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Home > Family History > My Mother's Ancestors > The Swang Mystery


The Swang Mystery



(Reprint From News: September 30, 2001)


Before I leave North Dakota, I hope to solve a mystery that's been nagging at me for over a year.  My grandmother Helga moved from Webster, South Dakota to the small town of Fessenden, North Dakota in 1899 when she was about 12 months old (see My Mother's Ancestors:  Map and Photo Essay).  She later moved to Bismarck where my mother was born and Helga died in the mid-1960s, so I didn't think I had any relatives in North Dakota anymore.  


After my mother passed away a few years, I learned that Helga's maiden name was Swang (pronounced "Swong") and I learned on the Internet that there were several Swang families living in North Dakota, including in Bismarck and in the small town of Harvey which, as I learned, is just a few miles from Fessenden in central North Dakota.  I was sure that these Swangs were my relatives since the Swang name is so unusual.  In fact, there are less than 50 families in the entire U.S. with the last name of Swang.


About a year ago, I sent letters of introduction to some of the Swang families in North Dakota explaining my relation to Helga.  However, I was surprised to learn that these Swangs had never heard of Helga Swang or any of her siblings, even though their ancestors had also come from Norway, and at about the same time.  I've met recently with some of these Swangs in Bismarck and we're now trying to figure out if we're related.  Hopefully, as I do more research in North Dakota over the next week, I'll figure out if there's any connection between these two Norwegian Swang families.


1925c_Family_Portrait.jpg (39657 bytes)    1922c_Helga_Sitting_Outside_her_School.JPG (40646 bytes)    44_M-D_and_Helga_on_Beach.jpg (34863 bytes)

Above left:  This is my great-grandfather Nels Swang (seated, right) in a photo taken around 1925.  Nels' wife, Anna, is seated left.  Anna and Nels married near Webster, South Dakota in 1896 then moved to Fessenden, North Dakota three years later where he worked on the Soo Railroad and homesteaded.  Two of their five children, Betsy (left) and Albert (center) are standing behind them.  For some reason, my grandmother Helga wasn't in this photo.

Above center:  My grandmother Helga at the school where she taught.  This was taken about 1922, a year before she married Edward Reinhard and moved to Bismarck.

Above right:  My parents in Florida in 1944 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 she and my Mom were very close.