Trolls in Fargo

I recently visited relatives in Fargo, North Dakota, where we went to a Sunday lutefisk dinner at the Sons of Norway lodge there.  The lodge décor has a bit of the feel of a 1970s steakhouse, but also a lot of beautiful carving and painting in Norwegian traditions.  This year, I grabbed quick photos of these two trolls carved into the arch leading into the lounge.  They are cute in a way but also a little crazy.  I don’t know that I would care to meet them in the mountains….  But for the first time, I am wondering about Norwegian troll mythology and whether there is a good history about them out there somewhere.

Sons of Norway lodge, Fargo, 2017.
Sons of Norway lodge, Fargo, 2017.

A Mystery about Lucy Ayers Dilley

I am working on the page for Lucy Ayers Dilley (1763-1840) and came across this story in a 1917 Indiana newspaper as told by a descendant of hers:

I can’t find anything else about Lucy serving in the Revolutionary War, but the claims at the end about the gravestones strike me as a believable detail.  But the Dilleys have a lot of DAR, etc. lineages published about Ephraim‘s service, a lot of descendants participating in genealogy websites, as well as a fair number of published genealogy books–and this isn’t in any entries about Ephraim and Lucy that I’ve seen so far.

It is a compelling story, so I hope I eventually find something that will provide some corroboration.

Public History and Genealogy

By profession, I’m a public historian, so I’m a proud member of the National Council on Public History.  I’m finally reading through an August 2015 issue of The Public Historian journal, in which they published a keynote address on the relationship between genealogy and public history, and about theories of genealogy.  I thought I’d check out their online resource, History@Work, to share what they’d posted in relation to that keynote.  Find links to responses on their site, here.

But it also turns out that they’ve had a post that is interesting for me in relation to this family history that I do… This post “Diggin’ the Census” is particularly about the popularity and traditions of Norwegian genealogy.  The digital census and parish materials on their national archives have been immensely helpful and it was great to get a wider angle on the trends in Norway.

A Trip to Hibbing

Last week, I got to take the best vacation.  I went up to Hibbing, Minnesota to stay with my grandparents.  It’s a good long drive there and back (listened to the entire unabridged 19-hour audio book of The Fellowship of the Ring…), so I stayed for a good long time.  I loved having time with my grandparents and made several trips out to do family history research around the area.  I went to the Minnesota Discovery Center’s Research Center (awesome), drove around Hibbing getting photos of places connected to my family, went to the Itasca County Historical Society and County Courthouse, visited the Hull Rust Mine View and the Maple Hill Cemetery, and got to ask my grandparents a ton of questions about their families, their towns, and the things they have in their house (hopefully without driving them totally nuts).  I’ll be working on organizing all the photos and documents, then updating this website, but here are some highlights…

In the "blue room," my grandparents have set up many of the photos of their parents over the years.
In the “blue room,” my grandparents have set up many of the photos of their parents over the years.

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A Trip to St. Cloud

This Memorial Day weekend I was able to visit the research center at the Stearns History Museum in St. Cloud to do research on the Dilley & Ziegenbein families.  I arrived early so I sat on the lovely Modernist plaza and organized my notes from this website (my phone was about to die) with birds chirping and the fountain bubbling.

Stearns History Museum, St. Cloud, May 2016, photograph by author.

I wasn’t the first one in the door at 10am, but I was close.  After paying the entrance fee, I headed down the hall to the Research Center.  My notes had prepped me well enough to dive in after the staff member gave me a brief orientation.  Being able to photograph and make photo copies helped speed the process.  I had an hour to mine what info I could from their biography files, subject files (for businesses), and naturalization records on microfilm.  There might be more to find on a future trip, but these three sections provided great info on Franz Ziegenbein, Sam and Gusty Dilley, and Ida Harris Dilley who had connections to St. Cloud and St. Augusta.

I then paid for my photocopies and zipped out at 11:10am to meet other family members to set flowers on Almlie, Talberg, and Wager graves in cemeteries to the east in Benton & Morrison Counties.

Genealogy on TV

I’m a sucker for “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Finding Your Roots.”  I’ve watched an episode of “Genealogy Roadshow” but it doesn’t have the budget or pizzazz of the celebrity shows.  I love watching people’s reactions to their family history.  I’ve also loved learning more about different angles on history in general through those shows.  The celebrity shows get the additional benefit of traveling for research, talking to archivists or docents, and getting to visit the places where that history happened.  I still remember when they went with Martin Sheen to Ireland and Spain, and with Lisa Kudrow to Poland.

I recently did a bit of genealogy for a friend, and what you never see in those shows is what I found on her tree–generations of Midwestern farmers.  I have a fair number on my own tree.  I like looking into their lives–especially when I started finding Almlies in the Minnesota newspapers on Chronicling America.  The news items gave a bit more richness to the story.  But I bet they still wouldn’t be the stories that would make it into a TV show.  If I were producing a show about my own family history, I would probably spotlight George Talberg with his work in Panama and on the ALCAN, the Anselmo & Sordis on their immigration from Italy to the ethnically-diverse Minnesota Iron Range, Bertha Staack Pressler and her mysterious return to Chicago, Franz Ziegenbein‘s likely imprisonment at Andersonville during the Civil War, maybe Ephraim Dilley’s service in a New Jersey militia during the Revolutionary War (haven’t written that one up for the website yet), and maybe Lars Talberg‘s immigration from Sweden to Bishop Hill, Illinois (even though it was later than Bishop Hill’s really juicy history).

Postscript—I have started adding material on Ephraim Dilley Sr.‘s militia service to the website, but militias seem to be harder to pin down than I assume regular army would be…