Cemeteries in January in Minnesota

The combination in the title is not one I’d recommend, but this is a strange January in Minnesota, and while there was too much snow to make it easy to trudge around cemeteries today and see every stone (some had icy snow on them), it definitely wasn’t a complete hindrance.

Today was my last day of a 10-day stint off from work, and my parents and I drove about 45 minutes to Chisago County, which is where one-half of my dad’s Swedish immigrant ancestors landed in the 1850s (one family emigrated in 1853, but we don’t know for sure where they were between then and 1857, when land was purchased in Chisago County; one story has them in Iowa for a time) and 1887.

We hadn’t called ahead to see if we could access the historical society, but had a few cemeteries to look at (mostly for my benefit because my parents have been to them, but I hadn’t). First, however, we headed to the Recorder’s Office in the Chisago County Government Center to see if we could access old vital records that aren’t available at the state level.

Access was pretty easy, as long as we wanted records more than 100 years old (this isn’t quite the policy at the state level, but was sufficient for what we wanted today). They have tall tables where you can stand and view the books, so we requested the book that included the marriage record for my great-great-grandparents Frank Strum and Minnie Tolberg, and the book that contains the marriage record for Minnie’s parents, Alfred Tolberg and Mary Peterson. The book with Alfred and Mary also included the marriage record for Alfred’s sister Sophia and Julius Johnson.

The only hitch? They don’t allow digital photography, even without the flash. So, today I was able to utilize the transcription skills I learned during the earliest part of the BU genealogical studies certificate program. However, there are lots more records we’d like to obtain, so it might end up being a few trips to get them all, with the writing and standing. Now I just need to get the ones from today typed up.

Mr & Mrs Strum -- Almelund Cemetery

Most of the cemetery visits today were for my familiarity of where they are, but there’s one where I recently found a “Mr. and Mrs. Strum” listed with no first names or dates (the county historical society has done great work documenting the many county cemeteries), so we thought we’d see if we could find the stone(s) to see if they might be Frank’s parents, Carl and Stina, whose graves have so far not been located, but their death certificates indicate they were likely buried at this cemetery. We found where Mr. and Mrs. Strum are buried, but there are no stones for them. In the photo, they’re between the Bengtson stone and one behind it.

My mom and I found someone in the office of the church that manages the cemetery, and it turns out he serves on the cemetery committee. We wrote down the info for the graves we’re interested in and who we think might be in them along with their vital info, and he agreed to look into their records to see if there’s more information about who is buried there. Even records of when the burials occurred would help confirm their identity. It would be great to have found Carl and Stina, and then we can look into adding markers for their graves.


Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Holiday Foods

My dad would like to think I grew up eating lutefisk for Christmas like he did being 100% Swedish, but for better or worse, I did not. But I really don’t remember what I did have. We spent most of my childhood Christmases at my Grandma and Grandpa Wood’s, and I’m sure we had great holiday feasts, but I don’t remember anything particularly special or ethnic or anything.

Well, okay, the poppyseed rolls were pretty special and might be of Eastern European extraction. My Great-Aunt Mary, whose family was from Czechoslovakia (she was my Grandpa Wood’s sister-in-law; I’m not even a little Czech or Slovak), made them originally. I seriously need that recipe. One of my uncles makes them occasionally, but there’s never enough to go around. Particularly as I’d like all of them to make it around to my tummy.

As time went on and we didn’t go to see my grandparents for a whole week around Christmas, my parents, my brother, and I ended up with a tradition of lasagna for Christmas Eve supper and often Cornish Hens for Christmas Day dinner.

We did have lutefisk once. My Grandpa Strum made it one year. I’m pretty sure I was already an adult, and I’m not sure if my brother was still in Minnesota then. It wasn’t terrible. Really, it wasn’t so bad, but I seem to recall it was kind of rubbery or something, and my dad assured us later that Grandpa hadn’t made it quite right, and it should have been better. Maybe someday I’ll try it again.

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – The Christmas Tree

So, I was just saying on Twitter yesterday that I probably wouldn’t be able to blog until the BU program is over (the 19th), but then I saw this Advent Calendar thing and figured that with some holiday prompts, I might just be able to do at least  a few posts this month.

The timing of today’s topic, the Christmas tree, is kind of amusing to me because I’ve been pondering over the past week or so whether to get a tree. This will be my third Christmas in my own home, and so far I haven’t had a tree at all. This is in part because I haven’t figured out where to put one, another part because I can’t decide between artificial or real, and a final part because I have a tree-climbing cat.

Blazer in the Christmas Tree

Blazer in the Christmas Tree

This photo is from when she was just two, and she’s seven now, but she still acts much the same as she did then. I fear for any tree in her presence.

Growing up, my parents had an artificial tree. I don’t recall ever having a real tree at home. My mom was pretty much in charge of all decorating, though my brother and I probably helped from time to time. I know I’ve helped with the trickier items, like lights, more than once. Below is a photo of my brother and me in front of our tree the last time he was home for Christmas, in 1994. He was still in Texas with the Air Force then, and in the summer of 1995 he was stationed in Alaska, where he’s lived ever since.

Kristie & Eric - 24 December 1994

Kristie & Eric - 24 December 1994

My maternal grandparents (Wood) always had a real tree when I was a kid as far as I recall, and my memories are of tall trees that they might have cut from their own property, but perhaps not. My grandpa was a logger, so who knows where they got the trees? Perhaps my mom will comment and weigh in on where the trees came from. What I do remember was that they had a real tree despite my grandma being allergic to it. The photo below is me at age three and a half with my youngest aunt (nine and half years older than me), Karen, and the aunt who’s also my godmother, Carolyn.

Kristie, Karen, and Carolyn 25 December 1976

Kristie, Karen, and Carolyn 25 December 1976

Here’s another one of my brother and me, but in front of Aunt Carolyn’s tree a few years later after she was married.

Eric & Kristie 24 December 1980

Eric & Kristie 24 December 1980

I believe my paternal grandfather (Strum) and his wife (my grandma died several years before I was born, and grandpa remarried when I was pretty little yet, but I never considered his second wife to be a grandma) had real trees when I was younger, perhaps a bit smaller than my other grandparents’ trees. They also could have cut trees from their own property for all I know. With little notice, Mom hasn’t found photos from their house yet…I really should keep up better with these things!