Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas and an Irish Story

Dear Readers,
I apologize for not posting as much lately.  I have been very busy to say the least!  However, I am still following my roots and digging into them for others as well.  My plan is to begin posting again with the new year.  There is still so much to share!

I want to wish every one a very lovely Christmas, Chanukah, or whatever it is you celebrate this time of year!  Happy Holidays!

Here is a heartwarming Christmas story I read today that goes back to Ireland in 1911.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday -- John Kristiansen

John Kristiansen (1904-1964), born in Baerum, Norway.  He was my grandmother's oldest brother.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday -- Christen O. Haug

Grave of my great-uncle Christen Haug.  He was born Kristen Olausen Jordbaerhaugen in Baerum, Norway.  He emigrated to North Dakota in 1905.  He is buried at the Bethany Cemetery in Divide County, North Dakota (Grenora).  Photo by Herb Schwede.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bestefar

On October 15, 1914, my grandfather, Thorolf Johannes Haugen, was born in Pori, Finland (once called Bjoerneborg, Finland).  His parents moved there for three years to work and returned to Norway in 1917.  

I was only 12 when my Bestefar died, but I still have fond memories of him.  Bestefar was so handsome and kind.  I remember Christmas in Norway and how he smiled at me and played "this little piggy" with my fingers as I sat on his lap.  We visited him and my grandmother in Norway during the summers, too, and I loved their little house that my grandfather built himself.  In fact, my Bestefar was very talented when it came to anything made with his hands. I also remember how my brother and I would explore the backyard and swim in the Lommeli river that flowed behind the house.  Bestefar would take us to where we could jump in safely  -- it was really cold water, by the way.  

I remember when Bestefar visited us where we lived in Spain, both in Bilbao and Almuñecar; he also came to the United States, when we lived in New Jersey, the summer before he died, and we took him to Pennsylvania to Amish country and then Canada, across from the Niagara Falls.  I returned to Norway with him  that summer and celebrated my 12th birthday there with a marzipan cake.  

That summer in Norway was the last time I ever saw him, but I have never forgotten him.  He had a quiet, gentle way about him that was special.  

Happy Birthday, Bestefar!

Thorolf Johannes Haugen, circa 1932 during his military service.  Below, my grandfather with my grandmother circa 1977.
Hugs and kisses, Bestefar.  I miss you!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday -- Hans Christophersen

Hans Christophersen was my great-great grandmother's (Jonette Kristoffersdatter) brother.  He was one of three siblings who left Norway for Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as their mother, Ellen Hansdatter.  He was born 7 June 1856 in Baerum, Norway, and died in SLC, Utah, on the 30th of January 1938.  He was a landscaper and member of the Utah legislature.  When I first saw this picture, I was astounded at the resemblance to my grandmother and her family.  This picture was sent to me by one of his descendants, and I am so grateful!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Irish Records on

I'm not Irish, but my husband is, and my newsletter had an article (by Juliana Smith) which said the following: " has posted indexes to Irish Civil Registrations which began in 1864 for birthsmarriages, and deaths (1845 for non-Catholic marriages). In addition there is an index to births and baptisms that dates back to 1620, extracted from a variety of records.

Three other collections that were also posted caught my eye—Catholic baptismsmarriages, and deaths (the latter being the smallest). Although these collections are works-in-progress that are smaller in size and not all-inclusive, they are significant because some of the records pre-date civil registration. Since Irish emigration peaked during the famine and post-famine years prior to when most civil registration began, these records an important resource for many Irish-Catholic ancestors who left during that period."

Be sure to check it out if you have Irish roots! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

One of several books published by my grandfather, Vincenzo Di Bennardo (later changed to Dibennardo).  He was born November 15, 1900 in Palagonia,  Sicily.  This book, Jole, was published circa 1928.  Jole is a woman's name, and as you can see, he enjoyed writing romances.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Italian Database of WWI Fallen Military

This past weekend I decided to do some online research and see if I could find any information on military personnel who died during WWI.  I was particularly interested in WWI because my grandmother's oldest brother died serving his country.  The story told was that he drowned in the high seas while attempting to save his friend. 

I found a database that included my grandmother's brother.  Here is how to use it.  Go to


Scroll the site pages until you find the region of interest.  In my case, I wanted a list for Sicily.

Once you find the region, look for the province you want.  In my case, I wanted Catania or CT.

When I clicked on the Sicily link I liked (the one with CT), it opened up a sub-section with letters.  I clicked on "N" since my grand-uncle's last name was Napoli.  The page expands again to show me names.  At the top one can see Napoli Antonino (surnames usually come first on official documents in Italy).  This does not mean there is only one "Napoli" listed; he is the first one listed.  Click on "Mostra la Pagina" (show the page) and a JPEG of a digitized document of fallen soldiers will open (see below).

 4) Magnified area showing my grand-uncle, Giuseppe Napoli.

The record is translated as follows: Napoli Giuseppe of Pietro (father) -- Gunner (scelto -- chosen, but probably means "special") C.R.E.M. -- stands for Corpi Reali Equipaggi Marrittimi, a special naval corp of officers (mostly lower-ranked officers) -- born the 11th of February, 1897, in Catania, Port Authority of Catania, lost on March 18, 1918, subsequent to sinking of ship.

This was a great find!  My next goal is to discover which ship was sunk and how.  During WWI ships were sunk by torpedoes or mines.  I also wonder if there were any survivors.  Since the story is he drowned trying to save someone, I assume there must have been a witness (or more) who survived the ordeal. 

My grandmother used to say that her mother, my great-grandmother Ciccia (Francesca), always kept a portrait of her son above a mantle with a lit candle and a vase filled with flowers.  How hard it must have been to lose her first child to the Great War.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday -- 1855 Marriage Record for Domenico Strano and Rosa Lanza

My great-great grandfather Domenico Strano (b. ABT 1826 in Piazza, Caltanissetta, Sicily) married Rosa Lanza (b. ABT 1829 in Mineo, Catania, Sicily) on 9 May 1855 in the Church of San Pietro in Mineo, Catania, Sicily.  His father was Paolo Strano (deceased) and his mother was Marianna Monaco (b. 1799).  Her father was Giuseppe Lanza (b. 1795) and her mother was Emmanuela Gulizia (deceased).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Heritage Food Friday -- Norwegian Sour Cream Waffles

I would bet more waffles/person are eaten in Norway than any other country.  I used to love it when my grandmother served them up plain or with jam, cheese, or sour cream on top!


1 pint rich sour cream
8 tablespoons water
1-1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix all the ingredients until smooth and let sit for 10 minutes.  Bake on a waffle iron until crisp and brown.

This recipe is adapted from Aase Strømstad's Eat the Norway.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Surname Saturday -- Lanza

I recently learned more about ancestors on my maternal grandfather's line.  My grandfather's grandmother (my great-great grandmother) was Rosa Lanza, born in Mineo, Sicily around 1829.  Her father was Giuseppe Lanza and her mother was Emmanuela Gulizia.  Interestingly, their street address was Cortile Lanza, Mineo.  This dead-end street exists today.  I can't help but wonder if it was named after my ancestors.  Otherwise, I don't know too much about the name, Lanza.  According to Cognomix, a Website where one can visualize how dispersed a surname is in Italy, Lanza is found throughout the peninsula.  Lanza does seem to be more popular in Sicily, but it is also common in Northern Italy. 

The sign to the dead-end street/cortile in Mineo, Sicily, where my great-great grandmother, Rosa Lanza, lived with her parents.  The information was obtained from her wedding record. 

Locations in Italy with the Lanza name.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wordless Wednesday -- Ludvig Hansen and Nikoline Andersdatter

Great-great grandparents from Vesten in Oestfold, Norway.  Nikoline Andersdatter (1865-1950) and Ludvig Hansen (1858-1929).  They were married 3 June 1883 and had eleven children.  One of them was my great-grandmother Joergine who married Thomas Alexius Haugen, son of Emil Georg Samuelsen and Hannah Marie Andreasdatter.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Heritage Food Friday

I have decided to start a new series -- recipes from Norway and Sicily! 

Pasta Alla Norma

Maria Callas plays Norma. 
Picture from
I figure I might as well start with something from Catania, the city at the foot of Mt. Etna.  Most Sicilian cookbooks in the U.S. tend to focus on Western Sicilian cooking and don't pay too much attention to the East.  The truth is that while a lot is the same, there are also differences.

My Aunt Eva in Catania is by far the best cook EVER, and I don't think I could begin to create anything to compare; but when I think of Sicilian cooking, I always think of her.  Here's an attempt at Pasta alla Norma, Zia, that could never be yours!

By the way, Pasta alla Norma is named after the Opera "Norma," which was written by Catania's most famous composer, Vincenzo Bellini. 

4 - 6 servings

1 box Penne (rigate is preferred); spaghetti is okay, too.
1 can diced tomatoes.  You may also take 6-8 medium tomatoes and boil them for about 1 minute.  Cool in cold water and peel the skin, then dice.
1 Eggplant
Ricotta Salata
1 Onion
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper

Dice the garlic and onion and saute in a thin coat of olive oil at the bottom of the pan.  When the onion and garlic attains some color, add the diced tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and let simmer.  The eggplant can be cut in squares (half-inch cubes) or sliced and then fried.  Drain the eggplant on absorbent paper.  The eggplant should be crispy but not burned.  Cook the penne in boiling salted water until al dente -- firm and not overcooked.  Drain the pasta and pour half of the sauce over it.  Mix.  Place the pasta on a plate to serve and add some remaining sauce on top.  Arrange the eggplant on top of the sauce and penne.  Garnish with a few sprigs of basil.  Now -- the most important part -- grate the ricotta salata over the entire creation.  Repeat for each serving.

Now, let me be clear that parmesan cheese does not make this Pasta alla Norma, so try to find Ricotta Salata.  It has a distinctive flavor on the pasta.  Most stores in the U.S. carry the cheese.  If not, a Fresh Market or Whole Foods should have it.  In Catania, aged ricotta salata is the best and is what my aunt uses, but in the U.S. you will probably have to go with a less aged version.

Serve and enjoy!

Picture from

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter and his Family Tree

Call me "Potteridiot" because I don't get the recent craze over "Pottermore," a.k.a the latest marketing ploy feeding Pottermania.  Wow, I almost created a tongue-twister there.  LOL.  Nonetheless, Potter-fans are deadly serious right now about following a trail of clues in the hope of uncovering the latest news of "something big" about to happen in the wizarding world.  The "trail of clues" was announced a few days ago, and countless people have been literally losing sleep over this.  As for me, I've been losing sleep over finding that picture or document of the dead guy I'm currently researching -- I have Geneamania rather than Pottermania. 

Potter-fans will not like to hear this, I'm sure, but I really tried to read The Sorcerer's Stone (a.k.a. The Philosopher's Stone), but it lost me somewhere in the middle, magic wands and all.  The best I can do is give into the crazy idea that I might find a family tree for Harry Potter.  In fact, a few minutes ago, I googled "genealogy" and "Harry Potter" all the while smugly telling myself how ridiculous I am to even consider the existence of such a thing and, lo and behold, there it was... several google links to pages on Harry Potter's genealogy.  There is even a tree I can download or visualize on-site, and it has 180 people in it and 31 families.  Wow!

So, being that I don't get it, why the sudden interest to blog about Harry Potter, you may ask.  Well, I have a best friend.  We have been best friends since 1984 when we met our Freshman year in college and were dorm mates.  Just like a married couple, a bit of feigned interest into the hobbies of your best friend is required -- just the ones a friend does not "get," of course.  After all, she listens to me drone on about dead people she can't possibly care about, and it would only be fair that I listen to her talk about Muggles and Quidditch and so forth.  That's what friends do. 

We have been through a lot together over the years, and for a time, we even wrote books together.  The technique we used was tandem writing.  I'd write 25 pages and she'd follow up with 25 more and I'd add to hers until we actually had a pretty good story.  We had a lot of fun!  But at some point we decided to go our own ways and write our own stories.  I wrote a few novels in the genre of contemporary women's fiction, and she wrote fantasy, mainstream Da Vinci Code type of stuff, young adult... you name it.  She even took her beloved Harry Potter series and created a wonderful workshop that analyzed J.K. Rowling's writing in order to help any writer improve his/her own work.

Recently, she started selling her workshop in book format and then Pottermania broke loose again -- good timing!  She has had thousands of blog hits on her blog site, and she was also asked to post a blog piece regarding "Pottermore" on the International Business Times site -- an online global business newspaper with 5.4 million global users.  And guess what... People going on her blog site have been riding their brooms over to my site because I am listed as a blog she follows -- thanks S.P. Sipal!  I have had around 400 hits on my blog since yesterday.  I have to chuckle, though, when I think that people expecting more Harry Potter end up reading about ancestors and Norwegian and Italian heritage.  But perhaps I should post a tree of Harry Potter and that will satisfy them?  Maybe they'll get curious about their ancestry, too, and hire me to research their own Muggle family history! Hmmm.

Okay, Potter-fans, here is a screenshot of the tree you can look at on this site -- GenoPro.  This is just Harry Potter's tree -- knock yourselves out.  Other characters from the series have trees, too.  Note, I did not find the tree that intuitive to view.

Click on the picture to enlarge it for better viewing...
Obtained from
 This one's for you S.P. Sipal.  You are awesome!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Biography Series -- Akoline Oleane Jakobsdatter Part V

I have previously written about my ggg-grandmother Akoline Oleane Jakobsdatter here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Also, if you go to the bottom of this article and click on the label, all the posts will come up at once and you can read them all together.

I thought that I would add an update to Akoline's story.  Last summer when I went to Norway, I visited the Methodist Church in Fredrikstad where Akoline/Oleane and her husband Samuel became Methodists.  It is also the church where my gg-grandfather Emil Georg Samuelsen Haugen was baptized.  When I visited, I met with an historian affiliated to the church, and he showed me not only the original book of records, but also a picture of the minister who would have baptized them all.  The book of records also recorded the unfortunate death of my ggg-grandfather Samuel Andreasen.  The record said he had died on 3 June, 1875 by drowning at sea.  Of course, I have previously posted what actually happened to him, which is a little different.  My gg-grandfather had told my father (my father was a boy at the time) that his father, Samuel, had fallen to his death from the ship's mast after going up to make a repair.  In fact, at the archives in Norway last summer, I had discovered the record that said exactly this.  The accident occurred somewhere on their way to Bristol, England.  I'm sure he was buried at sea, which is what the church record means by saying he "drowned."  Here is a link to Samuel's story.

Last summer I posted very briefly about what I found in the Methodist Church.  Here are some more pictures with further comments.

Fredrikstad Methodist Church.  Below is the inside of the church; the historian I met said it had to be redone due to a fire.

The minister who baptized Akoline/Oleane, Samuel, and Emil was Bernt Johannessen.  Below are the pictures of all the ministers who have served the Methodist Church in Fredrikstad.

The first part of the baptismal records for my ggg-grandparents Samuel and Akoline/Oleane.  Here
my ggg-grandmother is Johansdatter rather than Jakobsdatter (her father, whom I found out was not her biological father, was named Johan Jakob, and she used these names interchangeably for her surname.  Also, "Akoline" seems to have appeared from nowhere just about during this time.  Her birth and previous records only use the name Oleane.  Moreover, she also sometimes used 9 February as her birth date when it was actually 17 February.  She seems to know her birth date is 17 February in previous records, yet sometimes she used 9 February later.  I believe she had some reasons for doing these things, and that they were not mistakes.  Earlier records show she is born in Sweden, but in at least two records later in life she is shown as being from Sarpsborg, Norway, which is actually where she emigrated to from Sweden.  These were census records, and she must have given this incorrect information.  I think that she wished to forget some of her early past.  Both marriage records (she was married twice) and other earlier records show her with her accurate name, birth date, and birth location -- all of which I have verified in the Swedish records.

This records says my ggg-grandfather, Samuel Andreasen died on June 3rd, 1875.  Below it says that he drowned at sea.

The book of records from the Methodist church containing the baptismal records for my ggg-grandparents
and of their son, Emil Georg Samuelsen Haugen.  It also contained the death record for my gg-grandfather, Samuel Andreasen.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Amanuensis Monday -- Nonno Enzo's Diary -- December 2, 1915

Continuation of the translation of my grandfather's diary, which was written at age 15 while he lived in a boarding school in San Gregorio, Catania, Sicily. He was born in Palagonia, Sicily, on November 15, 1900.  For previous posts, follow the trail here and keep going back.

                                               Thursday, December 2 (1915)

Here we are in December, the most beautiful month there is, which reminisces over the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The Novena of the Immaculate Conception has already begun -- also a beautiful feast.

Today we went for a walk.

We were led by Don Rasa, our new professor in place of Don Traina. He is a very intelligent young man -- a baby face with a fine and smooth nose, as well as a short person with a happy look about him.  In other words, you could mistake him for a boy.

He came out of the parlor and said: Come on, guys; if you want to go far, you will have to pick up your feet and walk ahead of me.

Arriving at the road, we took a few paces and then deviated onto a rocky road that began to roll beneath our feet.  We headed to Aci Castello, a village on the shores of the sea where the railway passes and the tram that goes from Catania to Acireale. The village is noted for the castle -- well known in history as impregnable; but now its beauty cannot be seen unless it is from one side of the castle. 
Picture of the castle in beautiful
Aci Castello

For a few minutes, we were allowed to contemplate the sea and breathe in a bit of fresh air. The waves formed into breakers, crashing against the rocks of the shore and producing a delightful roar.  In the distance below us, in the middle of the sea, several boats rocked cheerfully.

My classmates and I grabbed some stones and hurled them against a boulder where two letters were cut into it - CG - and I was among the lucky ones to hit the target several times. But the fun was short-lived. We had to return.  We were forced to walk in a single line during the crossing of the small town, so we decided to spread out, some of us going one way and others another way.

The return was very cheerful with singing and talking. In Ficarazzi, we saw a turkey with little ones around her. They were the size of chicks, and I was easily deceived into believing this is what they were (he may mean they did not look to him like turkey chicks but more like chickens). But, finally, we arrived at the boarding school -- weary, yet always rejoicing.

Original diary pages below:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Nonna and Dad

My nonna, Giuseppa Napoli, born in Catania, Sicily, June 11, 1914; below, Dad, same day of birth, different year