Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011–The Year in Review

jmAs I sit here pondering the end of another year, sometimes it’s the hard times that seem to rise to the surface of my consciousness more quickly than anything else.  The low point of the year was losing a good friend and genealogy partner, John Melton, quite unexpectedly.  I had the blessing of working with John on various projects off and on for the last ten years, and will miss his unending energy and his sense of humor.  Rest in peace, friend.

I also had to say goodbye to one of those rare places on earth that, when you look at it, fills you with abundant history and happy memories.  Voorhees Hall, the main building of long-defunct Huron College, was torn down after 100+ years of service.  I loved the beautiful architecture of every part of it, and enjoyed my years there, especially sitting on the north steps smoking a cigarette between classes with all of the other slaves to the habit, and met some wonderful people while doing so.  It will be hard to drive past that site and not see it there.

On a more positive note -

I started what hopefully will be the most fruitful thing I’ve ever done, at least in genealogy terms.   I’ve blogged about my great-uncle, Flight Officer Raymond Christensen, whose Beaufighter plunged into the sea near Corsica while tangling with the Nazis.  I’ll be blogging more about this, but to make a long story short, through one of those Genealogy Angels, I’ve discovered that the body of Ray’s pilot, Joseph Leonard, HAD been recovered and identified.  This certainly increases the chances that Ray’s body was recovered as well, perhaps just not identified.  Our family has begun the process of looking for a match, aided by mitochonrial DNA.  Perhaps 2012 will be the year we can bring Ray home to rest.

I’ve been able to scale of couple of other genealogy mountains in 2011 as well.  After years of trying to positively identify the parents of Charlotte DeBolt, it looks likely that her father was Patrick Burnside(s) of Ohio.  A book of will abstracts was published years ago listed among Patrick’s heirs a Charlotte DeBolt and her husband William DeBolt.  Hmmm… my Charlotte’s husband was Daniel DeBolt.   I got the entire probate packet and later in the probate, Charlotte is again mentioned with her correct husband, Daniel.  The initial mention of William was perhaps an error, as her brother, another heir, was also named William and listed next after Charlotte.  I’d like to find at least one more solid indication of a relationship between Charlotte and Patrick Burnside before I’m ready to call this mystery “solved”, but this is a wonderful piece of evidence.

Another big breakthrough was finding the grave site of Roland and Elizabeth Sisson.  I’ve tried for two years to visit their graves, but due to a comedy of errors online, including a mis-naming of the cemetery and a grossly incorrect mapping of it, I hunted in vain.  It was thanks to Find-a-grave and another Genealogy Angel that the name was corrected and an accurate map was provided.  I also learned of another small cemetery a couple of miles away, in the middle of a cornfield, where Roland and Elizabeth’s two young daughters are buried.  I was able to find their graves as well.

One of the things that warms my heart the most concerns my granddaughters’families.  I’ve been working on these lines for several years and have amassed a fair amount of information, but not one photo of anyone in this family.  Thanks to my tree on (which is private, but shows up in the index), I was contacted by a distant cousin of theirs who is also working on these families and had photos that she most graciously shared.  I feel so good about being able to show these little girls who these ancestors were, and what they looked like.  It’s especially fun seeing some strong family resemblances.  I truly did not think we’d ever have photos to put into the family history.  Cousins truly are the most wonderful genealogy resource available, and can oftentimes turn into great friends in the process.

In addition to continuing with my ProGen Study Group, I also took on another county site for Genealogy TrailsPeoria County, Illinois.  This is a special county for me, as my ancestors hail from there, and I used to have a Peoria county website that operated independently, but after nine years, had to take it off-line.  I’m glad to be “back in the saddle” and involved with Peoria County’s rich history and pioneer families, and grateful to the site’s former host for all of her hard work in making this a fantastic resource for Illinois researchers.  I look forward to adding a ton of data to the site in 2012.  In addition to the Peoria County site, I’m still hosting the South Dakota state site, as well as Beadle and Hand County sites. 

I’m looking forward to an exciting, even exhilarating, 2012, and wish the same for all of you!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Scrapbook Saturday–A Working Gal

Another page from the scrapbook of my mother-in-law, who was a fixture at the Hand County (South Dakota) Courthouse for 50 years, working for the Highway Department.

The National Youth Association’s representative recommended Louise for a job after her high school graduation in 1937.  Her first assignment was bookwork on easements for Highway 14 through Hand County.  Later, she did bookwork for the WPA Road projects in the county for 20 cents an hour.  Her bookkeeping methods became perfected over the years, and used as a model for other departments.  A copy of a letter from another Highway Department bookkeeper, written in 1963, was used on this page.  It reads in part as follows:

“I am the Hwy. Bkpr. for Potter County, and the State Auditing Department has criticized me to a crisp for being to [sic] slow in getting out my yearly report.
“They recommend your books and your system as the peak of perfection, and suggested that I ask you for an appointment and do it as you do it.
“I have worked a great deal and I understand that time is a precious commodity for the gal that works, if you are able to find time to take me on for a bookwork discussion, I will be most glad to reimburse you for your kindness.”


In 1977, South Dakota Governor Dick Kneip proclaimed “Louise Ulmer Day” in recognition of her numerous contributions over the years.  Hand County was always a very important part of her life.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Scrapbook Saturday–Photo Pedigree

Another page from my mother-in-law’s scrapbook.  I love the photo pedigrees, although this one spans only three generations.  I love looking at their faces, noting resemblances, etc. 
Louise starts – followed by her parents, Casper J. Kluthe and Jennie Schlechter.  Casper’s parents were Casper Kluthe and Maria Katherina “Katie” Kleine, both German immigrants.  Jennie’s parents, also German immigrants, were Conrad Schlechter and Johanna “Jennie” Grewe.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Scrapbook Saturday - "House of Used-To-Be"

 A page from the scrapbook of my mother-in-law, describing the early farm home of her family, now gone.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Genealogy, Family History, and Censorship

As a volunteer for Genealogy Trails, and as a person trying to be a “good neighbor” in the genealogy world, I spend a fair amount of time transcribing public domain materials that might be of help to someone else researching their family history.  While traveling, I oftentimes make unexpected stops at small rural cemeteries and snap a few headstone shots for Find-a-grave.  I’ve been helped immensely by others doing the same thing, and want to pay back as much as I can.  One never knows when some little nugget they’ve put online might be just the thing to put a chip in someone else’s brick wall.
I started a blog, Sharing Genealogy, for making available oddball items I run across, or find sitting on my office bookshelves.  Awhile back, I found a book on the history of St. Paul, Minnesota, which I picked up at a library book sale.  I personally have no ties to St. Paul, but someone, somewhere does, and thumbing through it, I found some interesting stories, and some old photos.  So I decided to start scanning and transcribing it – all 222 pages.  All was going well, until September 30, when Chapter XIII was posted – “Chippewas and Sioux.”  The next thing you know, I have an ugly, anonymous comment posted questioning my motives and calling this post “bigoted and ethocentric white man crap.”
I answered as politely as I could, but that wasn’t the end of it.  Thanks to comment moderation, no more hateful venom is online.  But it does bring up the point of censorship – is it right?  Should we, as sharers of the past, be held responsible for editing another’s work?  If yes, whose standards do we use?  Our own?  Or the standards of the most sensitive persons that might read our blogs?  If the latter, will we offend someone who resents our editing?  Is there a “happy medium”, and if so, how do we define it?   Only one thing is clear – this is muddy water. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Voorhees Hall–There and Gone


I’m not sure of the exact date on the above postcard of Huron College (Huron, South Dakota), but would guess it to be ~1910.  I grew up looking at this wonderful old building, Voorhees Hall, and during a few times in my childhood, had occasion to enter this grand structure, always captivated by the beautiful architecture.  Eventually, I went to school there myself.  Within those old walls you could almost feel the history, and going up to the huge lecture room on the third floor you could feel the presence of one hundred years’ worth of scholars, filling their minds with worldly knowledge.

So this was a particularly sad time for me when a friend sent the photo below.  Voorhees Hall is no more – razed to make way for a swimming pool.  

It’s going to take a very long time before seeing this sight doesn’t hurt…

Photo courtesy of Michael Bonnes

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

She Banged the Banker

A newspaper article too good not to share.  If only they wrote articles like this these days…

This article appears to be from the Peoria Star, Peoria, Illinois, and is in a scrapbook created by the Princeville Heritage Museum, Princeville, Illinois.

Susannah was the younger sister of my ancestress Rebecca DeBolt Lair, and Peter Auten was a local banker referred to by Rebecca in her will as “my good friend.”


Old Maid of 85 Years Vigorously Demands Her Rights
Sunday, May 24, 1903

Unwedded and unloved Miss Susannah Debolt has lived in this vale of  tears for 85 long years, but not for (---)  is this vale a tearful one. Far from it, good Gonzago.

This antique spinster is still a woman with a vigorous constitution and a strong mind, although it runs on an eccentric.  Fourscore and five years have not debilitated her spirit though they may have somewhat warped her mentality.  She lives alone in Princeville, chiefly in communion with the spirits of those whom she knew in her youth and mature womanhood, and so intimately has she become associated with them that she has very little respect for those who still inhabit this tenement of clay.

In the exercise of his judicial duties, it devolved upon Judge Slemmons to journey to Princeville yesterday and formally adjudge her incapable of caring for her estate, which is valued at about $4,000.  The judge found her another Meg Merrilies, her eyes, undimmed with the rime of years, still flashing in anger and her tongue fluent in invective.  She has a particular aversion to Banker Auten, the Princeville capitalist and by a peculiar circumstance he was appointed her conservator.  During the judicial proceedings she created a dramatic scene by rising suddenly in her seat and after overwhelming the luckless banker with a torrent of abuse she seized a yardstick and brought it down on his venerable head with a resounding whack.  It was a yardstick made in the good old days when articles of that sort were substantial and a ridge immediate arose on the banker's bald head to indicate the point of contact and to render its interior works incapable of striking a balance for the remainder of the day. 

Through the rest of the examination the old lady sat erect in her chair and with the yardstick by her side, as a queen might sit upon her throne grasping her imperial sceptre.  From that time on the judge and examiners were studiously respectful in their demeanor toward her and felt relieved when the ordeal was over.

The old lady has outlived all her near relatives and the proceedings of yesterday were taken in order to give her proper care and attention for the remnant of her days.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Miss Birks


I don’t think about junior high without thinking of Miss Birks.  The big old school building, pictured above, was referred to in postcards as the “new high school” but by the time I worked my way up the educational ladder, a newer “new high school” had been built, and the large, historic old building had been turned over to the junior high crowd.  Even back then, I loved the old architecture of the building, although the sheer size of it scared me half to death, as did Miss Birks.

I passed Miss Birks in the hallways many more times than I could count.  She always seemed to have a stern look about her, but then, after years of dealing with youngsters of that age and hormonal status, you’d better be tough.  At one particular point in time, I recall going through a bit of a crisis, and although I don’t recollect exactly what the problem was, it was serious enough that I considered talking to Miss Birks, who was by then the guidance counselor.  However, about that time I’d pass her in the hall again, and her aura of authoritarianism quickly changed my mind.

imageOver the years, when I’d see old photos of that beautiful school building, I’d think briefly of Miss Birks, but I hadn’t given her much in depth consideration until tonight, while browsing through an old 1926 Huron High School Tiger yearbook, and, much to my surprise, there she was in the graduating class!  Next to her photo, the question was asked, “Will her voice resound thru the ages as it has the halls of H. H. S.?”   What?  Miss Birks was noisy in the halls?  Really!?  I wish I’d known that 40 years ago!  And what a prophetic question!  Yes, as it turned out, her voice would resound through those halls for a very long time to come.

Miss Marie Birks, 1926


I was hoping to find a quick obituary online for Miss Birks to fill in the years.  Well, I didn’t find one.  I did, however, find that her name was mentioned in the local newspaper more times than I could count – and like the young girl who was involved in so many high school activities, as a grown woman her level of community involvement was high.  She had spent the bulk of her life living in the family home on Montana street, from before she was 10 months old until at least 1992, the last year for which I have a city directory.  Her mother passed away sometime between 1940 and 1953, which was the year her father died.  After that Miss Birks continued on in the home alone.

She was first-generation American born – her father came from England in 1883, and her mother a few years later, from Denmark.  Her father was most noted for his work as Beadle County Treasurer as well as a long-time real estate agent. 

She retired from the Huron Public School district with 39 years to her credit, according to the local newspaper.

Miss Birks was 96 years old when she passed away at the Huron Nursing Home in May of 2005.  As the children were closing another year of school, she closed the book of her life.

And yes, I eventually did get desperate enough to talk to her about my catastrophic situation, whatever it was.  She was one of the nicest, most empathetic and caring teachers I’ve known.  She helped me resolve my situation, encouraged me, and afterward remembered me with a smile every time we passed in the hall.  While Miss Birks is gone, as is the old school building, I won’t forget either one of them.

A few sources -

Social Security Death Index
1926 HHS Tiger Yearbook
1910, 1920, 1930 Federal Census
Numerous Huron City Directories
Numerous old Huron Daily Plainsman, Dakota Huronite, and other local newspaper articles

© Karen Seeman, 2011

Graphics courtesy of JOD

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Driving Me Crazy

One fun by-product of taking a genealogy “road trip” is all of the interesting, out-of-the-ordinary things you see. Lately, it’s been cars.

We saw this beauty recently in Waverly, Iowa. Wow. My brother used to have an old green Chevy from the 1950s, but it sure didn’t look like this!

Is this a monster truck? Or a monster van? Also seen in Waverly.

Hadn’t seen an El Camino in years! I wonder how many young ‘uns today would have any idea what an El Camino is? We saw this fine example in Mason City, Iowa.

Definitely one of my favorites – a pristine General Lee. Wow. It’s hard not to love this car! Spotted in Rochester, Minnesota.

On our way home from our last road trip, we got behind this little gem in traffic in Rochester. It’s not every day you see a Lamborghini, especially around here! I wonder how that thing would do in the snow?

And last, but not least - 

My all-time favorite. It’s hard to beat this for a “noteworthy ride.” I believe I snapped this photo in Missouri, heading for Illinois.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

White Bronze Beauties

While on a recent cemetery outing in Harlington Cemetery (Waverly, Iowa) I noticed several stones that were in remarkably good shape for their age.  Actually, they were in remarkably good shape for any age!  My husband, upon touching one of them, realized this was a metal “stone,” with a soft matte finish that mimicked the real thing.  In the short time we were in the cemetery, we found three examples, all stamped inconspicuously with “Western White Bronze Company” of Des Moines, Iowa.

A family historian could only hope to find a 120 year old stone in such wonderful, clearly readable condition.  The stone at right, belonging to members of the Jenkins and Calkins family, marks burials from 1887-1890.

According to an article written by Mark Culver, these “White Bronze” tombstones are not bronze at all, but zinc, which is resistant to rust.  The process of producing these “stones”, Culver says, was perfected in 1873.  The metal pieces were produced and then fused together with hot zinc.  The Monumental Bronze Company produced these stones until 1914, and during World War I, the government commandeered the plant for munitions.  The production of grave markers stopped in 1939.

The Western White Bronze Company of Des Moines was a subsidiary of the Monumental Bronze Company, where finishing work was done after casting in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  This plant closed in 1909.

Culver states that the prices of these grave markers ranged from under $10 to upwards of $5,000.WhiteBronze_Kretschmar2
None of the stones we saw showed signs of damage, despite their age.  The price seems right.  The looks is crisp and clean.  They don’t rust.  They apparently don't age.  Vandals cannot break pieces from them.  So why did demand for the White Bronze stones cease?

The problem, says Culver, is that people never really warmed up to metal markers, and some cemeteries went so far as to ban them.  Many people probably did not believe the claims of the salesmen, which, decades down the road, have proven true after all.  Would they fare well in today’s market?  I’ll bet they would.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Interesting Stones in Harlington Cemetery

I took a recent jaunt through Harlington Cemetery in Waverly, Iowa, and while the cemetery was too large to cover all of it, I did note a few unique stones that I just had to capture.

To the left is the monument of Capt. Orrin F. Avery, Company I  34 Regiment 10 Volunteers.  I was struck by the unusual ornate carvings on the front of the stone.  Two crossed spears, draperies, and a five-pointed star are situated above what could be a shield.  The area on the shield, below Capt. Avery’s inscription, reads, “Our Darling Baby Boy, Born and died Sept. 30, 1869.”

On the side of the stone, engraved on another of the “shields”, it reads, “My Beloved Husband, Orrin E. Avery”.  He was born in 1831 and died on May 24, 1870 – just 8 months after this dear woman lost her baby boy.  This ornate stone still exudes the sadness and loss of 110 years past.


The Clarke monument, pictured below, featured two very large stone vaults. I am assuming the caskets were placed inside. I had never seen anything like this before.Clarke1


Above, a simple variation on the “log” theme.  Below, more ornate…


The plant carvings were very ornate, and the way the logs are laid out is unlike anything I’ve seen.  Three individual stones are modeled after stumps.


This small house was sitting on a hill at the entrance to the cemetery.  There did not appear to be any burials nearby.  I’m not sure why it’s there, or if it’s supposed to represent anything in particular, but it was an unusual and unexpected sight.


And lastly, we ran across this stone near the gate as we were leaving the cemetery.  I wondered if it had been strategically placed by the owners, as a way of bringing a smile to the faces of visitors…

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Parochial Tradition


In the heart of tiny Polo, South Dakota sits a complex of Spanish mission style buildings known as St. Liborius Catholic church.  These buildings, erected in 1904, were central to the lives of the German Catholics of the area, offering everything except formal education for their children.

George & CasperIn 1923, that would change.  Casper Kluthe, along with his brother-in-law, George Lechtenberg, and William Froning, took the lead in establishing a parochial boarding school.  The parish hall building was converted into a three-room school, with the building between them used as a dormitory for the young scholars.

Casper Kluthe may have been influenced by his own parents’ deep involvement in the church at Olean, Nebraska, where they were charter members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.  The parochial school there was erected in 1893, when Casper was five years old.

School opened at St. Liborius on September 13, 1923, with an enrollment of 68.  The school was administered by eighty-eight Benedictine sisters from Yankton, South Dakota, and after 1960, from Watertown, South Dakota. The school population peaked in the 1970s, and the school eventually became a public district in 1988.


St. Liborius in recent times


Bring on the Pioneers!  History of Hand County, Scott Heidepriem.  1978.
Polo Schools: Where Memories Were Made (All-School reunion booklet)
Undated newspaper clipping on Sacred Heart church history, from the scrapbook of Jennie Schlechter Kluthe

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ugly – In the Eyes of the Beholder?

In Part One of the Ugly Baby Doll story, I wished I knew more about this piece of my history. Using Google, I searched for Ugly Baby Doll and got one hit. Apparently, when you substitute “squalling” for “ugly”, you actually get useful information.

One site about old dolls suggested that most have inscriptions on the backs of their necks. I have to warn you – if you thought the Ugly Face pictures were “Yoogly” (thanks, Greta) just wait till you see the neck pictures. Without further adieu -


Yeah, I know. Sorry.

Hidden among the cracks and discoloration were some letters.  All I could make out was “COPR LASTIC PLASTIC 49”. Turns out “COPR LASTIC PLASTIC 49” was stamped on dolls manufactured by the Fleischaker Novelty Company. It was unclear to me if this company also sold the dolls, or if they were sold by Horsman Company. Several companies produced these “squalling” baby dolls, but the Lastic Plastic ones were the earliest, dating back to 1948-49. And speaking of the Horsman company, while they apparently made some attractive dolls, someone there had a mean streak, as is evident by their Bilikin doll of 1909, or the Carnivale Kid of 1915-1918. My doll is looking more attractive by the minute.

The Doll Reference website showed a picture of what Grandma’s garage sale find looked like originally. There were molded tufts of hair, blue eyes, rosy little cheeks, and red lips. While any signs of rosiness on the cheeks or lips have long since worn away on my doll, its eyes are still a faded blue, and there are faint mounds of “hair” on its otherwise bald little noggin.

According to the Doll Reference website, two models of this doll were made: a 16” version, and a 19” version. My doll measures 16”, and at one time allegedly had the ability to make a “squeak” or “cry”, perhaps by one of those irritating squeakers implanted in its little belly. If that’s true, it would explain why Grandma quickly sewed it a new fabric body. I assumed the original body was ripped or rotten; however, Grandma was smart. We didn’t have squeaky toys over at her house. Ever.

Plush Memories even has a post from a lady who use to have a pair of these dolls as a child, and would love to be able to find one now. She says, “My favorite dolls when I was little were two of the ugliest little life size twin babies I had ever seen.” See Grandma? I’m not the only one to use the “U” word.

While I’d still have to say this is an Ugly Baby Doll, I have a new respect for it and its origins - 63 years is a long time to hang around being disrespected, especially ~55 years by the same family. Grandma, it took a long time, but I finally have an appreciation for this doll, and dare I say, it’s as precious to me now as you’d hoped for then.  Thank you.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Ugly Baby (Ugly! Ugly!)

I don’t remember the first time I laid eyes on it (him? her? We checked, but back in the 1960s, they didn’t have Him or Her baby dolls).  Grandma had procured it from a garage sale, and set us up with a little crib and all the fixins’, but nobody played with it.  One day, she asked me why.  I replied, simply, “It’s ugly.”  She said, “That’s exactly what newborn babies look like.”  I replied, “Then I’m not interested in having kids.”
Despite the fact that no one ever played with it, Grandma kept it anyway.  After she died twenty years ago, I felt strangely drawn to ask for it.  Before she left us, Grandma made it a new cloth body, but she couldn’t do anything about the rubbery, discoloring face.  Oh well.  It’s not like it’s going to get any uglier…
I found it a new blue outfit at a rummage sale this morning, so I dug it out and cleaned it up a little, and then got curious about where this doll originally came from, and if it had any ugly twins out there in the world.  A quick Google search turned up this:
Yes, I ruthlessly swiped this from a blog post of the World’s Strongest Librarian, but judging by the eBay icon in the bottom corner, it may not be his photo either.  Manners and ethics aside, I know there’s at least one more Ugly Baby out there somewhere, and its body didn’t hold up well either.  There are no markings on the head, arms or legs that I could find, so at this point, I’m out of luck.  If anyone knows anything about these dolls, or has any suggestions for finding out more, please let me know.  As ugly as my doll is, it’s about as dear to my heart as anything I own.  Grandma would be pleased. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Memories Past… Then and Now

Myself, with my grandmother, Lillian Knutz (left) and great-grandmother, Virta Knutz, sitting on the steps of a house that once was so filled with life and love. Though the house is empty, a part of so many of us will always be there in spirit.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Forebear Friday – Dr. Fred Seemann

Frederick August Seemann, son of Hans and Maria Seemann of Clinton county, Iowa, was born 01 Apr 1866.  He left the farm to pursue his dream of becoming a physician.  He spent a number of years practicing in Dubuque, Iowa, and later Sioux City.  He married Alta Shepherd, a Kansas native, in Wisconsin, and they were the parents of four children: Ember, Frederick, Howard and Helen.

During his years of professional practice, he worked with brothers Carl, Henry and Will as they also became physicians.

The following advertisement, from The Dubuque Herald issue of Saturday, September 22, 1900, refers to him as “The Renowned German Doctor.”  The advertisement also mentions that he “has had years of training in the great hospitals of the east.”

Between 1903 and 1906, he moved his family and his practice from Dubuque to Sioux City, Iowa, specializing in diseases of the eyes, ears, nose and throat.  His wife, Alta, died in 1908, at the age of 37, probably from consumption; he married Ruth Trumhauer, a nurse, about 1910.  By 1930, they had moved to National City, California, where Ruth died in 1937.  She was buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in San Diego.  Dr. Fred died in California in 1939 from cancer of the esophagus.  His body was returned to Sioux City for burial at Logan Park Cemetery, with his first wife, Alta.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Finally–The Burial Site of Roland Sisson

We spent much of last summer trying to find the burial site of Roland and Elizabeth Wright Sisson, so it was especially gratifying to find ourselves standing at their graves this evening.  Trying to find the abandoned “Duxx” Cemetery (as it was erroneously listed in an online database) was my first hurdle (it’s actually “Duff” Cemetery), USGS had it mapped to the east side of Forestville State Park – an area of winding dirt roads for the most part, with many dead-ends, like a maze.  We located the alleged site of the cemetery, only to find plowed field on one side of the road, and thick forest on the other side. has a database of Civil War veteran headstones, and Roland was listed.  However, the cemetery he was supposedly buried in was “Spring Grove Cemetery” at Spring Grove, Minnesota, in the same county as Duff Cemetery.  However, to my knowledge, there is no “Spring Grove Cemetery,” although there are cemeteries very nearby.  We canvassed them last summer, to no avail.  With no additional leads, we gave up.
Over the winter, I noticed Duff Cemetery listed on Find-A-Grave, complete with a map, and an overview picture of the cemetery!  What a long, long winter it was!  Tonight, we took a drive to Fillmore county, and easily found the cemetery, which is about 3-4 miles SE of Spring Grove.  What a welcome sight.

The cemetery was very nicely kept, as is evident by the photo, with a handful of burials.  It didn’t take long to find what we’d been looking for:
IMG_8101               IMG_8104

1               2
Roland and Elizabeth were both natives of New York, perhaps coming to Minnesota by way of Iowa.  Roland served in the Civil War for nearly three years.  They were the parents of ten children.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Using OneNote as a Research Tool

In a recent ProGen discussion group I attended, someone mentioned the usefulness of a “notebook” program for doing research, specifically taking notes or abstracting documents.  This piqued my curiosity, and already having OneNote*, a notebook program in the Microsoft Office collection installed on my computer, I decided to investigate it further.
There are many tutorials for OneNote on the internet, so I’ll skip the “how-tos,” except to say it was a very intuitive program, and I needed very little formal help to get my first notebook up and running.
I do a fair amount of internet genealogy research, so my bookmarks are of considerable importance to me.  I also use different browsers, and oftentimes run them in a sandbox when I’m unsure of the trustworthiness of any particular website.  Of course, when you bookmark a website in one browser, you have to bookmark it in any other browsers you use; also, bookmarking a site in a sandboxed browser doesn’t bookmark it in an un-sandboxed version of the same browser, as I learned the hard way.  As a result, it was difficult to keep track of which websites I might need for research.  To complicate the matter further, I recently got a new computer, and in the process of transferring files, my research bookmarks disappeared.
Enter OneNote… for those unfamiliar with it, it is the digital version of those handy 3 or 5 subject notebooks we all used in high school, except it’s not limited to 5 tabbed sections.   The notebook can be stored locally, on your network, or on the internet, making it available from your laptop, if you’re traveling, as long as you have internet access.   Your notebook can also be exported as a .pdf file.
After opening the program, I created a notebook which I named “Genealogy Research”, and started making tabbed sections for each area of research I might need to do – General Research, Military, Newspapers, Books, Resources, Miscellaneous, Community (message boards, etc.), Death, Burial, Land Records, Maps, Photos, Immigration, Families, etc.  Each of these tabbed sections holds links for the websites I might need while doing my research.
So far, I’ve found it extremely handy to have my Research Notebook open while I’m working.  When discovering I need a particular piece of information, clicking on the appropriate tab to see what databases are available, and then having the link right there is making the most of my research time.  In addition, when I stumble upon a new link, I can easily add it to the appropriate section or sections.
I have not fully explored all that OneNote can do, but looking at a few of its capabilities, I can see this being a useful tool for more than organizing bookmarks.  One of the next applications I’ll be looking at is its usefulness for organizing data on the families I’m researching.  Besides adding hyperlinks to the pages, you can add photos, freehand draw or write, etc.   Perhaps a “Brickwalls” notebook is next?  I am envisioning a section for each of my “brickwalls” with notations about where I’ve looked, what I’ve found, what I know, copies of documents I have, etc.; this is data I’d love to have all in one place, with my thoughts recorded there as well.
As I mentioned, OneNote was included in my software package on my new computer, but there are numerous other Notebook applications available for download, either for a fee, or free.  If you haven’t investigated using a notebook program for genealogy work, it might be worth looking into. 

*I have no connection to Microsoft, except being an end-user.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Forebear Friday – Hans Seemann

Hans Seemann, along with his brother Detleff, were the first of their family to leave Germany bound for the United States.  Hans was the son of John Henry and Maria Seemann, and born 23 Jan 1825 in Schleswig-Holstein. 
The brothers settled in Clinton county, Iowa, sending for their parents, siblings, and fiancées, who were sisters, the following year.  They all lived together for several years, until each of the brothers obtained his own farm and set out on their own. 
Hans and Maria raised a family of nine, seven of whom lived to adulthood: John, Anna Maria, Andrew, Henry, Fred, Carl, and Will.  Four of their sons became physicians, and practiced medicine throughout the upper midwest.

In 1884, Hans and Maria sold their farm in Clinton county, and purchased another in Union county, South Dakota.  On 05 Sep 1893, while visiting his son Fred in Dubuque, Iowa, Hans became ill, and died at Finley Hospital of pleurisy, complicated by lung cancer.  After his death, Maria made her home among her children, passing away while at the home of her son Carl in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  Both Hans and Maria are buried at Riverside Cemetery, rural Akron, Plymouth co., Iowa, which was just across the state line from their South Dakota farm.

Above: The family of Hans and Maria Seemann, taken at the farm in South Dakota, when all of the kids came home for their father’s funeral. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bathing Beauties



My grandfather, Bill Knutz, found himself a couple of special “hood ornaments” on one hot and sunny summer day in eastern South Dakota – his future wife, Lillian Christensen (right), and her cousin Ruth.   This photo, taken in 1935, depicts a common scene at the farm of his parents, Will and Virta Knutz, where their teenage children would stop up the creek to make a “swimming hole,” which was popular with all of the young people in the area.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Forebear Friday – Marx Seemann

Marx Christian Seemann was born 15 Nov 1868 in Jackson county, Iowa, the son of Detlef and Elizabeth (Petersen) Seemann, and among the first generation of the family born in the United States. 
Marx operated a tourist bus on the route between Seattle and Vancouver, but had the misfortune to drop a tire jack on his foot, an accident that eventually resulted in gangrene and amputation of his leg in 1923.  He then moved back to Jackson county, Iowa, to the home of his brother Henry.  Henry died five years later, and Marx then went to Green Island, also in Jackson county, where he purchased a small farm.  After his retirement, he moved to Bellevue, Iowa.  He had “arteriosclerosis of the brain”, and became violent to the point of having to be sent to the State Hospital for the Insane at Independence, Iowa.  He died there, just a few weeks after his arrival.
His obituary, from the Sabula (Iowa) Gazette of Thursday, May 31, 1951:
Funeral services were held at a Bellevue funeral home Monday afternoon for Marx C. Seeman, 81, who passed away at 6:15 p.m. Friday at Independence.  The Rev. Laurence Nelson officiated and burial took place in the Reeseville cemetery.
Mr. Seeman was a son of the late Detlef and Elizabeth Petersen Seeman and was born in Jackson county Nov. 15, 1869.  He had lived in the Green Island community for many years.  He is survived by one sister.  Preceding him in death were his parents; a brother, Carl, and a sister, Mrs. William Roe.