When my husband was thirteen, his mother telephoned the township chairman about the poor state of affairs in the Union Cemetery. Her concern was for a small, country plot of land up the road from their farm that had long served as a historical record of the surrounding neighborhood.

As a result, that summer my father-in-law became sexton for the Union Cemetery of Jefferson Co., Wis. (a poetically old-fashioned name befitting the caretaker of gravestones dating back to the 1850s).

For his work he received an ever-so-slight compensation, which he passed on to his 13-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter for diligently pushing their lawnmowers up to the cemetery, mowing and trimming, and then pushing them back home again.

Little did my mother-in-law know this would become a perpetual position. In fact, here it is forty years later—my father-in-law still serves as sexton and three generations of our family have taken turns at mowing, general maintenance, a periodic grave fill by hand and the annual Memorial Day cemetery board meeting.

I know, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with Ruth? Or beaded bells?

Well, in a paradoxical way, maybe it does.

This weekend, as we celebrate Memorial Day, we’ll head up to the cemetery for that annual board meeting. With the exception of my husband and me (because we, of course, never age:-), its a gathering of ever-aging members whose loved ones are buried there under the trees. They come with the pretense of discussing cemetery business, however, in truth I know they come to reflect. They walk through the rows examining gravestones. They tell stories and connect the family names. They bring reverence to this hilly sanctuary of lives worth remembering.

As I watch and listen to the board members, I’m reminded of Ruth. I think of all the family names connected to her, none of who rest in the Union Cemetery. Instead they’re in Chicago’s Bethania and Oak Woods Cemeteries. Or Oak Hill Cemetery in Owosso, Mich. Or a country cemetery outside Imlay City, Mich.

I hope someone is taking care of those grounds as well as my husband’s family has taken care of these.

George and Ruth Larson’s stone in Oak Hill Cemetery, Owosso, Mich.

The state of Wisconsin has an ongoing genealogy project called the U.S. GenWeb Archives Project. Volunteers have photographed thousands of tombstones and submitted them for an online database. Does your state have anything like this?

And lastly, the end of May brings an end to the heavy duty family tree stuff. By now, I’m sure you’re thoroughly confused. If so, but you still want a basic record, I’m including two charts here, taken from ancestry.com. They’re somewhat abbreviated so I eventually hope to add pages with full names and such.

Click below and enjoy now. Check back again later for updates.

The Hooge Family Tree

The Larson Family Tree


Back in the 1980s, while raising my children, I fancied myself a writer. Well, let’s just say I was a wannabe writer. I wrote as a creative outlet. I wrote for self-expression. Once in a great while, I’d even get published in random, obscure magazines.

So, naturally, when Eivor sent me her story, I wrote one in response. And, naturally, I tried to get it published. Unlike Eivor, who is a professional writer, I didn’t have much success. You wouldn’t believe how many magazine publications I queried—and back then it was snail mail correspondence, a very slow process.

Well, thank goodness for today’s blogging. I’ve finally found a way to get my story published!

Here it is.

Her Picture and My Picture

She has an old family photograph of four sisters. The young women are dressed in formal black dresses of long ago and have been captured in a serious pose by a photographer in Des Moines, Iowa. She wonders of those sisters. She wonders what became of them and what the future brought for them in the land of America.

I have a photograph of an old house. It’s a small, frame house, located in Västra Harg, Sweden. I wonder of that old house and the history it holds. I wonder of the many generations born there, who then grew up to bring their own children into that same house.

Of different tenses of time. Of different subjects and places. Such are the wonderings the two of us have.

She is Eivor and she lives in Sweden. I am Diahann and I live in the United States. She is a descendent of those who stayed in Sweden. I am a descendant of those who immigrated to America.

In reality, the women in Eivor’s photograph were four of seven Lindahl sisters who grew up in the tiny Swedish house and later came to the United States. They were born into a large family during the latter half of the 19th century, a time when life in Sweden was hard and frugal. Their father, Anders Lindahl, is said to have been a very stern man. As was common during that time, the sisters were encouraged to go to America to seek a better life. The eldest came first, sending news back to their family in the homeland.

Eivor’s photograph, bearing the label of Kramers Photography, from Walnut Street in Des Moines, was one such greeting. Encouraged by these letters, their younger sisters followed in the years to come. As the family story goes, their youngest sister, Emelie, loved her life in Sweden and didn’t want to leave. In spite of this, her family bought a passage to America for her and she left with tears, promising that no one would ever hear from her again.

Eivor writes of the sympathies she feels for the family of the sisters. She imagines the tears their poor mother must have shed as she lost her daughters one by one. Yet, she feels a “wing-stroke of history” at the thought of the sisters long ago running and playing on the same hills she herself has run. And she appreciates the personal touch when she reads the name of Sofi, which was signed on the back of her photograph a hundred years ago.

I write of my feelings for the sisters. I think of the sadness they surely felt as they waved goodbye to their loved ones and watched the only home they had ever known grow more distant. Imagine how frightening, yet exciting, it was for them when they finally arrived in America. This was the country that would be their new home, nevertheless it offered many strange faces, languages and customs. What a happy occasion it must have been to meet an acquaintance or family member from the homeland.

As a great-granddaughter of Sophia (Sofi), I know a bit of what became of the sisters. Eivor’s photograph is proof they lived in Des Moines for a time. While there, Sophia worked as a housemaid for several years, as was common for single, female immigrants. She also met Carl Larson, an acquaintance she had known from Västra Harg. Eventually, they married and settled in Grovertown, Ind.

Sophia’s sisters eventually settled in Chicago or the surrounding areas. With the exception of one, they all married and had families of their own.

And what of their poor sister Emelie? No one knows. Apparently, she remained true to her word and broke ties with her family in Sweden and sisters in America.

Our pictures are different. Our thoughts and wonderings are different. Eivor is part of the homeland and family the four sisters left behind. I am part of their new home and the families they brought into being.

So very different the two of us are. Yet, because we are family, we’re very much the same.

The house in the photo above, and the barn in this photo, are part of the farm where the four sisters grew up.

In 1987, Eivor wrote that she had bought the farm from her uncle, thus keeping it in the family for another generation (Eivor’s grandfather was a brother to the four sisters).

According to Eivor, there were 13 children total. Imagine that many children in this little house! No wonder their father shipped them to America! And imagine what their parents thought when Sophia sent the picture of her family and large farmhouse in America!

The family attended this church in Västra Harg. Click here for an article on the church today.

The four sisters and their siblings attended school in this building. The church now uses it as a parish hall.

Unfortunately, over the years Eivor and I have changed addresses and are no longer in correspondence. However, if you search her name under this newspaper link, you’ll find she’s still writing professionally.

Today’s technology has enabled me to finally publish my story. Certainly it can help us reconnect with Eivor. Let’s do it together!

So, I’m wondering if my three sisters and I could sail an ocean together by steamship? Could we traverse half a continent by train? How long before they were so sick of me, they’d throw me overboard?

In 1892, my great-grandmother, Sophia Lindahl, and her three sisters did just that (minus throwing anyone overboard). They left their homeland in Sweden and traveled to America. They left behind their parents, their brothers and sisters, and the familiar life they’d known all of their 20-some years.

They left, just the four of them, together.

Eivor Lindahl Schutz is a descendent of those they left behind in Sweden. In my last correspondence with her, she still lived in Sweden. In fact, she owned the very farm where the Lindahl sisters grew up.

Eivor has a picture of the four sisters and, being a journalist, wrote a story about them. Here it is, as she translates from her original Swedish to English.

The Girls from Västra Harg Who Sought Prosperity in West

In the photo album my grandmother left I found a photo of four sisters Lindahl who left their native place during the later part of the 19th century to seek prosperity in USA. In reality they were seven sisters, but all did not travel at the same time. It was usual that the elder ones traveled first and then through letters and encouragement enticed sisters and friends to follow.

The photo is taken during the first time out there, that indicates expecially the youngest sister’s appearance. Dressed up and serious, dressed in exactly the same frocks, a photographer in Walnut Street in Des Moines, Iowa, immortalized the four sisters. This photo was sent as a greeting to father and mother in the old country. With this photo they wanted tell that they were doing well and took care of each other. Certainly letters came perhaps with a dollar or two but the sisters never came back.

It must have been an enormous blood-letting in the life of family Lindahl, despite a big family of children. I only can have a feeling of all the tears that the miserable mother shed over her seven lost girls. About their destinies and lives we hardly know anything today, but htanks to Rune Wikell list in his book (“I Minnen Bevarat”) over the emigrants from Västra Harg their names are known.

The last sister passed away unmarried in about 1950, that is on the whole all we know. Their life and deed among many other emigrants founded the powerful USA.

But I feel the wing-stroke of history when I think about that they have romped and played on the same hills and stones as I have. Judge of my joy when I find that somebody with a neat writing has written the name “Sofi” on the photo, perhaps herself. Soon the photo gets a more personal impression. None now living in Sweden has seen the sisters Lindahl in real life. One more generation and nobody should have known who the photo represented. But now I know that the name of the girl at the front, to the left, was Sofi and with a little detective work I will starting with this be able to follow up the names of the other girls. Hundred years has passed since the photo was taken and perhaps I may, in spite of that, name the girls who were my grandfather’s sisters, thanks to a name on the back of a photo.

—Eivor Lindahl Schutz
translated from “Östgöta Correspondenten” February 24, 1984

The sisters, pictured above, are Alida Lindahl Johnson (upper left), Amalia Lindahl Anderson (upper right), Sophia Lindahl Larson (lower left) and Ella Lindahl Fristrom.

Three years after she came to America, Sophia married Carl Larson. George (Ruth’s husband) is one of her children.

You Asked About Olga

May 13, 2010

Swedish Covenant Church, Grovertown, Ind, circa 1916. The church was later moved to Donaldson. Photo provided by Larry Newburg.

I’ve always had a sentimental fascination with Olga.

It’s not like I knew her or anything. But I’d grown up hearing her story and seeing her picture. Olga was my grandfather George Larson’s sister and she died when she was only 32.

“My sis, Olga, got sick in Chicago,” wrote their brother, Arthur Larson, in a letter to me. Like George, Olga had moved to Chicago as a young adult and found a job. For many years, she and George lived together with a maternal aunt.

“A tumor had set in on her brain,” wrote Arthur. “At that time doctors claimed it couldn’t be operated on, fearing damage to her brain. She came back home and passed away. She died in 1927.”

My grandmother Ruth (George’s wife) never knew Olga. Olga died two years before she and George met. But I do remember Ruth saying she knew it was a very hard time for George and his family.

Lately, my fascination with Olga has magnified. As I learn of the Larsons, the Newburgs and the Carlsons—three extended families who lived in northern Indiana and together shared the joys and sorrows of life—I can imagine that Olga’s death touched not only her parents and siblings, but also a whole community of aunts, uncles and cousins.

And then there are these new pictures.

Thanks to my recently discovered cousin Larry Newburg, I have several new pictures of Olga. They’re beautiful.

I think she was beautiful.

Don’t you agree?

Swedish Covenant Confirmation Class of 1910.

Olga is sitting to our right of the pastor. Note her Newburg and Carlson cousins, particularly Edna (Newburg) Peterson, seated in back, second from our left.

Olga and her sister Esther, who was born in 1909

My sister Rebecca and I share an age difference similar to Olga and Esther’s. I remember Rebecca cried when I got married and moved away from home.

Olga Larson

Does her hair look bobbed? Do you think she was a free-spirited, bold, young woman, as described in this website?

Olga Larson

Beautiful dress. Beautiful pearls. Beautiful woman.

Happy Mother’s Day

May 8, 2010

Ruth Larson was a unique and interesting woman. She was a daughter, student, businesswoman, craftswoman, and a Christian.

And she was a mother.

Pictured above are the two little girls who were blessed to have Ruth as a mother—Carol Ruth, born in 1933, and Judith Ann, born in 1936.

Aren’t they precious?

Throughout her life, Ruth was so proud of her girls. She adorned her walls and tables with their pictures. She filled her conversation with news of their lives.

A mother’s love is always there. And Ruth always loved her girls.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Back in the 1980s, when my genealogy junkiness offered a periodic pause from raising four young children, I wrote letters to two of my grandfather’s cousins.

The cousins, Harry Newberg and Edna (Newburg) Peterson, were from the Larson side—their mother was my grandfather George’s father’s sister.

Oh, I know. As soon as we start adding apostrophes and generations it gets a little confusing. For the sake of simplicity, just remember—Harry and Edna were cousins George grew up with in northern Indiana.

By the early 1980s, George was in his 80s and had developed dementia. Harry and Edna, however, were a few years older and sharp as tacks. They responded to me with a lot of information on the Larson side.

Now today, via ancestry.com, I’ve met up with Harry’s grandson, Larry Newburg. According to this family relationship chart, Larry is my third cousin. He also is a genealogy junkie.

So, between Arthur’s letters, Harry and Edna’s letters, and Larry’s super-sleuth genealogical research, we’re able to establish a fairly interesting family story.

Here goes…

Harry and Edna’s mother was Ellen (Elin) Charlotta Larsdotter. George’s father was Carl Gustav Larson. Ellen and Carl were siblings, and were born to family of eight children in Västra Harg, Sweden.

According to U.S. Censuses, Ellen came to Des Moine, Iowa, in 1887, when she was 25-years-old. Here, she joined Victor Newburg (Nyburg), a man she had known from Sweden.

“Dad worked in a tile factory for a year, then sent for mother,” writes Edna of her parents, Victor and Ellen. “They were married in Des Moines in 1889. She worked as a chamber maid in a hotel those days for a year.”

In 1895, together with their two young children, Victor and Ellen moved to Marshall County, Ind., where they farmed near the city of Donaldson.

Meanwhile, Carl and his twin brother Per, came to the United States in 1888. Their first stopping place was Des Moines, IA, before moving on to work elsewhere.

“My father worked on large wheat farms in northern Minnesota and North Dakota,” writes Arthur. “I believe they (Carl and his wife Sophia, who also had immigrated and was working in Des Moines) knew each other from Sweden. How they met and married, I never overheard them to say.”

In 1895 Carl and Sophia married and moved to Grovertown, Ind., just a few miles west of Donaldson.

“The house was there,” writes Arthur. “They had to build a barn.”

And finally, just to keep you on your toes, there’s one more sibling who moved to the area. I don’t have much information on her, but her name was Clara Matilda Larsdotter, and she seems to have gone by Matilda. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1887, married Per Carlson in 1888, and they too settled in the Donaldson area of Indiana.

So here you have it—three siblings who traveled an ocean and half a continent away from the rest of their family. They founded new homes, they farmed the land, and they raised their children. And they did it together, maintaining the stronghold of a close family bond.

“This is shortly after these sisters emigrated from Sweden. They married Adolph Carlson and Anders Victor Newberg,” writes Larry Newburg, who provided this picture in his ancestry.com files.

Larry provided this photo as well, and suggests it may have been taken in Des Moines. Don’t you love his top hat sitting on the vase?

Victor and Ellen Newburg Family, circa 1900

“The photo was taken about 1900, two miles northeast of Donaldson,” writes Larry Newburg on his ancestry.com site. “They started in 1895 with a log cabin on this sight. Nice picture to send back to Sweden—showing fine home, good clothes, and a fine set of horses.”

From l-r: Edna, Ellen, Elmer, Oscar, Victor, and Harry. Yet to be born was Mabel Helen.

Carl & Sophia Larson Family, circa 1900

I wonder if the same photographer did both families?

From l-r: Carl, Clarence, Olga and Sophia, holding George. Yet to be born are Arthur and Esther.

Walpurgis Night

April 30, 2010

So, are you ready for the big celebration tonight? It’s Walpurgis Night and it’s part of our family heritage.

What? You didn’t know this?

Well, neither did I. I just happened to come across it while researching the next Beaded Bells topic—the Swedish side of our family tree.

Apparently, Walpurgis Night (Valborgsmässoafton) is a Swedish welcoming of spring. On the night of April 30, Swedes light bonfires reminiscent of those lit in the paganistic 18th century to ward off evil spirits and witches. Nowadays, the celebration continues on to the next day, which is May 1 and the Scandinavian Labour Day.

So happy Walpurgis Night!

Actually, May is George’s month—George, being Ruth’s husband—and May is the month we move on from our very Germanic roots to our Swedish. We happen to have a lot of information from the Larson side, so hang on to your seats. May is going to be a genealogical joy ride (except that it will in no way be reckless or unlawful:-)

Let’s start by talking about George.

As previously mentioned, George came into Ruth’s life in 1929, when they worked together at the C.A. Burnette Co., in Chicago. George was a bookkeeper and Ruth was a switchboard operator.

At the time, George had been living in Chicago for about ten years. According to a letter I have from my mother Carol (George and Ruth’s daughter), he moved to Chicago shortly after graduating from high school in 1918 and lived with one of his aunts.

Prior to that, he grew up on the family farm just outside Grovertown, Ind., the very place he was born on May 3, 1899, to Carl and Sophia (Lindahl) Larson. He was their third child, out of five—Olga, Clarence, George, Arthur and Esther.

Now George was a quiet man. Even though he was very much a part of my childhood and young adult years, I seldom heard him talk about himself. I do, however, have many letters written to me from his brother, Arthur, and these give good insight to their years on the farm.

According to Arthur, in a letter dated 1983, the family’s 98-acre farm was located a mile east of Grovertown, a community where many of their Larson relatives also lived. They always had lots of cows and horses “to enrich the soil,” writes Arthur, “and a few hogs and pigs to roll in the mud.”

Arthur describes their years on the farm as hard work. In addition to corn, wheat and oats, their father also planted 1-½ to 2 acres of onions to be sold as a cash crop in the fall.

“We had to crawl on our knees and pick out all the weeds,” writes Arthur. “Then Dad also planted another acre of pickles (cucumbers), which was backbreaking to pick. When finished, they had to be sorted large from small so it was quite late, and we had to deliver them to town. That was a cash crop.”

Arthur also writes of fun times like butchering a hog every fall, cutting wood in winter and sleigh rides with the horses.

“No cars or tractors back then,” he writes.

According to Arthur’s letter, Olga, George and he all went to Chicago as young adults because work there was easy to find. In 1925, their parents sold their farm in Grovertown and moved up to Michigan, where they farmed together with Clarence in the Imlay City area.

I remember as a child, my parents always had a big garden and my grandfather, George, loved to help with planting and weeding. Like the old adage says, you can take the farmer away from the farm, but can’t take the farm out of the farmer.

Here’s to Walpurgis Night, here’s to our Farmer George and here’s to any of us soon to plant our own gardens.


Carl & Sophia Larson Family, circa 1900

L-R: Carl, Clarence, Olga and Sophia, holding George.

Carl & Sophia Larson Family Farmhouse, 1993

Years ago, I sent away for the abstract and plat map for the Larson’s farm in Indiana. While vacationing in the area, we scouted down the house. Unfortunately, the owners weren’t home (or thought we looked shifty and chose not to open the door). We left a copy of the original farmhouse photo and our address, but never heard from them. It would be interesting to see the house today, yes?

Carl & Sophia Larson Family, circa 1910

A guess at identities: Back, l-r: Clarence and Olga. Middle: father Carl, Esther, and mother Sophia. Front: Arthur and George.

George, on the left, and Clarence Larson

Olga Larson, 1895-1927

Clarence Carl Larson, 1897-1959

Geroge Berthal Larson, 1899-1983

This picture was provided by Larry Newburg, our Kusin, as he likes to say. Wait to you see the information he has to share—stay tuned!

Strangely, of the many pictures we have, none of them are of Arthur. Very unfortunate, since it’s Arthur who provided so much personal information about the family. He lived from 1902-1990, and I’m hoping his daughter Donna can share as well.

Esther (Larson) Mann, 1908-1978

Another photo provided by Larry.

George Larson

Anyone know antique cars? Any ideas of the era? Look what a sharp dude George was!

George Larson 1918 military draft registration

While World War I lasted from July 1914-Nov. 1918, the U.S. didn’t get involved until April 1917.

Above is George’s draft registration card, dated September 1918. At the time, he was working as a postal clerk in Chicago and never was drafted.

Below is a more visible sample of a registration card.

1918 U.S. Draft Registration Card