Family History >
My Mother's Ancestors
Mother's Ancestors: Map and Photo Essay
of the reasons that I'm taking this trip is to research my family's history.
This is a map showing how my mother's ancestors moved across America (click to
RED LINES, her father's ancestors
(Reinhards), who moved
from Germany and Norway to Minnesota and then to North Dakota.
BLUE LINES, her mother's ancestors
(Swangs/Svangs), who moved
from Norway to South Dakota and then to North Dakota.
Mother's Ancestral Map (Click to
Photo Essay: My
left: On my Mom's father's side, Henry
and Carolina Reinhard moved from Hannover,
Germany to the U.S. in the 1870s. Henry Reinhard Sr. homesteaded at this farm near
Westbrook, Minnesota. During my 2001 trip to
Minnesota, I discovered
his homestead (no longer owned by the Reinhards) and this barn dated 1893 that Henry
apparently built. He died in Westbrook in 1910.
center: Henry's oldest son, Henry Reinhard
Jr. (my great-grandfather) around the time of his marriage in 1890. Henry
Jr. moved his
to Regan, North Dakota in 1907 and homesteaded there. He died in 1955 in
right: Henry's wife and my
great-grandmother, Petrina Blege, with the hairstyle that was the fashion of the
day, I guess. Petrina
(or "Tena," as she called herself) had
to the U.S. from Norway in
the 1880s with
her parents, Andreas and Pernelle Blege and grew up a few miles from the Reinhard homestead. In 1927, Petrina died of
diabetes (or "milkleg" as they called it then) at age 61 in Regan, North Dakota.
left: My Mom's mother's ancestors all
came from Norway. This is my great-great-grandparents homestead near
Webster, South Dakota.
Ole and Birgit Svang emigrated to the U.S. in 1866 and farmed 200
acres here until the land was repossessed in
1906 due to crop failures. Ole, at age 85, died the following year. His wife Birgit had
died nine years earlier.
Three years after I visited Webster, in June 2004, I received an e-mail from a
woman who had found my website. She was also descended from Ole and Birgit
Svang and sent me their photos, which she had recently found. I'm guessing
these drawings were made around the time they came to America in 1866.
Here's my great-great-grandfather, Ole Svang.
My great-great-grandmother, Birgit Svang. Now you know where I got my good
left: Ole and Birgit had six
children, including my great-grandfather Nels shown here (seated, right) in a photo taken around
Anna Abrahms, is seated left. Anna and Nels married in
1896 then moved to Fessenden, North Dakota six years later where he worked on the Soo Railroad. Two of
their five children, Betsy (left) and Albert (center) are
standing behind them. For some reason, my grandmother Helga was not in
this photo. Anna
and Nels had divorced about 20 years before this photo was taken, so I don't
know why they sat together for this portrait.
right: The family photo was made
into a post card and this is the writing on the back, but it's all
in Norwegian! I think
this was written by Betsy to her grandmother who was in Norway.
left: My great-grandmother Anna Swang in
an Indian dress around 1905, shortly after moving from South Dakota to
Dakota with her husband Nels. All of the old Swang pictures shown here were in a photo album
that my mother had kept but that I didn't
discover until after my Mom passed away in 1999.
Most of these photos didn't have captions but from the ones
that did, I could tell
that Anna had a good sense of humor. I could also tell that, although she was born in Norway,
very proud to be an American.
center: Anna by her house in
Fessenden in 1916. I recently learned that at the time of this photo, Anna
had been divorced for
several years and was raising her five kids (including my grandmother, Helga)
alone, working as a laundress in her house.
died in 1933 at age 65 and is buried in Fessenden.
right: My grandmother Helga's 1915 Fessenden
graduating from high school, Helga taught in a one-room schoolhouse (a
"country school") in North Dakota enduring, I'm sure, incredible
hardships as did most country school teachers.
left: My grandmother Helga at age 23, in
1921. The guy may be one of her three brothers and possibly Henry,
designed the Bixby Creek Bridge near Big Sur, California (see News,
June 14, 2001). This is in Minot, North Dakota when she graduated from Teacher's College.
center: After graduating from
Teacher's College, Helga taught in the Canfield School near Regan, North Dakota.
This is her fellow teacher, Martha Pfaff, leading calisthenics
at the Canfield School.
right: Helga at the Canfield School.
This was taken about 1922, a year
before she married Edward Reinhard, a local farmer. After they married,
she moved to his farm nearby.
left: Helga with my Mom around
1926. My Mom was named after her grandmother, Anna Swang, shown above.
center: Helga (center) with my Mom on
the wheat fields near Fessenden, North Dakota in 1927. Note the horse-drawn threshing
the right. The other two girls were, I believe, friends of Helga's from
right: My mother with her younger
sister, Betty, in 1928.
left: My Mom and her grandfather, Henry
Reinhard, near Regan, North Dakota around 1928, less than a mile from the farm
where my Mom grew up. Henry lost his farm a few
years later during the Great Depression and died in 1955 at age 89 in
Bismarck, virtually penniless.
center: My Mom (with violin) in
Bismarck around 1938, at age 14. This is about a year after her father,
Edward, died in
a car accident.
right: My Mom and Dad in Dickinson,
North Dakota, in 1943, a few months after they met at a USO dance. My Dad, who
was in Dickinson training to be a Naval officer, is wearing his Western Washington University
sweater that he still has.
left: My mother's wedding photo in Palm
Beach, Florida in 1944.
parents in Florida shortly after getting married. My Dad was going through
Navy Seal training in Fort
Pierce at this time. Helga, on the left, died in
the mid-1960s and I
only vaguely remember her. People tell me
that she was
a wonderful person and
that my Mom was very fond of her.
right: My Mom sent this photo to my
Dad while he was in China during World War II. She had returned to
was living with her mother, Helga while waiting for my Dad. Note her
signature in the bottom left corner.
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