Saturday, February 27, 2010

Randi Larsdatter and Astrid Kristiansen

Click to enlarge

My great-great grandmother Randi Larsdatter Bye (1836-1921), born in Baerum, Norway, made this embroidery.  It hung on my grandmother's wall, and her sister, Astrid, used to love showing it to me when I visited.  On the right hand corner are the initials RLD for Randi Larsdatter. 1836 is her birth date, and 1869 is the year she made the embroidery. When my grandmother died, it passed on to her sister, and when Astrid died she left it to me. My Aunt Astrid was a sweet woman who loved to talk and had a bubbly personality. She had an apartment on the floor below my grandmother's house, and my brother and I loved to go down there and see her.
Both pictures are still-shots from pictures I recorded with a video-camera in 1996. Above is my gg-grandmother Randi Larsdatter and below is one of my Aunt Astrid.  She is seated, and the girl standing is my grandmother, Gyda. I don't know what happened to Astrid's albums after she died, but I hope to find them one day to do a proper scan.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sentimental Sunday

My mother married my father and left her home in Rome for New York City in 1962.  Soon after a street artist drew a portrait of her using colored pencils, and my mother sent it back to her mother in Sicily. You can see it in this picture, hanging on the wall of my grandmother's house circa 1984.  My grandmother is standing beneath the picture.  After she died, my mother received the drawing, and a few years ago she passed it on to me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

One Elusive Birth Record Down; One Elusive Death Record to Go!

Well, there are actually a few more elusive things on my list, but these are the ones I have wanted from the moment I started doing genealogy research.  The first is my great-great grandfather Emil Georg Samuelsen's birth record.  It took quite a bit of detective work for me to figure out that the reason I was banging my head against a brick wall looking for his birth record was that his parents had left the Norwegian Lutheran State Church for the Methodist Church just a few months before he was born.  To top it off, Methodist birth/baptismal records are not available online, so I wrote the Methodist Church in Fredrikastad, Norway.  I never received a reply...hmmm. 

Unbeknownst to me, my father had also written them, and they answered him!  They were also very nice to send copies of my great-great grandfather's baptismal record, showing he was born September 10, 1871 and baptized on September 18, 1871.  They also sent a copy of the recording of when his parents joined their church, and in that record it said that Emil's father died in 1875.   

This brings me to my other elusive record -- my great-great-great grandfather's death record.  The only thing I knew about his death came from an interview for a report my father wrote in grade school in the 1940's when my gg-grandfather was alive.  My father was told that Emil's father, Samuel, had died while out to sea, off the coast of South America.  Samuel had climbed the mast of his ship to make a repair and fell to his death.  Emil said he was four years old, which meant this happened in 1875.  And now, we know this date is correct.  However, here comes the frustration:  the Church sent my father the birth record for Emil and the record showing his parents joining the Church, which included his father's year of death... but NO death record.  The frustrating part is that they obviously have one because in their correspondence with my father they said Samuel died June 3, 1875 and that he had drowned and disappeared at sea.  The record for joining the Church only mentioned he died in 1875 and nothing more.  Of course, I asked my father to write back asking for a death record, but nothing yet.  However, the vicar did very kindly say he would be glad to talk to us this summer in person, in Norway, and even give us a tour.  So, I may have to wait until then to get my hands on this prize.  One might say I know the date now and that he really did die at sea... but genealogy is all about the record... sources... proof.

One thing I have learned about this hobby of mine is that patience is truly a virtue:-). 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Not So Wordless Wednesday -- Late!

It is late Wednesday evening, but I realized that I haven't posted in a while.  It has been a busy time, and I have also been working on cleaning up my tree.  This is actually quite time consuming!  I wish I knew better what I know now when I started my tree.  Anyway, I decided to go with FTM 2010 because of the ability to integrate with Ancestry.  So, I am now cleaning up my data so I can make some nice charts and other visually appealing documents of my genealogical research. 

In the meantime, I have made contact with my other great-uncle's family in Canada.  It is so exciting.  The funny thing is that by finding them in British Columbia we found new relatives who lived down the road from my grandmother in Norway.  My father and I had a chuckle about having to find relatives through Canada rather than his own family in Norway.  They are descendants of Margit Jordbaerhaugen, sister to my great-grandfather Kristian, and my great-uncles Kristen and Nels who both came to America.   

More soon!  And now for the Wordless Wednesday part:

Sletta, my grandmother's childhood home in Baerum, Norway

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Legacy 7 or Family Tree Maker 2010???

This past Christmas I received TWO genealogy programs -- Family Tree Maker 2010 and Legacy 7.  Which one do I use?

I have a substantial tree online WITH pictures and documents on  The reason I liked the FTM software is that it claims I can download what I have online with all the pictures and everything.  I can also integrate with the Ancestry database for searches.  On the other hand, the more I read about how much you can do with Legacy and how versatile it is and intuitive, the more I want to try the Legacy program.  People seem to love Legacy so much more than FTM, and it has received higher ratings in reviews than FTM, but I don't think I can communicate with my online Ancestry tree or searches in the same way.

Anyone have any suggestions or experiences?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Norwegian Family Web site

I will be going to Norway this summer on a genealogy tour and hunt, and I am very excited to see what I have seen before with new eyes.  I mean now I will know who lived where, whereas before starting on this voyage into the past, I didn't really know the history behind the areas surrounding my grandparents' home.

My goal is to see as many sites of interest as possible this summer and to meet as many relatives as I can.  I want to share my knowledge, pictures, and treasures in return for theirs.  I figured a Web site was essential to spread the word and serve as a point of contact, so I created one... and it is now available to view!  It is simple, mind you, but a good start.  I can always improve it as I go along.  So here it is:

My Norwegian Family Website: click here!

Snowed in Means a Lot Accomplished

Where I live snow usually doesn't stick.  When it does stick, it normally turns into sheets of ice that make it impossible to drive anywhere.  Should we actually get a blanket of snow, our area doesn't have enough plows to take care of it quickly.  All this means that just the news of possible snow leads to school closures and lines at the grocery store, which are very quickly depleted of bread and milk.  So when 5 inches or more of the white stuff coated the state on Friday, we were pretty much stuck at home for a few days.  But time confined at home means time to work on some genealogy research, and I had several tasks that hadn't been checked off my list yet.

The prior weekend, I had finally finished scanning my Italian grandfather's diary.  Vincenzo Dibennardo (1900-1982) wrote the diary during the school year 1915-1916, and it is about 100 pages long.  He was a beautiful writer at 15 already, with wonderful descriptive passages of a sometimes sad life in a religious boarding school.  His mother had died when he was a young boy, and in those days a father usually did not raise the child.  He was sent to the Salesian boarding school where his aunt was the Mother Superior, and this diary is an interesting peek into his life there.  However, it is a bit hard to read between the handwriting and the old-style Italian language -- even my mother has a hard time reading it.

Pages from my grandfather's diary written in 1915-1916

Now that the diary was scanned, I decided on snowed-in Saturday morning to start transcribing the diary word for word on my computer, and eventually to translate it into English -- after all, my descendants will probably not know Italian.  It will take me a long time to transcribe the whole diary, but I was pretty happy to have the first day finished by the time my son got out of bed.  And I only had a few words and areas I wasn't sure about underlined.  I sent the document to my mother, who later filled in those blank spots.  By Saturday afternoon, I finally had a day's accounting I could read with pleasure rather than strain, and it was fabulous.  I can't wait to transcribe the rest!  In that one day entry was the full name of my grandfather's stepmother and where she was from -- Vincenzina Tannelli from Sortino, Sicily.  I quickly went to Google and found it in the province of Syracuse, a small and pretty town with a great view of the volcano Etna in the distance.

Next on my list of things to accomplish was scanning the pictures from the albums that belonged to my Norwegian grandmother.  These were found and given to me by my uncle in Norway, and they were deteriorating enough that the sooner I scanned them in the better.  I believe I scanned over 200 photos.  Many of these were photos of my two young grandparents during the early 1930's, in love, before getting married.  I will have a separate post about these pictures soon.

The final major thing I accomplished was to finish my Web site!  It isn't up yet, but it is ready.  It is a simple Web site regarding my Norwegian family tree -- the main branches of the tree, I should say.  The point of the Web site is to have relatives find me and contact me.  I will be going to Norway in the summer, and I hope to meet as many relatives as possible to share information, pictures, stories, and treasures.  I believe having a Web site they can go to before my arrival may whet their appetite to find out more... and share more.

I do have several more tasks to check off, but I think I got a pretty good start, despite the cabin fever.