Finding Alfred Tolberg

My mom’s side of the family is a mix of nationalities, but my dad’s is entirely Swedish. Three of my four great-grandparents on that side were born in Sweden and immigrated to the United States between 1887 and 1912 or so. The fourth family arrived earlier, in time for my second-great-grandfather Alfred Tolberg to fight in the Civil War. His service might be a great topic for another post sometime, but today I’m concentrating on one of the few mysteries my dad wanted solved, which was finding where Alfred was buried. He survived the Civil War (good thing, since he didn’t get married until a good ten years after he came back home), and died in Minneapolis in 1913. Dad wanted to ensure that his grave marker indicates his Civil War service. He’d also like to locate Alfred’s wife’s grave (she died 11 years before Alfred), but that mystery is yet to be solved.

Trying to locate Alfred’s burial site, my parents had visited various cemeteries in Chisago County, Minnesota, because it was generally assumed he and his wife were buried in the area in which they lived. Things weren’t looking good for finding Alfred or his wife, Mary. Unfortunately, some records have been lost from at least one church that I’m aware of, which complicates matters.

A couple of summers ago, I was going through some information my parents had compiled about my dad’s side of the family in preparation for a reunion. This side of my family doesn’t get together very often, so I’m sure my mom had found lots of new things to share with them, and I was proofreading something my dad had written up . I was also looking through some of the documents, including Alfred’s death certificate, which my mom had received in 2004. Under burial it just said “Layman’s.” At this point I had only a mild interest in genealogy, but I can’t resist a good mystery, fictitious or otherwise.

If my mom had been around that morning (I was at their house, but they were outside doing yardwork or some such thing) I might have asked her what Layman’s meant, and she probably would have told me what her working assumption had been to that point, which was that it was a funeral home. That thought occurred to me as well, and I started a Google search to see if I could find any funeral home with that name that would have been around in 1913. I didn’t find that, but it didn’t take long until my search revealed an article from a local paper called “Buried History” (a recommended read if you’re interested in cemetery history or the history of Minneapolis; it’s pretty fascinating), the story of Layman’s Cemetery in Minneapolis. The cemetery is now known as the Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery.

Plaque from Layman's Cemetery

Plaque from Layman's Cemetery

I was astounded that it might be as simple as that. Could Alfred really be buried so close (my parents and I live in suburban Twin Cities), in a cemetery in the city in which he died rather than being taken back home?

Though I’ve lived in the Twin Cities area pretty much my entire life, I don’t know as much as I should about the area’s history. I had no idea this cemetery existed, but even if I did, I might not have put it together with its original name. And then, even if Alfred had been buried there originally, many bodies were moved after the cemetery was no longer maintained properly in the 1910s. The cemetery was taken over by the city of Minneapolis and is now maintained by the Park Board.

I also found a website that day for the cemetery, where you can search to see if someone is or was buried there. However, the index is incomplete, and I was unable to find Alfred that way. So the next day my parents and I went to the cemetery to see if we could find him in their records. Unfortunately, the on-site building was locked up with no one to help in sight. We wandered around a bit to see if we happened upon his grave, but the cemetery is quite large (20,000 are still buried of the nearly 30,000 total).

My mom went back later in the week and found someone available to help her, and was able to find the card for Alfred.

Layman's record for Alfred Tolberg

Layman's record for Alfred Tolberg

And with that, verification of Alfred’s location. His grave is unmarked, so our next step is to get that taken care of, perhaps by Memorial Day next year, or at least by the 100th anniversary of his death, which is only a couple years away.

Site of Alfred Tolberg's Grave

Site of Alfred Tolberg's Grave

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Filling in the Gaps

My mom has been working on our family’s genealogy pretty much my entire life, so in some respects, it seems like there’s not a lot for me to do. I won’t be enjoying the achievement of tracking down the names of all 16 of my great-great-grandparents because that was done long ago. Heck, in most of the lines the first real holes don’t appear until my 64 fourth-great-grandparents.

So what exactly am I doing here?

Right now I’m mostly learning. I’m not a complete novice, but there’s plenty I don’t know. My mom has been telling me about the people in my family tree forever, but usually when this happened my eyes would eventually glaze over because I couldn’t visualize who she was talking about or how they were related to me. So to begin with, I’ve created a notebook for each grandparent’s line that has a page for each person for five generations past that grandparent (that’s all that will fit in these particular notebooks). I’m recording basic information for each person and what documents we have to back that info up, which is helping me learn the names and how they relate.

While I’m working on these notebooks, I can’t help but notice the gaps in information, things like not having all the applicable census records or not knowing a particular date. In some cases, the information just might not have been easily available the last time my mom searched for it.

For example, the other day I noticed that for ancestor Benjamin Buckland (b. 1812, North Perrott, Somerset, England), we don’t have good information about his wives beyond their first names, including not being sure which one is the correct mother for his daughter who is our ancestor. I checked Ancestry to see if anything has popped up since whenever the last time my mom checked, and while I didn’t find any of the information I was seeking, I did run across some probate information that included his actual date of death, rather than the three-month range we previously had. Perhaps the actual date isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things, but it was exciting to me to find it! And really, isn’t that all that matters?

In other cases of gaps in information, Mom has the “missing” documents, but they aren’t recorded or linked in Family Tree Maker. Now another thing I’m starting to work on is organizing things better, which just happens to be one of my favorite things to do.

So for now, it seems I’m sort of a fact checker, working to help fill in the gaps.

New Genealogy Blog

It’s not like I needed another hobby. I love to read and knit in addition to keeping up with many other interests I enjoy, such as my favorite TV shows, movies, science, technology, and baseball. And it’s not like there’s no one else in my family working on genealogy; my mom has been working on it for nearly my entire life, and there are other folks out in the branches of our family tree working on related pieces too.

But the genealogy bug has bitten me whether I wanted it to or not. I’m not completely sure why I’ve been avoiding it all this time, except perhaps that I know how time-consuming it can be from my mom’s experience, and I hardly needed anything else like that. But it has been extremely fun diving into the research and it’s a bonus that genealogy draws on my interests in history, archaeology, photography, and genetics, along with my skills of organization and attention to detail.

Over the years I’ve occasionally worked on a particular project here and there that captured my interest. One that I poke at once in a while is on my Grandpa Wood’s side, where we have a possible connection to the Salem Witch Trials. Our ancestor is Sarah Proctor, but so far I’ve had trouble pinning down exactly which Sarah Proctor. It might be John Proctor and Elizabeth Bassett’s daughter, which would be a very direct link, or it might be her cousin of the same name and similar age. The most recent thing I learned regarding this project is that the records I probably need from New London, CT, to figure this out might have been burned by Benedict Arnold in 1781. But I’ve hardly given up; I just need to learn about better places to look.

My intent with this blog to write about my discoveries, frustrations, insights, and adventures as I delve into geneaology. At some point I also plan to start writing up stories about my family’s history, including the many photos my mom has been able to gather over the years. I hope to also share some family letters.

I am also looking into attending conferences, joining genealogical societies, and pursuing educational opportunities, all of which will be part of my adventure. Maybe this will lead to being something more than just a mere hobby.