I Wear Tight Genes

Wherein I attempt to relate the trials and tribulations of tracking down information on people who are dead, but bear some resemblance to me...when they were alive.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Ruth Elizabeth Aanestad Carlson

Ruth Elizabeth Aanestad Carlson died peacefully February 2nd, 2009, at the Ridgeview Assisted Living center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  She was born October 13th, 1920, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  On the day of her birth, she was adopted by Rev. Cornelius Walter Aanestad and Emma Borgina Nelson, and taken back to their home in Twin Valley, Minnesota.  She graduated Twin Valley High School and attended college at Concordia University in St. Paul.  In 1942, she met Torrence Carlson, married him, and then watched him ship out to the south Pacific for World War 2.

Following the war, she and Torry received their Masters’ in Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and eventually settled in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, having both taken music teaching jobs there. 

Ruth spent the rest of her life teaching children the joy of music for the Cedar Rapids school system.  In retirement, she would continue to accompany local high school music productions, give piano lessons, and even took a part-time job playing the piano in a local department store.  During all of that, she joined her husband in giving generously of her time to First Lutheran Church, and prior to that, St. Stephen’s.  She and her husband are responsible for fostering generations of music lovers in Cedar Rapids, as well as playing an essential role in the appreciation of Fine Arts in eastern Iowa.

In 1997, Torry was lost to cancer, but Ruth continued on with the love and help of friends and family.  Ruth is survived by two daughters:  Mary Elizabeth Valley (Tom, dec.) and Rebecca Ann Collier (Ken), both of Cedar Rapids; the eldest daughter, Patricia Ruth Fleugel (James), having passed in 1970; two grandsons, Thomas (Kelly) and John Valley, as well as 4 great grandchildren: Morgan, Kieran, Eilish and Bronwyn.  She is also survived by her sister Dorothy Nelson of Seattle, Washington, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

A public memorial service will be held at First Lutheran Church.  In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in Ruth’s name to Iowa Hospice Care, 800 1st Ave, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 52402.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A New Branch

Originally uploaded by Thomas.Valley
Sometimes it's the little things that please me in all of this research. Today I was talking to a very nice Swedish friend of mine (who's currently looking for a place to live, so if you know someone with an apartment in Helsingborg, let me know) who's going down to the public library tomorrow to look up some stuff for me on the Swansons. He mentioned that "Swanson" is an assimilated name, and that the original was most like Svensson. So, I asked him what a name like Nygren might be like, pre-assimilation.

"Oh, that's not an assimilated name," he tells me. "It's directly translated as New Branch. Nature names were very popular in the mid-19th century in Sweden."

And to think that little bit of history has gone unnoticed in our family for so long. Here are a bunch of people, setting out to the new world, separating themselves from a community of people where every other person was a cousin. What more fitting label could they call themselves but New Branch?

Now, I've moved my family across country before in the name of pursuing new employment, but can't comprehend setting out for a completely new country -- or even just to leave the house -- without a clear and concise goal. It's either a testament to the bravery or stubborn pride of immigrants like these that they could set off on a months-long voyage across the sea and set up shop in a place they'd never seen before.

I'd like to point out that Charles Swanson came to this country in 1888, and 2 years later he's noted in the Wilkes-Barre yellow pages as a Shoe maker. I can just hear the discussion back in Sweden now between Charles and Clara: "But, honey, I can make shoes anywhere. It might as well be in America."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

You know, it's a wonder I get anything done...

Originally uploaded by Thomas.Valley
I wouldn't be so bothered by these sorts of pictures, except that she's a clone of her mother.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Images I'm proud to have Saved

Originally uploaded by Thomas.Valley
One of things that bothered me while I was scanning in the slides from my grandfather's collection was the decay through which they'd gone over the years. Not only has the technology been availalbe to digitize these photos for quite a while now, but the last few decades of living in a garage (or wherever they lived during that time) couldn't have been very good to them.

In among the collection were snapshots and slides that had gone off the deep end of usefulness. Unfortunately, the majority of those were from my grandparents' youth. I count myself lucky to have saved those pictures that I saved, considering the amount I saved from the 1920s and 1930s. Of particular interest are the pics I scanned from 1906, when the Nelsons were homesteading with mud huts on their newly acquired land in the Dakota Territory.

Even with those in mind, I still love some of the posed pictures like the one to the right. My great-grandfather loved his camera, and he loved the outdoors. This synergy of hobbies managed to survive nearly 75 years, and you see the result here. The cameras at the time didn't provide that great of detail, so to us it appears a little blurry. The composition is still fantastic, however.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Baack in New York Times

It was just announced today that the New York Times is offering it's searchable archives from 1851 to 1923 for free. I couldn't pass that up, so I started looking for information on Baacks (searching for "Valley", as you may already know, is a bit of a fool's errand).

I've found a few obits so far, but this little bit from Jan 12, 1871, caught my eye:
"Judge Blatchford, of the United States Court, has granted the motion of the plantiffs in the case of the Manufacturer's National Bank of Chicago vs. EDWARD BAACK and EDWARD BAACK, Sr., of this City, for the appointment of a receiver and for an injunction, holding that the court had full jurisdiction in the case."
Interesting, eh? At the time, the Baack clan was living in West Farms, Westchester Co. (for the most part), and 2 years after this notice, Ed Jr. loses an election to become the county receiver of taxes. G.E. Valley Jr. did a lot of research regarding a family legend centering around the Baack dynasty: That H. Edward Sr. had gained quite a lot of money, but then lost most of it after the Civil War due to having sold bugles to the Confederates. His research eventually turned up nothing surrounding this legend, but this little hit in the NY Times may be some indication that the family was going through financial troubles anyway at around the same time period.

The internet is a wonderful thing, eh?

Friday, September 07, 2007

DNA Testing Now Available

Originally uploaded by Thomas.Valley
In the past, when you want your DNA tested, you could find a lab to test it, and give you a paternity or maternity match up, as long as they had also tested a relatively close relative. It was typically used to prove that a father was a father or a mother was a mother. Recently, companies have started gathering data for genealogical relationships.

One such company was recently purchased by Ancestry.com, and they hope to combine the massive amounts of data already available online with the approximately 600,000 DNA samples already tested.

If you're even remotely interested in the world's greatest game (genealogy), you should be able to understand how excited over this I am. Now, Ancestry's even opened the sampling doors in a beta test of sorts. They'll send you a testing kit, you swab the inside of your mouth and send it back. After a few weeks, you get an email with your results, and another email every time someone else enters the database as a match.

For me, this could really break down some barriers. I've got an adopted great-grandfather, and an adopted grandmother. While both of them have identified with their adoptive families their entire life, and no one would question their familial relationship, I can't help but be curious about the biology involved. Particularly in my great-grandfather's case, this would answer the question for us if his mother had given him up for adoption just to adopt him back into the family legitimately.

For some of these questions, we can answer them through getting a bunch of cousins to get tested. At 200.00 a pop, however, it's going to be a lot to ask. My aunt has suggested we just take a road trip to Green-Wood Cemetery and do some grisly exhumation. While that would certainly get to the root of the matter expediently, that would probably raise eyebrows and hackles all through the family.

As with all genealogy, the meaning of the search and the addiction to the hunt are focused on identifying ourselves in this world and its history. Can I really be satisfied with just telling people I'm an average American "mutt" heritage? Is there not some intrinsic value in knowing the trials and work and hardship through which your ancestors lived to get you where you are today?

As soon as I can rationalize taking the money out of my budget, I'm getting tested. If you do, let me know -- we're probably 16th cousins.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Testing My Ability to Cross-Post

Originally uploaded by Thomas.Valley
I've wired up my account at Multiply (a social network) to track posts here on my family tree blog, so that I don't have to find excuses to write more and more posts about myself and, admittedly, how cute I was as a kid.

Here's a picture of me, playing my first interactive game. The controller was obviously sized for an adult, and I failed my saving throw vs. inhaling chalk dust, but otherwise, it was a great success.

Here's a tissue

Originally uploaded by Thomas.Valley
As I work through the photos, I hit a picture every now and then that I now will send my mother running for the tissue box.

That's me. That's dad. I can safely say that Dad and I had some of the best moments of our short relationship those first few years. We had yet to disappoint each other, so everything went pretty well. When I got older, he realized that I wasn't everything he had expected, and I eventually realized that he was a human being.

But here, right at this moment? I'm his golden boy, and he's a freaking superhero.

Dammit, who's got some tissues.