My Mother's Ancestors:  Map and Photo Essay



One of the reasons I took my trip around America in 2001 was to research my family's history.  This is a map showing how my mother's ancestors moved across America (click to enlarge).  These include:

  • In RED LINES, her father's ancestors who moved from Germany and Norway to Minnesota and then to North Dakota.

  • In BLUE LINES, her mother's ancestors (Swangs/Svangs), who moved from Norway to South Dakota and then to North Dakota.


My Mother's Ancestral Map  (Click to enlarge)


Photo Essay:  My Mother's Ancestors


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Above left:  On my mom's father's side, Henry and Carolina R. moved from Hannover, Germany to the U.S. in the 1870s.  Henry Rasche Sr. homesteaded at this farm near Westbrook, Minnesota.  During my 2001 trip to Minnesota, I discovered his homestead (no longer owned by the R.s) and this barn dated 1893 that Henry apparently built.  He died in Westbrook in 1910.

Above center:  Henry's oldest son, Henry Rasche Jr. (my great-grandfather) around the time of his marriage in 1890.  Henry Jr. moved his family to Regan, North Dakota in 1907 and homesteaded there.  He died in 1955 in Bismarck.

Above 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 moved to the U.S. from Norway in the 1880s with her parents, Andreas and Pernelle Blege and grew up a few miles from the R. homestead.  In 1927, Petrina died of diabetes (or "milkleg" as they called it then) at age 61 in Regan, North Dakota.



Above left:  All of my mom's mother's ancestors 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.

Above center:  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 just after they came to America in 1866.  Here's my great-great-grandfather, Ole Svang.

Above right:  My great-great-grandmother, Birgit Svang.  Now you know where I got my good looks from!


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Above left:  Ole and Birgit had six children, including my great-grandfather Nels shown here (seated, right) in a photo taken around 1928.  Nels' wife, 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.

Above 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. 


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Above left:  My great-grandmother Anna Swang in an Indian dress around 1905, shortly after moving from South Dakota to Fessenden, North 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, Anna was very proud to be an American.  

Above 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.  Anna died in 1933 at age 65 and is buried in Fessenden.

Above right:  My grandmother Helga's 1915 Fessenden High School diploma. After 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.


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Above left:  My grandmother Helga at age 23, in 1921.  The guy may be one of her three brothers and possibly Henry, who helped build 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.

Above 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.

Above right:  Helga at the Canfield School.  This was taken about 1922, a year before she married Edward R., a local farmer.  After they married, she moved to his farm nearby.


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Above left:  Helga with my mom around 1926.  My mom was named after her grandmother, Anna Swang, shown above.

Above center:  Helga (center) with my mom on the wheat fields near Fessenden, North Dakota in 1927.  Note the horse-drawn threshing team on the right.  The other two girls were, I believe, friends of Helga's from childhood.

Above right:  My mother with her younger sister, Betty, in 1928.


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Above left:  My mom and her grandfather, Henry Rasche, 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.

Above center:  My mom (with violin) in Bismarck around 1938, at age 14.  This is about a year after her father died.

Above 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.


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Above left:  My mother's wedding photo in Palm Beach, Florida in 1944.

Above center:  My parents in Florida shortly after getting married.  My dad was going through training with the Navy's Scouts & Raiders 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.  My mom was very fond of her.

Above right:  My mom sent this photo to my dad while he was in China during World War II.  She had returned to Bismarck and was living with her mother, Helga while waiting for my dad.  Note her signature in the bottom left corner.


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