, R.W., "Prairie Boys: Down to the Last Nickel", Western People, 10 July 1986
  • Obituary of Robert W. Anderson, Southwest Booster, September 2001 

Saturday, 22 August 2015

George Garner Wescott (52 Ancestors Week 34) Theme: "Non-Population Schedule"

This week's theme relates to special census schedules. We were asked: "Have you found an ancestor on a non-population census -- agriculture, industry, manufacture, or 1890 Union veterans?"

Having served in the American Civil War, my great great grandfather George Garner Wescott shows up in such a schedule. A fortunate thing indeed to have had an ancestor survive the Civil War and return home to father the child from whom one descends! Also fortunate that this ancestor was swallowed up in the bureaucratic paper trail that leaves such an abundance of genealogical data for his descendants.

1890 Veterans Schedule for George G Wescott

The 1890 Veterans Schedules were separate schedules of the 1890 American Federal Census that listed Union Civil War veterans or their widows. (Sometimes Confederate veterans were included by mistake but this was really intended only for Union veterans.)

Several Wescotts, in fact more than one George Wescott, had enlisted in the Civil War from Wisconsin. In a misguided attempt to avoid confusion, our George enlisted under his middle name "Garner", although as might be expected, that created its own confusion. But in this Schedule, he is identified by his actual name of George G. Wescott, a Private in Company D of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry. The Schedule also includes the length of his service from his enlistment on 15 October 1864 until discharge on 20 July 1865. (The length of service given at more than one year is puzzling - it would appear that it should be in the region of 9 months.) He lived at Unity, Marathon, Wisconsin and had been troubled since the war with kidney disease.

One of the George Wescott's in Co. D, 12th Wisconsin Infantry
(Is this George Garner or George T.?)
(photo provided by Kevin Miller)

The Civil War Pension application file for Garner (George) Westcott tells us the following:
  • Age at enlistment: 27
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches (about my height!)
  • Complexion: Dark
  • Eyes: Blue
  • Hair: Black
  • Place of birth: Canada (really? all other sources have said he was born in Butler, Wayne County, NY)
  • Occupation: carpenter
  • Enrolled 15 October 1864 in Company D, 12 Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.
  • Mustered out: 16 July 1865 at Louisville, Kentucky
  • Noted that surname also spelled Wescott (without the middle "t") and Wescot (with just one "t") and that name was George Garner Wescott alias Garner Wescott
  • Rank: Private
  • Application for Pension Filed: 25 August 1890 when George was 54 (a quarter of a century after he mustered out but this was the first year that the link between pensions and service-related injuries was relaxed to allow any veteran who had served honorably to qualify for a pension if at some time he became disabled for manual labour. By 1906, old age alone would become sufficient to qualify. )
  • Disability: Rheumatism and kidney complaint
  • At the time of his 1890 application, he was able to sign his name clearly but in later documents he used the mark "x" (presumably because of infirmity)
  • The Surgeon's Certificate in aid of his application for disability pension conducted on 8 July 1891 in Grand Rapids, Wisconsin certified that he was suffering from rheumatism and kidney trouble as well as having some disease of the heart; his pulse rate was 66, respiration 26, height 5 feet 5 3/4 inches tall, weight 133 pounds.
  • His affidavit in support of his application at age 53 indicates that although he had been troubled with rheumatism since the war and unable to work the way he could prior to the war, his thought was that "I would never apply for a Pension as long as I could earn a living for myself and Family, with their assistance. My Family are all grown up and their own masters and I cannot look to them for assistance." 
George's family at about the time he was making his Pension Application:
No George in the photo but all 8 grown children are on the left
 and wife Sarah Catherine Bullen is in dark dress in the centre of the group on the right
(I suspect that George was the photographer for this and other Wescott pictures.)

A new statute in 1912 meant that an additional "Declaration for Pension" had to be submitted. It repeats much of the earlier information (including his supposed birth in "Canada" on 20 April 1836). One new bit of information was the list of his several places of residence since leaving the service:
  • Boltonville, Washington Co., Wis. from 1 August 1865 to 1867
  • Kaukauna, Wis. from 1867 to 1884
  • Town of Eau Plain, Marathon Co. Wis. from 1884 to 1911
  • Town of Texas, Marathon Co., Wis. from 1911 to date (22 May 1912) 
Further details about wife and children were requested in a form filled out and signed by "Garner Wescott" on 26 August 1915:
  • George was born 20 April 1836 in Butler, Wayne County, NY
  • His wife's maiden name was Sarah C Bulen (spelled with just one "l" contrary to the usual spelling)
  • They were married  23 July 1859 in the town of Trenton, Washington Co., Wisconsin by a Baptist Minister named Rev. C Waller.
  • Eight children had been born to the couple: Wm Wallace Wescott 22 July 1860, George E 30 Jan 1862, Harvey 24 Jan 1864, Fred 12 May 1867 (dead), Idella 19 Dec 1869, Mamie (my great grandmother) 4 Nov 1871, Stephen 17 Oct 1873 and Eugene 26 May 1875.
Death Certificate from George's Pension File

George received his pension until his death on 19 May 1916. The pension application file contains his death certificate (shown above) showing that it was heart failure that got him in the end -- and then his pension was terminated abruptly, stamped "DEAD" and "DROPPED".

His accrued pension of $22.50 was paid out to widow Sarah in November of 1916. In the meantime, Sarah was making her own application for a Widow's Pension.  The confusion over her husband's names continued to haunt the process and necessitated additional documentation and correspondence. She also had to produce a Marriage Certificate, a typed copy of which is now conveniently found in the Pension Application File.

Sarah was awarded a Widow's Pension of $12 per month from June to September of 1916 and then $20 per month after that. In 1926, this was increased to $50 per month. Sarah received her Widow's Pension until she died in early January of 1933. At that point, George's Civil War paper trail finally ended some 68 years after his discharge from the Union army.

Aside from the photographs, the foregoing information was all gleaned from the records resulting from George's Civil War service. We do know a bit more about him based on other family sources.

Discharge Certificate

His Discharge Certificate from the Union army is described by his granddaughter Evelyn in a letter to her cousin Grace McBride 2 May 1964:  "Grandpa's discharge is a huge thing about a yard long and 22 inches wide. . . . At the top are statues of soldiers and flags, and the eagle at the base. Beneath the feet of the eagle is a picture of a partially unrolled discharge. Below that are the word 'May future generations never forget the Debt of Gratitude they owe to the Brave Boys in Blue who on this land and sea Volunteered their services during the memorable struggle for the preservation of the Union. To all whom it may concern -- Know ye that -- GEORGE G. WESCOTT enlisted from Milwaukee, Wis Oct 15, 1864  and was mustered into the U.S. service at Camp Randall, Madison, Oct. 18, 1864 - as a private of Company 12th Regt. Wisconsin Infantry under Capt. J. M. Price and Col. J. K. Prandfit to serve 3 years or during the war.  He was honorably discharged July 16, 1865, at Madison by the reason of the close of the war.  The Regt. was assigned to the 2nd Brig. 1st Div. 17th Corps. Army of Tennessee, and participated in the following engagements:  Hatchie, Miss, Lamar, Hernando, Coldwater, Seige of Vicksburg, Seige of Jackson, Bolton Station, Canton, Miss., Kenesaw Mountain, Ga., Nickajack Creek and Chattahoochie River, Decatur, Ga., Seige of Atlanta, Jonesboro, Lovejoy Sta., March to the Sea, Seige of Savannah, Pocotaglio, Orangeburg, Columbia, Fayetteville, N.C. Goldsboro, N.C., also in Grand Review in Washington, D.C. May 24, 1865.' At the bottom it says 'Presentation' -- This picture bearing the army record of Garner G. Wescott was presented by him July 15, 1897 to his wife Sarah C. to be left to his children William W., George E., Harvey, Fred, Idella, Mary J., Stephen H. and Eugene."

George's granddaughter Idella Edwards Anderson wrote c.1967 that the Discharge was about 22 by 29 inches and was on a cloth backing.

What became of the Discharge Certificate? At the time granddaughter Evelyn wrote this letter to her cousin, she commented that the discharge had been in the possession of Harvey's son Glen Wescott and was left at Schneiders when he moved off the farm; the Schneiders gave it to a family member named Mildred in 1963. One hopes this treasure remains safely in the hands of  someone in the family to this day.

Civil War Action

George's 9 months of action would have included:

  • Orangebury, SC
  • Columbia, SC
  • Fayetteville, NC
  • Sherman's March to the Sea
An excellent Civil War website with more information can be found through this link.

There are also a couple of books that I have ordered that should provide more details about the specifics of the action seen by his unit and of life as a soldier during the War. He is listed in the index of soldiers in "The Marching Twelfth: the Story of the Twelfth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment as Told by the Men Who Served in It" edited by Peggy M. Singer, although he is not likely one of the story tellers. A small book written by George's relative Morgan Ebenezer Westcott entitled "Civil War Letters 1861 to 1865" is likely to provide much detail about daily life during the War. 

Civilian Life

Much more is known about George the soldier than about George the family man and community member. We know he had been both a carpenter and a farmer. I suspect he may have been an early photographer based on the group photographs of his family in which he is consistently missing. A granddaughter Marion Edwards Miller said that the Wescotts were a musical family, playing at local dances, and that George conducted an old-fashioned singing school.

He and Sarah are buried together in Colby Memorial Park, Clark Co., WI.

George's Headstone indicates his Civil War Participation
Photo courtesy Theoline Ludwig, Colby, WI 

Final Thoughts about George's Name - Garner

The name "Garner" is an unusual name. It sounds like an earlier family surname that has been adopted as a middle name. The family did this more than once: George has brothers Barton Wescott and  Carver Wescott, both surnames of female ancestors. Although there were no "Garners" in the Wescott family tree, there certainly were "Gardiners". Hannah Gardiner married Josiah Westcott in 1780; they were George Garner's 4X great grandparents. It has been suggested by my 4th cousin Jack Brown (another Westcott descendant who is a DNA match on chromosomes 5 and 10 for both my mother and me and additionally for my mother on chromosome 9) that "Garner" is used in error and it was really intended to be "Gardiner". Even though all the documents referred to above use "Garner", it could well have been his parents who got it just a wee bit wrong from the time of his birth. After all, given how many ways Westcott/Westcot/Wescott have been spelled just within George's Civil War documentation, leaving out a couple of letters is hardly noteworthy. I think Jack is absolutely right about the source for George's middle name.


  • 1890 Veterans Schedules for George G Wescott accessed 05 August 2015 at Year: 1890; Census Place: Frankfort, Marathon, Wisconsin; Roll: 115; Page: 4; Enumeration District: 111.
  • National Archives and Records Administration, U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 from
  • Civil War Pension Application File for Garner (George) Wescott
  • State of Wisconsin Death Certificate
  • Declaration for Widow's Pension of 12 June 1916
  • Marriage Certificate State of Wisconsin 28 July 1859
  • Miller, Marion (Edwards), "My Memories" Privately printed 1978, page 2
  • Anderson, Idella (Edwards), Family history writings hand written c. 1967
  • Wicker, Evelyn, Letter to Grace McBride 2 May 1964, copy in possession of author

Friday, 21 August 2015

Plymouth Colony Ancestors Who Arrived on the Mayflower, the Fortune and the Anne (1620-1623)

Mayflower Passengers, 1620

Replica of the Mayflower, Plymouth Harbour 1999

Having recently been provided with additional genealogical information by my 4th cousin Jack Brown, I have been able to expand the list of our ancestors who were early comers to Plymouth Colony. Because we now know that 13 of the estimated 102  passengers and 30 crew on board the Mayflower were "ours", it is helpful to have a list to keep them all straight. Here they are:

  1. Peter Brown
  2. James Chilton, a tailor, the oldest passenger aboard the Mayflower
  3. Mrs. James Chilton (died the first winter at Plymouth)
  4. Mary Chilton who became the wife of John Winslow, a passenger on the Fortune
  5. William Mullins, a shopkeeper, shoe and bootmaker (died the first winter at Plymouth)
  6. Alice Mullins (died the first winter at Plymouth)
  7. Priscilla Mullins who became the wife of John Alden
  8. John Alden, the cooper aboard the Mayflower decided to stay on in Plymouth and marry Priscilla Mullins
  9. John Howland, arrived as a manservant to Governor Carver (possibly a relative of his), married Elizabeth Tilley
  10. Francis Cooke, a wool comber (his wife and daughter came later on The Anne)
  11. John Tilley, a silk worker (died the first winter at Plymouth)
  12. Joan (Hurst) Tilley (died the first winter at Plymouth)
  13. Elizabeth Tilley  who became the wife of John Howland

Passengers on the Fortune, 1621 

After the Mayflower's arrival, the next ship to bring colonists to Plymouth was the Fortune. Ancestors who came on that ship were:
  1. Moses Symonson (Simmons)
  2. John Winslow married Mary Chilton who had arrived on the Mayflower, had brothers Edward and Gilbert aboard the Mayflower and another, Kenelm Winslow, who came later possibly on the second coming of the Mayflower - thus we descend from John and Kenelm's parents twice.

Passengers on the Anne, 1623

And the final of the first three ships that brought the last of the passengers who were named in the 1627 Division of Cattle in Plymouth included these ancestors:
  1. Experience Mitchell
  2. Ellen Newton, first married John Adams who had arrived on the Fortune and after his death married our ancestor Kenelm Winslow
  3. Mrs. Francis Cooke (Hester Mahieu)
  4. Jane Cooke

Friday, 14 August 2015

Jorgena Torkelson (1862-1912) (52 Ancestors Week 33) Theme: "Defective, Dependent and Delinquent"

The suggested theme this week is "Defective, Dependent and Delinquent: In 1880, there was a special census schedule for "Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes" -- the blind, deaf, paupers, homeless children, prisoners, insane and idiotic. Do you have someone in your family tree who would have been classified as such?"

In our more enlightened, and, we hope, more compassionate times, we would be unlikely to label anyone by most of those terms. They reflect a time when anyone who didn't fit the norm was labelled and put away out of sight in an institution, often for life. Out of sight, out of mind. A family secret that must be kept at all costs!

Not having found anyone classified as defective, dependent or delinquent in the 1880 American census, I would like to take the opportunity this week to discuss the fate of my great grandmother Jorgena Torkelson. This is the most difficult story I've tackled this year, but she deserves to have her memory honoured and cherished in our time since she was largely forgotten in her own final years.

Jorgena Torkelson, age 17

Jorgena was born in October of 1862 in Wisconsin. Her parents Torkel Jorgenson Heimdahl and Signe Knutsdatter had left Nissedal, Telemark, Norway for America on 4 April 1862 when 34 year-old Signe was 3 months pregnant with Jorgena. One cringes to think of women like Signe crossing the Atlantic Ocean probably suffering from both morning sickness and sea sickness while having to tend to older children's needs. Signe and Torkel brought three children under six years of age along on the journey: Jorgen, Karine and Birgette. Had Jorgena been born in Norway, there would have been an excellent record of her date and place of birth and baptism, but in America for that time, such records are difficult to find - if they exist at all.

Torkel developed tuberculosis and the family moved back to Norway at some time prior to the 1865 Norwegian census which finds them all, Jorgena included, living at Nissedal, Telemark, Norway. Three other children were born prior to Torkel's death in January of 1873 in Lake Mills, Iowa. Widowed Signe married Kittel Aaneson in Iowa in November of that same year. They moved to the Red River Valley by covered wagon with Signe's married daughter Karine and Karine's husband John Daley. There were four covered wagons in the party. Aaneson and his step-son Jorgen drove horses; there were also cows and calves in the caravan. The family settled in Grafton Township, Dakota Territory, five miles east of Mandt.

Torkelson-Aaneson Family c. 1880's
Back row left to right: Turi, Bergit, Jorgen, Jorgena, Karine
Seated: daughter Signe, stepfather Kittel Aaneson, mother Signe, Kari
Jorgena soon met and married Andrew Anderson, son of Scandinavian immigrants Israel Anderson and Johanna Gundersdtr. As with American birth records for this period, attempts to locate their 1879 marriage certificate have met with no success. The couple settled on Andrew's homestead west of Grafton where Andrew was active in community affairs, being the county assessor for several years and serving on the local school board. Andrew played the violin, often providing music for local dances and gatherings. He spoke English well, but Jorgena preferred Norwegian.

Children arrived with great regularity: Josephine 1880, Carl 1882, Ida 1884, Cora 1886, Annetta 1888, Clarence 1890, my grandfather Ingwald early 1893 and Arnold 1894. Baby Arnold died within his first year. After a lapse of almost 10 years, baby Gladys was born in 1903 when Jorgena was 41 years old. It will probably never be known what demon gripped Jorgena: was it serious postpartum depression -- or perhaps a recognized mental illness like schizophrenia -- or simply physical and emotional exhaustion? It was all a well-kept secret.

Andrew and Jorgena Anderson Family c 1900
Standing in the rear, left to right: Clarence, Nettie, Cora, Andrew (husband of Jessie), Ida
Seated in front, left to right: father Andrew, Jessie holding her infant daughter Viola,
mother Jorgena and a young Ingwald (youngest daughter Gladys not yet born)

The family story was that Jorgena died in 1904, but my Uncle Bob suspected that she hadn't died at that time but had been institutionalized. He thought it odd that husband Andrew, supposedly a widower in 1904, had not remarried until about 1919, a lengthy period unusual for those times.

A census record confirmed Uncle Bob's suspicions.The South Dakota State Census for 1905 has Jorgene Anderson, age 43, occupation farmer's wife, enumerated in the Yankton South Dakota Hospital for the Insane. She died there in 1912 at the age of just 50 and is buried there in the Rest View cemetery  originally in grave #249 (sadly, no names were put on the stones, simply their patient numbers).  [See Addenda at end of this story for new information obtained by 28 November 2015 and again in August of 2017.]

Details of her life as an inmate are also lacking. Probably she would have been involuntarily committed by husband Andrew, perhaps because of violent or suicidal tendencies. At the time, improvements to public mental facilities had been made since the notorious days of Bedlam and similar madhouses in the 1800's, but conditions were often less than ideal. The facility at Yankton had the good fortune to be under the direction of the progressive Dr. Leonard Mead who believed that successful treatment included surrounding patients with beautiful surroundings, kind treatment and a sense of purpose through useful work. The facility had a fully-functioning farm for the patients to work on. The stencils used as decoration throughout the building were all done by the patients. However, we simply don't know what Jorgena's life was like for the 8 years that she was incarcerated. Did she yearn for her freedom or was she happy to have the responsibilities of housekeeping and life on the frontier removed from her shoulders? Did she understand what was going on? Did anyone in the family ever go to visit her? We can only guess at her emotional state.

Nor is it known how Andrew coped with caring for his youngest children without a wife. Probably the oldest daughters were called upon to assist, especially with baby Gladys. My grandfather Ingwald was the next youngest at 12. A year after his mother's departure, Ingwald met a near-fatal accident when a friend's shotgun accidentally discharged, catching him full blast in the left shoulder just above the lung. He almost bled to death before a doctor reached him and he lay close to death for many days after. The left arm and hand were to remain permanently stunted and he still suffered neck and shoulder pain some fifty years later. X-rays revealed many shotgun pellets lodged in bone, muscle and skin in his shoulder and neck. This did, however, excuse him from participating in the First World War: when he went to enlist and was examined by a doctor, he was turned away on the basis that "he looked like he'd already been through the war!" Whether the accident would have been avoided had his mother still been at home is a moot point, but no doubt the whole family suffered her absence.

Andrew packed up his family and moved to South Dakota in 1906. He bought a ranch in the area where oldest daughter Jessie and her husband Andrew were ranching and where Andrew's daughter Cora was teaching school. They were 90 miles from a railroad, and once a year all supplies were hauled in by team and wagon. On the ranch, Andrew's family lived in a sod house, finished inside and having a board floor.

Jorgena's accommodations were outwardly much more elegant. The buildings of the mental institution at Yankton are now a National Historic Site and were obviously once beautiful with marble, tiles, and classical stairways and columns, in stark contrast to their utilitarian purpose. They are now hauntingly derelict. Some wonderful images, including two of the cemetery where Jorgena is buried, can be found through this link. [2017 update: Our visit to the facility in August 2017 enabled us to see the new headstone for Jorgena in the cemetery (see images at bottom of this story). We were surprised and delighted to be offered the opportunity to visit the inside of the building in which Jorgena would have lived her last years. Far from being demolished as we had feared, the building is now being restored to its original glory for use as museum and event center. The following images show the state of things as we found them on 18 August 2017:

It saddens me greatly to think of this forgotten woman who obviously led a challenging and unhappy life. As one of her numerous descendants, I am glad that some of the truth about the final years of her life is coming to light so that she does not remain hidden away behind locked doors of secrecy and shame. No longer out of sight and out of mind, may you rest in peace, Jorgena.

Addendum 28 November 2015:

Since posting Jorgena's story, I have been able to obtain a copy of her death certificate. She died 4 June 1912 of exhaustion of chronic melancholia. My brother and sister-in-law recently stopped at Yankton and were directed to Jorgena's tombstone (using a cross-referenced numbering system). They were able to take the following photographs of her burial location.

Jorgena's marker and general scenery at Rest View Cemetery, Yankton, SD
Photos Courtesy John Bardahl November 2015

Addendum 18 August 2017:

Descendants of Jorgena's have recently had her numbered stone replaced with one with her name (with her first name spelled the usual Norwegian way). Unfortunately, without ever being able to find a specific birth date for her, we were only able to use the years of her birth and death on the stone. We hope she now truly rests at peace on this beautiful grassy tree-lined hill.


  • Holtzman, Dr. Ellen, "A Home Away from Home", American Psychological Association March 2012, Vol. 43, No. 3, p 24, accessed online 3 August 2015 at
  • Nissedal, Telemark church records and 1865 Norwegian census accessed online at Norwegian digital archives site:
  • South Dakota State Census for 1905 accessed online at on 10 June 2009
  • Find A Grave Website for Yankton Rest View Cemetery accessed at
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church of America records for Lake Mills, Winnebago, Iowa, accessed through

Friday, 7 August 2015

Anders Svenson (b.1800 in Sweden) (52 Ancestors Week 32) Theme: "One of 32 third great grandparents"

One of my 32 third great grandparents was a Swede named Anders Svenson, the father of Israel Anderson. Anders led a well-documented life in Sweden for several decades but his life ended without record. Or at least without a record found so far. What became of Anders?

Anders was born 23 December 1800 and no doubt his arrival added to the Christmas celebrations of his family: parents Sven Olsson and 34 year-old Britta Nilsdotter and older siblings Olof, Maria and Per. His baptism was on Christmas Day.

Birth Record for Andreas (Anders) Svenson 23 December 1800, baptised 25 Dec. 1800.

The family lived at Korsbyn, Laxarby, Sweden when Anders was born. This area was very near the border with Norway which is shown as the yellow line on the map below. When Anders was fourteen years old, Sweden and Norway entered into a personal union which meant that they shared a monarch although their laws and other interests remained distinct.

Google Earth image showing Korsbyn, Sweden marked with a red pin

Sweden kept household examination records  called "husförhörslängder". These were essentially an annual census taken in the years during the 17th through 19th centuries. Now primarily of interest for demographic/genealogical purposes to show the composition of a household over a period of years, these records were originally created for religious purposes. Once a year, the minister would show up and test the religious knowledge and habits of each family member who had been confirmed. One could be asked to read or recite passages from the Bible or from the Lutheran Catechism, asked about their daily prayers, church attendance and how often they had taken communion. No doubt the minister's annual visit was awaited with much joyful anticipation!

Anders shows up for the first time in the household examination record book covering the period 1795-1800.  (It is interesting to note how the years of birth were shown: for example, older sibling Olof is recorded as 93 16/11 to show his birthday as 16 November 1793. There was obviously a bit of a conundrum about what to do when the year changed to 1800, a precursor of the Y2K issue we dealt with at the start of the year 2000. Anders is recorded as having been born 800 23/12 to indicate 23 December 1800.) During this period, Sven and Britta and their 4 children were living with Sven's widowed mother Ingrid Svensdotter at Korsbyn, Laxarby.

Household examination record for Erik and Britta's family 1795-1800

The household examination records for this family carry on at Korsbyn year after year. Anders grows to young manhood and finds himself a wife. His marriage to Anna Andersdotter is documented in the church records and shows that he was 25 and she 27. In accordance with Swedish tradition, Anna would retain the name "Andersdotter" for life.

Marriage of Anders Svenson and Anna Andersdotter of Kroken 2 April 1826
Anders and Anna continued to live at Korsbyn farm in the early days of their marriage. Son Johannes was born there in 1827, followed by my 2X great grandfather Israel in 1829. The young family then moved a few miles away to Galthögen farm, also in Laxarby parish. The Lutheran church records record not only births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials, but also record each time a person left one parish to go to another farm or parish.

Google Earth image showing location of Galthögen Farm
in an area of many lakes and forests
Their household examination records are to be found in Galthögen from 1830 to 1863 when they again moved a few miles away to Billingsfors with three of their grown children. Billingsfors was to be home for just five years. The mid to late 1800's marked a period of transition from rural farming life because of the Industrial Revolution as a result of which some one million Swedes left for America searching for a better life for themselves and their families. In 1868, utflyttning church records (for people leaving the parish) indicate that Sven (68) and Anna (68) with son Gustaf (20) and daughter Eva Maria (30) emigrated to the United States. And this is where the well-documented life starts to fade.

All four do show up as steerage passengers aboard the ship "City of London" that sailed from Liverpool to New York, arriving 25 May 1868.

The ship "SS City of London" was in operation between 1863 and 1881 when it was lost at sea taking 41 lives. Pictures of the ship and more details about her can be found at this site. Although we don't have any details of the journey made by Sven and Anna and their two adult children, there is a description of one family's trip aboard the "City of London" in 1863 that gives some idea of what conditions would have been like. The following account was written by Samuel Gompers and was found at
"Our ship was the old type of sailing vessel. We had none of the modern comforts of travel. The sleeping quarters were cramped and we had to do our own cooking in the gallery (sic) of the boat. Mother had provided salt beef and other preserved meats and fish, dried vegetables, and red pickled cabbage which I remember most vividly. We were all seasick except father, mother the longest of all. Father had to do all the cooking in the meanwhile and take care of the sick. . . Father did not know much about cooking."  
It could not have been an easy trip for Sven and Anna who were close to 70 years old. What did they do after their arrival in New York? Son Israel had preceded them to America, having left from Norway with his wife and young son in 1856. There is no indication that Sven and Anna joined Israel's family in America. Daughter Eva Maria Andersdotter married a man named Robertson and raised a family in North Dakota, but there is nothing to indicate that either she or her brother Gustav had their parents living with them after travelling to America together. After their arrival in New York on the 25th of May 1868, no further records have been located in either Sweden or America for Anders Svenson or Anna Andersdotter .  Their fate remains a mystery.

Update 2017:

The availability of the church records for the Lutheran Church in Lake Mills, Winnebago, Iowa has enabled us to find the death and burial record for Anders in January of 1874. It appears that they joined other family in Iowa. A death record has not yet been found for Anna. 


  • Swedish archival records located online at
  • New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957 from for Year: 1868; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 295; Line: 15; List Number: 496

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Samuel Bullen (c.1622-1692) (52 Ancestors Week 31) Theme: "Easy"

Easy? Yes, it was all far too easy. You never really think before hitting "enter" that one innocent internet search could lead to a life-changing obsession with family history. But that's how it happened.

My uncle Robert W. Anderson had researched and put together a family history of my mother's side of the family back in the 1970's. Every so often I would take a look at it and wonder what names preceded the earliest ancestors that he had found, namely my 8X great grandparents Samuel Bullen and his wife Mary Morse who were in New England in the 1600's. Once while browsing through the stacks in the Calgary Public Library in the mid 1980's I had come upon a book entitled "New England Marriages Prior to 1700" and even found the entry for their marriage on the 10th of August 1641 at Dedham/Medfield.

Sawin - Bullen - Bullard Home, Sherborn, MA
Probably built by Samuel Bullen or son Ephraim, late 1600's
Photo taken 1999

No further developments occurred until June of 1997 when I performed that seemingly innocuous internet search for "Samuel Bullen" "Mary Morse" probably on either AltaVista or Yahoo (yes, my younger friends, there were search engines before Google). The results came tumbling onto my screen faster than I was able to open and read them. So much information! So easy.

New England ancestors are perhaps the easiest of all to research. Records in Plymouth Colony were kept quite meticulously in the early days. It is far easier to find records pertaining to my New England ancestors in the 1600's than it is to find those pertaining to later ancestors in the 1800's in places like Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota or Pennsylvania. And, even though my Scandinavian ancestors came from societies with excellent records, the language and handwriting styles have made those significantly less easy to research.

What I was easily able to learn about Samuel Bullen:
  • Born in England and came to Watertown near Boston in 1636
  • In Dedham, MA by 1639 where he was one of the signers of the Dedham Compact and took the freeman's oath in 1641
  • Married Mary Morse, daughter of Samuel Morse and Elizabeth Jasper 10 August 1641
Marriage record for Samuel and Mary, 1641
  • Samuel and Mary had a family of 10 children born between 1642 and 1664 including my 7X great grandfather Ephraim Bullen (1653-1694)
  • Owned a house in Dedham by 1646
  • One of the 13 original settlers of Medfield, MA when it was established in 1651
Medfield, Massachusetts

  • Named as one of those in charge of laying out the line between Dedham and Medfield, laying out highways and house-lots
  • His Medfield lot was 10 acres abutting on the waste lands to the south-east, north-east and north-west and to a brook (probably Nantasket Brook) on the south-west
  • A portion of the valuation of the town of Medfield for 1652 found on page 55 of Tilden's book lists the following for Samuel Bullin (his name and possessions all spelled as in the original):
    • 7 persons . . . . . 70   0   0
    • House . . . . . . . .20   0   0
    • Brok land . . . . . 36   0   0
    • 5 ac unbrok  . . . 7    10  0
    • 2 oxen . . . . . . . .14   0   0
    • 2 cowes . . . . . . .12   0   0
    • 1 3 yearling . . . . . .5   0  0
    • 2 2 yearling   . . . . .7   0  0
    • 2 yerling . . . . . . . . 2   0  0
    • 2 swine . . . . . . . . .2   0   0
    •                           175   10  0
  • Tilden says that by 1657 the Medfield meeting-house was complete and "Brother Bullen had 2s. 6d. for bringing it up, also 5s. 8d. for drawing timber and seats."

  • In 1659 he received a lot of 126 acres in Medfield
  • When his buildings were burned by the Indians during King Philip's War, he took his family to Sherborn to live near Mary's brother Daniel Morse.
  • While at Sherborn, he was a tenant on Captain Hull's farm and had land assigned to him west of the common and it is thought that he may have built the Brush Hill Road house shown above at that time (son Ephraim had built a house nearby).
A volunteer at the local historical society thought that this house might have
 been the one where Samuel and his family lived when they came to Sherborn
Photo taken 1999
  • Upon his return to Medfield, he rebuilt his home and was one of the Selectmen there in 1682
  • Chosen Deacon prior to 1689
  • Died 16 January 1692 at Medfield and was buried there at Vine Lake Cemetery
  • Widow Mary died less than a month later on Valentine's Day.
Vine Lake Cemetery in Medfield, MA
Photo taken 1999
Original stone reads: "Samuel Bullen husband to Mary Bullen
dyed aged 70 Jan 16 1691/2"
Photo courtesy Bill Boyington,

Memorial marker erected by descendants a century after his death:
"In memory of Dean. Samuel Bullen who died Janry. 16th 1692. Aged 70 years.
He was the First European who Setled in this Town with a family."
(Almost illegible when this photo was taken in 1999)

Not so Easy

There's always a "but", isn't there? Before he is recorded in Watertown in 1636, Samuel remains a mystery. No record can be found for his arrival in America on any particular ship. No record can be found that definitively connects him to parents or a place of birth in England. There has been much speculation over the years on message boards scattered on the internet, but none of it has been proven. Some theories and tantalizing hints:
  • A Samuel Bullen, christened in 1618 is listed in IGI records for Carleton-rode, Norfolk, England, son of John Bullen
  • Given the common naming practices of the time (where the grandparents' first names were generally adopted for the first children), the fact that Samuel and Mary named the first four of their children Samuel, Mary, Elizabeth and John might indicate that Samuel's father was probably named either Samuel or John (since Mary's father was also called Samuel, the first-born son might have been named for him rather than for either his father or paternal grandfather). Possibly Samuel's mother's name was Mary if the first-born daughter was named for Samuel's mother rather than for his wife; the second daughter was named Elizabeth which was Mary's mother's name. Probably we are looking for Samuel's parents to be named Mary and either Samuel or John Bullen.
  • In an email to me dated 24 December 1999, Nic Burns favoured the prospect that Samuel Bullen was from Hoxne, Suffolk which borders Stradbroke, Suffolk. Nic had found a book entitled "Able Men of Suffolk, 1638" in which he found a Samuel Bullen listed along with John Bullen and John Bollen in Hoxne, along with the families of many of the Dedham, Massachusetts settlers. Nic believes that Samuel may have known Mary Morse's Suffolk family in England before emigrating. Nic also had located an index of Suffolk wills that indicated a record for a "Bolen, John, the elder, tailor, Stradbroke, 1661 R68/218, W91/39." (I like Nic's theory since my husband was born in Suffolk and we have a clock that was built in Stradbroke in the late 1700's. We also spent some time in the pub there between a family wedding and reception in the vicinity in 1994.)
  • A family tree located at in April of 2013 has Samuel's parents listed as Samuel Bullen b. 1590 and Mary Jeremy or Jermy or Jermyn born 1593. Possible location for this family is given as Redgrave, Suffolk, which would certainly tie in with the Morse family (see my blog post on Mary Morse's grandfather Thomas Morse). Unfortunately no source information was given for this.
  • The origin of the name Bullen (variations abound including Boleyn, Bullin, Bullion, Bullan, Bolen, Bolland) is French with the original English holder of that surname coming from Boulogne in France. 
  • One bit of family lore that creeps into every discussion of Samuel's origins is his possible family connection to Anne Boleyn (sometimes spelled Bullen), the unfortunate second wife of King Henry VIII. Since most of Anne's close family were executed at about the same time as she was beheaded, it is unlikely that any connection is a particularly close one. Possibly some Boleyn/Bullen cousin of Anne's family was an ancestor of Samuel's. (It is worth remembering that, although the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn seems historically remote, it occurred in the 1530's, less than a century before Samuel's birth.) No likely connection has ever been found.


  • Tilden, William S., "History of the Town of Medfield Massachusetts 1650-1886", Boston: Geo. H. Ellis, Publisher, 1887
  •, "Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988"  for Samuell Bullin (Provo, UT, USA)
  • Vital Records of Medfield, Massachusetts to the Year 1850; Boston, 1903
  • Todd, Charles E., "Bullen Family", privately prepared and emailed 24 August 1997
  • Flynn, Diane Wilson, "Descendants of Deacon Samuel Bullen" family tree provided 4 July 1999
  • Gosnold, Flora Bullen compiler, "Genealogy and Work of Rev. Joseph Bullen, Jr., Some Associated Families", 1968, copy provided by Diane Flynn
  • "Genealogical Dictionary of New England Settlers Results.htm" obtained online 09/02/99
  • Train, May Philips, "Samuel Bullen and Some of his Descendants", Privately printed 1941