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.

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Partial SS Switzerland passenger list, 1883 (ancestry.com)

I think airports are fascinating. As an avid people-watcher, I love the hustle and bustle of crowds. I wonder what their story is, why they’re traveling and who’s waiting for them at the other end.

There’s one thing at airports that unnerves me, however, and that’s watching families with young children. Extra luggage, short attention spans, naturally inquisitive adventurers—oh, the stress of traveling with young children! As the mother of four, my empathy abounds for the young, wayfaring family.

Ruth’s grandparents, Rudolph and Elise (Elisa) Hooge, were such a family.

Back in the 1880s, they traveled by steamship from Germany to the United States. Once here, they likely traveled by train to Chicago, Ill. They did this with their four children, ages 2-10.

Can you imagine the stress of it all?

Oh, but there’s more. As I research historical documents provided by ancestry.com, I’ve come across some interesting possibilities.

According to multiple censuses, Rudolph arrived in the United States in 1883 (at that time, censuses listed an immigrant’s year of arrival and origin). My search for him on ship passenger lists is inconclusive until I vary the spelling of his name, a common thing in those days of handwritten documentation. On a ship named the Switzerland, I find a listing of Rudolph Hoage and his dates coincide with our Rudolph.

If this is our guy, Rudolph arrived in New York on June 11, 1883, and then headed for Chicago.

Ancestry.com is pretty cool. Not only can you view Rudolph’s info, but also the full passenger list and an image of the ship itself. Unfortunately, it looks like you have to become a member to access my links. But, hey, you can do so for free for 14 days! If you sign up, let me know so we can connect and share information.

Anyway, on with the story.

According to a passenger list for the ship Hermann, Elise Hooge, age 30, arrived three years later in July 1886, with the couple’s four children: Otto, 10; Emma, 8; Carl, 5 (Ruth’s father); and Hermann, 2. Not only was this a young, wayfaring family, they also were traveling with only one parent. It’s exhausting to even think about.

Hmmm…

Are you also thinking something doesn’t quite calculate? Little Hermann was 2-years-old in 1886. Rudolph left for America three years earlier, in 1883.

Well, such is the intrigue of genealogy. So many questions and so many possibilities.

“The Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives – The Future of Our Past,” is an interesting article about 19th century transatlantic travel. According to its author S.G.W. Benjamin, by the 1880s, steamships were making the passage from Europe to the U.S. in as little as seven days. If this is true, Little Hermann could have been conceived before Rudolph left Germany and be 2-years-old when Elise arrived in the U.S. with the children.

Or, what about this…

According to the passenger list for the ship Habsburg, an Elise Hooge, age 27, arrived in New York on November 22, 1883. Perhaps Elise was missing Rudolph and came over for a visit. Perhaps, at that time, she traveled without her three children and, aha, went back with a fourth.

Oh, the questions arise. What’s the likelihood of Elise coming without her children? Was her family of means to afford such an extravagance? Is this even our Elise? Without further data, one can only speculate.

There are some things, however, of which we’re certain. Once they all were here, the Hooges settled in Chicago. Rudolph, according to censuses, worked as a carriage fitter. Carl eventually grew up to become a policeman and marry Miss Emma E. Hornburg.

And together, they had their children Carl and Ruth.

Partial SS Hermann passenger list, 1886 (ancestry.com)

Genealogy Junkie

February 4, 2010

“Genealogy junkie” may be a bit of an overstatement. But, even though life-in-the-now commands most of my time, I’ve always had an interest in history. Whether it’s of people in general, or the specific people of my family, I enjoy learning their stories. Because, after all, that’s what history is—a story.

I’m formulating a plan of action for the story on my grandmother, Ruth. I’m being very scheduled and very orderly, because that’s how I strive to operate in my work life. The effort ends there, however. My personal life is hardly orderly, and as I dig out the random family history notes, photos, newspaper clippings and obituaries I’ve collected in the past 35 years, I find them all chaotically stuffed into a box. The photos I’ve taken of my husband and kids are the same way. And weren’t we advised to always label and date everything? How did time slip by so fast without me keeping up? Ah, but I digress…

Anyway, due to my recent beading of bells and blogging about Ruth, I’ve reverted back to a state of “genealogy junkie.” I must say, gathering information now is so easy compared to the 1970-80’s. Back then, I would write to people and then wait, and wait, and wait for their response. Talking on the phone was limited because there was this fee called “long distance” (unbeknownst to us nowadays). Now I can just go online and instantly find whatever fact I need.

One of the things I’ve done is set up an ancestry.com database with a family tree for Ruth. It automatically waves a green leaf next to any name that has available ancestry hints. The leaves have pointed me to census reports, ship steerage lists and other fascinating data.

Are you on Ancestry.com? If so, let’s share information.

Looking up news articles is now a breeze, as well. Simply bring up Google News and search a person’s name and a resource, such as a newspaper. I find going into the advanced search is quicker and more direct. Some of the newspapers offer the files for free, like the Owosso Argus Press, where on page 5 of the March 5, 1947, Area News Briefs, we can read that “Mrs. George Larson spent Monday in Fowlerville visiting with Mr. and Mrs. George Lewis.”

Isn’t that cool? (Mrs. George Larson, by the way, is Ruth.)

On the other hand, the Chicago Tribune is much less giving and charges a fee.

But as quick and easy as the internet makes genealogy, it’s no substitute for the actual human exchange of stories. And because I’m Ruth’s granddaughter and am limited to my own subjective view, it’s important to see her through others’ eyes as well.

So please share! Make comments. Correct my facts, when I’m wrong. Add to them, when I’m lacking.

P.S. Also, please share suggestions for archiving those photos, news clippings and such. What’s the best way to mount them, and in what kind of book?