Friday, March 11, 2011

"New" Vaterland Family Photos

In my last post, I wrote about the Hans Thorsen Slaaen and Anne Thorsdatter Vaterland family that settled in Coon Valley, Wisconsin, after emigrating from Nordre Fron, Gubrandsdalen, Norway in 1853. Their youngest child, Anne Marie Slaaen, was one of my great grandmothers, who was born in a covered wagon near Swan Lake as the family traveled from Wisconsin to homestead in Chippewa County, Minnesota.

Photo #1, ca. 1860, inscribed "Anne and Mary 'Sloan."
Photo courtesy of Michael Siverhus.

The Slaaen (Sloan)/Vaterland branches are the parts of my mother's family that I know the least about. But, no sooner did I renew my interest in pursuing more information, than I received a wonderful surprise from one of my internet cousins. I say "internet cousin," because although we are blood related, I have only met Mike through e-mail correspondence. He contacted me a few years ago after seeing a notice I had posted in the Chippewa County Historical Society newsletter. I have several internet cousins whom I share information with, and this collaboration has helped me to make great inroads in genealogical research. Hopefully, I have been of some help to them, as well.

(Note: I use the names Slaaen/Sloan interchangeably, because although the original Norwegian surname was "Slaaen," the family adopted the Americanized version of "Sloan" after a few years in America.)

The surprise was a couple of photographs Mike found while visiting his mother recently. He thought they applied more to my side of the family than his, and so, he sent them along. The lovely mid-19th century photo above is of sisters: "Anne and Mary Sloan" is written on the back.

Photo #2, ca. 1875, is inscribed: "Sister to "Pa's--Grandmother Annie Sloan."
Photo courtesy of Michael Siverhus.

This second photo, which is of excellent clarity and quality, is apparently of two sisters with their elderly mother (seated), although the inscription is more difficult to decipher: "Sister to Pa's--Grandmother Annie Sloan." The main questions are: who is "Pa," and which woman is the "Grandmother" referred to in the inscription?

There was another problem getting in the way of accurate identification of the women in the two photographs. As with many families, the names "Anne/Anna/Annie" and "Mary/Mari/Marie" were popular among Norwegians, and there were more than a few of the same name among the Slaaens and Vaterlands, and more than a few spelling variations, as well.

Photo #2 really set me thinking. I was not aware of any "Sloan" sisters by the name of Anne and Mary, although the shorter woman standing on the left looked familiar to me. I compared the photo to one of my great great grandmother (Anne Vaterland Slaaen), taken with the rest of her family, ca. 1890, and lo and behold, I found it to be the same woman. Could it be that the women in the second photo are actually Vaterlands, then, and not Sloans?

Photo #3:  Anne Vaterland Slaaen, ca. 1890,
 Chippewa County, Minnesota (cropped photo from the
 Hans T. Slaaen family portait in my previous blog post)

The woman in Photo #3, whom I know to be my great great grandmother, Anne Vaterland Slaaen/Sloan, appears harried and thin, almost gaunt, compared to the calm and appealing older woman standing on the left ("Grandmother Annie Sloan") in Photo #2, but they are indeed the same woman. Look carefully at the hairline, the droop of the eyes, the set of the mouth, and the distance between the nose and mouth. In 1890, Anne was in her seventies and had experienced a lifetime of hard work. Some 15 years earlier, as in Photo #2 (see cropped version below), she was not quite as thin.  Photo #2 had to have been taken in the mid 1870s, because Marit Pedersdatter Vaterland, the seated woman who appears to be the mother of the other women, died in 1878 in Washington Township, La Crosse County, Wisconsin.

Cropped image of Anne Vaterland Slaaen,
 ca. 1875 (from Photo #2)

My conclusion? The photos are actually Vaterland women, and not Slaaens/Sloans, in spite of the inscriptions on the back of the photos. Anne may have married a Slaaen, but her sister and mother could not lay claim to that name. When someone wrote on the back of the photos, perhaps many years after they were taken, Anne's maiden name had probably been forgotten, and the exact relationship of the women in Photo #2 was no longer clear.

But, did Anne Vaterland Slaaen actually have a sister named Mary, as the inscription on Photo #1 indicates?  While searching for proof, I took another look at a pioneer biography of Anne Vaterland Slaaen's father that I found in a book by Hjalmar R. Holand, some years ago. It reads:

"Thor Johannessen Vaterland was born in Nordre Fron, Norway, April 8, 1808. He emigrated to America in 1858, and settled in Coon Valley on section 35, Town of Washington, La Crosse County, the same year. He was married to Marit Pedersen with whom he had two children: Mari and Anne..." [1]

Thanks to my internet cousin, not only have we "found" two more photographs of our great great grandmother, Anne Vaterland Slaaen, but we have also met the acquaintance of her sister, Mary/Mari Vaterland, and their mother, Marit Pedersdatter Øyen Vaterland.

I now have a photograph of my great great GREAT grandmother; how cool is THAT?

[1] Holand, Hjalmar R. "Coon Valley: An Historical Account of the Norwegian Congregations in Coon Valley." Augsburg Publishing: Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1928, p.201.

Other source:


Becky Wiseman said...

Chery - it is VERY cool that you now have a photo of your great-great-great grandmother! Congratulations!!

Chery Kinnick said...

Thanks, Becky! How I wish I could have met all of these ladies (and asked lots of questions!)...

Unknown said...

Very interesting. I'm at if you want to correspond with me
about the Vatland and Torgerson families. Those names are used interchangeably
in the La Crosse and Vernon County Wisconsin records and I is hard as the devil
to keep things straight. If you want I can send you some family group sheets
on the Vatland/Torgerson's. What I have may be of interest to you.