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Genealogy Hassell Uncategorized

The Swedes Come Out of the Weeds

In October, 2009 I wrote THIS POST about my Great Grandmother, Olive (Hassel) Rathkamp, my dad’s grandmother.  Olive died in 1926, 16 years before my dad was born.  Until last week she and her Swedish ancestors continued to be a complete mystery.  I’ve accumulated some anecdotal evidence, but nothing concrete.  I’ve long suspected her father was Charles Hassel, knew she lived in Michigan, suspected she was born in Sweden, and suspected her mother died when she was young.  That’s it.  Not exactly something a genealogist would hang his hat on.

hassel-anna-death-record-combinedI have literally had three different people listed as possibly being her mother.  This death record seemed to indicate her mother was Anna (Erickson) Hassel who apparently died in childbirth on December 17, 1892 a date which coincides with the birth of Olive’s sister Ella.

Anna would have been 8 years younger than Charles and would have only been 16 when she had Olive.  Not out of the realm of possibilities.

I knew I’d have much better luck finding Olive’s mom if I could find a birth record from Sweden.  This was no easy task.  The only thing I had to go on was Charles’ obit from 1937.1hassell-charles-small-obit  This obit states that he was from Nora, Westmanlan (Vastmanland), Sweden.  If this was true it would have helped.  But Charles lied.  Actually he probably didn’t lie.  It’s amazing how facts are distorted through the lens of time.  Soon tiring of finding the needle in the haystack, I decided to try my old trick of working sideways.

Iron Mountain, Michigan was an iron mining town and went through a boom during the late 1800’s.  Similar to what’s happening now in North Dakota and the tar sands in Canada, workers were recruited to Iron Mountain from other areas of the world.  Even today, looking through the Iron Mountain phone book, you’ll notice two distinct ethnic groups:  Swedes and Italians.  It’s not a coincidence that skilled miners could be found in both Sweden and Italy.  These young men, searching for opportunity, ended up working together in the iron mines of Iron Mountain.

Knowing this, I started searching emigration information for some of the other Swedes that had settled in Iron Mountain.  One town that seemed to show up on more than one occasion was the town of Grythyttan, Örebro, Sweden.  Plugging this town into Google Maps, I soon discovered Grythyttan was only some 20 miles away from….Nora, Örebro, Sweden.  Grythyttan is a small town.  A small town, along with an uncommon Swedish surname would surely make my life easier.  And it did.

Ancesty.com has done a nice job of integrating the Swedish Genline database.  I quickly was able to find this gem:  hassel-carl-august-swedish-birth-record  From there, I was off to the races.  I now knew my Swedish ancestors were from Grythyttan and soon I was able to find Olive’s birth record too.  It seems her first name wasn’t Olive.  No surprise.  Olive was her middle name and her first name was Ingeborg.  Now that sounds Swedish.

So who is Olive’s mom?  Charles married Josephine Bergquist on January 7, 1892, three weeks after Anna’s death.  But it turns out Anna wasn’t Olive’s mom either.  For years, I’ve had a copy of a ship’s manifest showing a Sofie and Olive Hassel coming into the U.S. in March of 1888.  But because I stuck on the possibility that Olive’s mom was Anna, I dismissed this record.

It turns out that on May 17, 1884 (two years before Olive was born), Charles married Sophia Sax in Grythyttan.

The ship’s manifest was correct.  Sophia was Olive’s mother.  Since then, I’ve found another record.  This record shows Sofia and Olive made the trip with Charles’ brother Andrew.  It shows they were from Grythyttan.  And it shows there destination was…Iron Mountain, Michigan.hassel-sofia-olivia-gothenburgswedenpassengerlists-1888-highlighted

So here’s my best guess…Charles and Sophia marry in 1884, Olive was born in 1886.  Charles emigrates without his wife and young daughter, to Iron Mountain, then his brother Andrew, Sophia, and Olive are sent for.  Sometime between their arrival and 1890/91, Sophia dies and Charles, finding himself unable to work in the mine and care for Olive, marries Anna.  Anna dies in 1892, Charles again finds himself in a bind and marries Josephine.

My great aunt, Grace Larson often took me up to her cabin between Merrill and Tomahawk, Wisconsin.  In 1974 during one of our trips “up north”, Grace and I drove up to Iron Mountain.  I was 10.  In Iron Mountain, we toured the Chapin Mine.  While writing this post, I recalled this tour and vaguely remembered these pictures being tucked away in a photo album Grace put together for me.  Grace’s sister was Alice “Pat” Rathkamp, my grandmother.  Pat was married to Bill Rathkamp, my grandfather.  Bill’s mother was Olive, my Great Grandmother.  Olive’s father was Charles, my Great Great Grandfather.  Charles and his brother worked in this mine.  I think Grace may have taken me to Iron Mountain for a reason.

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Hassell Milwaukee Rathkamp Uncategorized

Willy & Olive, What’s Your Story?

You have not been telling the truth and I’m calling you out.  You’ve also been holding out on me, and I want information.  Now.

My last post about Esther Rathkamp got me thinking about all the discrepancies and mysteries surrounding her parents William & Olive Rathkamp, my great grandparents.  Genealogists are used to dealing with inconsistencies, usually attributed to misspellings of surnames.  But Willy & Olive are off the charts.

How and why did Olive move from Iron Mountain, Michigan/ Florence, Wisconsin to Milwaukee?  At some point, her sister Albina also moved to Milwaukee, marrying Albert Klatt.

Where and when did they get married? Willy’s first wife, Sophie, died in early 1906.  Willy & Olives first daughter, Esther was born March 12, 1908, this leaves a window of about 18 months for them to get married, provided they were married before conception.  I’ve searched online records from Wisconsin and Michigan, and visited the Milwaukee County Courthouse and have found nothing.

My grandfather’s birth certificate. William Rathkamp, my grandfather, was born in 1909.  His last name is shown as “Redcamp”.  There are all kinds of cases where surnames are incorrectly documented (phonetically), usually because the person verbally giving the last name is a recent immigrant.  Neither Willy or Olive was a recent immigrant and it’s doubtful either had an accent.  Willy was born in Milwaukee in 1878 and Olive more than likely was born in Sweden around 1886, and moved to Michigan when she was a baby.  Even if they did speak with an accent, you’d think the person filling out the birth certificate would ask for the correct spelling of the last name.  1909 is well before WWI when many Germans anglicized their last names.  In 1973, my grandfather had this “mistake” corrected.

Olive’s last name is also misspelled as “Hessell” instead of Hassell.

1910 US Census. Olive states her place of birth is Michigan, and that the birthplace of her parents is Norway.  I believe her place of birth is Sweden, and I’m 99.999% sure her parents were also born in Sweden.

1930 US Census. William states that his parents were born in Hamburg, Germany.  They were actually born south of Bremen, in what was then Hanover.

William’s WWI Registration Card states that he is paralyzed on his left side.

Olive died in 1926 at the age of 40, leaving 3 kids, including 10 year old Ann to her husband to care for.  Family lore has it that she was a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist who eschewed medical care which ultimately led to her death at a young age.  How and why would she have gravitated to such a radical religion?

William died in 1930 at the age of 53, leaving 3 kids, including a 14 year old Ann orphans.  William’s death will be the topic for a future post.

No pictures. Of of my 8 great grandparents, William and Olive are the only ones for whom I have no pictures.

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Genealogy Hassell Rathkamp

Esther Just Before Easter

Last week, my cousin Paul asked via FaceBook if I’ve dug up any “Dead Rathkamps” lately.  The answer was a simple “no”.  I’ve been so busy with other stuff that I haven’t really been working on any genealogy projects lately.  One of my favorite nightly rituals is to log on to Google Reader and peruse a bunch of articles.  Most of the feeds I subscribe to are either Tech feeds, genealogy, or history.  Randy Seaver has an excellent blog whose articles occasionally catch my attention.  In this particular post, Randy mentioned the addition of several Wisconsin probate and death records to FamilySearch.

I followed the link to FamilySearch and plugged in the name Rathkamp.  I’ve been doing this for so many years that it’s pretty rare for me to see a name I’ve never seen before. Tonight was an exception. Right there, front and center was Esther Rathkamp.  I read down a little and noticed her parents were Wm. Rathkamp and Olive Hessel.  These are my great grandparents!

Genealogy can be a real SOB.  You run around (hopefully with some direction) trying to either solve problems or look for clues.  My experience has been that often times, you end up solving one problem, and in the process create 5 more unanswered questions.  Case in point:

Problem solved:  This find acknowledges and confirms the 1910 US Census where Olive states she has given birth to two children, one living.

Problems created:

  • Why is Olive’s name spelled “Hessel” instead of Hassell or Hassel?
  • Why does it show “Mother’s place of birth” as Germany?  She was (I am almost certain) born in Sweden.
  • Are Wm. and Olive married at this point?  I have NOT been able to find a marriage record for them.  Wm.’s first wife, Sophie Hartmann, died 11 Jan., 1906.  That’s a small, but not impossible window.
  • Esther died on 15 July, 1909.  My grandfather, also William, was born 10 days later.  I can’t imagine a mother taking that kind of pain into childbirth.

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Genealogy Hassell

The Swede in the Weeds…Such a Hassell

If I am the trunk of my genealogical tree, Olive Hassell is the closest branch with the most mystery surrounding it.  Olive is my paternal great grandmother, married to William J. Rathkamp.  I know almost nothing specific about her other than her date of death.  I know she was born in Sweden (my only non-German ancestor) in or about 1886.  I know that when her family came to the United States, they lived in Michigan.  I’m fairly certain, based on the 1900 US Census and the 1905 Wisconsin census, that her father was Charles Hassell and that they lived in Iron[singlepic id=6 w=320 h=240 float=left] Mountain.  After all, how many “Olive Hassells” could there be in Michigan?  There is nothing else I know of tying Olive to Charles.  Charles’ first wife (Olive’s mother?) died in about 1890.

I’m pretty sure she married William Rathkamp sometime between 1906, the year his first wife Sophie Hartmann died, and 1909, the year my grandfather was born.  That’s about it.

The lack of information seems to bring on a lot of questions.  Who were her parents?  When specifically did they arrive in America?  I haven’t found any arrival information.  Were she and William married in Wisconsin or Michigan?  I searched the marriage index for Milwaukee County at the Golda Meier Library at UWM and found nothing.  How and where did they meet?  Did she move to Milwaukee alone or possibly with a sibling?  What were the circumstances surrounding her early death at age 40?

One last note…

Many genealogists talk about the missing 1890 census. The lack of an 1890 census hasn’t really been that big of a deal for me, except in the case of Olive. With that census, I probably could confirm or deny her relationship to Charles and I would probably also know the identity of her mother. Bummer.

If anybody has any ideas or information, I’d appreciate hearing from you.

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Genealogy Hassell Hulsemann Rathkamp

Tapping into a New Source

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been spending some time at the Golda Meir Library on the campus of The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  For whatever reason, the library was chosen to archive all or most of Milwaukee’s vital records.  Some of these records can be found on Ancestry.com, but are very incomplete.   From what I’ve seen, the records at UWM seem to be very comprehensive.  The collection also includes Probate records which I have never seen before.

One of the things I like is that these records are held in a corner of the library’s basement.  It’s pretty rare to even see another person and it really allows me to focus on what I’m doing.

Some of my finds include finding the middle names of my great aunt and uncle, finding and copying the death record for my Great Great Grandfather (Friedrich Rathkamp), finding the birth records for the siblings of my Great Grandfather Willliam J. Rathkamp, and finding the probate records (estate settlements) for Friedrich and Dorothea Rathkamp.

I still haven’t found the marriage record for William J. Rathkamp and his wife Olive Hassell.  Olive was born in Michigan, so I suppose it’s possible they were married there.  This is a key record for me, because I still don’t know for sure who her parents were.  William was also married earlier to Sophie Hartmann.  I know she died in 1906, but I couldn’t find her death record.

The probate records were kind of a special find to me.  Over the years, I’ve collected so much information on Fritz and Dora, but have never found anything “personal” from either of them.  There’s been nothing passed on from them to me, I have no pictures, etc.  In these records though, I got to see each of their signatures.

I’m looking forward to spending more time down there.