A Letter From Nanna

My dad’s mother — my grandmother and namesake — was the youngest girl of 11 children, six boys and five girls altogether. The oldest was Clara, whom we heard from in a prior post

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In the course of packing for our move to Minnesota, my progress is being continuously sidetracked by finding old photos, notes of family history, even a few letters.

Case in point: I found a little letter written by my grandmother when she was 12 years old, addressed to her sister Clara.

And when I say it was a little letter, I mean little:

Nanna's letter
The pen should give you an idea of the letter’s size

I was in college when my dad received the letter from a cousin. I remember him showing it to me and how delighted we were by the size of it. The envelope is 3” by 4” and the letter itself is folded like a little book.

What I didn’t remember was that my parents made a replica of it for me, going so far as to create a makeshift envelope so I had the complete package.

I must be the luckiest blogger in the world.

Before I reprint the letter here, I should explain something. As has been stated before, my dad’s family was not one for nicknames but they made an exception in my grandmother’s case. Since her name was so long — Christianna — as a young child she had a hard time saying it. The best she could manage was “Nanna.”

The name stuck. Even as a young girl, she was called Nanna.

Clara and Grandmother
Clara & Nanna

Personally I’ve always been charmed by the fact that my grandmother’s name was literally Nanna. 

Postmarked: Nordness Iowa, May 4, 1897

Miss Clara Jacobson
Hills, Rock Co. Minnesota

Dear sister:

I will ans. your very welcome letter, received it yesterday eve when I had gone to bed. Momma has a cold, the others all well. Ragnvald is over to Bakken to help Signe Abraham and she has not done her house cleaning yet.

How do you like to teach school when it is so many, 34 in all wasn’t it?

It is getting very nice down here now. We have Pentecost lilies that bloom and bleeding hearts will soon be out & pansies out and many buds on the peonies. Momma said I should thank you ever so much for those nasturtium seeds. I’ve been going to school today. Helga is playing now.

The church was just full at Mary’s funeral. The boys came up. Christian, Isaac and David, they came up on bicycles Saturday. Isaac and David stayed till Sunday but Chr. went down again.

We laid 5 hens on the hen house, one was dead on her nest and the others ate up their eggs.

How do you like to stay with Mrs. Sarah Jacobson? I suppose she has it nice.

Martha Brown fell out of the buggy Sunday when they came home from church and the wheel went over her. Nettie Hovey said she did not get killed but I have not heard any since that.

I must close now. Please ans. soon.

Your sister,
Nanna

Excuse scribbling and bad spelling, writing and everything. I hope you can make it out. – Nanna

Just a couple thoughts:

  1. How hard it is to write out ‘answer’? That’s twice she abbreviated it to ‘ans.’ (No offense Nanna, but really. It’s just three stinkin’ letters)
  2. Is it just me, or do you get a sense Nanna was disappointed Martha Brown survived? I mean, outside of the peonies the letter was a bit dark, don’t you think?
  3. Did you notice where the letter was sent? Clara was living in Minnesota! Where I’ll be living in just one month’s time!

I looked it up. Hills, Minnesota is in the southwestern-most corner of the State, very close to both South Dakota and Iowa borders.  According to Google maps, it’s just a little over four hours from where I’ll be.

Hills to Randall

I was aware that our move would put me closer to family in South Dakota and Wisconsin. I hadn’t considered how much closer it would put me to my past.

Of these 11 offspring of Jacob Abrahamson (Nanna and her siblings), eight of them wound up in Minnesota. I know this because my family kept ridiculously good records.

When my move is complete and the dust has settled, when I find my “new normal,” I plan on sharing a few thoughts regarding the bios I have on these 11 offspring. They are interesting not only for what they say, but for what they omit. Particularly with regards to Nanna.

In the meantime, hang loose my friends. Only don’t fall out of the buggy.

Packing for the Move, Making Progress…

Until I hit the photo albums and, like a damned fool, I open one…

This is a picture of my dad with two Army buddies. Written on the back:

Swimming at Kamakura Beach
July, 1946

Swimming at Kamakua

My dad is the one on the left, but the other two? No idea.

As many stories as he told us about his childhood and family history, of his Army days he spoke very little.

Army photo

I should have posted these on Memorial Day.

Moving on, here’s a photo of me as a baby, making five generations of my mom’s family:

Five Generations

On the far left is my grandmother, next to her is her father, and seated is his mother, my great-great-grandmother, Kate Goodroad.

There are three things I want to point out about this photo:

  1. My mother’s dress. It’s lovely, don’t you think? She rarely wore dresses, so I’m thinking this was taken after church and given my age, we must have still been living in South Dakota.
  2. The photo on the wall behind my mom — doesn’t it look like two cats? Did my great-great-grandmother like cats? Did she have cats? (I think I would have liked her.)
  3. Look closely at the chair great-great-grandmother is sitting on. Specifically, the back and arm rests. See the dish towels? Every old person on my mom’s side of the family used dishtowels as chair protectors. It was the Goodroad/Jurgens way.

Several months after that photo was taken, my family moved to sunny Phoenix, Arizona, where we had a dog named Foxy.

Here’s a picture of Foxy in his doghouse:

Me by doghouse

I should point out that Foxy was black, so all you can see is his tongue.

Also in Phoenix, we had an above-ground pool:

Me with pool float

I sure seem happy, don’t I?

And look at my brother Dean, standing behind me. He kind of looks like he’s planning something.

I wonder what?

Me with Dean

What happened next, Dean?! Huh? WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?!

Oh, look! We have pictures from Husband’s childhood, too!

Here’s Husband with his trumpet, looking oh so cool and jazzy:

Husband and his trumpet

Do you think they planned this photo, or was it just happy coincidence the shadow landed as it did?

Also, I feel it should be pointed out, had Husband put more effort into his playing? Let’s say, practiced day and night? This would have made a mighty fine album cover.

Just sayin’.

Even so, I’m happy to report he played in his high school band.

Lucky for you, he gave me permission to post his band picture. His exact words: “Oh, I don’t care.”

Funny. Seems like he’d care.

Husband in band uniform

Cute guy.

Funny hat, but cute guy.

I’m going back to my packing now. Wish me luck.

A Good Long Walk, Pioneer Style. Plus, an Announcement

Picking up where we left off last week, our caravan of Norwegians traveling from Decorah, Iowa, into the Dakota territories in 1861, had little in the way of drama on their trip. Nothing worthy of a movie. No Donner party mishap to report.

Shame, that.

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And yet this next part of the tale is without a doubt my favorite, for it gives us the picture of old Great-Grandpa ambling ahead of the ox-pulled wagon, reading a book under the shade of an umbrella.

I can’t remember how old I was when my dad told me about it, but I remember the warm feeling it gave me. It gave me an awareness – an explanation for who I was. These are your people, the story said. This man who walks in solitude and brings a book to bide his time? Yes. It explains everything.

Along with this we hear of more practical matters, such as how they parked their wagons for the night, and later crossed the Sioux River on a ferry. You read this tale long enough, and you’ll have all the instructions you need to make the trip yourself.

Here it is in his own words (as published in 1907):

The course to the west which we were now to cover consisted of long stretches of naked prairie, with great distances between places where water and fuel could be found. We had to carry these supplies with us in our wagons so that at night we would be sure to have these necessities. Every evening the wagons were placed in a square, the oxen were turned loose to graze, and a fireplace, with a wall encircling it, was spaded out. Here we made our fire.

Before we went to rest the oxen were tied to the wagons, and at the earliest break of day they were again let loose so that they might both feed and slake their thirst in the dew-laden grass. In rainy weather we found it advisable to remain in camp; otherwise the chafing of the yokes on the necks of the animals caused sores to develop.

As a protection against wind and rain, I had provided a small tent under which we could cook and braise to our heart’s content. The varieties of food might not have been many, but oh, how delicious they were to our keen appetites!

The day’s journey was short, averaging perhaps fifteen miles. With an umbrella in hand and a book in my pocket, I would go ahead of the caravan as a advance guard, and when I was a mile or so in front of it, I would sit down in the shade of my umbrella to read until it (the caravan) caught up with me again. The long evenings of early fall were utilized for reading within the wagon by light of a stearin candle.

At last we reached Sioux City, near the point of influx of the Big Sioux River into the Missouri. The Big Sioux forms the boundary line between Iowa and Dakota. Across it we were transported by means of a ferry, and although the boat was a primitive one, the passage was very ingeniously accomplished.

First a cable was stretched across the river. The flat-bottomed ferry had a wide keel and at each end of the ferry this was made fast to the cable with a hawser. When the crossing was being made, the hawser at the front was shortened, placing the ferry aslant with the stream, so that the force of the current against the keel moved the craft across. For the return trip it was necessary only to reverse the arrangement of the hawsers. The adjustment of the lengths of the hawsers was all that was needed in the operation, the rest being accomplished by the stream itself.

After a three weeks’ journey we arrived at Vermillion, which, by the route we traveled, was approximately three hundred miles from Decorah. I had walked, not ridden, every inch of the way.

I hope you’ve been enjoying these last few weeks of my Great-Grandpa’s tale. I may from time to time present a few more interesting nuggets, as the mood strikes me or the need arises.

For now though, I have an announcement to make: We’re moving. As in, Husband and I are packing our belongings, selling the homestead, trekking across country to a new locale. (Though unlike Great-Grandpa, we’ll be driving.)

This is why I’ve been so busy lately, and why I’ve been so dreadfully behind in responding to comments on this blog or keeping up with my fellow bloggers.

Again, terribly sorry.

It seems packing up 17 years of living and laughing and loving doesn’t happen overnight. We had to tell family and friends, break it to the kiddos (they’re staying in Phoenix), get the house ready to sell, and sort through our own complicated emotions. Emotions containing fear, sadness, excitement, longing… everything all at once.

Yet whatever fear or sadness we felt were never outmatched by the overwhelming sense that this move is right. However nuts it may sound to anyone else, we believe we’re on the right path.

Where are we moving, you ask? Believe it or not, Minnesota!

From extreme heat to extreme cold. No half measures for us.

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I’ll let you in on more details in the weeks to come, as we still have to sort out moving details, as well as a place to rent until we (hopefully) find a home of our own.

In the meantime, through all of this, I’ll think of a man walking in solitude, biding his time by reading a book. Did he experience fear or sadness on his trip? Possibly. Mostly, I think he felt his path was right.

My Infamous Relative Revealed! Plus, Some Thoughts on Family Pride

This is it, folks, it’s time for our Big Reveal! The moment we throw open our family closet and shine a light on that bullet-ridden skeleton we’ve got hiding in there.

Just who is this infamous relative we referred to and oh-so-cleverly illustrated in last week’s post? I’ll tell you!

Only first, let’s give a shout-out to the fine folk who responded so readily with the right answer:

Andrew from Andrew’s View of the Week
Delphini from My Window
Husband of Anne from Jupp Kappius, and,
My sister-in-law, Laurie

There are a few things I’d like to point out:

  • First, the instructions said to put the initial of the last name in the comments, and that’s exactly what sis-in-law Laurie did. Just the letter. Exactly what was required; no more, no less. That, my friends, is the mark of a solid ‘B’ student. (Love ya Laurie!)
  • Next, it was only after the first few comments rolled in that I realized how incredibly lame my instructions were. All I said was to put his initial in the comments to prove you know the answer. Meaning all anyone had to do was read the first response (that would be Andrew’s), add the letter to their own comment and claim they knew all along.
  • Lastly, no one did that! Making the Feeding on Folly community a collection of the most honest, trustworthy souls I know!

Truly. You guys are the best.

Either you admitted you researched it, as Diane from LadiesWhoLunchReviews,etc did, or that you had no clue until you saw the letter, as Matilda from matildanovak.com did. Others said that even with the letter, they still had no idea (Oh Roo, silly Roo). I mean, they could have said “Oh, that must be Q,” and never let on they didn’t know!

Wow, people. Just… wow.

It just goes to show, you are everything my notorious relative was not. And may I say, I’m honored to share this little corner of the internet with you.

*sniffle*

Okay, now on with the Big Reveal: My infamous relative is none other than…

Vidkun Quisling!

I think my illustration is pretty spot-on, don’t you?

I won’t tell his whole story here (you can read his Wikipedia page for that), suffice it to say he sold out his country to the Nazis. But it’s not merely that he was a traitor, for even traitors can have their good points.

What made Quisling a… well, a quisling, is that he acted in his own self-interest. He wasn’t a Nazi; he didn’t buy into their ideology or hold to their plans. He merely went with the team that promised him the highest rank.

The jerk.

Now I’d like to point out — not that it matters, but I’ll point it out just the same — that I’m not an actual descendant of his. Despite having two wives, he didn’t have any children. So there’s that.

My dad was 17 years old when Norway was invaded by the Germans. I’m not sure how quickly the details of the invasion spread or how early Vidkun’s involvement was known, but my dad remembered the effect it had on his family.

In particular his Aunt Clara, for Aunt Clara was proud of her family and their relations. Just to be distant cousins to the Quislings was an honor, as they were a prominent family and several were in service to the King.

It’s interesting, is it not, how quickly our pride can turn to shame? How the actions of one individual can spread over the ocean, all the way to a small town in Iowa, into the heart of a white-haired spinster whose only crime was in boasting of her family’s royal connections?

But that’s the danger in boasting. It can so quickly turn against you.

Roo asked me in her comment last week how I felt about being related to this jerk Quisling.

I admit a part of me gets a kick out of telling people, partly for the shock value, but mainly because it’s a great story. And given the number of years that have passed, there’s no cause for shame. As Claudette pointed out in her comment, he’s not me. His actions do not reflect on me in any way.

And this is where I find Quisling’s role in my family tree an important one, for he forces me to stay humble.

Look at it this way: if I say the bad branches in my tree do not reflect on me, then I must say the good branches don’t either. Any successes my ancestors achieved, any noble or generous acts they may have accomplished, have no bearing on me. I can be judged by my actions alone, no one else’s.

This book I found in a forgotten cabinet, Pioneer Memoirs, has been an entertaining read for me. As it happens, Aunt Clara wrote periodically for her local newspaper, and her father, my great-Grandfather, had some of his experiences published as well. A few of their pieces are included in the book, and I plan on sharing some snippets with you in the weeks to come.

My reason for doing so is twofold:

  1. They’re great stories, and I’m all in favor of Story.
  2. The next two months or so are going to be crazy busy for me with many changes afoot, and this blog may very well suffer for it. Either I let it drift to the wayside, repost old articles, or let Aunt Clara and Great-Grandad tell their tales.

My pledge to you is that I’ll do my very best to avoid any family boasting. My request of you is that if I should slip up, you call me out on it.

All you need do is leave one comment: Remember Q.

Guess My (In)Famous Relative!

Several years ago my older sister was complaining about how we weren’t related to anyone famous.

“There’s no one we can brag about,” she said. “We’re just a bunch of farmers and teachers.”

“Au contraire,” I said in my worst French accent. “We are indeed related to someone famous.” (Or rather, infamous.)

I gave her the name, she looked him up in the encyclopedia (this being pre-Google days) and read his entry. Then she closed the book solemnly, looked at me and said, “Maybe you’re related to him, but I’m not!”

Sadly, I find I can’t continue sharing my family history on this blog without mentioning this relative of mine (the one I’m related to but apparently not my blood sister). As I comb through all the papers listing my family from both sides, the name is there. Like, heavily there. From way back. And as it would be folly to ignore it, ignore it we shan’t.

But I’m not going to just tell you his name either, cause that would be boring. Instead, I’ve devised a little game for you. Below are six clues, with illustrations!, to help you figure out his name.

To begin with, you need to remember that half my family is Norwegian and the other half is German.

Got that? Okay, let’s play!

  1. He was born in 1887 to a prominent, wealthy family

Quisling's parents

2. He may have been a bigamist; he was definitely a fascistQuisling married
3. At the end of WWII he was tried for war crimes, found guilty, and was executed by firing squad

Quisling firing squad


4. Afterward, nearly all his relations changed their nameQuisling family
5.  His surname is now a wordQuiisling devil
And now for the last clue…
6. He was not GermanMe teaching

If you know your WWII history, this should be a snap. Just write his name… no wait, don’t do that. We want the non-history buffs to have a sporting chance.

How ’bout this: Put the first letter of his last name in your comment, that way I’ll know that you know, and our non-historians will get an extra clue. I’ll give the answer on next Wednesday’s post, and give a shout out to all the people who guessed correctly (with links to their sites if they have one).

PS: My apologies to Older Sister. You can run from the truth, but you can’t hide. Not when your little sister has a blog.

More on My Family History: The Cheaters, Lovers, and Jerks

If you remember, a few weeks back I told you about a book I found called “Pioneer Memoirs” — a home-published item made by some of my relatives on my dad’s side. I’ve been having fun looking through it and I’ll probably be sharing a few things with you as the mood strikes me. (Consider yourself warned.)

Pioneer Memories

In the back of the book is a “pedigree chart” that ends with the birth of my grandmother, whom I was named after. So that’s cool.  (I’m feeling a little like a show dog at the moment, what with my pedigree and all.)

Included with the “pedigree” are some short bios for the earliest ancestors, at least the ones they could find something about. The farthest back they were able to trace the family is listed as Generation I. It’s a guy known only by the name Anders, as his son was named Jakob Andersen (Andersen: son of Anders) and since the son lived during the early 1500s, they’re guessing Anders lived in the late 1400s.

Personally I think this is cheating a bit, genealogy-wise, but whatever.

Okay, so in Generation II, that’s where we meet Jakob Andersen. Old Jake was the minister of the Fyrisdal parish in Telemark County in southern Norway in the years 1532 to 1557. Interesting detail: in 1532 he was a Catholic priest. According to the records of the Fyrisdal church, Jake was “the last Catholic priest and the first Lutheran minister in Fyrisdal.”

He switched over to Lutheranism in 1537, got married, had a baby, and yada-yada-yada, here I am. Lovely how that turns out, don’t you think?

Anyway, this family history doesn’t really get smoking until Generation III. That’s where we meet Jakob Hansen Morland, born in 1619. According to the bio, he served as a parish pastor from 1653 to 1672, then as a parish pastor and dean from 1683 to 1697.

Notice the break from 1672 to 1683? The break in his ministry, we are told, was due to his “suspension from clerical duties because of a violation of church regulations, involving marital irregularities.”

Now what do you suppose is meant by “marital irregularities”?

According to the bio, he was married twice. His first wife died, they think in 1670, but no date is given for his second marriage. Was remarriage considered an “irregularity” in the late 1600s, or was something else afoot?

Interesting. Highly interesting.

Reading on, we learn the names of Jakob Morland’s children: Sivert, Hans, Susanne, Barbara, and Alhed. We get an extra tidbit on Alhed. It tells us, “she married out of her class, her husband, Jon Norby, being a peasant in Nissedal.”

You know what this means, don’t you? Alhed married for love!

I can see it now: Alhed, youngest daughter of the wealthy parish minister, is walking to the village of Nissedal. She crosses the lane and there by the mill is the young peasant boy with piercing blue eyes, Jon Norby.  💕

We learn nothing more about Alhed, though I want to believe they were a happy couple. Do you suppose her father approved? Somehow I have my doubts.

The bio continues:

“After having lived in retirement at Utabjaa in the Børte district, Morland became pastor of the Vinje parish in 1676 by royal appointment, but his peasant parishioners refused to accept him and locked the church door.”

Whoa!

Picture this: the proud minister arrives in town on a snowy Sunday morn, wearing his splendid robe. His wife by his side, they walk through the quiet village and approach the church. He has no suspicion anything is amiss. He takes hold of the large church door and pulls. It won’t budge — it’s bolted from inside! Are those voices he hears? He pounds on the door… What’s that they’re chanting?

Morland no more, Morland no more!
(in Norwegian)

Oh, the impertinence!

What do you think their main gripe was? Did they get wind of his “marital irregularities? Did they hear how angry he got over his daughter’s marriage to their good man, Jon Norby?

Or maybe it was the fact they had no choice in who their pastor was, and these peasants were tired of being pushed around!

Power to the peasants!

Sadly, this mini-peasant revolt was short-lived:

“However, after the authorities had imposed fines on them for their temerity, Morland was installed in his pastorate, and in 1683 he was promoted to the office of dean.”

Well, dang! First the peasants aren’t allowed to choose their own pastor, then they get fined for trying to take a stand.

“Of Morland it is said that he was thrifty, aggressive and strong-minded, so that at his death left several farms in both Upper and Lower Telemark.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m totally siding with the peasants on this one. My great-great-great-etc.-grandfather sounds like a real jerk.

But that Jon Norby sounds like a hunk. 😍