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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.
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.
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
Above left: This is my great-grandfather Nels
Swang (seated, right) in a photo taken around 1925.
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
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.