Friday, July 28, 2017

Finding Peder

A recent news story reminded me of a similar story in my husband’s family. The story was about finding skeletal remains of a man who had been missing for ten years. A skull, next to a pair of hunting boots, was found; and using DNA, it was determined that it was “7.9 billion times more likely to have originated from a biological sibling” than not. [1] After ten years, this man had been found. There was, and is, speculation about his mental health at the time of his disappearance.

In 1918, DNA was not available to identify skeletal remains. However, a pair of boots and a jack knife were used to identify the remains of Peder Marten “John” Pederson, my husband’s great-uncle.

Peder was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1886 to John V. and Randi Iverson Pederson. He had 
a brother, Iver, who died in 1887, less than a year after being born, and a
Peder & Sophie about 1892
sister, Sophie, born in 1888.

Peder’s parents were both born in Norway. His father, John, worked as a mailman in Minneapolis; and sometime after 1900, John purchased land in Greenbush Township, Mille Lacs County, Minnesota, which became the “family farm.”

Peder and Sophie were close growing up, and Peder served as the best man at her wedding to Henry Foster on October 20, 1908, in Mille Lacs County. Sometime after that date, Peder disappeared, not to be found until May 1918.

On May 16, 1918, the Mille Lacs County Times published the story of finding Peder with this headline:  Remains of John Pederson, Who Disappeared 9 Years Ago, Found in Swamp in Greenbush Township - Skeleton of Young Man Identified by Boots and Jack Knife Found on the Ground by the Remains. 

It seems that a farmer, who was rebuilding a fence along his property line, found the remains in a marshy swamp that was part of his property. The marsh happened to be dry due to a dry season; thus, the ability to find the skeleton. However, the skull was missing. The nature of his death was never determined. 

The newspaper describes the initial search as follows: Searching parties were organized and the whole country side was carefully searched in an effort to find some trace of him but without avail.  It was finally decided that he must have left the country, probably under a spell of mental weakness, as he had been troubled with severe headaches, and it was thought his mind might have been affected.  At times rumors of his having been seen in various localities reached his parents, but they were unable to locate him.[2]

Peder’s father died without knowing what happened to his son. 

Peder was buried in the West Branch Cemetery, in Greenbush Township, just outside the cemetery boundary line, and without a headstone. Unless you know where to look (there’s a depression in the ground), there is no evidence that Peder ever existed.

L to R: Henry Forster, Peder Pederson, Sophie Pederson, Randi Pederson
October 20, 1908

[1] Powers, Pamela. "Missing Dunn County man's remains ID'd." N.p., 26 July 2017. Web. 26 July 2017.
[2] “Remains of John Pederson, Who Disappeared 9 years Ago, Found in Swamp in Greenbush Township.” Mille Lacs County (MN) Times, May 16, 1918 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Out of the Box with Facebook

Have you ever hit a brick wall? Not physically, of course; but, you just could not go forward with whatever it was you were trying to accomplish.  In genealogy research, there is always that brick wall lurking, just waiting for you to run into it with a splat. I hit that brick wall several years ago; however, I did break through a section of a wall recently with a stroke of good luck. (I have more than one brick wall in my research.)

Henrikus Niehues
Let’s back track. My 2nd great-grandfather Henrikus Niehues (born in 1803 in Holland) immigrated to the United States in 1844 with his wife, Francisca Maria Goddjin (born in 1817 in Leiden, Zuid-Holland) and two children: my great-grandfather George Henry Newhouse (born in 1838 in Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland) and Herman Jacob Newhouse (born 1843 in Leiden, Zuid-Holland). A daughter, Franciska, died before the trip to America. The family’s last name was Americanized to Newhouse, and their first and middle names were given the English equivalents.

I wanted to get past the immigration date, working backward in time, to see if I could find any ancestors or historical background on this family. The immigration date is documented in several newspaper articles written about both George and Herman Newhouse.  The immigration, however, pre-dates Ellis Island, so those records were of no use. I scoured through ship manifests for the years 1843-1845, to no avail. I kept searching on and off for several years.

I decided to give George’s and Herman’s brothers and sisters – who were born in the United States – 
some scrutiny with the hope that angle of research would yield me some answers. This research led
George Newhouse
me to the descendants of Herman; specifically, Iris Simon Newhouse, the wife of Herman’s grandson Everett Newhouse. Iris filled me in on the family history giving me names, dates, and some information on Francisca Goddjin 2nd great-grandmother). Additionally, she sent to me the Bible that came with the family from Holland as I had descendants I could give it to while she did not.

Well, after getting that information, I again hit a brick wall. I had many questions answered, but I still was not able to get backwards into Holland; and, there is where I stayed for over six years.  Fast forward to the 2017 and Facebook. 

I never thought about using Facebook for my own personal journey. I do “follow” certain genealogy sites, and I guess because I do, a recommended site appeared one day called “Dutch Genealogy.” After reviewing the postings, I decided to ask for help.  I posted what information I had on my 2nd great-grandparents; and, within a number of hours, I had information on my 2nd great-grandmother’s family. There was no information on the Niehues family, but I had more than I had before.

There had always been a question as to whether our ancestors were German or Dutch. It turns out they are Belgium and Dutch – at least on the Goddjin side of the family. I wish I had thought outside of the box and turned to Facebook earlier.  There are probably other similar groups on Facebook for other nationalities tied into genealogy.

Here’s the lineage I now have thanks to Facebook’s Dutch Genealogy group:

Francisca Maria Goddjin (1817-1906) – 2nd great-grandmother
Jacobus Goddjin (1793-1836) – 3rd great-grandfather
Jacobus Goddijn (1760-1847) – 4th great-grandfather
Abraham Goddijn (1735-xxxx) – 5th great-grandfather
Jacobus Goddijn (1688-1757) – 6th great-grandfather
Abraham Goddijn ( 1660-1708) – 7th great-grandfather
Jacob Goddijn (1615-xxxx) – 8th great-grandfather
Abraham Abrahmszen Goddijn (1585-1643) – 9th great-grandfather
Abraham Goedijn – 10th great-grandfather

Along with the grandfathers’ names I also have the wives’ and children’s names. 

So, if you are doing family research, think out of the box and use “non-traditional” resources.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Professional Wrestler

She died in her third professional wrestling match at the age of 18.

Janet Georgia Boyer Wolfe was born on June 13, 1933, to Cyril and Selma Johnson Boyer of Orr, Minnesota, which is about two hours northwest of Duluth, Minnesota.  Janet wanted to become a professional wrestler and became a protege of Tony Stetcher, a Minneapolis wrestling trainer who has been inducted into the Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame.  

Janet was not a very big girl. When she first contacted Tony Stetcher, wanting to train with him, she was 5’3” and only weighed 120 pounds. [1]  He was reluctant to take her under his wing as he thought she was too small. She was able to increase her weight to 137 pounds, which he found to be more acceptable. In working with Stetcher, she showed an ability to possibly become a champion in women’s wrestling. [2]  Enter Billy Wolfe. 

Billy Wolfe was the manager of Mildred Burke, his wife, the current woman’s wrestling champion.  Because Janet showed such promise, she was sent to Billy and his wife in Columbus, Ohio, to be groomed for the professional ring.  In fact, Billy and Mildred adopted Janet before she turned 18; this was done with her mother’s permission. (Cyril Boyer died in 1946.) Thus, her professional name became Janet Boyer Wolfe.  

Janet’s professional career began in June 1951. She was one of 44 women who staged wrestling shows throughout the United States.  Prior to her death on July 28, 1951, Jane had won one match and lost one match. It was not unusual for women wrestlers at that time to have more than one match during the evening of the wrestling show; sometimes they were tag-team matches.

In her third professional appearance, she had been pinned in a bout with Ella Waldek and afterwards
complained about a headache. However, the "show must go on" as she was scheduled later that same evening for a tag-team match with Eva Lee as her partner against Waldek and Mae Young.  During the match, Janet was body slammed by Waldek; so, she tagged her partner, and upon leaving the ring proper, collapsed outside the ring on the apron. She died four hours later of a ruptured vein in her stomach and a blood clot between the brain and the lining of the brain in East Liverpool, Ohio. 

Waldek, Lee, and Young were arrested for Janet’s death with a pending charge of manslaughter. However, Janet’s death was ruled accidental.

Janet is buried in Pine Hill Cemetery, Duluth, Minnesota; she is my husband’s, Jim Oliver, 3rd cousin. 

[1] "Janet Wolfe." The Team, n.d. Web. 14 July 2017. 
[2] "Girl Wrestler Killed in Bout." Minneapolis Tribune, 27 July 1951.

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Coalminer's Daughter

She is by no means a coal miner’s daughter, but she is a great-granddaughter, a grandniece, and a great-grandniece of coal miners. I am talking about my daughter-in-law Melissa Murphy Oliver, and she is well acquainted with the dangers coal miners face.

Last week one of the people I highlighted was coal miner James Bernard Murphy – he died in a mine explosion in Everettville, a small town about seven miles southwest of Morgantown, West Virginia, and 82 miles straight south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

On April 30, 1927, at 3:20 p.m., an explosion destroyed Federal No. 3 mine in Everettville, West
No. 3 Mine Explosion
Virginia, killing over 100 mine workers; only nine miners working that day managed to escape. After two weeks the fires, a result of the explosion, were finally put out and rescuers were able to recover the bodies still in the mine. It was determined that the explosion started as a result of an "storage-battery locomotive" ignited an accumulation of methane gas and coal dust.(see last photo). The mine was owned by the New England Fuel and Transportation Company.

Explosion Aftermath

In 2011, a memorial was dedicated to the memory of the coal miners – not only those that died on April 30, 1927, but also those that survived.  The names are inscribed on the 7.5 ton memorial overlooking the former mine site. There are a total of 149 names with the year of their death listed. Every year since the original dedication, there has been an annual memorial service. At this year’s memorial, United Mine Workers of American district 31 vice-president, Mike Caputo, made the following remarks:

            “When you’re a coal miner, like me and so many of us around, you consider folks like this heroes because if maybe they wouldn’t have died so tragically on the job there would never have been a day that helped safety become a priority in the work place and it would be the obligation for coal operators to provide us a safe place to work.”*

Four of those heroes have the same last name: Murphy.
  • James Bernard Murphy, Melissa’s great-grandfather
  • James Lewis Murphy, Melissa’s great-uncle and the son of James Bernard Murphy
  • George Bernard Murphy, Melissa’s 2nd great-uncle and brother of James Bernard Murphy
  • Kenny A. Murphy – died five years after the explosion in 1933. I presume there is a relationship, but it has yet to be established.

 Not only did James Bernard, James Lewis, and George Bernard all die on the same day – April 30, 1927, but they were all buried on the same day – May 7, 1927, in Saint Michael's Cemetery, Frostburg, Maryland. 

If you are interested, here is the link to the government report on this mine disaster. (click here)

Mine entrance before the explosion

Mine before the explosion

All that is left of No. 3 Mine

Note:  All photos are from the Everettville (WV) Historical Association

*Goodrich, Sarah. "Miners remembered as 'heroes' at Federal No. 3 service.", 30 April 2017, 2daa5098-2d79-11e7-99cb-07ed20410f7d.html. Accessed 7 July 2017.