Thoughts and pictures from our 2005 trip to Wisconsin and North Dakota to retrace my family’s Northern Roots.

My mother’s side of the family had a one day family reunion in Southern Wisconsin in July, 2005. It was a great opportunity to meet with members of that branch of the family again, and a wonderful opportunity to meet and spend some time with Bill Zarnstorff, a 1st cousin who has done has a fantastic job researching and genealogy of the Amborn clan. He gave me a copy of Amborn Family – Descendants of Casper Amborn, an impressive 70 page document outlining the results of his research of Casper Amborn and his descendants. Kathleen and I had also decided that reunion was the perfect beginning for a week of camping and genealogy, so the following day we drove North on what would turn out to be a week of incredible discoveries.

Monday, July 25 2005: Somo, Wisconsin
According to the 1920 census, my grandparents and their three children (including the 6 year old who would eventually become my father) were living in Somo, Lincoln County, Wisconsin.

We stopped by the Merrill Recorder of Deeds offices (Merrill is the county seat for Lincoln County) to see if they could help decipher the information on the 1920 census form. One of the clerks with great eyesight figured out that it said “Section 2, Township 35 North, Range 4 East” and helped us find where it was located on the map… it is South of Highway 8, East of County Road T (there is a strip of land between CR T and Range 4), North of Carpenter road (a gravel dead end road off of Country Road T). I’m not sure that there was much to Somo in 1920, but there definitely wasn’t much of it left to see in 2006.

The census form indicates that they were renting (not land owners), so it is going to take a lot more research to figure out which piece of property they lived on. We did see a lot with “Hanson” on the mailbox (W10288), 10 acres currently owned by “JH” according to the copy of the map we got from the clerk.

 Section 2, Township 35 North, Range 4 East  The Old Homestead
Section 2, Township 35 North, Range 4 East: The Old Homestead
Tuesday, July 26 2005: Rice Lake, Wisconsin
Stopped at the public library in Rice Lake and received a considerable amount of help from Nancy Zabel (Soper) who grew up in Birchwood and knew Marie Hanson (my grandmother), Laura (her daughter) and Gomer Evans (Laura’s husband). Nancy knew Marie in her later years and remembered her singing songs to her in Norwegian.

I searched the microfilm records and found information about the death of Anton Hanson (my Grandfather) in the Thursday, February 24, 1921 edition of the Rice Lake Chronicle (page 12 under the headline of “BIRCHWOOD”)

Anton Hanson ObituaryAnton Hanson Obituary
Anton Hanson Obituary

As much as it shames me to write these words, this day would mark my first visit to the Woodlawn cemetery in Birchwood where my grandparents are buried. One of the things that has been so gratifying about the study of my families history is that it has brought me, however late in life, into contact with my families history.

Anton & Marie Hanson
Our next step was to focus more closely on Anton’s parents. Most of the information I used to launch my research into my fathers side of the family can be traced to copies of documents that I obtained from his sister, my Aunt Laura. Among them was a family history worksheet that she probably obtained from Sigurd Mehus, her second cousin (see My Father: Ludvig Johan Angel Mortensen Mehus). My great grandmother Inger Heline was especially interesting. I had found her listed on the 1910 census living in North Dakota with her husband, but by 1920 he is living (without her) with his son Ludvig. However, according to information I have from what appears to be a hand-written transcription of another obituary for Anton, she was alive when Anton died on 18 Feb 1921 (“… is survived by… his father and mother…”). Her husband is listed as a Widower on the 04/25/1930 census, so she apparently died before then. I was not sure that I had enough information to justify driving to North Dakota, but Kathleen persuaded me to press on.

 Isakson Family History Form   Anton Hanson Obituary Notes
Hans Isakson Family History Form & Anton Edwin Hanson Obituary Transcription
July 27 – 28 2005: Fargo, North Dakota
I had found information about the Red River Valley Genealogical Society in Fargo on the web before leaving for the trip, so that seemed like a logical starting point for our visit to Fargo. What a gold mine this turned out to be! They have a friendly and skilled staff and tons of information and documentation available in their center. A few hours perusing through the information led to several discoveries:

Information about Inger Heline’s funeral Obtained a “Record of Funeral” dated 02/25/1929:

Place of death: State Hospital, Jamestown ND
Date of Death: 02/23/1929
Funeral Services to be held in Fargo.
Certifying Physician: A.W. Guest, MD of Jamestown.
Cause of Death: Pneumonia
Listed as a single person, born 01/16/1857
Died at 72 years, 1 month, 7 days.
Body is to be shipped to Fargo, ND at a cost of $45.

Her Hanson Funeral Home record listing the details of the funeral in Fargo:

Residence: West Fargo, ND
Phone: 5500-2
Place of death: State Hospital, Jamestown ND
Date of Death: 02/23/1929 at 10:45 am
Cause of Death: Lobar Pneumonia
How long living in city or township: 13 years
In US for 25 years
Married - Husband: Hans Isackson
Date of Birth: 04/24/1857
71 years 9 months 29 days
Occupation: Housewife
Burial: 02/27/1929
Informant: Hans Isakson, West Fargo
How long at place of death: 13 years
Church: Norwegian Lutheran Church
Answer to "Have you suitable clothing?" - Answer: "No"
Answer to "How dress hair?" - Answer: "Part Middle= No curl"
Jewelry - "No (Leave ring if on)"
Where will final burial be made? - Riverside Cemetery.
Funeral - held from Hansons funeral home, Wednesday 2/27/29 Church: 3:00. Clergyman: Rev. Westtry (Westbry?) 3721
Who will secure his services - already done
Singers - No
Pall bears - None
Have you a Cemetery Lot? No
Flowers - #18 MOTHER ($12). Ordered by FGO on 2/25/29
Disposition of Flowers - Leave all

Her burial information in the “Riverside Cemetery Association – Record of Internments” book at the RRGS (I photographed it – the book was too big to fit on the photo-copier):

Internment #4093
Lot 75, Grave 3, Row 91.
Manager: Tom Shafer, 2102 5th Street South  701-235-2671
Maintenance & Grounds phone number: 701-232-1477

And her obituary (from the Fargo Forum, Morning Edition, Tuesday, February 26, 1929, Page 2:

Inger Heline Andersen's Obituary
We visited the cemetery and found the grave in section 30 or 31 (it is right in the middle, across from section Y). To get to the grave, enter the cemetery and keep taking the right-hand most roads. She is buried next to Lena Hanson (1883 – 1977) and Ragnvold Hanson (1880 – 1937), which is significant because the burial information lists a “L. Hanson” as her closest relative/friend. The headstone for Inger Marie appears to be relatively new and very similar to the one the Hanson plot. My guess is that Lena Hanson purchased the headstone for Inger Marie.

Inger Heline Andersen's Grave
We also found Hans Emahus Isakson’s obituary in “The Fargo Forum”, morning edition:

Hans Isakson's Obituary
Friday, July 29 2005:
Seeing the reference to the State Hospital raised the unpleasant but distinct possibility that Inger Heline had been committed there. The hospital is still a going concern in Jamestown, and a phone call confirmed that Inger Heline had indeed been a patient in the state mental hospital. Amazingly, they still have mico-films of her records, so we made the drive and discovered the rest of her sad story. She was committed on 08/13/1915 for “religion impressions and temper, made two attacks on the members of the house with knife” and remained in the hospital until her death in 1929. When she was committed in 1915 she was 58 years old and had been in the United States for only 11 years.

The Lena Phipps who signed the warrant of admission at the state hospital is Olena Isacksen, daughter of Inger Heline. It is notable that she was married on April 6, 1914: according to the admission records, Inger Heline started having problems a few months after the wedding.

Books   State Hospital Records
Books and Microfilm at the State Hospital in Jamestown, ND
On the way back from Jamestown we stopped in Berlin, where my father (Arnold William Hanson) was born. His father worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad at the time.

Tony Berlin North Dakota
Tony Hanson in Berlin, ND
Next on our grand tour of North Dakota was Fort Ransom, which is where the obituary for Hans Isakson said that he was buried. The town was not large, and we found the local historical society and stopped in for some information and directions to the cemetery. While I was talking, Kathleen looked around and browsed through the literature and came across a book titled “Fort Ransom Community History 1878 – 2003”, and in it found a write-up on Benjamin Isakson, the brother mentioned in the obituary.

Benjamin Isakson & Family
We followed the directions obtained at the history center and soon found ourselves at the Standing Rock Cemetery located on a wind-swept knoll of land in the middle of scenic northern plains farm country. It was a beautiful, sunny summer day, perfect for a stroll through the peaceful cemetery. As luck would have it I found his grave first: he is buried with is brother Ben and Bens wife Ellerine. I stood there for a long time, thinking about how little I had know about all of them all my life and all that had happened so recently to lead me to that place at that time. Then I called Kathleen over and introduced her to my Great Grandfather.

Standing Rock Cemetery in Fort Ransom, ND
Isakson Plot Hans Isakson Grave Marker
Back home in Dallas, Kathleen did a little research for me and figured out that, as a pensioner on the Nothern Pacific Railroad, Hans Isakson may have had access to a company hospital. She found that the Nothern Pacific railroad did have a hospital in St. Paul (as well several other cities). That would explain how he could affort to have been in a hospital in St. Paul for six months as stated in his obituary. I still need to follow up to see if the records are still available…

Genealogy is a funny kind of hobby: you never know where the next discovery will come from or where it will lead you. Shortly after we returned home Kathleen was looking through Genforum and came across a 2003 posting from someone looking for information about Petra Isakson (her grandmother). Her name was Sharon Burke: we exchanged email and soon discovered that we are second cousins. She lives in California but owns property in Egeland, ND. Since then I have also “met”Kari Eide, another second cousin who lives in the Fargo area. I am grateful that my research has provided me with the oppurtunity to get to know them both and to include them in my family tree.

Northern Roots Retraced