Joseph Case: straightforward, upright

Joseph Case was an Iowa farmer. He came to Iowa as a youngster, after his family moved west in the early 19th century. Joseph was also my 2nd great grandfather.

As the Case family made its way, over generations, to Iowa, they stopped in Kentucky, where Joseph was born, and in Indiana. Precisely where the American Cases originated is still a bit of a mystery. I’ve been chipping away at the mystery for years, and the name most likely stretches back to Southold, New York, and before that, a ship voyage from England. The rest of Joseph’s heritage, well documented, reaches back to colonial Virginia.

This coming week is the 122nd anniversary of Joseph’s death in Central Iowa, where he is buried in the Duncombe Township (Methodist) Cemetery. My late father remembered that when he visited Duncombe with his parents from Sioux City, the extended family would walk to the cemetery to see Joseph’s gravesite. I first visited that cemetery 10 years ago and wrote about Joseph’s gravestone in one of my earliest posts, My Father’s House.

“His toils are past. His work is done. He fought the fight. The victory won.” Grave of Joseph Case, Duncombe Methodist Cemetery.

I recently had a chance to take a closer look at Joseph. For several weeks I have been attending a genealogy class online through the Salt Lake Institute for Genealogy (SLIG) to revitalize my research skills. Happily, the class was a chance to learn more about federal land records. I’ve long wanted to strengthen my knowledge of land records, knowing it would be a useful tool to investigate the Cases, who arrived in Iowa very near the time it was attaining statehood. Doing this so close to the anniversary of Joseph’s death made clear it was time for his profile.

Joseph Royalty Case was born in Kentucky in April 1830, one of about a dozen children of Obadiah and Elizabeth Louisa Case. The year Joseph was born, Andrew Jackson was president. The Case family soon migrated to Indiana, where some of Joseph’s siblings were born. By 1850, four years after Iowa became a state, Joseph, age 20, was living on his father’s farm in eastern Iowa, not far from the Mississippi River, in Clinton County.

Joseph first purchased his own land in eastern Iowa in 1852, the same year he married Eliza Jane Russell, whose family had also arrived from Indiana. The Case farm was purchased under a federal program that reduced the cost per acre and the minimum acreage required to be purchased, as long as the land was paid for upfront, in full. The Cases would purchase more land in 1852, 1853, and 1854.

By 1860, Joseph and Eliza had two young children and a modest 70-acre farm, valued at $500, with just under half of the land improved, and farming equipment worth about $125. The farm had two horses, three milk cows, six working oxen, four cattle and two swine. That year, they produced 300 bushels of “Indian corn” and 60 bushels of oats.

Star marks general area of Clinton County, Iowa
farm of Joseph Case.

By 1870, the farm had grown to 240 acres, with all but about 20 acres improved, and was now valued at $6,000. The family owned 13 horses, three milk cows, six cattle, 28 sheep, and 10 swine. That year the farm produced 1,200 bushels of spring wheat, 900 bushels of corn, and 500 bushels of oats.

By this time the household was bustling with six children, including my great grandmother Martha, then about age 4. In the years since he purchased the farm, Joseph had lost his younger brother Beniah, a Union soldier in the Civil War, who as a member of an Iowa regiment had succumbed to illness in Arkansas. He would later lose his father, Obadiah, who is buried in a pioneer cemetery not far from the farm in rural Clinton County. In the next 10 years, Joseph would lose his mother, Elizabeth Louisa, who is buried with Obadiah. In the midst of this loss, one more child would be born to Joseph and Eliza and named after Joseph.

Charlotte, Clinton County, Iowa, where Joseph’s parents are buried.

Joseph would soon move the family north, just over the county line to Jackson County, where in 1880 the family resided in Van Buren Township, northeast of Preston. His obituary in the Preston Independent said he was “in business” there and “owned a farm.” Joseph is still listed as a farmer in the Census of that year, and my great grandmother Martha was “at school.” Martha was 14 years old now, with two older and two younger siblings in the home. The Cases lived in Jackson County for more than a decade, until 1886.

In their later years, Joseph and Eliza found their way to Central Iowa, and in 1890 moved to Duncombe, the home community of their daughter Martha, my great grandmother. Martha had married Jacob Clausen, a Danish immigrant, while they were still in eastern Iowa, and was raising her family in Duncombe. Joseph would live in Central Iowa until his wife Eliza’s death in 1898 and his own death one year later.

I’ve yet to uncover either a scandalous misstep or a showy achievement to attach to Joseph. We learn from his obituary, this: “He was a straightforward, upright man and was held in high esteem by all who knew him.” He raised a family, built a farm, stayed close to his home, did some business, made some friends, and spent time with his children and grandchildren in his final years. He died just as the 19th century was drawing to a close. And more than 120 years later, his descendants still visit his grave.

He was an Iowa farmer. Salt of the earth. I’m grateful for that. Rest in perfect peace, Joseph.

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Happy Birthday, Hendrik Vanden Bosch

Hendrik Van den Bosch was born in the rural village of Doornspijk, in Gelderland, the Netherlands’ largest province, on Sept. 20, 1827, making this week the 194th anniversary of his birth.

doornspijk mapHendrik, who was my 2nd great grandfather, was born 147 years before Doornspijk was absorbed into the historic city of Elburg. His parents had also been born in Doornspijk, and on the day Hendrik was born, his father Dirk was 37, and his mother Gerrigje, was 29.

Unfortunately, I know little about Hendrik’s life so far, as either a child or an adult, other than the most basic life facts. I do know he married Hendrikje Top, after whom my grandmother Henrietta (“Hattie”) was probably named — in Doornspijk, of course — in January of 1872. Hendrik was identified as a landbouwer, or farmer, on the marriage certificate. This was likely the occupation of most of the people of Doornspijk at the time.

To my knowledge, Hendrik himself never left the Netherlands. It was his son Gerrit, my great grandfather, who would make the trip across the ocean to Iowa. Gerrit was born to Hendrik and Hendrikje in December 1873, just short of two years after their marriage, and was their second child of six in 10 years.

Hendrik passed away in Doornspijk in December of 1885, about 7 years before his son Gerrit arrived in America, and about 16 years before the death of his wife Hendrikje. I will continue trying to get to know him. Rest in perfect peace, Hendrik.

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DNA updates and American migratory ancestors

My ancestral home has always felt Midwestern to me because that’s where the descendants of my earliest American ancestors ended up and stayed a while: in Iowa. It is not where they started, however. They arrived there over generations.

Ancestry has been tinkering with and updating its community groups again, and I am happy to appear, at last, in an American subgroup: a migratory group called the Delaware Valley, Chesapeake and Midwest settlers. My late father has been in this group for a long time, but now, after the most recent updates, my sister and I have joined him there.

This DNA reached me mostly through my paternal grandmother, who had ancestors born, over time, in Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and likely other states as this family moved west.

Ancestry says, “The drive for economic opportunity also fueled westward migration to the Midwest … These Americans usually migrated in family and community groups and established new settlements across the country.”

This seems accurate. Many of my ancestors moved around not only as families but as communities, with the same surnames turning up at various points along the migratory path.

Ancestry continues: “A post-Revolutionary War depression hit farmers hard … and inspired many to move to Kentucky to find better land. These migrants typically moved in community and family groups … [T]hey also wrote about their appreciation for their snug cabin homes and the beauty of Kentucky’s hills.”

I have a brick wall in Kentucky … a Russell ancestor who was born there but later migrated to eastern Iowa, where he is buried. The only records I can find for him are in Iowa, which could explain why I was surprised to learn he was born in Kentucky. Ancestry also points out that Revolutionary War veterans in this group were eligible for land grants in lieu of a pension. I have often wondered whether my Darnell ancestor, a native Virginian and Revolutionary War veteran, ended up in Kentucky for that reason, but I’ve not found a record to confirm it.

Not all of Ancestry’s story conformed to my ancestors but a great deal did. It was fun to finally find myself in an American subgroup. I’ll try to write about another one of my new subgroups, the Upper Midwest Settlers, in later posts.

I know there are many DNA skeptics out there, and I share a healthy amount of that skepticism, but one of the interesting and enjoyable aspects of Ancestry has been exploring these DNA community groups and seeing how our ancestors were woven into larger movements and historical moments. It makes history personal. And real.

Pioneer's home Continue reading

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Beniah Case died at 28, a new enlistee in the Union Army

civilwarsoldierBeniah Case was born on October 15, 1834, to Obadiah James Case and Louisa Royalty Case. He grew up on a farm in eastern Iowa, not far from the Mississippi River. Beniah died in 1862, at age 28, far from home in Arkansas.

Beniah was my 3rd great uncle. I’ve happened upon his story in bits and pieces over the years as I’ve researched his father Obadiah, my 3rd great grandfather. At first, as one of many children in that family, Beniah was mostly a distraction, but lately his information has been breaking through to capture my attention, and now seemed like a good time to piece his story together.

I sometimes stray from the main trunk of the family tree, branching out to “collateral ancestors,” because it gives me a more down-to-earth sense of history generally and more context for my own ancestors specifically. I did not initially seek out Beniah’s brief and simple story; it just found me, so I’ve decided to tell it. My late father told me that his family spoke about an uncle’s experience in the Civil War, and I began to wonder if Beniah’s story was the source of some of the memories that were passed down.

CaseFamilyBeniah’s first name is a form of the Biblical Benaiah. He had close to a dozen siblings, among them Joseph, who was his older brother and my great-great grandfather. I have no photos of Beniah, but I do have photos of his father and two of his siblings, pictured here. From left: Beniah’s father Obadiah, his older brother Joseph, who was in his 30s with at least two children at the time of Beniah’s death, and his younger sister Harriet, who would have been only about 11 at that time. 

Beniah was the fourth child and third son of Obadiah and Louisa. Depending on the source, he was born in Indiana, Kentucky, or Iowa, with Indiana being most likely. By 1850, just a few years after Iowa attained statehood, the family was living on a hundred-acre farm in Elk River township, Clinton County, in eastern Iowa, according to the U.S. Census. Beniah was 15 years old, had seven siblings by the time, and was identified as a farmer on the census form, the only one of his siblings to be so identified.


By 1860, Beniah was 25 and living with his wife Mary Jones Case, age 18, in Elk River. He is also listed in the 1860 agricultural schedule for Elk River, along with his father Obadiah. Beniah and Mary were married in 1858, with no children listed in the 1860 Census. Strikingly, a son may have been born in 1863, shortly after Beniah’s death, but I’m as yet unable to confirm it.

After the 1860 Census, the next we see of Beniah is in August 1862, the year he enlisted in Company A, Iowa 26th Infantry Regiment, on the roster of Iowa soldiers in the “War of Rebellion.” He was just above the average age of 25.8 for a Civil War soldier. Beniah soon ended up in Helena, Arkansas, and died in December of that year, being “mustered out” as a private on December 13. He is listed in the Iowa Remembrance Project as “killed in action,” while other sources indicate he “died of disease” or of “intermittent fever.”


Elk River, Iowa, to Helena, Arkansas

Because I’m the farthest thing possible from a Civil War expert and don’t know the details of Beniah’s war experience, I informally researched secondary sources to find out what Union forces, especially those from Iowa, could have been up to in Arkansas. Most Iowa soldiers fought in the western Confederate states of Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, according to a PBS article. In the early years, most apparently thought the war would end quickly and those “first departing men” from Iowa were said to be “inadequately armed, clothed and trained.” In 1862, the year Beniah died, apparently Union forces marched from southern Missouri to Helena, but the town would not be fully occupied by the Union until the Battle of Helena in July of 1863, several months after Beniah’s death.

An excerpt on IowaGenWeb reiterates that the 26th regiment of the Iowa volunteer infantry had a short time for instruction and drill before the regiment was “ordered to take the field.” They arrived in Helena, by way of Missouri, in October 1862. In November, some were sent on expeditions intended to divert the attention of Confederate fighters. We learn that the regiment “suffered much from sickness, the inevitable result of the bad weather conditions which prevailed and … the hardships and exposure inseparable from the life of the soldier on active duty in the field.” The piece points out that conditions for the troops encamped near Helena were “uncommonly bad.” It may well have taken enough of a toll on Beniah Case to end his life.

I’ve little doubt that Beniah was missed by Mary, by Obadiah and Louisa, and by his many siblings. At the time of his death, he had about a dozen brothers and sisters. Beniah’s father Obadiah would survive him by about five years, dying at 67. His mother Louisa survived him by about 15 years, also dying at 67. Both parents are buried in a small, rural pioneer cemetery in Clinton County, Iowa.

A pension application, with “Bennaiah Case” of the 26th Iowa regiment as the principal, appears to have been made in March 1863 for both a widow and a minor, but I do not yet have access to the full file (stay tuned) and am studying how to interpret the index card. It is likely but not confirmed (by me) that shortly after Beniah’s death his widow Mary gave birth to his son, then remarried in 1878.  I have many clues and paths to pursue from there, none of it certain, as it is sadly a challenge to find Mary in public records for several years after Beniah’s death. One can only speculate, at this point, about Mary’s years as a young widow, probably with a young child.

I know nothing about what Beniah witnessed or participated in that took his life during his brief time in the Civil War in Arkansas, nor how much of the battle he saw before falling ill. I only know he was a farmer who left Iowa in 1862, perhaps for the first time in his adult life, as a member of the Union Army and never returned.

The twenty-sixth Iowa regiment: By one account, Iowa had 76,534 men in the Union Army, more, in relation to its size, than any other state. Of those, 13,169 died, more from diseases than in combat. After Beniah’s death, the 26th Iowa regiment remained in battle until the end of the Civil War in 1865, participating in the Battle of Helena and other battles farther east. Of the 965 men in that regiment, by one account, 47 were killed, 165 wounded, 27 captured, 33 died from wounds, and 208 died from disease. A monument to the 26th and other Iowa regiments was built in Tennessee to commemorate the 1863 Battle of Lookout Mountain. From an historical excerpt on Iowa Genweb: “At Helena, Arkansas Post, Vicksburg, around Chattanooga, between Resaca, Atlanta and Lovejoy, and along the line of its march through the Carolinas and Virginia, the dead of the Twenty-sixth Iowa lie buried. … The advantage and benefit accruing to posterity in the preservation of the history … will be appreciated by all the loyal sons and daughters of the State of Iowa, and especially by those who, in the generations to come, can trace their ancestry to the brave men who fought to preserve and transmit to their posterity the best form of government that the wisdom of man has been able to devise.”


IOWA STATE MONUMENT – LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN. In the Chattanooga National Military Park. Photo by Brent Moore (flickr)

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Inscription: “Iowa remembers her patriot sons who went forth at the call of duty to honor their country in the dreadful carnage of war.”

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Sorting the genealogy room, finding family history

box o photos3In some areas of my life, I am highly organized. As yet, my genealogy has not been one of them. This is in no way an indication of its importance to me … it’s just that I kind of stumbled into genealogy and, since then, have tended most of the time to follow my muse more than any thought-out plan. I’ve accomplished a lot of genealogy this way, but the fruits of it are … shall we say … scattered among many boxes and stacks. For one thing, I am still trying to figure out the best way to preserve the nearly 100-year-old photo album, at right, that we inherited from my paternal grandparents.

After my dad passed away in the fall of 2018, I had an intensely busy season at work, after which my mom moved into an independent living apartment and I moved to be closer to her. With the move, I welcomed the prospect of a room I could devote to my genealogy resources and family memorabilia. I transferred boxes, bags, and stacks into the room to be quickly put away at a future time … all part of a grand vision for a “genealogy room.” Then … life took over as I popped in and out of the room to grab things from those boxes, which I continued stepping over, rather than emptying and sorting.

Now, many months later, working from home during a pandemic and inspired by the Legal Genealogist, I took a day off to start getting things in order. It was intended as a distraction from the disappointment of not being at the tulip festival in Iowa that I was meant to attend this week in my mother’s hometown, which, like everything else, was cancelled. Instead, I decided, I would sort. This is Day One.

When you keep your family history memorabilia in the same room with your genealogical resources, however, it is easy to get distracted. I knew this was likely when I started this morning. I was not wrong. The good news is that I have cleared a path and found general areas in the room for: 1. photos and memorabilia, 2. genealogical resources, 3. office supplies, and 4. electronic equipment and paraphernalia. I also cleared a path I can walk through without stepping over boxes. It’s a start.  The bad news is that’s about all I’ve accomplished so far.

I’ve decided to allow myself the satisfaction of re-discovering things that have been boxed up for, in some cases, years. I have also discarded odd things taking up room and causing clutter … stuff that managed to cling pointlessly to my files, like a room service menu from the Amway Grand left over from the NGS conference in Grand Rapids in the spring of 2018.

KoreaWoundClipIn the midst of it all, though, I re-discovered a small, fragile, yellowed news clipping that I assume is from 1950 or 1951 and which I may have really looked at only once or twice in my life. It’s a brief announcement that my then 20-year-old father had suffered a minor arm wound in Korea. There is no date on it, nor any indication of the newspaper in which it appeared, but I assume it was the Sioux City (Ia) Journal. It indicates that Dad was “getting along satisfactorily.” Yes, that sounds like him.

Pfc. Richard W. Hendrickson, 20-year-old marine, suffered a minor hand and forearm wound recently in Korea, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Carl H. Hendrickson, 3910 Ridge Avenue, have been advised by the defense department. The nature of the wound was not revealed, but the marine has written his parents that he is ‘getting along satisfactorily,’ they said. Pfc. Hendrickson, a sophomore at Morningside College, was called to active duty in late October. He went overseas February 15 and landed in Korea March 5.

marineinsigniaIt must have been shortly after he arrived in Korea, and he may not yet have known how hard things would get. With the clipping was some sort of metal pin or fastener that appears to be the Marine Corps insignia and is quite worn and weathered, as well as a news clipping announcing the death in Korea of 21-year-old Pfc. Lawrence Hansen, who must have been a family friend. It will all find a safe place in the genealogy room.

Then, from the other side of the family, I discovered some maps about which I had almost forgotten. They were part of the “grand vision” for the genealogy room just a year ago, although I don’t think I’d even looked at them in a long while. They are three small, mid-19th-century maps of towns and provinces in the Netherlands from which my Dutch ancestors immigrated (to the town I was expecting to be visiting this week). I bought the maps online from a print collector in the Netherlands several years ago, with the intention of framing and hanging them, but since then they have remained in the boxes in which they were mailed. I have hope for them, though, if I ever get this room sorted.

We’ll see what Day Two brings.


Map of Rijssen, Overijssel, the Netherlands, 1865.


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Peder Malum: Hale and hearty

PederMalum3It’s hard to believe my grandfather’s grandfather was born almost two centuries ago. This week is the 196th anniversary of the birth of my 2nd great-grandfather, Peder Malum. Peder was born in Oyer, Oppland, Norway, in 1824, to Arne and Marit Hovren Mahlum, and died in Kamrar, Iowa, United States, in 1900.

As the nation wrestles with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been thinking about my ancestors even more than usual. Illness and death that could have been avoided in our current era are something every family historian wrestles with when looking at a death record, given the less developed systems of medicine available to our ancestors and the occasional epidemic claiming multiple lives. The current crisis has been truly humbling that regard … almost like a glimpse into an earlier time. Nevertheless, Peder Malum is one ancestor who seems to have defied the odds of his era by living to the then-advanced age of 76.

Peder married Christina Roening in Norway in a year unknown to me. He moved south to the village of Faeberg, just north of Lillehammer, where his daughter Petra, my great-grandmother and presumably Peder’s namesake, was born in 1867.

Peder and Christina migrated with their family, which eventually included four children, to the United States in the mid 1870s. The family is believed to have arrived first on the coast of Quebec, and by some accounts, first made their way to Chicago by water and rail, before arriving in Iowa. Peder’s first days in Iowa were spent in Linn County. The 1880 U.S. Census places him in Monroe township, just northwest of Cedar Rapids.

By 1885, Peder had settled with his family in the central Iowa town of Kamrar, in Hamilton County, and this is where he would farm and live for the remainder of his life. Peder helped to organize the local Lutheran cemetery, where his own grave is now located. I’ve visited this country cemetery twice. It is a lovely and peaceful little place surrounded by farmland. The family seems to have moved between the Lutheran and Methodist denominations, and at the time of his death Peder belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

I obviously never knew Peder. The first of his descendants who was known to me was his grandson, my grandfather, Carl Hendrickson. For that reason, I’ll let Peder’s obituary in the Webster City Tribune of April 13, 1900, tell his story:

Malum_Stone“The death of Peter Malum last Wednesday near Kamrar, Iowa, was indeed a sudden and unexpected blow to family, friends and neighbors. He was an old man, beloved by all who knew him; hale and hearty, apparently, but like a wise man, prepared for the future while well, by getting a heart knowledge of the Great Savior of men.

He left his home Wednesday morning, telling his daughter, Mrs. Hendrickson, with whom he lived, that as he felt unusually well, he would walk over to Kamrar. He had gone nearly the entire distance of two miles when he stopped at a friend’s home and chatted for a few moments, in his light, lively manner and took luncheon, when suddenly, as he was about to leave, he fell dead. His death was caused by heart disease, and though sudden, was easy.

“Peter Malum was born in Norway, in 1824; came to this country in 1872, and settled in Linn County, Iowa. In 1882 he removed to Hamilton County, where he has since lived.

“At the time of his death he was a member of the M. E. Church, of Kamrar, and was always considered a good, faithful Christian man. The funeral took place Friday at 2 p.m., and was conducted by his pastor, Rev. E.S. Benjamin. He was buried in the Lutheran cemetery, four miles south of Kamrar. His daughters, two of whom reside near Kamrar, and one near Thornton, Iowa, and his son of Des Moines, were present at the funeral. Besides his immediate relations, Mr. Malum left a large circle of friends who will sincerely mourn his death.

“His daughters and son have lost a good Christian father, but their loss is only temporary. Their ultimate gain is eternal. The sympathy of the whole neighborhood goes out to these in our midst who weep. May God bless them, and may they receive divine sympathy from on high, so freely offered to them and to all who mourn.”

He sounds like someone I could have learned from and would have enjoyed knowing. Rest in perfect peace, Peder Malum. And happy 196th birthday.

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What would Grandma Hattie have made of 2020?

JLGrandmaK_croppedToday, March 20, is the 110th anniversary of the birth of my maternal grandmother, Henrietta (“Hattie”) Van den Bosch Kreykes. I’ve been thinking about her a lot today, in the midst of navigating the effects of the coronavirus crisis in my personal and work life. Everyone in my family seems to be doing fine so far, but the social distancing has affected us all in one way or another.

What would my grandmother have thought of it all? She was born in 1910 and, like everyone in her generation, lived through some difficult personal and historical times … the loss of her mother at a relatively young age, the loss of a younger sister, the Great Depression, World War II, you name it …

grandma's afghanMy grandmother was a quiet woman when I knew her, and one talent she had that I always admired was her needlework. Today I took out the afghan she made for me years ago, just like the ones she made for all of her grandchildren, and a table covering, much like the doilies she made in abundance. They are comfort items. Once when she was visiting us from Iowa, I was impressed that she sewed Bluebird/ Campfire Girl uniforms for both my sister and me in one day. She probably took this talent in stride, but I was always impressed by it and remain so. It was a practical talent, not a self-indulgent one.

I still have an image of Grandma sitting quietly in her house, engaged almost incidentally in some needlework project. While I didn’t know her during any of the difficult historical times of her life, my sense is that she faced them the way most of her generation did … with resolve, faith, and no particular sense of entitlement. I suspect she’d have done the same today. Miss you, Grandma. Happy Birthday.

My Grandma Kreykes was born in 1910 in Capel Township, Sioux County, Iowa, married my grandfather in 1930, had four children, and passed away in Orange City, Sioux County, Iowa, in 1995. I wrote a fuller birthday profile of her last year, which can be found here.

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Grandma’s college diploma

readingwithgrandmah_croppedYesterday, March 5, was the 116th anniversary of the birth of my paternal grandmother, Dorothy Clausen Hendrickson.

A few weeks ago, my mother found Grandma’s 1925 college diploma amidst some of my late father’s documents. Mom has been going through boxes of personal items since my father passed away in September of 2018, and the diploma turned up unexpectedly not long ago. I had not ever seen it and did not even know it was in our possession.

In fact, although I knew my grandmother had been an English teacher and had graduated from college in Iowa, I knew few of the details. One of my real regrets is not talking to my grandmother more about her college years … and her teaching years. Although my grandmother, who was a quiet and reserved woman, did not talk much about those years, she did once tell my sister and me that when she was in college the girls spent their spare time playing bridge. A lot had changed about college in the intervening years, but that’s my strongest memory of her college memories. I never did learn to play bridge, but maybe my mother can still teach me.

GrandmaH_diplomaI have so many questions for my grandmother now that are better than the ones I had when I was younger. It makes sense that as an English teacher she passed on a love of reading to my father, who passed it on to me, and for that I am sincerely grateful.

I am happy that we now have the diploma. Although it seems to have gotten folded at some point since she graduated in 1925 and has several deep creases, it is otherwise in good shape. Grandma graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in education from Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa, in Cedar Falls, in 1925, then taught high school English in Iowa for a few years. She married my grandfather, Carl Hendrickson, in November 1927, gave birth to my father in 1930, and passed away in California in 1991.

I wrote a more complete profile of Grandma Hendrickson last year on the 115th anniversary of her birth.

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Favorite Discovery? Too many to choose

The theme for week 7 of 52 ancestors in 52 weeks was “favorite discovery.” Of course, I cannot choose just one favorite. Being somewhat behind in these posts, and racing to catch up, I finally settled on a brief discussion of a few of my favorite discoveries that I can actually show you: some letters, a book, a picture, and an organ.

JanLetterFourThe letters. Discovering that my 2nd great grandfather, Jan Willem Kreijkes, had written a series of letters from Iowa to the Netherlands around the turn of the 20th century — and that they were available to read and copy — was one of my earliest and most cherished discoveries. The letters are included in a collection of Dutch immigrant letters housed in the archives of the Christian Reformed Church at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They were translated from Dutch to English by an unknown translator. I acquired copies a few years ago and not only enjoyed reading them as a way to get to know Jan Willem better, but I am still mining them for clues and information about the Kreijkes/Kreykes family. I have a series on this blog, Letters to the Netherlands, with excerpts from the letters.

Books3The book. Another early discovery was a book called Sleeps Not the Valley by Carmen Moe. The series of events that led to me discovering this book were so swift and unexpected that I don’t even remember how they originated. The book was self-published by a distant cousin and includes an introductory section on Norwegian history and a full chapter about my direct ancestors, the Malums of Øyer. The information was drawn from Norwegian records and bygdeboks. Bygdeboks are local histories that were written by Norwegian communities and sometimes included rich details of people’s lives. Sleeps Not the Valley was out of print, and at the time I was able to find only one available pre-owned copy from a book seller online. I bought it, and from that book I learned not only more details of the Malum genealogy but a little about what their home was like and about their involvement in the Haugean religious movement. It opened up my understanding of my Norwegian ancestors.

arne_marit2The pictures. All of the photos I’ve discovered that I never thought I would, especially the oldest ones, have absolutely been among my favorite discoveries. But speaking of the Malums (above), the pictures that came to light of my 3rd great grandparents, who never left Norway, truly caught me by surprise. I call them “pictures” rather than “photos” because they seemed to be a combination of photo and illustration and thus intrigued me. I had come to terms with Arne and Marit Malum remaining silhouettes in the family tree — because after all, they were born in the 1780s and never left Norway — but then their pictures emerged. It started me on a quest to find out how such pictures were produced, and I even wrote a post speculating that the pictures were a form of charcoal portrait.

organThe organ.  It was a 3rd cousin who first pointed me to the small pipe organ built by my 2nd great grandfather, Harmen Van der Maaten, a Dutch immigrant. I learned that it was housed in a local historic home (unrelated to the family) in Orange City, Iowa, that was open to the public. However, because the home was only truly open certain times of the year, some very kind people in the community arranged for me to be let in, see the organ, and even try to play it a little. I have been back a couple of times since, during the annual Tulip Festival when tours through the home are ongoing, and I always stop to take another look and pay respects. Here is a more information about the organ.

Final thoughts. A more disciplined writer — and one with more time — would have settled on a single favorite discovery and written on it in more detail. I just couldn’t do it, though, and as it is, these discoveries just scratch the surface. Family history is a never-ending quest for answers … which leads to more questions … punctuated by occasional discoveries that sometimes seem to fall from the sky right into my lap … and all of them are my favorites.

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To colorize or not to colorize …

With so many people experimenting with and sharing the colorized versions of their black-and-white family photos through MyHeritage In Color™, I decided to take a few minutes to experiment and get in on the action.

MyHeritage provides a feature that allows you to upload a black-and-white photo, then wait a few minutes to see a colorized version. A nifty slider between the two versions allows you to compare them. It’s an impressive feature, and the creators have apparently anticipated concerns by providing an embossed symbol in the bottom left corner of each colorized photo to indicate that it is a colorized version and not an original.

Still … I wonder if in our eagerness to acquire authenticity we risk somehow losing it. The colors are not necessarily true to life , although in most cases they are probably close. I am sure it will become technically better over time, eliminating problems like the strange tint created by the shadows on my grandfather’s arms or the darkened lips on the two girls, both shown below. As far as I can tell, when the program is uncertain it defaults to a grayscale tone, at least for now. I’d be more concerned about colors coming to be seen as true that weren’t … us starting to see colorized versions as reality, when they aren’t. It’s also possible I’m overthinking this because I do that.

I tend to be overly careful with things like this … and maybe I’ve just become unnaturally attached to the black and white versions of my ancestors … but while I’m sure I’ll have fun experimenting with this feature, I suspect I will use it sparingly, at first, with anything I might share. Many people are loving it, though, and I’m open to being persuaded that I should give up any reservations.  A few of my colorized ancestors appear below.

Family of Arie and Mattie Kreykes, my great-grandparents, Sioux County, Iowa.



My grandfather, Carl Hendrickson, with my father as a baby, Sioux City, Iowa.



My mother, left, with her cousin, right. Plymouth or Sioux County, Iowa.

cousins cousins-colorized

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