Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Danish Day in Elk Horn, Iowa

I have a relatively (ahem!) long list of genealogy road trips on my wish list. Many of them are one-day trips and yesterday I was able to visit the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa. If you have even an ounce of Danish blood in you, this is a museum and community you must visit as part of your genealogy journey. Elk Horn is a community of 662 people as of the 2010 census. It's about a two hour drive from my home in Lincoln, Nebraska, so I have been waiting for a warmer and sunny day to make the trip. My genealogy pal, Judy Shutts of Voices in Time, is always eager for a road trip and we were both ready for a getaway.

We left Lincoln about 8 a.m., which seems to come way too early since I've been retired. This month marks the third anniversary of my retirement from public service with the state of Nebraska. Wow, how time flies! That put us into Elk Horn about 10 a.m. and our first stop was the Museum of Danish America.

The Museum of Danish America
With the cold Iowa wind blowing, it was a bit chilly, so we quickly got some exterior photos of the museum as we left.

I'm looking forward to a return visit during warmer weather so I can see the 30 acres of prairie surrounding the museum in the Jens Jensen Prairie Landscape Park. I'm sure it will be an amazing experience, as compared with the windy 40 degree temperatures we experienced yesterday!

I really didn't have a huge expectation of what information I might discover about my Danish heritage. Mostly, I wanted to learn more about what motivated my people to immigrate to America. My Danes are the only line of my heritage that I've been able to track "across the pond" - mainly due to the exceptional census records available on the Danish Demographic Database. Because of these records, I've gone back to my fourth great grandfather, Povel Madsen, in the 1700s.

The flags of Denmark and The United States
of America fly proudly outside the museum.
It was pretty exciting a few years ago when I found my ancestors on a passenger list on One must always think outside the box when doing genealogy. My family came to the U.S. via Canada with the intent of settling in Waterloo, Black Hawk county, Iowa. Based on what I know about migration patterns, I still assume that there must have been someone they knew who had already come to Waterloo - or some reason that they knew that was where they were headed. I didn't get the answers on this research trip, but it continues to be one of the questions I'm pursuing in tracking my family from Denmark to the United States.

The Museum of Danish America is a wonderful museum dedicated to the Danish in America. The exhibits are well curated and provide a lot of history about the Danish in America. I often have the tendency to rush through the museums I visit, but I took my time in reading the explanations about immigration - I really wanted to learn more about why my ancestors came to the U.S. when they did.

Choosing a New Land
These explanations at the museum provided some background on what motivated the Danish to come to America.

The lower level of the museum includes a glass enclosed case of many family heritage artifacts, including the iconic blue plates (we had a few of these in the family at one time), knick knacks, musical instruments, china and household items, items specific to the Danish Brotherhood of America. There was no public access to view the items in the collection close-up. I imagine that it might be possible to observe these under the supervision of museum staff. I didn't ask.

The "cocoa set" that belonged to
my great grandmother Caroline Petersen
Among the heirlooms passed down to me is what my Dad referred to as a "cocoa set" which may also be called a "chocolate pot." It includes a tall pitcher, a bowl, four cups and four saucers. I currently display this set in my "family heritage center" in my home.

Judy and me at the museum
Here's a composite photo I made for Instagram of Judy and me at the museum and the signs at the genealogy center which is on Main Street, a couple blocks from the museum.

After our visit to the museum, we had lunch at Larsen's Pub. I only had to see that one could have a burger with Havarti cheese to know what I wanted for lunch! That's been one of my favorite cheeses for a long time, and knowing it originated in Denmark made it even more special.

After finishing lunch, Judy asked the proprietor where the genealogy center was located. This was a pretty good question in a small community. Immediately, he replied, "Right next door!" Wow. We didn't even have to move the car!

An afternoon of research

As mentioned earlier, I didn't have a lot of expectations of what I might find at the genealogy library. I had taken along some printouts of family group sheets with the information I have collected on this line of my family history. As an afterthought, I tossed my Kindle Fire in my bag, with the Ancestry app. Several times I had to refer to my family tree to get specific information on names and dates.

The ladies in the library were extremely helpful. As I read through books on Cedar Falls, Iowa and Black Hawk county, I found some information about what attracted the Danes to this part of America. It was the kind of information I had been looking for. After a while, the ladies showed me the original documents from Denmark they had discovered about my family! Not only had they found birth, baptism and marriage records, but also photographs of the churches where the baptisms and marriages had occurred. Part of the service they offer to researchers is to transcribe the Danish records into English. I really felt I had hit the mother lode of family history research! To say that I did the "Genealogy Happy Dance" is an understatement!

These are the original documents (in Danish) that the staff printed
and translated for me, as well as photographs of the churches
where the baptisms and marriages occurred.
I found this death record information about my 2nd great grandfather,
Peder Jeremiasen, in a book published by the Iowa Genealogical Society.
I didn't want to be on the road too long after day turned in to night, so we left the library about 4 pm. We still wanted to visit the Danish Windmill, so we stopped there on our way out of town.

The Danish Windmill

Danmark Sweatshirt and
some Carlsberg Elephant Beer

I've been wanting to get a red sweatshirt (without Go Big Red on it), and I found this at the Danish Windmill. I've never had Danish beer before, so I bought a six pack of Carlsberg Elephant Beer. The taste is quite similar to Corona. You've got to have Danish beer at least once in your lifetime!

What can I say? It is SO COOL to go somewhere where they know that your surname is spelled with "sen" rather than "son." !!! Rock On!

Kudos to Michele at the Museum of Danish America library for her exceptional help and the translations, and teaching me how to pronounce Jeremiasen properly! And to the other ladies who helped with my research yesterday. Yes, I will definitely be back! And today, I submitted my payment for membership to support the museum. Yesterday's Genealogy Road Trip far exceeded my expectations!

Michele asked to photocopy my Family Group Sheets so they could begin a file on "my people." It was a no brainer for me to oblige. I plan to compile a binder of the information I've gathered so far, with printouts and copies of documents. I want to leave behind some bread crumbs on my family line for future researchers.

I always thought that my Danish line would be the most difficult to track because of the patronymic naming system - changing surnames with each generation. Who knew that it was going to be the easiest and the first of my ancestral lines I would find "across the pond"?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Genealogy Synchronicity - Tibbetts home in St. Joseph, Missouri

Dare I say we are fools if we don't believe in Genealogy Synchronicity?

Last week, I had an experience that can definitely be described as Genealogy Synchronicity!

Back in 2011, I wrote about discovering the obituaries and death records for Nellie Welch Tibbetts and her husband, Frank Tibbetts. Nellie was the sister of my great grandmother, Mary (Minnie) Welch Kelly. I had discovered photographs of the home where Nellie and Frank lived in a photo album that belonged to my great grandmother.

The Tibbetts home in St. Joseph, Missouri

I've made several trips THROUGH St. Joseph, Mo in the last two years. It wasn't until last week that I spent an entire day in St. Joe and my last stop of the day was a "drive by" to finally see the Tibbetts home.

As I pulled over to park my car, I saw that the house is currently For Sale!

This was exciting to me, as it meant I would be able to take some photographs without the current owner wondering what the heck I was doing there!

I walked around the property, taking a few exterior photos, when, after a few minutes, a young man exited the front entrance and said Hello!

He happened to be the realtor for the property and he had just arrived at the location!

"Have I got a story for you!" I said! I told him that the house had been owned by the sister of my great grandmother and her husband in the early 1900s. I told him that the owner of the house at that time, Frank Tibbetts, had been a brick mason! The realtor told me that is father is a brick mason!

I brought up the photos of the house, including members of my family, to show him, on my smartphone. Yeah, he was pretty impressed! He told me the house was a foreclosure. And I was able to enter the property to look around.

Here's a photo from Minnie Welch Kelly's photo album taken at the house. I believe the women to be Nellie Welch Tibbetts and her sister, Agnes Welch Garrigus. The "porthole" window at the house is a good indication of where the photograph was taken.

This photograph is taken from the interior of the house. The windows match up with the photographs in Minnie Welch Kelly's photo album.

Here's the fireplace inside, which is probably original to the house.

This is one of the windows looking to the South. My speculation is that the "stained glass" is not original to the home.

These are the stairs to the upper floor of the house. They do not appear to be the original finishing, but quite possibly were there when the Tibbetts lived here.

This is one of the windows, facing South. Quite likely original as seen in the photos in Minnie Kelly's photo album.

As the house is currently vacant, I feel it is acceptable to post the current "for sale" information on the property. The asking price is $63,000.The photos on the real estate site show a home that looks much better than it does "in real life."

For me, I'm just glad that I made the decision to stop by when I did. How often do you really get to look inside a house where your family lived???

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Deep Internet - Learn how to make use of Database Searches

Genealogy Research in the Deep Internet

Join me in Omaha on July 18 when I show you how to find hidden treasures online in the "Deep Internet." Did you know that at least 80 per cent of genealogy information online cannot be found using a standard search engine such as Google? Are you missing out on 80 per cent of information you can find out about your family online?

If you've been frustrated with the results of your searches on Ancestry, find out how you can improve the way you search by using some adjustments to the way you think about search strategies!

This presentation is Free and open to the public. But you need to preregister here:

July 18, 2015
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
W. Dale Clark Library
215 S. 15th St
Omaha, Nebraska

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My Nebraska - by Patricia Landon Kelly Petersen

Today I came across a long lost poem written by my mother, Patricia Landon Kelly Petersen, in 1968. This poem was also very special to me and it was read at her memorial service in 1983.

My Nebraska

Oh, you'll never know Nebraska
'Til you've seen her in the Spring,
Awakened by a gentle rain
And hear the robins sing.

Every green and growing petal
Has its face washed, oh, so clean.
If you've been here in Springtime,
You'll remember what I mean.

Oh, you'll never know Nebraska
'Til some summers you have spent
To hike, to swim, to fish, to sail
Or just be quiet and content.

If you've never heard the wind blow
Through those cottonwoods so tall,
You don't know what you're missing,
That's my favorite sound of all.

Oh, you'll never know Nebraska
'Til you've felt her winter cold,
Shared one of her White Christmases,
It's a splendor to behold.

And to see the little children
Bundled up from head to toe.
They ignore my shoveled pathway
To wade the deepest snow.

Oh, you'll never know Nebraska,
Come see her in the fall.
Then she really shows her colors
With the kindest touch of all.

I can taste that first ripe apple.
I can smell that bonfire now.
If I could ever be more blessed
I wish you'd tell me how.

And did you ever go away?
Get so homesick you could cry?
If I tell you that I haven't
Then I'm telling you a lie.

I wonder if you've played this game
When you're returning home,
To see who can be the first to spy
That long familiar dome.

copyright 1968 Patricia Landon Kelly Petersen

Friday, May 29, 2015

Ancestry and Family Tree Maker - Why I Am Bass Akwards

Once again, the rumors have surfaced that is up for sale. As happens with such rumors and announcements, the genealogy community is all aflutter, scared silly that everything they have added to their family tree on Ancestry is about to disappear.

Maybe I have more confidence in online sites than others. From participation in many online genealogy forums, I've arrived at the conclusion that I use my software and Ancestry web site differently than most. at the conference of the
National Genealogical Society
St. Charles, MO 2015

I've gathered that people using Family Tree Maker (FTM) software enter all of their data within the software and perhaps sync it with their tree(s) on Ancestry. I do just the opposite. I enter all of my discoveries directly on the Ancestry site. Every few weeks (or months, if I get behind), I download the GEDCOM from Ancestry into my FTM software. I consider the FTM GEDCOM download as a backup of my research.

Am I lazy? Do I like living life (and my research) on the edge? I don't know. All I know is that this is what works for me.

I'm pretty much a digital kind of gal. And I know that may subject me to some dangers. I have my scanned images of documents and my personal digital photo archive all on my laptop with a backup to the cloud via Dropbox and my Amazon photo cloud. Have I thrown away or discarded any of my original documents, photographs, scrapbooks, slides or negatives? Not on your life! It's just easier for me to manage all of the data in a digital archive.

I think that we all like what we are used to. That is why I prefer OneNote to Evernote (although I use both). I prefer Family Tree Maker to Roots Magic and Legacy. Why? Because it's what I'm used to. In my working life, I always used the analogy: the only person who likes change is a wet baby! The same is true with genealogy and our software.

The advantage of being able to download a GEDCOM from Ancestry is that I can import it into whatever software application I'm using. Each of the major software packages provides different options for reports, printouts, books, etc. Having been 100% digital for several years, I'm just beginning to recreate hard copies of my research using the various software applications. Each one allows me to have different options, printouts, etc.

Am I concerned about an impending sale of Ancestry? Not so much. Do I fear that all of my research will be lost? No. Why? Because I have my GEDCOMS, my scans, my notes, my boxes and boxes of documents and photographs. And everything is backed up - on my laptop, Dropbox, Amazon, as well as on external hard drives.

For now, Ancestry remains my online tree of choice. The online family trees on Ancestry are excluded from my routine searches. I think we all know how unreliable so many of them can be. But I know they are there if I need a few hints. FamilySearch provides me with additional resources, but there is NO WAY I'm going to get into a discussion of sources or "who's right and who's wrong" in entering data or citing sources. The best I can do is to make my research available for future researchers, with source citations. I'm not going to get this all done in my lifetime, but I can leave some bread crumbs for those who choose to follow my research in the future.

Seriously, who really knows if Ancestry will be around in 100 years? I sure don't. FamilySearch-LDS - definitely a good chance of survival. Who know if the Internet will even look the same in 100 years? All I know is that I will continue to do my data entry on Ancestry, with my back-ups to FTM.

At this point in my life and research, my objective is to produce as much as possible into "hard copy" that can be printed/published and donated to local societies and libraries for those family members and historians who come after me.