17 September 2017

Uncoding Gothic Script

I recently attended an online Webinar (a seminar that is conducted over the World Wide Web) hosted by the Illinois State Genealogical Society. The title was  "Luxembourgers on the Prairie: Researching your Luxembourg Ancestors" presented by a good friend, Lisa Oberg,  She is a self proclaimed librarian, genealogist, and history enthusiast who lives and works in Seattle.  The premise of the webinar, as stated in her fabulous handout, begins with "Small, but might, Luxembourg is a European county with a distinct culture and heritage. Throughout history, the county has been ruled by Germany, Franc, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain."  I'm not a Luxembourger, but the information she shared was amazing and useful for anyone.

One of the many items she discussed was the fact that the records are written in a script that is not easy to decipher. Blackletter (sometimes 'black letter'), also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura is frequently encountered in northern European texts. It is also referenced as Fraktur, a calligraphic hand of the Latin alphabet and the several blackletter typefaces derived from this hand. 

To date, there are no known online tools to automatically translate from documents written in this script into English. :( 

That said, I want to share with you a few links that I learned from Lisa as well as a recent reference to Gothic Script that I read in the Fall 2016 issue of Currents - The Newsletter of the Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA). Below is a clipping from that newsletter. It provides suggestions on how to read the Dano-Norwegian language that was used in Norway. 

The author of the piece, Dale Hovland, is a member of the Hadeland Lag and a volunteer with the NAHA at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Kudos to him for sharing his knowledge.

Two of the many weblinks Lisa provided in her webinar handout help the user understand how to navigate the script. 

The first: German Script Tutorial, provided by the BYU Family History Center. This site provides background information that can be useful in understanding what you are seeing on the printed page. 

The second: German Scripts – Stephen P. Morse is located on the website produced by Stephen P. Morse: One Step Search Pages.  These links are widely used by genealogists throughout the world. 

I highly recommend that you check out all of the links in the Blog post, for further insight on how to read documents 'from the old country.'

21 November 2016

Still Yule-festing!

Four out of five Nearby Norwegians made it to this year's Yulefest at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle on Sunday, November 20.  Within a few years, the Nordic Heritage Museum will be moving to a brand new site, and we'll have more to explore during our Yulefest get-togethers.

Clockwise from upper left:  Carolyn Merritt, Chery Kinnick, Cathy Lykes, and Luci Baker Johnson (missing this year is Barbara Holz Sullivan).

04 June 2016

Poulsbo AYPE Viking #6: Halvor Holte

Halvor O. Holte was part of the "Viking" contingent to represent his community in the Norway Day parade at the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYPE) in Seattle. See the explanatory blog entry for this series: Poulsbo Vikings at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, 1909.

It is not known whether or not Halvor Holte actually lived in Poulsbo, Washington, or how he was selected as a representative member of that community for the AYPE.  By 1913, the Seattle City Directory listed Holte as a watchmaker, so it is likely he was living in Seattle by 1913.

Holte was born on October 7, 1881 in Rindal, Norway.  Having immigrated from Norway in 1906, he was a more recent arrival than the other Poulsbo "Vikings" who participated in the 1909 AYPE Norway Day activities.  Holte, a naturalized citizen, was also younger than the others.  He was about 27 years old when the photograph to the left was taken.

Holte had the dubious distinction of having to register for two United States drafts in his lifetime.  His registration card for World War I lists his brother, Nils Holte, from Bellingham, as the next-of-kin, so it is assumed he was unmarried at that time.  Tall and slender, he had brown eyes and brown hair., and it is very probable that the mustache he sported in his Viking photograph was a real one.  By 1918, he lived at 921 Water Street in South Bend, Washington.
Holte registered for the World War II draft in 1942, when he was about 60 years of age.  At that time, he still lived in South Bend, with his wife, Dora, from Montana, and their son, George.  At some point in his professional career, he began advertising himself as a "jeweler" instead of "watchmaker," as the add from the 1958 Raymond High School yearbook shows.

Fortunate to be very long lived, Holte passed away at age 97 in Pacific, Washington.


--Seattle City Directory, 1913
--U. S. Federal Census, South Bend, Pacific, Washington, 1930
--U. S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012, Raymond High School, Raymond, Washington, 1958
--U. S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Halvor Holte
--U. S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, Havlor Holte
--Washington Death Index, 1940-1996
Chery Kinnick

Poulsbo AYPE Viking #8: John J. Twedt

John J. Twedt, of Poulsbo, Washington, was part of the "Viking" contingent to represent his community in the Norway Day parade at the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYPE) in Seattle. See the explanatory blog entry for this series: Poulsbo Vikings at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, 1909.

John J. Twedt was born in Norway on January 18, 1874, and came to Washington State by way of Iowa.  He immigrated to America in about 1888, and became a naturalized citizen.  In 1910, while still a single man, he rented a house along with his sixteen years-younger brother, Chris Twedt, who became known for being a player on the local baseball team.

On his World War I draft registration card for 1918, Twedt was noted as a man of medium height and build, with brown eyes and dark hair.  His occupation was listed as "auto driver."  An ad running in the Poulsbo Record on June 27, 1918  indicated that he would answer calls for driver service, day or night.

By 1920, Twedt was working as a barber in Poulsbo.  The family resided on Second Street, just a few doors down from Peter Iverson, a fellow AYPE Viking participant.  Twedt lived with his spouse, Amanda, and their two daughters:  Alice Aletta (Twedt) Seely, and June N. (Twedt) Davis.

Five years following Twedt's involvement in the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, a fire devastated about a third of the Poulsbo business section, including his own barber shop.  The hardy town business owners did not take very long to re-establish themselves, by any means possible, with Twedt setting up his barber shop temporarily in A. N. Nelson's machine shop.

John Twedt reportedly died on June 24, 1958 in Bremerton, Washington.


--"Remembering the Great Fire of 1914."  Kitsap County Herald, September 15, 2014,  http://www.northkitsapherald.com/news/274914941.html?mobile=true (accessed June 2, 2016).
--U.S. Federal Census, Poulsbo, Kitsap, Washington, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940.
--World War I Draft Registration Cards, U.S., 1917-1918, John J. Twedt, Ancestry.com, Registration State: Washington; Registration County: Kitsap; Roll: 1991652.
Chery Kinnick

Poulsbo AYPE Viking #1: Stener Thorsen

Stener Thorsen, of Poulsbo, Washington, was part of the "Viking" contingent to represent his community in the Norway Day parade at the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYPE) in Seattle. See the explanatory blog entry for this series: Poulsbo Vikings at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, 1909.

Stener [Stenar] Thorsen was born in about 1850 and immigrated to the U.S. from Heidalen, Gudbrandsdalen, Norway in 1869, together with his three brothers:  Iver, Paul, and Ole. Stener and his wife, Ragnild, were married in about 1879, the year after Ragnild arrived in America.

A Poulsbo pioneer, Thorsen was one of two earliest settlers in Big Valley, on Valley Road, about a mile north of the town of Poulsbo, Washington.  Deeds owned by a friend and neighbor, Fred Frederickson, show that Thorsen had his property as early as 1879.  Being in all probability the first settler in the valley, perhaps that is why he won the AYPE "Viking #1" position in the 1909 photographs.

Thorsen was a logging operator, and the land he chose was optimally situated near the head of Liberty Bay, which allowed easy access for loggers who needed to float out their logs.  He developed an extensive farming operation, and maintained a large market garden on his farm.  Thorsen's produce included an acre of oxheart carrots that were marketed at the company store in Port Gamble, or peddled to ships waiting in the bay to take on lumber.  He also raised potatoes, and picked from cherry trees on his property during market season.

Stener Thorsen was a community minded man, as many early Norwegian-American settlers were, and he often served as an official in precinct elections.  He also took an interest in the state of Poulsbo's schools, church, and roads.  He died on September 28, 1931, the day before his 81st birthday, and was buried at the First Lutheran Church Cemetery in Poulsbo, Washington.
Stener Thorsen farming (date unknown).  Image was uploaded
 to Ancestry.com by member "boggiedog7" on April 27, 2008.


--Driscoll, Judy and Sherry White.  Poulsbo, Images of America series (Arcadia Publishing:  Charlestown, South Carolina, 2013).
--Poulsbo Centennial Book Committee.  Poulsbo:  Its First Hundred Years, compiled and edited by Rangvald Kvelstad (Centennial Book Committee:  Poulsbo, Washington, 1986). 
--U. S. Federal Census, Poulsbo, Kitsap, Washington, 1910.
--U. S. Find-a-Grave, Stener Thorsen.
Chery Kinnick

Historical Societies: For the History in You

Here is a shout out to the historical societies far and wide; they make the rediscovery of our local roots possible.

If you live in a location that has a great state historical society, then you live in a place that values local heritage.  For the Nearby Norwegians, the Washington State Historical Society, located in the city of Tacoma, is a treasure.  The Society makes history readily available through a museum, exhibits, photographs, events and programs, as well as the increasingly popular History Day writing project for Washington middle and high school students.  The Society is also an education partner for HistoryLink.org, a free and ever-growing online encyclopedia of Washington State history.

The quarterly membership publication of the Washington State Historical Society, Columbia, serves as an indispensable venue for writers and historians by which to share their research, thus inspiring others to learn more about a wealth of local history subjects.

"COLUMBIA Magazine has a rich, 20-year history of producing scholarly and entertaining issues capturing the essence of Northwest history through engaging prose and striking image..."

Researchers are usually not users of just one historical society's offerings.  For the Nearby Norwegians, the search for Norwegian-American genealogical and historical information often reaches further afield to the offerings of the  Minnesota Historical Society, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and more.  Where would we be without these organizations?   ...All the poorer for facts and stories, to be certain, and less informed about the richness of culture and the effects of industry, infrastructure, and more, on local populations.

But, history does not just happen on a state level, so now we come to those small powerhouse organizations, often run by dedicated volunteers--the local historical societies.  How we love them!  It does not matter what area they are "local" to.  If you are researching history in that area, then it is your locality, too.  Our advice is to maintain membership in as many as you can afford, because you are not just helping to ensure that information access remains possible for yourself, but also for your descendants, and your friends and neighbors.

"We are not makers of history.  We are made by history." 
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"History is philosophy teaching by examples."
 - Thucydides

"History is not a burden on the memory, but an illumination of the soul." 
 - Lord Acton

Chery Kinnick

24 February 2016

Going Down the Proverbial Rabbit Hole

I have an alert on my computer! Every hour - on the hour - a man, in a loud whisper - states the time. For example, I'll be trolling the internet and hear this "It's 2 o'clock!" from the speakers on my laptop.  I look up to discover that it's 2AM. Yes, 2 o'clock in the morning and I've spent the last several hours 'online'.

Or as a dear friend says,
I've been traveling down the proverbial Rabbit-Hole! 

From Alice in Wonderland ... 

"The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well. Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next."

For me this typically starts with my desire to locate one piece of information. A question that needs an answered, so that I can continue my 'journey of discovery'. Frequently that elusive 'nugget of knowledge' is found on one of the following 10 websites. Many times all of these are open in tabs on my screen, with me clicking back and forth endlessly.
  • WorldCat.org
  • Find-a-Grave.com
  • Ancestry.com
  • DigitalArchives.wa.gov
  • Newspapers.com
  • Archives.gov 
  • ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov
  • Hathitrust.org
  • Wikipedia.org
  • Infoweb.Newsbank.com (historic Seattle Daily Times 1895-present)
However, the road to locating this 'nugget' is a long winding path with many offshoots that catch my attention! Eventually, I can't even remember what the original question was, and I've quintupled my list of questions. I've learned to write down the original question on a notepad next to the computer, in order to stay focused. Plus open a Word document on my computer to capture the list of new questions - to capture them for further exploration.

Today I was online researching a question that had nothing to do with anything Norwegian. I found myself on one of those offshoots, traveling deep into a list of books that piqued my interest. The subject matter was Norwegians AND the American Civil War. Below are links to the books I discovered. 

I thought others who read this blog might also find these books to be of interest.

I also wondered if others ever get caught up in the proverbial Rabbit Hole?  If so, I invite you to share your thoughts on it in the comments. 

Now I can get back to my original rabbit-hole question. :)