Tuesday, September 30, 2008

GeneaBlogger Gnome at Snoqualmie Pass!

I heard a faint knock at the door late yesterday, and at first I thought I'd been imagining things. But, the dog barked insistently, alerting me to something unusual outside. I opened the door and peaked out. It was growing dark, and at first it appeared no one was on the porch, until a high voice squeaked, "Down here!" It was our own GeneaBlogger Gnome come to visit!

G.B. Gnome apologized for being a bit late, but he had been to Seattle earlier in the day to see his cousin, the Yule Nisse, who is busy making preparations at the Nordic Heritage Museum for the upcoming Scandinavian Yulefest. As Gnome squeezed past my 30-lb. Australian Shepherd and came inside, Chips began wagging his tail so furiously that I thought it would fall off.

Norwegian Yule Nisse

I asked G.B. Gnome if he wanted to curl by the woodstove for the evening, but he couldn't stay very long. "Places to go, people to see!" he said with a smile and a cock of the head. Gulping down the remainder of his hot cocoa, he wiped his mouth on an already smudged green sleeve. No sooner had he slapped his pointed cap back on his head than he was out the door and on his way. I shouted after him to watch for coyotes. He had a little trouble navigating the stairs, but once he was in the driveway, he hobbled away quickly into the growing darkness. Gee, I hope he made it... I'm sure he's alright, judging by the affect he had on my dog. G.B. Gnome is a real charmer with that crooked grin of his!

I think he said he was headed into eastern Washington, but I can't be sure. Maybe he'll stop at your door next? Watch for him, please. I'm concerned about the little guy!

While you're watching, you might want to make a visit to Hill Country of Monroe County, one of G. B. Gnome's favorite places, for the Getting to Know Me Challenge.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Family History and the Great American Migration

I must pause briefly from my Norwegian-American focus to introduce a source helpful to those wanting to read more about population migrations during the twentieth century. Social history, when added to genealogical data and stories handed down through the generations, makes a perfect blend for an interesting and readable family history. And, if you don't have any family stories and precious little genealogical data, then history might be as close as you get to understanding the times and motivations of elusive ancestors.

My birth father was part of the great migration from Oklahoma to the western states during the Depression era years, the 1930s. When I went looking for books to read, I came across Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America, a companion website to the book authored by James M. Gregory, a University of Washington faculty member.

Gregory wrote:

The Southern Diaspora may have been the most momentous American population movement of the twentieth century. Between 1900 and 1980 more than 20 million southerners left their home region looking for jobs in the cities, suburbs, and farms of the North and West. Most visible were the African American southerners whose migration transformed urban America and set the stage for important changes in racial understandings and the rights of people of color. White southern migrants outnumbered black migrants and in some settings were almost as controversial. Called "hillbillies" in the North and "Okies" out West, the whites faced challengesdifferent than most Americans who move across state lines.

The website contains oodles of starting points for further research: photos, tables, other links, and my favorite, the bibliography. With Gregory's help, you can easily go beyond Grapes of Wrath in understanding your Depression era relations, and find a plausible reason for your great granddad ending up in Detroit after leaving the old family home in Yazoo City (Gateway to the Delta).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Getting to Know Me, Getting to Know Nordic Blue

I am a Bay Area girl turned Seattlelite, with eclectic interests ranging from history and genealogy to science-fiction and Chinese film, to name a few. One of my main passions has been discovering all I can about my Norwegian-American ancestry. I began blogging primarily to share research tidbits with family, but I quickly became hooked because of the wonderful support and enthusiasm shared by a special group of family history bloggers. I love genealogy, and I also love to write about history. I currently have two publications under my belt: a Pacific Northwest history entitled "Snoqualmie Pass," by Arcadia Publishing, 2007, and a family history: "A Long Way Downstream: the Life and Family of Thibertine Johnson Winje, Norwegian-American Pioneer." My goal is to continue researching and writing about my Norwegian ancestors and other history topics that catch my fancy.

My mother, Doris Johnson, holding me
on the back porch of our second story apartment
in Richmond, California, early 1954.

Brightest Blog Entry

Not Without My Car
: My Family History and the Automobile.
Family history is not just about the ancestors, but also about preserving personal memories. The automobile had such a large impact on my young life that I just had to recall all the Fords and more that I had the pleasure to know.

Breeziest Blog Entry

No Ode to Lutefisk
Written for the 2007 Advent Calendar of Christmas memories, hosted by Thomas MacEntee, this article sums up my attitude toward a questionable Norwegian-American holiday tradition.

Beautiful Blog Entry

Duty, Fate, and Beauty
A heart-rendering story about the purposeful life and ill-fated demise of a young Norwegian-American prairie flower: Regina Winje Strand, 1873-1899.

Nordic Blue is a celebration of my Norwegian-American family culture and history, but the range of topics is often swayed by current and related news, Carnival of Genealogy writing challenges, the discovery of new genealogy resources, the study of human nature and social history, my own personal memories, and by just plain 'ole blogging fun (topics and memes, as suggested by my fellow genealogy bloggers).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Historic Cabin Represents Lives of My Pioneer Ancestors

I would love to spend months exploring Chippewa County, Minnesota. It is the center of the genealogical universe when it comes to my mother's ancestry. All four sets of her Norway-born great grandparents homesteaded in the area, and their children intermarried to create the families I am obsessed with researching.

Years ago, the Chippewa County Historical Society (CCHS) set about to preserve many of the original buildings of the area's first settlement along the Minnesota River: Chippewa City. Among the preserved treasures is the original cabin of homesteader Bardinus Anderson, where the congregation of the old Saron Lutheran Church was first organized.

Layout of buildings in Historic Chippewa City, Chippewa County Historical Society.

The following photographs were taken by one of my cousins, Michael Siverhus, of Minnesota, during a visit to Chippewa City over Labor Day weekend, 2008. Michael is an "internet cousin." We have never actually met, but we are related through my mother's maternal grandmother line, the Slaaens (Sloans). Last year, I asked the Chippewa County Historical Society if it would print a little article on the family research I was conducting. I listed off surnames, many of which are represented in several pioneer cemeteries in that area, including Saron Lutheran. As a reader of the historical society's newsletter, Michael saw the article and contacted me. Now, that's networking!

"One of the most authentic log cabins in the state, the Anderson Log Cabin was built by Bardinus Anderson in 1870. Originally located 8-1/2 miles southeast of Montevideo this building was brought into Historic Chippewa City in 1965. Inside the walls of this log cabin, the Saron Lutheran Congregation was organized. Twisted prairie grasses were once used as fuel by settlers who lived in log cabins much like this one."

Bardinus Anderson hosted the first meeting to organize the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church at this cabin on November 1, 1870. The initial church membership was made up of 99 Norwegians, 16 Swedes, and two Danes. But, it was only charter members came together for that first discussion; their families remained at home, obviously due to lack of space.

The discussion included where to locate a permanent church and cemetery for the new community. Charter members, including some of my ancestors, agreed upon 80 acres along the south edge of Leenthrop Township, in Section 31. The Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad owned the land, but donated 10 acres to the community. The congregation then purchased the remaining 70 acres for $650. In 1886, the existing Saron Lutheran Church was built at a cost of $4,750, and the cemetery, where many of my ancestors are buried, went in to use soon after the land was secured.

A typical pioneer farm table setting inside the cabin.

The woodstove:  the most important feature of any homesteader cabin.

A warm and cozy place to sleep after an exhausting day's work.

Each year, between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, visitors to Chippewa City can walk through many buildings depicting pioneer life as it was during the early years of settlement. It was a time when my ancestors were building their own cabins, pushing plows, and fighting to put food on the table throughout seasons of relentless drought and locust infestations, punctuated by severe winter weather and exceptional blizzards. It was not an easy life, to say the least!

Thank goodness for historical societies whose members work hard to preserve our heritage. Why don't you join one local to your genealogical heritage today? If you're not close enough to help with your hands, the societies can always use extra membership funds and donations to shingle structures, for example, which is a project CCHS is committed to in order to keep Chippewa City in good condition for future generations. I am so glad!


"Historic Chippewa City," Montevideo Chamber of Commerce,
http://www.montechamber.com/cchs/chipcity.htm (accessed 25 September 2008).

Christianson, Mrs. John. Our First 100 Years: 1870-1970. Chippewa County, Minnesota: Saron Lutheran Church, 1970.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Quite Possibly the Loneliest Place on Earth

Those of us who are serious about the pursuit of genealogy and family history can appreciate the treasure that is gleaned by a field trip to the cemetery: not just treasure in data, but of feelings, and especially a sense of being close to those we long to know more about.

Today, I went on such a field trip to Evergreen-Washelli, one of the main cemeteries in the greater Seattle metropolitan area. I was excited because I had, at last, located the grave of a man I am currently researching and writing about. Please pardon my generalities here, because I am not quite ready to reveal who that is.

With great anticipation, I stopped in at the cemetery office and asked for a map to help me locate the grave. The girl behind the counter printed two maps for me: one that showed the exact driving route through the meandering and shaded paths of the grounds, and a locator map with a diagram of the family plot and nearby graves. "Oh, this should be easy," I thought, as I clutched my "buried treasure" maps and got back into my car.

I drove across Aurora Avenue North and into Washelli, the older, eastern section of the memorial park, admired the Doughboy statue as I crawled past, and turned alongside the Veterans Memorial Cemetery with its regimented rows of small white headstones. Getting out of my car, I climbed the emerald slope punctuated by flat markers on the opposite side of the road and began looking around for the surname I sought.

Ah! There was the man's father, and nearby were the graves of a few relatives. After several more minutes, I also spotted his first wife and infant daughter.

But, where was he?

I twisted and turned the locator map several times, and traced my steps backwards and forwards, but I simply could not find him. I checked the diagram one last time: "Okay, the wife is in grave #14, and if I have the map turned the right way, he should be right HERE."

Nothing but grass!

And then, I realized... he had no marker.

This was a man who lived life to the fullest for over nine decades, who lived humbly and quietly, loved his wife and mother deeply, respected animals, explored the Pacific Northwest with a heart ever hungry for timeless beauty, worked tirelessly to preserve nature for the enjoyment of countless others, member of one of Seattle's founding families...

The place where I stood, at the foot of this grave, seemed like one of the loneliest places on earth just then. There was no doubt that he lay beneath my feet: a Seattle son who had been witness to much of the area's early history and was now just a memory manifested by neatly manicured grounds. His resting place was surrounded by many of those he knew and loved in life, but his place among them was not evident. This ever quiet, humble, artistic, observant, stoic, patient, witty, knowledgeable, sensitive, poetic, capable, adventurous, and dedicated man: no one could see that he was there, or had a clue about where he had walked in life.

I left the memorial grounds after a quiet vow to him that I would tell his story and not let him be forgotten... to help in any way I can.

As a historian, I have discovered his heart and mind and times through his own words, expressed in journals and letters by his own hand. As a genealogist, I have gathered the facts of his life and studied his timeline and circumstances. As a human being, I have learned that I simply cannot walk away from the discovery that this honorable person has no commemorative words above his worldly remains--no name to indicate his existence.

Perhaps it is part of my purpose to transform that anonymous patch of grass into a celebration of a unique and historically poignant life.

It's worth a try.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Long Way Downstream - Preface

As promised, here is the preface to my recently published family history, A Long Way Downstream. I learned so very much during the research and writing process, and I can't thank enough those who helped in various ways.


A Long Way Downstream: the Life and Family of Thibertine Johnson Winje, Norwegian-American Pioneer combines facts and family lore with hundreds of original photographs and heavily researched historical details. After coming of age and marrying for the first time in rural Nord-Trøndelag, my great-great-grandmother, Thibertine (Bertina) Johnson Winje (1841-1930) became a part of the tide of emigrants who departed Norway for improved circumstances in the United States during the mid-19th century. All in life is a risk, but it was extremely heightened for these America-travelers who chanced everything by crossing the ocean to build an intimate relationship with the plow in a foreign land. Over 140 years after Bertina took that initial step from her homeland, I found myself on a quest to understand the drive and emotions behind the life-altering decisions she and my other ancestors made.

Initially, I planned to focus on my great-grandparents, Ole Martin and Malla Johnson, as the subjects of this book. But, as I started to study various branches of their family, I found there was so much to learn, not only about the Johnsons, but also about the Winjes, the Larsons, the Strands, and more. Though I was tempted in every direction, Ole Johnson’s mother, Bertina, quickly became the focus of my research. She was obviously the keystone, since everyone else of interest happened to be a husband, in-law, or descendant of hers. Bertina Johnson Winje experienced many ways of living in the varied landscapes of her of 89 years, and I became fascinated with her trials from my comparatively pampered 21th century experience. Every family detail I gleaned brought me closer to knowing her personally, even though she died over 20 years before I was born.

In September 2004, I made my first visit to the graves of Bertina Johnson Winje and some of her immediate family at Scandia Cemetery in Duluth , Minnesota. On a breezy and sunny day with the glimmer of Lake Superior at my shoulder, I found myself physically as close as I would ever be to them. I tried to take in the scene through Bertina’s eyes as it appeared in both 1888 and 1893, years when she and her second husband, Eric L. Winje, buried three of their children on that green and lush, storm-slashed bluff above the Big Water. This out-of-self experience left me deeply touched, humbled, and honored to be able to tell Bertina’s story, and that of her family—a story of courage, hope, acceptance, and most of all, perseverance.

My research began in earnest in two ways: first, a letter of questions written to an older cousin who, I was told, knew some details about our family history, and second, the serendipitous discovery of online genealogical sources. My desire to know more was also sparked by attendance at a local Scandinavian Yulefest one November. As a girl, I was always interested in the stories my mother told me about her childhood on a Minnesota farm, but it took the right timing, certain acquired skills, and a catalyst moment or two before I could accept full responsibility for gathering the information I sought.

I had to begin with the search for basic information, such as finding the original Norwegian name of my immigrant great grandfather, Ole M. Johnson, who was Bertina’s eldest child—a detail not even my mother knew. It did not take very long for my searching to gain momentum, and I was soon collecting data, interviewing, requesting biographical information from relatives, and looking for original sources. Additionally, I joined historical and genealogical societies, including the Clearwater County Historical Society, and the Chippewa County Historical Society, both of Minnesota.

It takes the efforts of many for a family history to be truly reflective of its subjects. This book is more than just lists of vital statistics because of the interest and cooperation of numerous family members and friends. I especially want to thank my mother, Doris Johnson Wheeler, for sharing her wealth of memories, her love of history and times past, and for caring enough to treasure and save every photo and memento handed down from her parents, aunts, and uncles. Her collection of photographs provided me with wonderfully unique and irreplaceable material. She must have always known that, someday, her daughter would find something to do with it all.

My great appreciation certainly goes to my husband, John Kinnick. He supported my writing every step of the way, and graciously tolerated my absence while doing research and taking classes. He was also a tremendous help in arranging the repair of the Winje family monument in Scandia at Duluth, Minnesota.

I could not possibly have taken on this project without the help of many cousins who willingly shared and trusted me with family information, photographs, and artifacts, offered monetary assistance, and gave me a warm welcome when I came knocking with questions and requests, whether by letter, e-mail, or in person. I owe much gratitude to: Ardys Bjerke, Gloria P. Conrad, James and Lynette Cook, Dennis and Marge Johnson, Duane and Betty Johnson, Elwood and Ardell Johnson, Dorothy J. Joseph, Deloris Kosbau, Ewen and Zelda McClellan, and Lyle L. Strand, all of Minnesota; Oluf and Celestine Omlid of Alaska; Marjorie Skrukrud of California; Larry Gilmore of New York; and Cheryl Nibler of Oregon. I also want to thank Winje family members who reside in British Columbia, Canada: Roy and Karna Franche, Albert and Bonnie Winje, Ken and Aloria Moore, Eric and Aline Winje, and their families.

Karna Winje Franche was extremely enthusiastic about this project, but she passed away before it came to fruition. Karna was a main contributor of information about the Winje ancestry, and I shall always feel saddened that I could not place a copy of this book into her hands. I know that in spirit, however, she already knew each and every story and description that made its way to the printed page.

Special thanks to Lorraine McConaghy, historian, and Sarah Thorson Little, genealogist, for their ideas and guidance on the rough draft of this project. Both were instrumental to my research as instructors with the Genealogy and Family History Certificate Program through University of Washington Extension in Seattle. I also participated in writing seminars led by Dr. McConaghy through the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle. The seminars proved to be an unparalleled growth experience, which led to the publication of another book, co-authored by my husband: Snoqualmie Pass, through Arcadia Publishing, released in October 2007. All of these experiences have enabled me to make valuable connections with other writers.

I am grateful to Astri Wessel of Norway, whose ancestors hailed from Hemne, Sør Trøndelag, Norway, for granting me permission to publish an English translation of her father’s article, “En Utvandrerfamilie fra Vinjeøra I 1869.” She also provided copies of letters the Winjes sent to members of her family in Norway from 1869 through the 1890s. And, without the dedicated translation assistance of Ed Egerdahl, of the Scandinavian Language Institute in Ballard (Seattle), Washington, I would never have had access to much of the valuable information contained in the letters. The Winje letters, written in an old Sør Trøndelag dialect, were not easy to translate. Tusen takk to both Astri and Ed for providing assistance.

I want to acknowledge the many volunteers, genealogists, and historians based in Minnesota, whose dedication to research and simple kindness benefited me from a distance. I especially want to thank Joyce Sundrum of Golden Valley, Minnesota, who looked through original records of Saron Lutheran Church in Chippewa County for information pertaining to my family. There were still others, including "Twiggy" of Duluth, who did this stranger a good turn—greatly appreciated favors I would return in kind if I could.

Thanks also to my good friends, Linda Rae Palmer, for cleaning up the scratched tintype photograph of Hattie Winje, and Stephanie Wright for producing good quality pdf files using her skill and better software than I could manage on my own.

As a result of my visit to the Winje plot in Duluth, I became motivated to coordinate the repair and maintenance of some family monuments in need. In August 2006, family donations allowed the final engraving of Emma T. Winje’s year of death on her marker at Scandia Cemetery. Emma can rest in peace now that her family has completed this task.

The oldest Winje monument at Scandia Cemetery needed critical repair soon after my visit in 2004. While in Duluth, I took photographs of the five-foot 1888 granite monument that serves as a marker for the Winje family plot. Though crowded by invasive tree roots and leaning precariously, the monument itself was in surprisingly good condition. It marked the graves of Hattie and Annie Winje, who died from diphtheria while very young, and also of their brother, Louis Winje, who drowned in 1893. At some point during the winter or spring of 2006, the monument was either pushed over or tumbled in sections to the ground from the strain of gravity. Gloria Conrad, a descendant of Regina Winje Strand, sent a letter and photograph alerting me to the sad condition of this historic marker.

In September 2006, the Winje monument received a new platform, and the sections, which were all present and accounted for, were resealed. I am extremely grateful for the contributions enabling this repair to take place, and also thank those who eagerly supported the project in thoughts and good wishes. Special recognition goes to: Gloria P. Conrad, James and Lynette Cook, Karna Winje Franche, Duane T. and Betty Johnson, Dennis W. and Marge Johnson, Elwood and Ardell Johnson, James D. Johnson, Dorothy J. Joseph, John Kinnick, Deloris Kosbau, Aloria Winje Moore, Cheryl R. Nibler, and Doris J. Wheeler.

As many of us realize, with the passage of time comes the unexpected. The past year presented quite a few challenges to my immediate family, including major surgery for my husband, the renovation and planned sale of our home, and the death of my only aunt, Phyllis Johnson Rice, on November 7, 2007. Then, just days before the Thanksgiving holiday, my sister’s house burned, and she and our mother, Doris, were displaced. This is an example of how quickly things can turn, and how easily family history can be lost through devastation, like fire. Fortunately, most of the family photographs and memorabilia were shared previously during the research stage of this book, and I am extremely thankful for that, as well as for everyone’s safety.

It is my hope that this family history will be a source of inspiration for generations to come, and that the Norwegian-born traditions (and lefse!) of our ancestors will be celebrated and carried into the future. Personally, I have gained something precious, apart from the satisfying process of research and sleuthing out fact from fiction. Bertina Johnson Winje, and everyone in her immediate family, will forever be a part of me, pointing the way north.

Copyright © 2008 by Chery Kinnick

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Little d'Elegance Never Hurts

A day in the life of a Norwegian-American family historian doesn't always include things specifically Norwegian. On Sunday, September 7, my husband John and I attended the Kirkland Concours d'Elegance (http://www.kirklandconcours.com/): an annual classic car awards show on the shores of lovely Lake Washington. Morning fog gave way to gorgeous sunshine at about the noon hour, in plenty of time for the Best of Shows to strut their stuff for an appreciative crowd.

Here are some photographs I snapped while walking the grounds. Oh, what a love affair humankind has with the automobile...

Everyone loves a Woody...

Pardon me, do you happen to have any Grey Poupon?

Blinding Hudson bling-bling.

Just spoking around...

My personal favorite: a lipstick red 1953 Chrysler New Yorker. No gal worries about a bad hair day while cruising in this. Come to Mama!

Tin Wagons lined up and ready for tailgate parties.

The Kinnick entry: not yet an oldie, but definitely a fast little goody (I mean the 2003 Boxster S Cabriolet, and not necessarily the Husband).

Monday, September 08, 2008

Crowning Glory, or Not

From the land of sky-blue wa-ah-ters...

(Remember that Hamms Beer commercial, or am I dating myself?)

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Photograph by Chery Kinnick, September 2002. Bemidji, Minnesota.

In 2002, I had the opportunity to visit my mother's home state of Minnesota for the first time. The Johnson clan held a family reunion at the home of Elwood and Ardell Johnson in Bemidji. There was even a temporary "Johnsonville" on the grounds: a virtual campground of trailers and RVs. It was quite an exciting event, and I had the chance to meet many relatives for the first time.

At some point during the photograph session on the lawn, someone suggested that all "hapless victims" of the Johnson family curse stand together for a commemorative pic. This is when I captured the row of gentlemen below, seen in all their Crowning Glories, or lack thereof. Some are hanging on to the last strands, while others have given up the battle. All are Johnsons, tried and true, however, and have a common female Norwegian-American ancestor to thank for their shining glories.

Johnsons displaying their glorious crowns (domes?) Left to right: Gailan Johnson, Orlan Johnson, Elwood Johnson, Duane Johnson, George Johnson, Dennis Johnson, Kenneth Johnson, and Craig Rice. Photograph by Chery Kinnick, September 2002. Bemidji, Minnesota.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"A Long Way Downstream" Has Arrived

In July, I picked up the fruit of my labors at Gorham Printing in Centralia, Washington--a short-run printer of the finest calliber. The photographs below are proof: the Johnson/Winje family history is done, at last! My somewhat reserved, 88-year-old, Norwegian-American mother just finished reading A Long Way Downstream and gave me the ultimate compliment: "It's just like a real book." If she noticed that I had written about some tidbits she previously asked me not to, she was diplomatic enough not to bring up the subject. Somehow, it all squeaked by, uncensored!

A Long Way Downstream: The Life and Family of Thibertine Johnson Winje, Norwegian-American Pioneer

by Chery Kinnick

Self-published, 2008. Hardbound in blue imitation leather with silver foil cover text; 350 pages; documents; photographs (black & white and color); translations; maps; genealogy charts; appendices; bibliography; extensive endnotes.

Whew; I can hardly believe it. All those hours at the computer are just a fond memory now...

Why did I choose a short-run printer? Due to the nature of the book, I did not plan on sales through booksellers. It made sense to keep production to a minimum and go with pre-orders from relatives and interested parties. A short-run printer is perfect for this sort of thing, and don't feel that you have to go specifically with genealogy printers. Another reason for short-run printing is that it is difficult to make money on this kind of endeavor. When you add together the cost of your time with resources and training, well, trust me... you should write a family history for the love of it, unless you can somehow find a way to make it commercially viable. There are ways to do that, but it's not what I had in mind for this project.

I did not arrange for an ISBN (International Standard Book Number)--used primarily for pricing--because the book was not planned for public sale. But, I did secure a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN), so that libraries could readily obtain cataloging information. This was the most important thing, because I planned on sending copies to various libraries and historical societies in locations. Two copies have been sent to the Library of Congress: one for the LCCN program, and one for copyright. Then, how could I not also give a copy to the lady in Norway (Astri Wessel) who shared letters my ancestors wrote her ancestors during the 19th century? And, ja sure, you bet I also sent a copy to my main translator, Ed Egerdahl of the Scandinavian Language Institute here in Seattle. He spent plenty of hours struggling over that old handwriting and dialect, and deserved much more than I could pay him. Ed, I hope the credit and fame makes some amends...

Image of lead photograph and first contents page

My relatives and local writing buddies (footnoteMaven is high on the list) I cannot thank enough. I found that I am entirely rich in friends and cousins, and especially, helpful friends and cousins. I hope A Long Way Downstream meets their expectations and gets at least a few people interested in doing their own family research. The more, the merrier.

Chapter Six: "Ole Martin Johnson," and washout photograph of homestead barn on facing page

For those who are curious, in a future post I will share the Preface, which is an informal look at the community effort it took to create such a book.

Now, it's on to the next writing project, which is not related to my family history, but, it is someone's family history, after all. My project for the Nearby History seminar this autumn will involve continuing research and writing on the life of a Pacific Northwest explorer and nature photographer.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Subtleties of September

Hello again... I said I would be back, and here I am! At this point, I am quite delinquent in reading all the wonderful genealogy/family history blogs out there, and I have a lot to catch up on, so thanks for your patience.

I was sitting outside in the sunshine on a break today, and when I began writing this entry in my head without even trying, I knew it was time to return to blogging business. It also made me realize just how much I needed that short break. I had become like a saturated sponge with no room for anything more. Some of the overflow has drained away now, leaving me a bit more absorbent. But, lest this begins to sound like a paper towel commercial, I'll move on...

September is my favorite month of the year

September is change: nature morphing in its gentlest manner. The fleeting sunlight, delicately shifted in angle from its full command of the mid-summer sky, shimmers through rustling leaves and creates kaleidoscope patterns on the sidewalks. Cool breezes and crisp, dewey mornings awaken my skin and leave me almost gleeful, like excitement in response to an unexpected promise. How did you used to feel when your parents exclaimed that they were taking you to the fair the coming weekend? Yeah, just like that! September urges visions of poetry and Impressionist watercolors, but it also brings to mind riotus rides on carnival merry-go-rounds. Like the rich musical tapestry of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony come to life, September is peaceful and unpretentious, but also unpredictable and exhilarating--all at the same time.

September is full of expectations

This month will forever bring memories of new boxes of crayons, newly purchased and too-tight shoes, and inescapable butterflies in the stomach--a repeated reaction to any new school year. As a very shy child, I never started a school year without being both excited and terrified. Once I had swum the streams and gullies of the first few days, I settled into a productive daze. But, those first hours were always harder than they should have been.

September brings in the new year

...and not January, as the calendar dictates. For one thing, it is the month of my birthday, and I am in a sense, "renewed." For another, my life seems to have always been rooted in academia - as a student for many years, and then as staff at a university for many more. I must also attribute a cultural memory beyond my personal experience. During many Septembers far into the past, my farming ancestors must have enjoyed the lengthening shadows of late summer evenings all the more for having harvested the fruits of their labors, their cupboards lined with rows of gem-colored jars of preserves. By September, they knew whether they could face another winter season with confidence.

September is the calm before the storm

It is true with the weather, and it is especially true here at the university. The halls and pathways of learning are as quiet as they get right now. Sculpted gargoyles blankly stare down from lofty cornices, as if in boredom. Most of the students and faculty are away until Fall quarter, and there are relatively few starry-eyed visitors, recovering staff, and diehard grad students roaming about. The walk to the HUB (Husky Union Building) for coffee is downright pleasant. There are no masses of bodies to weave around, no elbows to avoid, no excessive noise, and no frisbie weapons flying across manicured lawns. There is only 70-degree sunshine (perfect, according to my Bay Area-born sensibilities).

While sitting alongside the entrance steps to the HUB with a coffee, forcing myself to stay still and enjoy the moment, I found myself feeling lonely, even in that splendid sunshine. I suppose it could have something to do with the relative quiet of campus, interrupted only now and again by a cacophony of crow or seagull "song." Perhaps it is also a bit too quiet in the library (if that is possible), with half the staff on leave and one person recently retired. But, for the most part, it was the company of family that I craved, or a good conversation with someone also engaged in family history pursuits. And so, what more perfect time to start blogging again - in September at the start of my year, on the precipice of change--with the promise of things to come beckoning like the words of a carnival hawker?

September: a time for reflection, renewal, reinvention...

A time to blog about family history!

A quiet morning on the University of Washington campus, 9/4/08