Sunday, December 25, 2011

Whatever Happened to Lars? Part 2

Lars Theodor Ekman, born Jan 1855 in Sweden, immigrated to the U.S. for good in 1881.  After filing his "first papers" in Wisconsin, then moving to Minnesota, where he married Effie Bassett and had 6 children, he packed up the family (along with his brother Axel and his sister Amanda and their respective families) and moved to Roberts County, SD.

After Effie ran off with Jake Gifford, taking three of their children with her, Effie's mother, Hester Ann (Salley) Bassett sent for the other three children.  Lars sold his land and left, shortly after his brother Axel died.  The family never heard from him again.  So what happened to him?

On 15 Jul 1911, Lars Theodor Ekman filed his "second papers" in the naturalization process in Rolette County, North Dakota, nearly 30 years after his first papers were filed.

These papers establish several facts.  One is that he has been living in North Dakota since April 1901.  Another is his date of birth, which he lists as 14 Jan 1855.  This is the only record I have found in the U.S. in which his year of birth matches that of the Swedish parish record.  There is a discrepancy on the exact date of birth.  The parish record indicates his birth date is 4 Jan 1855.

The third fact is the location of his residence at the time of naturalization, which was Bachelor, ND.

Finally, he lists his family, a son, John William, who was born earlier in the year in Bachelor, ND, and his wife, Emma Marie Ekman.

The 1910 census record shows the following couple in Rolette County, ND.
This record indicates that Thomas Ekman is 44 years old, that he was born in Sweden, and that his father was Swedish and his mother German.  The age of Thomas Ekman would indicate he was born in 1866.  The record also indicates that this is his first marriage, and that his wife is 17 years old. 

The marriage certificate for Thomas Ekman and Mary Emma Hays/Hayes (her name varies from Mary to Marie and the order is sometimes Mary/Marie first, sometimes Emma first) includes a note from her father, John Hays, giving his permission for her to marry Tom.
Indian Census records taken annually for the 14 years prior to the marriage indicate that Marie was likely not 17 years old in January 1910. Her birthday was 1 Dec 1894, which would have meant she had turned 15 the month before she married, not 17.

This record, from mid-1896 indicates she is 1 1/2 years old.  Her older sister Mary Jane was born in 1892.

The 1915 North Dakota State Census shows the following:

Tom and Mary Ekman are listed with two children: John and Charlie.

The 1916 Indian Census Rolls list Mary (Hayes) Ekman, her son Tom, and their two sons, John William and Victor Charlie.  Note that Victor Charlie is a combination of the names of two of Lars  Ekman's sons from his marriage to Effie.

In 1916, Lars Theador Ekman and his wife Mary Ekman sold their land in Rolette County to Ole Bu.

In 1920, the couple can be found on the Federal Census living in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Lars is employed by the Coca Cola bottling plant. Victor Charley is not on the census, because he had died.

Mary Rosa Ekman ("Rose" in the record above) was born in Minnesota on 26 Jun 1919.  Her birth records can be found in the Minnesota Birth Index, as can one of two others born later.  Lizzie V Ekman is recorded on the Indian Census Rolls with a birth date of 26 Dec 1921, but is not found in the MN Birth Index.  Florence Irene was born 2 Nov 1928.

On these birth records, Lars's age gets progressively lower.  When Mary Rosa was born in 1919, her father's age is listed in his 50s.  The last child, Florence, born in Nov 1928, lists Lars's age at his last birthday as 49, younger than he supposedly was 9 years before. He was actually 73.

Marie Emma and the children cannot be found on the 1930 census.  Thomas Ekman, born in Sweden to a Swedish father and German mother, who immigrated in 1881, is on the census, unemployed and living in a downtown Minneapolis hotel, age 64 (making him born in 1866, not 1855, one of the birth years he often used after he was married to Marie.  He lists his marital status as Single.

Last but not least is a death certificate for Thomas Ekman, indicating he was born in 1877.  The day of birth is listed as 14 Jan, which matches the day of birth on his naturalization papers.  No other Thomas Ekmans can be found in the upper Midwest born between 1855 and 1877, other than a man who lived in a town in Michigan's upper peninsula for decades.  The mother's maiden name on this certificate, "Cloose" is very close to the known name of Lars Theador Ekman's German mother, which was "Kloose."

The cemetery where he was buried is eight miles from my house.  Eight miles.   The obituary notice in the paper had only the bare facts from the death certificate with no mention of family.

Lars Theodor (Thomas) Ekman lived to be just under 80 years old (although his death cert claims just under 60), had two wives and 12 children, 11 of whom (probably) survived childhood.  I drove up to the cemetery last spring and asked at the office for help finding the grave and if any other information was known about his funeral.  Like, who paid for it?   He died alone, buried in an unmarked grave paid for by the city.
I wonder if I'm the only one ever to visit his grave, or if any of his children ever discovered what had happened to him, maybe saw the notice in the paper or something.  I kind of doubt it.

And that's whatever happened to Lars Theodor Ekman, my great-great grandfather.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What ever happened to Lars?

The Ekman children in Sweden
Back: Carl, Rudolf, Lars
Front: Ida, Amanda, Axel
In 1879, Lars Theodor Ekman (my g2grandfather), the youngest child of Lars Jacob Ekman and Augusta Caroline Rose Kloose, left his home in Horby, Sweden to go to America.  On Christmas Eve, 1880, he returned, apparently to talk his family into emigrating as well.

This "moving in/moving out" parish record shows Lars Theodor immigrated from America into the parish on 24 Dec 1880. Note his date of birth is listed as 4 Jan 1855.
About six months later, in July 1881, Lars returned to the United States, where he settled in Wisconsin.  On 3 April 1883, he declared his intent to become a naturalized citizen by filing his "first papers" at the Circuit Court in La Cross County, Wisconsin, which gave him the right to vote.

Note that his year of birth is again listed as 1855.  Also, we see him trying out the name "Thom."
A year later, in 1884, his sister Amanda Aurora Charlotta and her husband Johan Fredrik Emanuel Nilsson (Fred Nelson) immigrated and settled in Wisconsin with their four children: Frank, Alma, Ingrid and Charles.  In the following ten years, Charles would die, and four more children would be born: Alburn, Rosa, Otto, and Claude.  Otto and Claude's WWI draft registration cards indicated they were born in Iola, Waupaca County, and the family can be found there on the 1895 census.  It's not known at this time if they lived there the entire ten years, or if they lived elsewhere first.

Some time between the filing of his first papers in April of 1883, and the winter of 1884/85, Lars, the brother who encouraged his family to come to America, left Wisconsin for Minnesota, where he can be found on the 1 May1885 state census in Lura, Fairibault County.

He indicates here that he is 24, rather than 30.
 Later that summer, on 23 Jul 1885, he married Effie Drusella Bassett, who was 16 years old.  On 26 November 1885 their first child, Eda Augusta Ekman, was born.  The marriage certificate lists his age at the time of the wedding as 26, making his alleged year of birth 1859, rather than 1855.

Over the next 15 years, Lars's age remains consistent with a birth year of 1859.  In 1892, his brother Axel and his wife Anna Laurentia (Martini) immigrate, and can be found living with Lars's family on the 1895 state census.  Lars's age is consistent, but by 1895, he's trying out another name: Lewis.

Lars and Effie's last child, Hester Anna, was born 2 Jul 1896 in Fairibault County.  Some time after this, Lars once again convinced his brother and sister to move where the opportunities were better, and all three siblings moved to Roberts County, South Dakota, near Big Stone Lake, which borders Minnesota and South Dakota.

The next few years were to be tumultuous for the Ekmans, and would ultimately split up the siblings forever.

This photo shows Lars and Effie's children in about 1899.  Eda, the oldest, would turn 14 in November of that year, while Hester Anna, the youngest, would have been about 3.
Edna, Charlie, Eda, Victor, Hester Anna, Edgar
Around this time, Effie left Lars to run off with a hired man, Jake Gifford, taking Edna, and the two youngest, Charlie and Hester Anna.

Eda wrote the following in a letter to Marie (Steel) Ekman, Charlie's daughter-in-law, back in the 1970's:

...we lived with my folks Lewis Ekman then when I was 13 my grandmother (Hester Ann Salley Bassett) sent for three of us we were in S. Dakota and we come to Minnesota that is Edgar, Vic and myself.
Eda would have been 13 in 1899, but on the 1900 census, we find Lars and the three mentioned above all living with their father at their aunt and uncle's farm. (Note: it lists Edna on the sheet, but the month/year for the birth date is Eda's.  No census record can be found for Jake and Effie in 1900, but their first two children were born in Carlton County, where Edna married her husband James McCollum in 1903, so it can be presumed that it was Eda on this record, not Edna.)

That summer of 1900, Axel had a fall (stories vary about how he fell and what he fell on), but on August 1, he died after a long illness resulting from that fall.

In October of 1900, Lars sold the property he owned, which amounted to less than an acre, to Rosey Bell Swayze (apparently a relative of the actor Patrick Swayze).

The family never heard from him again.

Next time...what did happen to Lars?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - the Silliman Siblings

GEORGE, son of J.W. & H.M SILLIMAN, DIED Aug 22, 1863
Two weeks ago, while searching for additional Civil War documents associated with my g2grandfather, Jervis Silliman, I discovered he had been married with a family prior to marrying my g2grandmother.  He had a wife and four children, two of whom died in childhood.

The first census record I could find for the family was the 1860 census, which showed Jervis and Harriet (Bartlett) (listed as Julia on the record, for some reason) living next door to Marvel and Eunice (Bartlett) Hayford, Harriet's sister and brother-in-law in Rockford, Wright County, Minnesota.  Harriet had two children at that time, Ida, age 5, born in New York; George, age 4, was listed as being born in Illinois. 

On the 1865 census, George is not listed, but Ida appears again, as do two other daughters, Nettie and Lydia.  In 1870, only Ida and Nettie are still shown on the census.  In 1875, Jervis is living in Rockford at Roberts' Public House with no family at all.  Ida married in the fall of 1870, and, as it turns out, Harriet divorced Jervis in 1873, and moved to Litchfield, Meeker County, where Marvel and Eunice had relocated, taking Nettie with her.

LYDIE E., Dau of J.W. & H.M. SILLIMAN, DIED Oct. 3, 1866, Aged 1 yr 10 m
Elmwood Cemetery is a small but active cemetery in the center of Rockford.  When the cemetery first opened, most families purchased lots, which contained 8 plots each.  George and Lydie must have been among the first to be buried there.  Their big sister Ida and her husband, William Frederick are buried several rows over, along with William's first wife, and their daughter Ione and Ione's husband Floyd H. McCrory.  The cemetery records show that in 1944, Ione deeded the other 6 plots in Jervis's lot back to the cemetery, and paid for permanent upkeep of George and Lydie's graves.  In addition, she paid for permanent upkeep of the Frederick family plot.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Very Grand Obituary - Maria (Wells) Forder

I went to the Minnesota Historical Society yesterday to look up obituaries.  My g3 grandparents, William and Maria (Wells) Forder, were from Hampshire, England, and immigrated in 1840 to Indiana, and then some time shortly after the 1870 census (probably in the spring of 1871), they migrated to Meeker County, Minnesota, settling in Dassel.

The Historical Society has the Dassel Anchor on microfilm, but the earliest editions they have are from late 1893.  William Forder died in 1891, so I couldn't find an obit for him, but Maria died 29 December 1893, so I was lucky that her obituary appeared just a few issues into the roll of microfilm.

Having just found an obituary last weekend for the first wife of my g2grandfather, Jervis Silliman, I noticed that Harriet (Bartlett) Silliman Rollins Larson's obit was titlted "Mrs. Louis Larson" and that while her ex-husband Jervis's name appeared in the obit, her own first name (never mind her maiden name) did not.  I was expecting something similar for Maria Forder, and therefore almost missed the obituary.

Maria's obituary took a full column and a half to print, and was mostly the text of a tribute read at her funeral by the Past Post Commander of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic), which took place in the town hall and was conducted by the W.R.C. (Women's Relief Corps)!  Most obits I have read indicate that the funeral service is held in the home.

Here is the full text of her obituary, which appeared in the Dassel Anchor Friday, January 5, 1894.
A Mother of Soldiers
As briefly announced in our last issue, Mrs. Maria Forder died on Friday morning, Dec. 29 1893, at her home in Dassel. The funeral services were held at the town hall the next afternoon, conducted by the W. R. C. No more fitting additional public tribute can be paid to her than the publication of the address read by Past Post Commander J. A. Whitaker.
Mrs. President, ladies of the W. R. C. and comrades of the G. A. R.:
Again you are assembled, clad in the habiliments of mourning, to render a last and loving tribute to the memory of one of your loving sisters, who, ripe in years, loved by all and lamented universally, has heard the whispered come! And has gone to her long rest and great reward. Again the dark bowman has flown into your midst and his cruel arrow has pierced the heart of a considerate, tender and loving mother, a devoted sister and warm friend; again has one who has stood with you around your altar and vowed to relieve the distressed, alleviate the pain and cheer the age enfeebled, disease-stricken veteran, fully, fulfilled that obligation, been relieved from duty and entered into that long, that abiding, blissful rest, that supreme, never ending peace, that is only found by those who consistently, faithfully and continually, do the Master's will while on duty here. Again has one of the links in the chain of your sisterhood been broken; again has that invisible tie, that binds you each to the other so strongly that only death can break it, been broken; again has the golden chord been severed; again has one whom in lie you loved been called from the home where she was the guide, from your ranks where she held a prominent and useful place, and left you lonely and tearfully sad. Your sister lived a blameless, cheerful life; and while she was going among you with warm words of encouragement, filled with loving kindness and sympathetic aid; “God's linger touched her and she slept.” Your assembling today is for the sole purpose of honoring her memory, consoling her weeping family and laying her remains at rest in the silent city of the dead, to await the sounding of the reveille that shall proclaim the end of time and summon the world to the bar of judgment, to receive the reward due for the deeds done in the body.
As part of your services today, you have assigned the writer the duty of preparing for this occasion a memorial sketch of the life of your departed sister. That duty is undertaken in love and performed as well as the time at the disposal of the writer, with the ability at his command, will allow. But oh how far short of performing that duty in a manner worthy of the departed will the writer come. He can but hope to place, with you, his wreath of regret upon her narrow home and, with you, testify to her noble character, her womanly worth and sisterly devotion.
By your words of service and notes of song, you are weaving in her honor a monument more lasting than the shaft of marble. By your attendance here to-day, you not only show your realization of your loss and the affliction of her relatives, but you proclaim to the world, that your band of sisterhood is not a rope of sand, but a tie, so strong, so sacred, that your bereavement is such as to properly place you close by the side of the relatives, who mourn her departure from the home where she was the light—the guiding star. No better, no higher friendship is known to earth than that that is built upon a solemn vow before God of aid, of counsel, of confidence, and friendship. And, aside from the tribute that is due her as a considerate, thoughtful, tender mother and devoted companion, it can be truly said that she was, by reason of her kindness of heart, charity of expression and willingness to sacrifice personal comfort for the purpose of doing something for the benefit of those to whom she was pledged, more and better fitted for that task than any of their surviving sisters. To her no appeal for aid within her means to relieve, was ever turned empty away; to her no sorrowing heart ever sought consolation in vain. Her life was made up of kind deeds and charitable effort.
Thus she lived, passing with the unchanging law of nature, the change of the seasons from the spring time, the summer of life, to the autumn, ripe with the golden fruit of duty well performed and reaching the winter of years happy in spirit, cheerful in manner, loved by all, until the old year was passing away and the dawn of the new was fast approaching.
At that time, when the quivering tones of the bells still echoed dimly in the distance, there fell upon her listening ear, the music of the harpists, who surround the throne of the Almighty. At that time, after a long weary night and just as the morn was at hand, while the words, “Peace on earth, good will to man,” were still heard on all sides and in every home untouched by disease or death, her vision pierced the unknown and she beheld that land, where disease never enters; night never comes; where pain is never felt; where peace—not the transitory, fleeting peace of earth, but that abiding, supreme, blissful, peace that is only vouch-safed the poor in heart and worthy in spirit.
Mrs. Maria Forder, in whose honor these services are held, was born at Hampshire, England, November 15, 1817; she was married to William Forder, who has gone before her to that better land, October 11, 1836, and with him came to America and settled in Salem, Washington county, Indiana, in 1840. She was the mother of 12 children, five of whom were sons. Four of them, went fourth in defence of the flag when treason threatened the life of the nation, and three of them came never back to her embrace, their lives having gone out amid the thunders roar, the dreadful crash and the withering fire of battle.
She was made a member of Colfax W. R. C., April 24, 1891, was elected to the position of chaplain, which she held continuously until her death. She was rarely absent from the meetings and was always a valued advisor in the deliberations of that body.
The time for the completion of these sacred services has arrived. The writer can add not one word that will fittingly portray the beauty of character, the gentleness of disposition, the kindness of heart, of her, whose body lies in yonder narrow home. The sister of the corps have paid her memory all the respect and honor that love and regret can pay; yet they would fain linger near to the form that in life, was so dear; would still look upon the face, that in life, was lighted up with a christian faith and the purpose of a noble soul. They would speak consolingly to the weeping ones of her household, but, alas! Their own eyes are filled with tears, their own hearts are swelled with sadness. They can only say as the body is laid to rest, sister, thy example was of priceless value to us; thy voice will be often and sadly missed at our gatherings; thy memory, we shall keep ever green in our hearts, and the choicest blossoms of springtime shall be laid upon thy bed, as long as we shall live; it shall be our aim to emulate thy virtues, to practice thy precepts, and to so perform life's duties that, when with us the night of life shall end, we may meet thee on the morning of the resurrection, so fitted that we may enjoy thy presence through the endless years of eternity. Until that glad hour, beloved sister, a last, a long, a final, a tearful farewell. Hail and Farewell.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Jervis W. Silliman

My g2grandfather, Jervis W. Silliman ("W" may stand for "Warren," his mother's maiden name) was born  28 Oct 1828 in Wethersfield, Wyoming, New York.  He died 8 Oct 1908 in Orting, Pierce, Washington, just shy of his 80th birthday, and is buried in the Soldiers' Home Cemetery. 

Jervis was the youngest of three children by Samuel Silliman and Roxillana Warren.  Roxillana was well into her 30's when she and Samuel married, and 43 years old when Jervis was born.  Samuel had been married before, and had many children with his first wife.  He was 73 when Jervis was born and lived to be 92.

Jervis and his father both served as volunteers in the army.  Samuel was about 18 when he first served in the Revolutionary war.  He volunteered and served in a number of capacities for the Connecticut Militia in Fairfield, as well as on several ships.  One of his commanding officers was a Capt. Jervis.  It's possible that it is for that captain that Jervis is named.

Jervis was in his mid-30's when he served in the Civil War, more than 80 years later.  Although he was a Mounted Ranger in the 1st Regiment of the Minnesota Cavalry, his service was focused on the Indian Wars, fighting the Sioux Indians who were pushing back against the pioneers settling in the Big Woods of Minnesota.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Baptism Monday

Index record of my great-great grandfather's baptism in Lippe
This is the first baptismal record I've found since I started doing genealogy.  I'm excited!

Sunday afternoon, I was supposed to go to my first genealogy workshop, given by the Germanic Genealogy Society.  We got whalloped with more than a foot of snow, starting Sunday morning, so the workshop was canceled. The workshop was going to focus on Northern Germanic regions, so my plan was to research my great-great grandfather, William Conrad Buss, the most recent immigrant on my mother's side of the family.  Once I heard the workshop was canceled, I decided to devote the day to learning more on my own about how to do research on immigrant ancestors prior to their arrival in the United States.

As always, I turned to the greatest resource we have for our family history, my great grandfather Fred Buss's life history.

Now I will write the history of my father. He was born in 1827, October 12, in Lippe Detmold, a little country that now belongs to Germany. His seven brothers and sisters and his mother died before he was two years old and his father was a drunkard. His aunt raised him until he was nine years old and then his aunt died. From that time on he made his own living but did not get any schooling. He herded cows for his board. The cows were led with a rope along roads and fences and in corners and some times he had to lead three or four at the same time by tying their heads together. What spare time he had at night he would make baskets from willows to trade for clothes and wooden shoes. When he got big enough to take a man's place he hired out by the year for fifteen or twenty dollars a year except for about six weeks when he would go to Holland to mow hay by hand and there he earned as much in six weeks as he got the rest of the year at home. It took about four or five days to go to Holland on foot. The last three years he was in Germany he worked for one man by the name of Munie for twenty-five dollars a year and saved enough money to come to the United States on a sailing ship. He also saved the tips he got for helping pull others out of the mud that hauled freight on a wagon. He was nine weeks on the water from Bramer harbor [Bremen] to New Orleans. He had a long sick spell on the ocean with a three-day's nose bleed but he was well and strong when he got to St. Louis in the fall of 1851 the year he got to the United States.
Last spring I found a passenger record for Wilh. Busse, age 26, in November of 1853, occupation Peasant, town of origin, Meinberg.  Given the chronology Fred describes after his father's arrival (working 2 years for a man in Illinois before buying a farm and going back to St. Louis to get married), 1853 makes more sense.

Meinberg is now Horn-Bad Meinberg, in the county of Lippe, in North Rhine Westphalia.  Before WWI, Lippe was a Principality, and afterward, the prince abdicated and it became a German Free State.  After WWII it became absorbed into the federal state of North Rhine Westphalia. 

So yesterday, I was printing maps and searching for more information on Meinberg when I came across a 1911 German gazetteer that described Meinberg. One of the things I discovered was the name of the parish for the area, and I found the parish website, along with the genealogy of the membership going back in some cases to the 16th century.  While I found a few people named Busse, none were born around the time that would have matched Wilhelm's close family members.  So I did a little searching online to find out more about the German parish system and I found this on

The Family History Library:

The Family History Library has microfilmed the civil registration records of many towns throughout Germany up to about 1876, as well as copies of records sent to many of the various state archives. Check the Family History Library Catalog to learn what records and time periods are available.

I'm not a huge fan of FamilySearch for a couple of reasons, but once in awhile it comes through for me in big ways, so there I went.  I entered Wilhelm Busse and a date range of 1825 to 1850 to see what I would get. I got more hits than was helpful, so I thought I might as well stick in his middle name.   That's when I got the record shown on top.

It one of those "Oh my god!" moments.  I looked at the baptismal date, 12 Oct 1827, and was sure the year was correct, but somehow I had in my head that he was born in August.  Nope.  That's his birthday, all right.

What was incredibly helpful was seeing the location: Brake Lippe.  Lippe had a history of multiple princes and as different lines died out, the little areas they each controlled would be handed over to one of the other lines. The biggest city in Brake Lippe was Lemgo, about 12 miles north of Meinberg.

Since then, I've found a brother, Johann Friedrich, probably his oldest sibling, and I know his parents' names: Friedrich Jobst Busse and Louise Florentine Dreves.  I wasn't able to find a marriage record for his parents, or his other siblings' birth records, or death records for any of them, but I may have found his mother's birth record (for Florentine Louise Dreve) and her parents' names (Philip Dreve and Elisabeth Krueger).   If the record I found for her is really hers, she was just a couple weeks shy of 16 when she had her first child.  Which means that she died before the age of 30, having given birth to 8 children. I can't even contemplate what her life was like.

My plan is to order the microfilm so that I can see the original documents myself.  I'm hoping I can find more missing family members in that roll of film, and maybe even find the death records of all his siblings.

An exciting weekend!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Busting Brick Walls

Sometimes I wonder what drives me to untangle my knotted family history.  I think it must be the satisfaction of solving a puzzle that no one else has cracked before. 

I wrote before about my quest to find my great grandmother Maud Silliman on a census record before she was married, and the surprises I found along the way (different surname than I had thought, a first cousin for a second husband, and a bigamist mother).  I uncovered lots more than that, some of it heartbreaking, some of it heartwarming, all of it satisfying.

My great-grandmother Maud Silliman was not the only brick wall on my dad's side of the family.  My dad knew so little about his family history, that anything I found was news to him.

When I started filling in the tree with what I knew, all I had on my father's father was a first and last name, the name of his first wife (my grandmother Zora) and his kids Floyd Jr, Bob, and my dad.  I had no idea how old my dad's parents were, only that my father was the baby of the family and his mother was only 16 when she married my grandfather.

The first census record I found for Floyd was the same one I'd found for my grandmother, in 1930, when they'd been married just a couple of years and Floyd Jr was a baby.
The census indicates that Floyd's father was born in Illinois and his mother was born in Montana.  That seemed odd.  If Floyd and his father were born in Illinois, but his mother was born in Montana, how did his parents meet?  It seemed unlikely that his mother would have migrated east at that time.   I had an approximate year of birth, 1904/1905 and a middle initial, E.

The next step would be to find him as kid, living with his parents. I searched for anyone named Floyd Richardson born around 1904/5.  I spent an entire weekend thinking I had hit pay dirt, finding obituaries of his supposed mother and father and was very excited.  In the middle of all this, I had found his social security death index record, which listed his birthdate as 1 Nov 1905.  The Floyd I had found in 1920 and 1910 was born in 1904 and was too old to be my grandfather.  While my grandfather was listed as age 25 on the 1930 census, he was actually only 24.

Back to the drawing board.  Knowing his actual birth date, I did another search on Floyd Richardsons born in Illinois in 1905, and found one in 1920 in North Dakota.
The record indicates that Claude Richardson and his parents were all born in Illinois.  Anna, it seems, was born in Minnesota, and both her parents were from Germany.  Floyd was born in Illinois as was his father, and it says his mother was born in Minnesota. 

I wasn't 100% sure this was my grandfather, but there weren't a whole lot of Floyd Richardsons who were the correct age that were born in Illinois, so I was hopeful.

In the mean time, I kept bugging my dad about what he might remember.

About this time, three things happened.  I found a family tree on Ancestry that included Floyd and Zora and their kids.  It looked like someone on an uncle's wife's side of the family had put it together.  There was no information about the previous generation, but it did have a middle name for Floyd: Ekman; I discovered IRAD, the Illinois Regional Archives Depository, which has a marriage record index; and my dad sent me this email

My dad's life was, to me, quite confusing.  In 1951 dad took Bob and me to Wyoming to meet his mother.  It was rather unclear to me if she was his actual mother or a step-mother.  (All I know is that her husband was not dad's father.)  At different times, she was referred to by both designations. As far as I know, dad only had a younger half-brother.  I met him at dad's funeral, but I can't remember his name.  I always thought Dad was born in Elgin, Illinois--at least he had lived there for a time. 
At the end of the email, he said this:
I believe dad's middle name was Ekman, but I'm not sure.  To me that sounds like a possible maternal family name. I wish I could be of more help! 

With this confirmation about Floyd's middle name, and the idea that Ekman could be a maternal surname, I searched the IRAD marriage index and found this:


I immediately began a search for Edith Ekman in Minnesota, guessing she was probably born around 1885, give or take a few years.   I found this, which is from the 1895 Minnesota State Census:

Very exciting.

I also found this 1910 Federal Census record, for a family living in Custer County, Montana:

At first, I was convinced the two Edahs had to be the same person, but when I added her to my family tree, I found other family trees with the same Edah Ekman on them.  There was a mother lode of family photos, including a scan of the letter her husband Lew Jay wrote to the family back in Minnesota when she died.  Lew Jay?  None of these trees showed Claude attached to Edah as a first husband, never mind Floyd.  Curious.

Lew's full name was George Lewis Jay.  I did a census search, for Eda and Lew Jay.  I found this 1920 census record.
Who were these three girls? They couldn't be Edah's, they had to be Lew's from a first marriage.  I wondered if Edah/Edith and Claude had done what the Sillimans had done on my dad's other side of the family: split up and each taken one kid.   Had George Lewis Jay played musical spouses, too?  An afternoon spent searching the Wisconsin Historical Society's Genealogy database showed that Lew had a first wife, Birdine Amundson, who had died within a couple years of Marvel's birth.

I wondered about what Floyd and Glen had understood about their parents and each other growing up.  It didn't sound like they knew they were full brothers.  Still, I didn't have any confirmation that this Edah Ekman was the same Edith Ekman who had married my great-grandfather Claude Richardson.

I dearly wanted Edah Ekman, wife of Lew Jay, to be the same Edith Ekman who had married Claude Richardson, if for no other reason than being able to claim all those great family photos.  I sent away for Claude and Edith's marriage record.
I screamed out loud when I read this.  Not only had I confirmed that I had the right Edah/Edith, I also got the names of Claude's parents (William Richardson and Ernie Howard) and where he was born, as well as Edah's mother's maiden name, Bassett.

Ekman children: Edna, Charles, Edah, Victor, Hester, Edgar, abt 1898

This still left a few mysteries, such as how did Claude and Edah meet?  What was she doing in Illinois? When and why did Claude and Edah split up?  Did they actually get a divorce? Did they actually remarry, or did they just pair up with other people?  As I dug deeper into this branch of the family, I got some answers, but also had more questions.  Regardless, discovering this marriage record opened the door to many more generations of family to investigate, both on Edah's side and Claude's.  The brick wall had been blown apart.