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.
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.
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.