Sunday, July 28, 2019

Happy Birthday, Måtta!

The ruins of the church at Balkåkra.
Måtta Svensdotter was born July 28, 1788 in Hedeskoga, Skåne, Sweden. Her parents were Sven Larsson and Ingeborg Hansdotter. Måtta spent her entire life in the far southern point of Sweden near the ocean and the coastal town of Ystad. She married Ola Sträng Mårtensson in Blentarp in 1815. They had three sons and two daughters. A son and daughter died during childhood. Their oldest, Mårten, was the father of Håkan Mårtensson who was the father of Jenny Hawkinson Nelson, the grandmother of my dad. Måtta and Ola were tailors who traveled around southern Sweden making clothing for people. Måtta died 10 Apr 1847 in Gusnasva, Balkåkra.
Måtta was my 4th great grandmother. Interestingly, two of my own children share her birthday. 
You can read more about her family story by clicking this link. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Happy birthday, Johannes Ivarsson!

Johannes Ivarsson was born on July 8, 1816 in Byarum, Jönköping, Sweden on Bodabygget farm. He
Plätt Farm, Byarum parish, Jönköping

was the second child of Ifvar Knorr Assarsson and Eva Johannessdotter. Johannes had four sisters and two brothers.

He grew up in the area of Byarum and when he was twenty-eight, he purchased land on Plätt farm where his older sister Lena, also lived with her family, near the town of Vaggeryd.

A year later, on the 31st of May 1846, Johannes married Inga Christina Svensdotter and they began their family with a son, Johan. (Johan was later known to his family in America as John August Johnson who settled in McPherson County, Kansas.) Johannes and Inga Stina had three boys and three girls in the following years. Johan, Britta, Emilia, Christina, Sven, and Anders.  

In 1846 dysentery swept through southern Sweden. Christina (age 4) and Sven (age 2) contracted it and died on the same day. One week later, Johannes also died of it on September 14, 1846.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Happy Birthday, Sophia Frederika Margarette Baecker!

Sophia Frederika Margarette Baecker

Sophia Baecker was born in Lengrich Prussia, on 30 June 1830 to Maria Elizabeth (Fennewald)  and
Johann Heinrich Baecker. She had two sisters and two brothers. On Christmas day, when she was 25 years-old, she married Bernhard Henrich Frederich Windmuller.
They had seven children. [We know that at least two of their daughters immigrated to America. Their oldest, Wilhelmina, married Henry Lewis Warnken, whose family was from Hannover Germany. When Wilhelmina died, their daughter Sophia, married Henry.]
From what we know, Sophia Baeker died in Prussia before 1888.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Happy birthday, John Tichnor!

Happy birthday, John Tichnor!

John was one of my 6x great grandfathers.
He was born 320 years ago today between Boston and Plymouth, Massachusetts in a little coastal settlement called Scituate. Scituate was a village incorporated by immigrants from Kent, England in 1636. John's grandpa, Sergeant (King Phillip's War) William Tichnor, migrated from Kent and served as a town constable there. Here is a great site to learn more about Scituate. Click here:
John Tichnor the son of William Tichnor was born June 24 day --1699 
Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988; 
Scituate Births, Marriages, and Death, p. 74

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Things My Mother Never Told Me

Old memories are funny. They tie themselves with long threads, to a sound or smell or image, and occasionally they are pulled into awareness; swirling into view, tugged forward by one of our senses. I seem to have more childhood memories than most people I know. I could talk months before I could walk, and I’ve always supposed it was the early language that allowed for so many early recollections. Since I was very young, I’ve carried a few scenes around in my mind that seemed familiar and yet unrelated to the rest of my life.

One of these memories is attached to 1958 and the short time we lived in Lamar, Colorado. I was almost four. In my memory,  I can see a diner with a large, wooden screen door; covered in bright, metal advertising. The door is so large I can hardly reach the worn, metal handle. I am too small to ever be able to pull it open on my own. The metal spring squeals as my dad opens the door and it closes behind us with a sharp clap of wood on wood. Overhead, a wooden fan, with long blades, cuts through the summer heat and blows my curls around. Ahead, I see a circular stool as tall as I am. Its seat is upholstered in green and white vinyl with shiny metal around the side. It’s attached to a tall metal pole, bolted to the floor. It sits in a row of identical stools in front of a long, wooden bar. My dad lifts me onto that stool and I sit carefully as the seat swivels and twists left and right with my movement. The top of the bar is tall, and I rest my arms on it as best I can. On the other side of the bar is a smiling man with a big laugh, and a gently teasing manner.  He talks to my parents, and he talks to me; leaning across the wide bar to hear my answers to his questions. Behind me, I hear the big screen door squeal and slam as people enter and exit throughout our visit; each of them greeting the friendly man behind the counter. It’s a very happy memory; surrounded in love, and yet, totally unrelated to anything else I know in my life.
This memory drifted through my mind for nearly sixty years before I ever described it to anyone. By the time I thought to mention it, my dad was the only one left that could fill in the blanks and attach its thread to the rest of my life.


For as long as I can remember, I have always had three grandparents. My dad’s parents, Ida and Arthur Johnson, and my mom’s mom, Frances Dibbens. I spent lots of time with all three and have many wonderful memories of them during my childhood. You would think I would have wondered why there were only three, but I don’t recall questioning it. 

My single memory of my second grandpa was the day he died, in 1963. I don’t think I related the event to him as a grandpa at the time. The phone on the desk in the dining room is ringing. That isn’t anything new. My mom is close to her family and has many friends, so our phone rings often. Mom appears in the kitchen door, reaches over the desk in the dining room, and lifts the receiver. The memory of that phone call is tied to a moment seconds after she says, “hello.” In an instant, that call is set apart from all others and a thread is tied that will forever connect the memory in my mind. First, there is silence and then, a quiet sob. If you’ve ever uttered a sob or had your voice crack around children, you know how quickly they home in on it. As Mom speaks softly into the receiver, quiet sobs periodically interrupting her words, my two little sisters and I are drawn to her like magnets. She sits at the desk with the receiver to her ear, and tears filling her eyes.
I don’t think any of us had ever heard her cry. Her tears continue as she says goodbye and sets the receiver back on the cradle. As the oldest child, and the worrier of the family, I have questions. “Why are you crying, Mommy?  Is everything ok?”
Mom looks at my youngest sister, Laurie, whom she has pulled onto her lap sometime during the call, and then Kris and me. She wipes her eyes with a tissue, pulled from the box on the desk, and simply says, “My Daddy died today.”
That memory is the only one I had concerning my “other” grandpa. I don’t remember wondering why we didn’t know her daddy. I don’t remember whether she went to the funeral. It would have required a days’ worth of travel each way because of the distance.
By grade school, I understood that my grandmother was divorced. She was a single unit in my eyes and I never thought to connect her with “Mom’s daddy who died.” She lived in a house across the highway from her restaurant, “Dibben’s Drive Inn,” on the outskirts of Garden City, Kansas. She was independent, resourceful, and a manager of fry cooks and curb hops. She drove around town in a green and white, air-conditioned Buick, turning the big knob on the steering wheel as we eased around the corners on the way to the bank or grocery store. Everyone seemed to know her, and she had a cheerful word for each person she met; punctuated by laughter. To the east of her two-story house sat a small mobile home; the home of her brother-in-law, Jarman and his wife, Pearl. Uncle Jerry and Aunt Pearl were a big part of the visits to my grandmother’s house. The laughter and teasing never stopped when they were around. From of descriptions of my grandpa that my mom’s cousins have now given me, I’m pretty sure that my grandpa and his brother, Jerry, were very much alike.

As a teen, I remember digging through a storeroom shelf in our basement one day and finding a white cardboard box. It was filled with sympathy cards, dried flowers, and purple ribbons that appeared to be pulled from a floral spray. I asked Mom about it at that time and she told me, in the fewest words necessary, that they were from her dad’s funeral. She then placed the box on a higher shelf and said no more.
Was it evidence that Mom attended the funeral or that someone saved these “remembrance items” for her?

Grandma moved to Boulder, Colorado when I was nine. It was further from me but closer to my uncle and five cousins, who needed her help. Eventually, she took a job as a house mother for a large boys’ dorm on the campus of the University of Colorado. I saw her as often as I could but not as much as when she lived in Kansas. 

In my late twenties, I was a young divorced mother, myself. I was suffering the after effects of shame, and a fear of the future. My mom, my daughter, Emily, and I headed to Boulder to visit Grandma that summer. Soon after we arrived, Grandma pulled me into her little apartment’s bedroom, away from my three-year-old daughter and worried mother. She closed the door and we sat together on her bed. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was strong and would survive. By that time, my grandpa had been gone nearly 20 years. It didn’t seem appropriate to ask more questions. I was still wallowing in humiliation and guilt; fully focused on my situation. What I remember feeling was her strength and determination as her arms wrapped around me and she said those words, “You are complete the way you are. You don’t need someone else to make you happy.” I never doubted those words pouring from the experience of the strong, joyful woman I called Grandma.
That happened several years before I caught the genealogy bug and decades before I stood at Grandma’s grave. The boxes and bags of her letters, pictures, papers, and artifacts found their way into my house, now operating as the “family history library.” It was then that I discovered the brittle pieces of a faded wedding certificate; ripped in half, but both pieces still safely stored away with the rest of the articles of her life.
As I processed this puzzle as an adult, the memory of the phone call swirled through my mind and I experienced it, this time, as one of a granddaughter hearing of her grandfather’s death.

The holes in the puzzle saddened me as I worked to fit the pieces of a broken family together;
a romance,
a marriage,
a happy start with two children,
fond memories voiced by nieces and nephews of their Aunt Frances and Uncle Forest,
stories of Grandpa’s big keg parties held at their farm in south central Kansas,
arguments bad enough for family intervention,
love and laughter,
family pictures,
a 200 mile move to Garden City,
a family business,
thirty years of marriage,
a betrayal,
broken trust,
a separation,
a divorce the year I was born,
a marriage certificate ripped in two,
carefully kept secrets,
and a collapse in communication between Grandpa, his extended family, and his children.

Mom’s wounds were covered in perpetual bandages of silence. 

Mom has been gone since 2004. She is the one who got me interested in genealogy and we often spoke about our family tree. I don’t remember anyone asking me not to talk about my grandpa. It seems so odd now that I wouldn’t have asked her something. Was there an unspoken rule? Did it just feel so normal that I ignored the silence? Was she just waiting for me to ask, ready with a prepared speech that she never got to give? I’ll never know. She was so close to her family; both her mom’s and dad’s family. I asked her questions about everyone in the family, except one person; her dad, my Grandpa Dibbens.

The memory of the man across the counter in Lamar spun through my mind for nearly sixty years before I ever thought to describe it to anyone. By that time, my dad was the only one left that could fill in the blanks and link the memory to my life. When I told him what I recalled, he nodded and said, “That was your Grandpa Dibbens. He had a diner in Lamar at the time I was transferred with the company, and we moved there for a few months.”

As I sat processing this information, I realized how full of God’s blessing and healing His plan had been. How fortunate was my dad’s transfer! Mom had to have been hurting from the abandonment by her father. No one knew that Grandpa would be dead within five years. Dad was transferred to the same state and town in which Mom’s estranged father was living. We were there for several months and Mom had a chance to reconcile with her dad; healing some of the damage caused by the trauma in her childhood. She had the chance to forgive, and he had the chance to be forgiven.

And for this granddaughter? I have the gift of a lovely memory of a grandpa I thought I’d never known. 

I don’t know why Mom stayed silent about her childhood and her dad. He remained in all the family pictures but not in the family stories. Possibly, it still hurt to talk about it or more probably she had determined early on to move past it and make our childhood different from hers. From all I’ve learned and all I know, she succeeded at that! She was her mother’s daughter, after all! My sisters and I grew up sheltered from all the vices that marred her own childhood, and all the love and goodness she could gather.  

Monday, August 27, 2018

Part 2: Mårten Olasson,Ola and Måtta’s son from around Ystad (Håkansson – Hawkinson family of Osage City, Kansas)

See Part 1 here.
Mårten and Gunilla married in 1840 in Gusnasva. They are listed under Ola and Måtta in Gusnasva for a while and then move to Mukelborg, Balkåkra the next year.

1840 Mårten and Gunilla Erlandsdotter marry in Gusnasva - Skårby (M) CI:4 (1825-1862) Image: 231 Page: 449 (v111804.b231.s449)

1841 Mårten moves family from page 189 Gusnasva to page 205 Mukelborg, Balkåkra: Balkåkra (M) AI:10 (1837-1842) Image 183 / page 189 (v108323.b183.s189)

 1841 Mårten living separately at Mukelborg, Balkåkra: Balkåkra (M) AI:10 (1837-1842) Image 199/ page 205 v108323.b199.s205