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March 13, 2008

A Duluth man's story left to the imagination

DCN Correspondent

Taking the road less traveled may sound poetic and appealing, but sometimes it is a synonym for hard work. Such was the case for my Dearly Departed assignment.

Of my five names, the most interesting one was a young man named Roy W. Thorstad, buried in Park Hill Cemetery, Duluth, Minn. The information on his grave marker was so scant that I almost moved on to another marker. But along with the birth and death years (1895-1918), it read Co. D 14th Infantry, which is the branch of an army made up of units trained to fight on foot.

Not starting off with a death date makes this assignment rather challenging, because I cannot directly look for an obituary. I started by searching for him on the Minnesota GenWeb database. There was absolutely nothing there. So, naturally, I turned to Google.

The only thing I could find was a WWI enlistment record from Petersburg, Alaska. This came from the Web site, http://www.rootweb.com. From this, I gathered that his middle name was Wilbur (poor guy), and that he lied about his age when he enlisted. He said that his birthday was July 29, 1894 when really it was in 1895. I have no idea why he was in Alaska. One of my guesses is that he jumped on a shipping boat in the Duluth harbor. After working for awhile, he left to join the war when he landed in Petersburg, a port town on the southern leg of Alaska, just below Glacier Bay National Park. But that is just speculation.

Now having his birthday and middle name, I turned to Pat Maus (the archivist at the Northeast Minnesota Historcal Center in the UMD library) for help finding some hard evidence. I paged through the phone directory for the city of Duluth from 1915 to 1916 to see if I could find Roy listed anywhere. I found a whole clan of Thorstads. The patriarch of this little band was Edward Thorstad (born 1865, died Dec. 22, 1939). He and his wife, Anna, ran a grocery store at 3004 W. Third St. in Duluth, and lived in the apartment above it. They had four children (Dorris, Jerome, Roy, and Laurence). Edward gave up the grocery store in 1925 and became a salesman for the Minnesota Steel Co. but they still lived in the house above the store. Maybe one of the kids took it over.

By 1939, according to the 1939 directory, Edward had moved to 3057 Vernon St. (a couple blocks away from Wheeler Field in West Duluth). Anna was not listed in the 1939 directory, so at the time, it was a mystery to me as to what happened to her. I assumed that she either died, or they got divorced.

Next, I went back to Park Hill Cemetery and talked to the staff there. I was provided with the interment records, with Roy’s information. I was thrilled to see a date of death. And what is more, under Roy’s grave marker, the whole family is buried. Roy was the first of the family to pass away, and the interment record said he died of pneumonia. Anna was the next to pass away, but that was not for another 20 years (1938). Edward followed in death six months later and is buried next to her. This leads me to believe that they were not divorced. Anna barely missed the 1939 census, while Edward barely made it.

I went to the library to check the microfilm for Roy’s obituary. There was nothing on the Duluth Herald or the News Tribune. I think this is because he had been away from Duluth for quite a while when he died. The papers were full of casualty lists from the war, so because his name was not on there, I believe that he never made it overseas but that is impossible to know (unless the folks from Iowa get back to me). The complete set of Duluth city directories confirmed my guess about Anna’s death. She shows up in the 1938 directory, but not in the 1939 one. Edward was living in an apartment with her in 1938, but he moved to Vernon Street in the short time after she died, but before he died (duh). Jerome became an agent for Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., and Lawrence worked for Minnesota Steel with his father.

Still on my hunt for information about the elusive Roy Wilbur, I noticed that the only
address information given for Roy on the interment record is “Camp Dodge,? handwritten with pen. I did a little research, and found (according to http://www.GlobalSecurity.org) that Camp Dodge is currently the Iowa National Guard headquarters, but in 1918, the federal government took it over and used it for a training headquarters. At its peak, it housed over 28,000 men. I sent an e-mail down to the Iowa Department of Veteran’s affairs inquiring about any information on Roy, such as if he ever made it overseas to fight. They didn’t have any information but they referred me to the Iowa Gold Star Museum, which is the historical center in Johnston, Iowa (the city where Camp Dodge is located). They never replied.

My search ended there. The majority of time that Roy Wilbur Thorstad spent in Duluth has been spent at Park Hill Cemetery. His only mention in the Duluth City Directory was a listing of him as a son of Edward the grocer. He never married, and died at age 23.

We may never know whether he died a heroic death in France, or caught the common cold on a bunk bed in Iowa. He may have been the adventurer in the family, or simply the black sheep. Regardless of the circumstances of his ill-fated departure from Duluth, his family honored him by placing themselves all under his tombstone.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

A graveyard search into the past

DCN Correspondent

I first walked around Park Hill Cemetery and looked for interesting headstones. I noticed Anna Eleanore Berglund’s immediately because it had a beautiful floral design, and she was surrounded by other family members’ tombstones. I found this comforting and very intriguing because of the way they were arranged and presented; father and mother in the center and smaller children’s headstones behind them. After picking a name, I went to work. I immediately went on the Web and tried to find whatever I could on Anna.

I found several websites that were very helpful in my search to discover who she was. I went to the Minnesota GenWeb Web site and looked at all of the different options. I went into the St. Louis County Death Index online and looked for the original dates of her death. I had the year, but was missing the month and day. I immediately found her full death date. That was an incredibly helpful Web site. After finding her death date, I discovered that her maiden name wasn’t available. That was severely disappointing. I then went to the St. Louis County Birth Index online and tried to search for Anna Berglund, but found nothing. I had no idea what her maiden name was and it seemed a little hopeless. However, I soon found it wasn’t.

Next, I went to the Minnesota Historical Society to try and find her birth certificate. I had the death certificate number from the death index, which was somewhat helpful in the process. With some good luck and fortune, I found her birth certificate. I was really surprised that it was so easy to find her birth date, place of birth, middle name and maiden name. From there, I wanted to find more.

I finally had all of the dates I needed in order to find her obituary, so I traveled to the UMD library to look at microfilm. I looked at the Duluth News Tribune microfilm for Wednesday, May 12, 1926. Anna died on May 11, but I assumed it wouldn’t be printed with that immediacy. After a long search (and a little motion sickness) I found Anna’s obit. It was so rewarding!

I looked at the 1900 Polk Census books in the Northeast Minnesota Historical Society and found nothing more about her than I already knew from her obit. She was married and was listed next to her husband’s name in parenthesis, so I will never know if she had an occupation or not (Which is really sad). Here is what I know:

Anna Eleanore Johnson was born on Dec. 11, 1845 in Duluth, Minn. (certificate # DC72210). Johnson’s family was originally from Sweden. Anna had a brother named John (Duluth native) and a sister Maria (now Broman) who resides in Sweden. She married Wilhelm Berglund (date unknown) and had two sons, Bernard and Herman. They lived in Duluth their entire life. Anna died peacefully at her home (certificate # 1496) with her family after suffering from a prolonged illness on May 12, 1926. Anna died only a year after her husband, who died in December of 1925. (I found that pretty sweet).

I chose a more challenging route in my search, and I think I learned a lot from it. Honestly, my lady had little written about her. However, I learned a lot about how to find sources and different avenues to go down.

I would like to know what illness she suffered from, but it was unavailable to me. I called Park Hill and was unable to find out anything new. I enjoyed looking up Anna’s life and hope to use these skills to my advantage in the future.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

A blue-collar life leads to an unknown death

DCN Correspondent

The short life of Ernest William Boerner seemed to be that of a typical blue-collar man in Duluth.

Today, Ernest’s grave is located in Forest Hill Cemetery on Woodland Avenue. His cause of death is unknown.

Ernest Boerner was born Nov. 13, 1933 in Superior, Wisc. He was the son of Archie and Florence Boerner. Boerner had a sister, Mildred Emily Boerner, who died same year as Ernest. The family lived at 1626 Minnesota Ave., which is located at Minnesota Point near present-day Park Point.

Archie Boerner was a salesman at Rocky Teller Sporting Goods, while Florence worked at a women’s department store.

Ernest went to Duluth Central High School but did not graduate there. It is listed that Boemer only went to Central through his senior year in 1951. Ernest went on to work as an assistant at Enger & Olson Furniture in Duluth. The name Enger from the store is where the tower in Duluth got its name.

Ernest went on to marry Pearl. Pearl Boerner was widowed after Ernest’s death on his birthday in 1957. Pearl lived until June 4, 1969. The couple is listed at different addresses so it is believed that they did not live together just like most young couples at the time. Ernest and Pearl did not have children together. Ernest was buried two days after his death and the record listed his father, Archie, as the nearest relative. The services were held at Dougherty Funeral Home.

The information I obtained came from several sources. I found his birthplace, death date, address and who did his service at the Forest Hill Cemetery information office. I found his family occupations in the city of Duluth directory. I found his high school career in the 1951 Duluth Central yearbook. I also found his date of death on ancestry.com. His death record is also found on the Gen Web site listed under death records. He was very difficult to find information on because of his short life and lack of obituary. It seemed like he lived an ordinary hard working life. I am curious to what caused his death at a young age.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

Family man, religious man, Duluthian

DCN Correspondent

The assignment began at Park Hill Cemetery. I traveled to the back of the cemetery to find my list of five names, and that is where I found the stone of Edwin William Bergh. His was the first name that I wrote down, so I decided to go after his past.

The first step was to look at both the death certificate index and birth certificate index to verify that the years on the stone were correct, as well as to get the exact dates of his death and birth. I found that he died on Sept. 20, 1994 and that he was born on Dec. 1, 1912. From there I thought I would test my luck by going to Google and seeing if I could find any information about his life and death. After a good hour of searching, it turned out that I would have to dig a little deeper.

I drove to Park Hill Cemetery the next day, where I received his interment record. The record did not tell me as much as I had hoped. However, it did tell me the address at which he was living before he died. At the time of his death, he was 81 and living in West Duluth. The card also told me that his wife’s name was Ellen and that his funeral service was held at the Williams-Lobermeier Funeral Home. At first I did not think that this information was very helpful but then I realized that the funeral home might have information on his death. That led me back to Google, where I searched for Williams-Lobermeier. I went to the funeral home’s Web page and found the email of the part owner, Mary Williams. I knew it was a long shot, but I emailed her asking if she had any information about Edwin Bergh. To my surprise, she replied the next night with the attachment of his obituary, which his family had written.

The obituary told me a lot about Bergh. He was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth, and was the hospital’s 1,000th birth. He got married at the age of 23 in Glenwood. He spent some of his life farming, part working on a railroad, later to retire in 1976. He was involved in the community through his church, Zion Lutheran, Zion’s Men in Mission, and United Northern Veterans Association. I wanted to know more about what Zion’s Men in Mission do, so I searched on Google to find the group’s goals. Zion’s Men in Mission is basically a prayer group for men that are members of Zion Lutheran Church and it is a nationwide group. They work together to grow in their relationship with Christ and to help others with their relationship with God. From that I concluded that he was probably a very religious man.

Edwin was survived by his wife and four children. Both his parents preceded him in death.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

A letter to a 21-year-old Vietnam Vet

DCN Correspondent

Dear Mr. Bruce Johnson,

I found your name on your parents’ grave in Park Hill Cemetery. It said you were the first Minnesotan killed in the Vietnam War. I didn’t know much about you before, and unfortunately, not much has changed.

I had originally planned on researching your father, Vivian, who died in 1993 in Viewcrest Nursing Home. He was a lifelong Duluthian, who lived on Lindahl Road for most of his life, and had retired as a machinist in 1964. As I would learn, this was two years before your death.

I didn’t know anything about you, but I found out the year you died while reading your Father’s obituary. I searched countless Web sites until I found your full name, your birthday, and the date you died. Born Nov. 30, 1944, you died in Vietnam from small arms gunfire on June 21, 1966. You were only 21 years old.

I tried to find an obituary on the microfilm of the Duluth News Tribune, the way I found your father’s, but to no avail. I searched for a month after your listed date of death in the obituaries, front and subsequent pages, trying to find anything I could about you. I wasn’t able to find anything.

I thought I might need help so I went to the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center where they had some great ideas on finding out more about you. First, we tried the directory of people living and working in Duluth during the time you should have been in high school. We found your dad and your mom, but we didn’t find you.

So, we decided to go through some yearbooks. We thought that since you lived in northern Duluth, you most likely went to either East or Central High School. Unfortunately, we didn’t find you there either. We hit the Internet again, going through countless Vietnam Veteran sites, where we were able to find your name, birth and death date, but no more.

We eventually found someone we thought was your mom, but after a search through the microfilm, it turned out to be someone else. The trail had run cold.

So, Bruce, I am sorry that I was unable to find out more about you, how you lived, how you grew up, how many friends you had, and what made you unique. I am sorry that after researching you for over a week, all I was able to find was your birthday, death date and military rank. But most of all, I am sorry that you died at 21, that you were four years younger than me, and that you died far from home in a foreign country. I hope that even though you weren’t near your family, you were surrounded by friends.

Best regards,

Ryan L. Hanson

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

This Swenson different from most

DCN Correspondent

Swen G. Swenson was born on May 11, 1902, in Klagstorp, Sweden. He had immigrated to the United States by 1920 and by 1930, he married. She was an older woman, Margret O. Swenson, and they were living by themselves in Minneapolis.

Swen Swenson was a literate man, which must certainly have helped his case when he applied for work. In 1940 he was hired at Gooderham & Worts Ltd. where he worked until 1967.

In 1944, Swen was elected for initiation into the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks by Bob Newhouse. One can only wonder how honored Swen must have felt when in 1974 when he became a lifetime member of that same fraternity.

On Sept. 13, 1968, his wife passed away. Swen paid $200 for her cemetery plot.
Swen died on Feb. 13, 1982, at St. Luke’s Hospital. His cremated remains are buried at Park Hill Cemetery in Duluth.

My first stop for this project was the cemetery, where I got the records that indicated when his wife died and how much he paid for the plot, but that was actually at a later date. From there I went to the Web site Pat Maus recommended to get the date of death. With that date in hand, the next stop was the library for microfilm (or microfiche) research. I got an obituary that way, and that obituary gave me most of the other details I used in the story including where he worked at and for how long, and that he was an Elk.

That’s where the trail got a little cold. Out of desperation, I called the Elks lodges in Duluth and Minneapolis and they told me when he was initiated and who had nominated him. Most of their records were destroyed in a flood or something, so I didn’t get that much from them.

I couldn’t get to the downtown branch of the public library, but I got to the Mount Royal branch, which is open later on Thursday nights. I got on Ancestry.com and found all the census data that indicated any details from the first paragraph, but I couldn’t actually view the documents because I needed some kind of library administration password, which nobody had. Luckily, you could preview the documents, which gave me, well, something, I guess. Also, the Ellis Island Web site didn’t have any records of when he immigrated, and there’s plenty of other holes.

And as we all know, something is better than nothing.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

Born 100 years apart

DCN Correspondent

My research on Emily Mattson was unable to account for some details, but I was surprised at how much I was able to learn about her and her family with nothing but a name and year from which to start.

I started my research in the Park Hill Cemetery. I noticed Mattson’s gravestone because she was born 100 years before I was. Her gravestone had her name (Emily Mattson) and the years she lived: 1886-1951.

From there I went to the St. Louis County Gen Web Web site. I looked at the death index from the Web site and found Mattson’s name easily. There were many Mattsons listed, but thankfully only one Emily for that year in St. Louis County. That gave me her exact date of death, which was April 19, 1951. I also learned that her middle name was Viola from the death index.

Now that I knew her date of death, I went to University of Minnesota Duluth library to look at microfilm of the Duluth News Tribune. The first paper I viewed was published the day after her death on April 20, 1951. There I found her obituary. I discovered that she was 64 years old, was survived by her husband, Matt C. Mattson, and that she lived at 2719 W. Eighth St. It also stated that she was a Duluth resident for 42 years, and also listed information of her community involvement. She was a member of Zion Lutheran Church, the Zion Ladies Guild, the Ladies Fireman Auxiliary, and the Duluth Garden Flower Society. Finally, it said that she was born in Lake Lillian, Minn.

Now that I knew where she was born, I tried to track down her date of birth using the MN Gen Webs Web site. I went to Kandiyohi County to look for her in the birth index. I knew this would be difficult because I didn’t know her maiden name. The Kandiyohi County Web site wasn’t as detailed as the St. Louis County’s version, and I didn’t find her birth date listed.

Then I went back to the Park Hill Cemetery to get some help from the office staff. The only new information I received from the cemetery records was that she died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

My last venue for obtaining information about Mattson was the Northeastern Minnesota Historical Society (NMHS). NMHS program director Pat Maus was a great aid. She helped me look through the 1935 Duluth city directory to find more information about Mattson or her family.

I found that her husband, Matt, was an engineer at the Northern Pacific Railway. He died in 1962. She also had a son named Clayton who was listed as a student. I then looked through a Denfeld High School yearbook for that year and found Clayton. He was involved in a lot of school activities and was an avid musician. In a later city directory I found that Clayton became a salesman at St. Germain Bros. Inc., which is still around today. Clayton died in 1972.

I was never able to find out the date that Emily was born. In the end it was an interesting project and I was surprised to have learned so much about her.

Key Information of Emily V. Mattson:

• Born in Lake Lillian, Minn., in 1886.
• Married Matt C. Mattson, an engineer at Northern Pacific Railway.
• Moved to Duluth in 1909 and was a resident of Duluth for 42 years.
• Member of Zion Lutheran Church.
• Member of the Ladies Fireman Auxiliary.
• Member of Duluth Garden Flower Society which was founded in 1927.
• She lived at 2719 W. 8th St.
• Died in her residence of cerebral hemorrhage in her residence on 4-19-1951 at the age of 64.
• Buried at Park Hill Cemetery with husband Matt.

In search of a soldier

DCN Correspondent

The wind whistled through the Park Hill Cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 10, as I braved the nearly minus 50 degree wind chills. I was on a hunt, but I wasn’t sure what for…yet. I was bundled from head to toe; yet the instant I stepped out of the car, I felt as though I was wearing nothing. The wind cut through my layers and instantly froze my exposed skin.

The snow was past my knees and I treaded lightly, looking for the first gravestone I could find with visible birth and death dates. When I arrived at my first stone, I took out my pen and tried to write, but the cold had frozen the ink. After sticking it to my mouth, however, I could finally accomplish what I was there to do.

Sgt. Helmer A. Peterson (Co. 350th Field Hosp), 1894-1918, was written on the gravestone. I jotted that down and moved on. I found a few more headstones with dates on them, but soon returned to the warm car hoping I would never have to do that again.

Out of the names that I had found, I narrowed it down to two, Sgt. Peterson, and Alfhild Mildred Ofstun, a 7 year old who had died in 1919.

The next step was to look up each of them online. I tried the two Web sites that we received in class, but they didn’t prove to be very helpful. In fact, Alfhild Ofstun wasn’t in the databases; instead Alphild and Affhild Ofstun came up. Also, the Helmer Peterson’s that I found had several death dates, which I would later find to be the wrong dates.

Without much to go on, I tried searching Google for both names. Alfhild was nowhere to be found, but I did find a short paragraph about Helmer. As it turned out, author Walter VanBrunt wrote a book titled “Duluth and St. Louis County: Their Story and People, Vol. II,? in which Helmer was mentioned.

The book has this to say about Helmer:

"Helmer A. Peterson was born in Duluth, and was well-known. He was born Jan. 23, 1894, son of John and Hannah Peterson, and his academic schooling was obtained in Duluth schools. He became a pharmacist and in that capacity was employed at Beyers Drug Store, Duluth, for some time before reporting for military duty on September 21, 1917. He was sent from Duluth to Camp Dodge, Iowa, and assigned to the Medical Corps, 350th F. A., 313th Sanitary Train. At Camp Dodge he remained for the winter and would probably have gone overseas in 1918 had he not succumbed to disease at Camp Dodge, on April 10, 1918."

After reading this, I doubted the information I had previously found, which claimed he died on January 19, 1918.

To find an exact date, I took a trip back to the cemetery, this time to the office. After looking through all of their records, they couldn’t tell me a thing. Helmer was no where to be found in the books, and the plot where he lays isn’t a specific “baby plot,? or “mason plot.?

Next, I went to Pat Maus, the archivist at the Northeast Minnesota Historcal Center in the UMD library. After two hours together, we didn’t learn much more about Helmer. We went through each Duluth yearbook and searched through several directories, but we couldn’t find anything about him, although we did find a little bit about his parents. Helmer’s dad owned an unnamed saloon in downtown Duluth.

My next stop was the microfilm. I spent nearly two hours going through the Duluth News Tribune and the Duluth Herald looking for anything I could find about Helmer. Remember though, I still didn’t know his exact death date, and back in 1918, the papers didn’t have obituary sections. Instead the obituaries were spread throughout the paper. So after looking through most of January, and some of April, I found something.

The Duluth News Tribune ran a story on April 12, 1918, titled “Bring home body of Duluth soldier from Camp Dodge.? It said, “The body of Sgt. H. A. Peterson, who died at Camp Dodge several days ago, arrived in the city yesterday. Sergeant Peterson is the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Peterson of Hermantown. The funeral will be held Monday afternoon and will be held under the auspices of members of the Fourth regiment.?

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

Buried in snow: The search for Lina Anderson

DCN Correspondent

Walking through a cemetery, searching for dead, researching facts and names, all to bring a person’s story to life; it sounds like a Halloween thriller. It is actually a reporter’s way of researching people who have passed on.

snow background.jpg

Our assignment was to gather names and dates of our dearly departed. I chose to begin my quest at Park Hill Cemetery in Duluth.

I, of course, left this assignment until one of the coldest days of winter. My mother was in Duluth for the weekend and she decided to help me with my initiative. Our plan was to drive around the graveyard, to stay warm in the car, and peer out from the car’s frosty windows, searching for names and dates. Sadly, this research did not work as well as planned. On our way up a snow covered hill, the car slid on a patch of ice and ended up stuck in a snow bank.

So there we were, stuck in a cemetery on a freezing cold day. My mom was the braver one, and got out of the car to start pushing us down toward the bottom of the hill. After a 20-minute struggle, we were free. However, the assignment was still not finished.

I walked around the graveyard, bundled in my hat, snow pants, and mittens, with my camera in hand to take pictures of the gravestones. It was so cold outside that the snow had hardened and I found that I was able to walk on top of the glazed snow.

After taking five steps into the graveyard, however, I fell into the snow and found myself unable to move. When I looked up, I noticed that I had landed on the grave of Lina Anderson. I took this as a sign that this would be the person I would research.

Searching in the Duluth News Tribune archives, I found microfilms from Nov. 19, 1938, which helped me discover that Lina was born in 1874 in Norway. She lived until the age of 64 at the address of 1248 Brainerd Ave. in Duluth. During her life she gave birth to five sons; Axel, Julius, Leonard, Olaf and Hartley. Two of the boys were twins who had died at birth.

Trying to find information about Lina was difficult, especially because of the commonality of her last name. Lina was married to Andrew Anderson, who died in 1910. He and their sons were buried beside her. I found most of this information from the interment record at Park Hill Cemetery. According to Susan Rich, the superintendent at Park Hill, the Andersons were not buried in a special residing location.

After digging deeper into Lina Anderson’s story, and not finding much information, I decided to use Pat Maus as a reference. She helped me search for Lina in census Index books. The trouble was that it only listed her in the books after her husband died. According to Maus, women were only entered into the census index book if they were widowed. Therefore, it was difficult to find Lina’s occupation or place of employment.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

Involvement in community admirable

DCN Correspondent

As I looked into the past of Locke M. Perkins, (Oct. 11, 1910- Jan. 18, 1961) I found out that he was a citizen of Duluth who was avidly involved in civic and professional groups in the community.

Perkins attended Dartmouth in his earlier college years before transferring to the University of Minnesota where he received his law degree.

After working as a lawyer in Minneapolis for six years he decided to enlist in the Navy. He spent 26 months overseas.

When he returned home, he moved to Duluth to work again as a lawyer, and had three sons who were all born in Duluth.

Perkins became a huge part of the Duluth community, which included a role as president of the Eleventh Judicial District Bar Association, membership in the Minnesota Bar Association as well as the American Bar Association.

He was also a member of the Ionic Lodge, AF&AM, Valley of Duluth Scottish Rite bodies, Duluth Commandery 18, York Rite Body, the Jesters, Northland Country Club, Duluth Chamber of Commerce and the Duluth Athletic Club.

On Jan. 18, 1961, Mr. Perkins had a heart attack in his home, and died shortly after in St. Luke’s Hospital. The search for Perkins' past didn’t turn out to be a tough one since his role in the Duluth community was so huge.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

The history of a Polish grave

DCN Correspondent

Stanley Mosiniak was buried at Calvery Cemetery in Duluth, Minn., (St. Louis County) on March 2, 1972. He was 59. When looking for information on Stanley, I found much, MUCH more on his mother, Mary Ann (K) “Marianna? Tobola.

Mary Ann died in 1948 at the age of 73. She came from a family of five daughters who immigrated to Duluth from Poland. She married Robert Benjamin “Bartlomeij.? Rob was born Aug. 21, 1862, in Radzewo, Poland. Mary was born June 22, 1875, in Konarskie, Poland. She is almost 13 years younger than Rob. Although that was normal at the time, I still find it weird. They were married Nov. 6, 1892, in Duluth, Minn.

As I searched through marriage licenses and death records, I found multiple spellings and names in general for this family. They used Tobin as well as Tobola and Musolf as well as Mosiniak. They also had many different first names for the family members, such as: Mary or Marianna, Robert Benjamin or Bartlomeji. It was confusing trying to compare different sources to check myself when the spellings were different. The dates I found all matched up though, so I just crossed my fingers and hoped to be on the right track.

I found the most helpful information on GenWeb, Google, Ask Jeeves, and Family Tree Maker Online. However, Stanley’s wife, Marion, did not have a death record or obituary.

On the family tree maker Web site I actually found pictures of Stanley’s mother and father and his mother and all her sisters. I thought this was the most interesting part of my search. If you follow the link below you can see those pictures on the Web site.

Stanley and Marion had a daughter named Joan Marie. She was married on July 24, 1965, at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Duluth, Minn. She married into the Nesgoda family but died at 46 from cancer.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

Lost but not forgotten

DCN Correspondent

Trudging through snow with a temperature below zero, searching for names and dates on headstones in Park Hill Cemetery. While every name and date has its own story to tell, finding the few engraved details of Helmer A. Peterson urged me to find his story. Or at least try.

What I knew was his birth date, the year that he died and a few abbreviations: Co. 350th Field Hospt. Unsure of what more I would find, I began to search for Helmer’s story by scrolling through lengthy links on the St. Louis County GenWeb site. My pessimistic attitude halted when I found a couple details about Helmer A. Peterson. His middle name was Arnold, and his death date was Jan. 19, 1918.

Turning to the Minnesota Historical Society Web site, I discovered a death certificate for Helmer, which stated he had died in Polk County. Utilizing the information I had, I was convinced that I would be able to find more by searching 350th Field Hospt., as engraved on his headstone. Questions started forming: Was he a victim of World War I? The flu epidemic of 1918?

With no such information turning up on my computer screen, I decided to search somewhere else.

A trip to the library, and over an hour of scrolling through January 1918 microfilm and ancestry Web sites later, I turned to more Google searches and GenWeb links. Feeling like I had no where left to search, another day in class and a brief discussion with a classmate changed my mind. I had been searching the wrong death date.

A new search brought me to rootsweb.com, as well as a paragraph about Helmer A. Peterson. After another trip to the library and a shorter search through April 1918 microfilm, I began to find Helmer’s real story.

Son of John and Hannah Peterson, Helmer Arnold Peterson was born on Jan. 23, 1894 in Duluth, Minn. After completing his schooling in Duluth, Helmer became a pharmacist. Remaining in town, he found employment at Beyers Drug Store.

During World War I, Helmer reported for military duty on Sept. 21, 1917. Sent to Camp Dodge, Iowa, he was assigned to the Medical Corps, 350th F. A., 313th Sanitary Train. Helmer was one of five in a class of 83 to pass examinations as sergeant. He remained at Camp Dodge through the winter.

With 24 years of life behind him, Sgt. H.A. Peterson’s body was laid to rest and transported back to Duluth after succumbing to disease at Camp Dodge, Iowa, on April 10, 1918. Helmer was survived by his parents, two sisters, Adia and Hazel, and three brothers, Lawrence, Cari and John, Jr.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

A lasting life

DCN Correspondent

Section M, block two, lot 23. A grave site seems inert by its definition and geographic description, but to uncover the story of whoever lies below it is a process that proves anything but a lifeless being buried below the ground.

“Flora E. Birkhofer 1905-1997? is the only information inscribed on the gravestone, yet these bare details pilot a life lasting 92 years.

The staff at Forest Hill Cemetery, where she was buried, was able to provide me with the complete birth and death date of Flora E. Birkhofer. She was born on July 23, 1905, and died on Oct. 26, 1997.

Solely from this information, I was able to narrow down the days that her obituary could have been printed in the newspaper. Birkhofer’s obituary appeared in the Duluth News Tribune on Oct. 27, 1997, the day after she died. A portion of the obituary was available on the Duluth News Tribune Web site in the archives.

I found the complete obituary on microfilm in the University of Minnesota Duluth Library. The obituary was brief, listing the following information: Flora Ellen Birkhofer was born to Henry and Ada Longaker in Hiteman, Iowa. She moved to Duluth in 1947 and worked as a school teacher in Hibbing, Minn. She was preceded in death by her husband, Conrad C. in 1989, and survived by two sons, Conrad J. and David H. Flora was a member of St. Michael’s church in Duluth.

The details from this obituary exhilarated my search. I looked at the Minnesota Historical Project Web site to find Birkhofer’s state death certificate identification. Included in the details on her death certificate was the information that Flora attended four years of college.

After finding her death certificate, I was able to call volunteers at the St. Louis County courthouse for further information.

Federal censuses accessed by genealogy volunteers at the St. Louis County Courthouse show that between 1910 and 1915, when Birkhofer was a child, her family lived in Albia, Iowa, and Guilford, Iowa, both in Guilford County. The federal census also showed that Flora had a brother, Harry Longaker.

Census data at the St. Louis County Courthouse shows that Birkhofer gave birth to two sons, Conrad J. Birkhofer on Jan. 7, 1935, and David Henry Birkhofer, on Feb. 4, 1942. Both sons were born in Douglas County in Minnesota. Flora’s husband, Conrad C. Birkhofer, was born in Alexandria, Minn., also part of Douglas County. Thus, the couple may have resided in or near Conrad’s hometown for some time before moving to Duluth.

I assume that Flora and her husband were married before they had children, although no marriage license was found for St. Louis County. It’s likely that they got married in either Douglas County in Minnesota or Guilford County in Iowa.

I was curious about Birkhofer’s career as a teacher, keeping in mind her obituary stated that she taught in Hibbing and her death certificate stated that she was a grade school teacher.

To uncover additional information, I met with Pat Maus from the UMD Library. She led me to Duluth city directories. Conrad C. Birkhofer started appearing in Duluth city directories in 1950. Flora Birkhofer did not appear in the Duluth city directory until 1951. From that year on she is listed only in parentheses after her husband’s name. No occupation is listed.

Social security records accessed by the St. Louis County Courthouse, show that Flora Birkhofer was issued a social security number in 1952. It is possible that she began teaching around this time. I could not find the exact dates of when she was employed as a teacher.

City directories show that Birkhofer lived with her family at 5115 Oneida St. almost the entire time that she resided in Duluth. She was eventually moved to Chris Jensen Nursing Home in Duluth, where she died of lung cancer—as stated on her death certificate. Other significant conditions contributing to her death were chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a urinary tract infection, according to her death certificate.

Strangely, Flora Birkhofer’s death certificate lists her as a U.S. Veteran. However, she would have been too young to serve in World War I and she had small children during World War II.

A volunteer at the St. Louis County Courthouse looked through a military database for me and found no record of Flora E. Birkhofer in the U.S. Military. Additionally, cemeteries usually keep a record of which graves are those of U.S. Veterans; Forest Hill had no indication that Birkhofer was a U.S. Veteran. The courthouse suspected that this was a typographical error on her death certificate.

“Flora E. Birkhofer 1905-1997? is the only information inscribed on the gravestone, yet these bare details pilot a life lasting 92 years.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

Gravestone attraction creates name distraction

DCN Correspondent

To prevent myself from freezing my butt off, I set out for Forest Hill Cemetery on Friday afternoon right after class. The weather report indicated that this was my only chance to comfortably scout out a good grave.

Knowing there would be significant amounts of snow, I put on my Sorels, grabbed a hat and a pair of gloves, and got busy. I found quite a few graves that looked interesting but had no dates. Grave after grave showed potential but listed nothing more than a last name. I was frustrated. Eventually I found some graves and started writing down the information. I was in the middle of writing down number four, when I noticed a headstone that looked newer than the others.

Steffen Georgeff Filkoff, according to the transcription on his headstone, was born June 21, 1891, and lived until May 9, 1981. Knowing this was fairly reliable information, but questioning it the same, I went on the Internet to the Social Security Death Index and typed in his name. Up came not only his name (which was spelled as Stefen), birth, and death dates, but also his last residence, and his social security number. Upon my discoveries, I felt fairly confident that I chose the right person.

I searched the obituaries and found Filkoff’s on May 12, 1981. Strangely, there was little information about him aside from a couple simple facts such as birth and death date and that he had died in Duluth. I already knew all of this. Disappointed, I decided his obituary was lacking significant information.

The next step was to Google him. This led me to the Ancestry.com Web site which had various documents on people with the last name Filkoff. The only information that the Web site provided was the information I had already found.

To try and narrow down the results I typed in his birth date. Name after name of Filkoffs were listed on the screen but they were all from places like Connecticut and California. The listing that caught my eye was a document from the 1930 U.S. Census, specifically Duluth, and a man by the name of Steven G. Filkoff. I checked the birth dates and verified that this was the guy.

The census itself had loads of information. I discovered that at the age of 39, Filkoff had been living in a hotel on West First Street. He immigrated from Bulgaria to the United States in 1914. He was literate in English, single, and worked as a laborer at the docks. After finding this information I was pumped.

A few articles down from the census on the Ancestry.com website I noticed someone by the name of Gargoff Filkoff. Gargoff’s birth date was June 21,1891, the same as Stefen Filkoff’s. The document was a list from 1914 of alien passengers on their way to the United States.

I knew that Stefen Filkoff had come to the United States in 1914. After opening it up and looking closely at the document, I realized that not only had Stefen Filkoff come over from Bulgaria under the name Gargoff Filkoff, but that Gargoff Filkoff was not what the document said at all, but instead it said Georgeff Filkoff. Ancestry.com made a typing error that almost made me overlook some existing information about Filkoff’s past.

The ship was named the Mauretania and came from Liverpool, England, on March 28, 1914. At age 23, Filkoff was one of many immigrants traveling over from Bulgaria, but no one else on the ship had the last name Filkoff. Curious about how many people by the name Filkoff reside in Duluth; I looked in the phone book and found none. This led me to believe that Filkoff came over to work, possibly with friends, but most likely knowing no one.

I searched Duluth for more Filkoffs but have yet to find any. His obituary listed no family members, nor did his record at Forest Hill Cemetery. Overall, I honestly didn’t find much information about Filkoff. Perhaps this has to do with everybody misspelling his name, or with his association with two different names. I had a hard time sorting through the information with him being called Stefen, Steffen, Georgeff, and Steven.

After all that I went through, I’m still not sure as to the life that Mr. Stefen Georgeff Filkoff led, but feel that he would be an interesting person to meet. I wish I could write up a good obituary for him to make up for what his lacked, but sadly don’t know much more than whoever wrote it did. I suppose his respectable, visual representation is one simple headstone, engraved Steffen Georgeff Filkoff, June 21, 1891 - May 9, 1981.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

A neglected Nellie

DCN Correspondent

Where Nellie Adeline Smith’s story ends is where mine begins; it was a Sunday in February with a high of zero.

I took a trip to Forest Hill Cemetery on Woodland Avenue, which is connected to Park Hill Cemetery.

The cemeteries are separated by class. Lower-class citizens were usually buried in Park Hill, while citizens of higher class were buried in Forest Hill.

After falling through the snow numerous times, I found a headstone in section next to an area filled with beautiful mausoleums. It was surnamed Smith with four names and dates on it.

One of the names was Nellie Adeline LeDuc. According to her death certificate, she was born out-of-state, Feb. 15, 1871.

In the late 1800s, Duluth still had a large amount of immigrants. Seeing as I could not find the place of Nellie’s death, I am led to assume that it was not only out of the state, but out of the country.

It is apparent that she had gotten married because she was buried under the last name Smith.

When I searched marriage certificates I found that L.H. Smith married Nellie Widger on Dec. 27, 1882. This means Nellie would have been 11 when they got married.

Additionally, the name LeDuc and Widger were changed, but that could have been a mistake.

Stated on Mrs. Nellie Adeline Smith’s death certificate was her mother’s maiden name, Kosten.

It is hard for me to grasp that her mother’s maiden name is public knowledge, whereas her birthplace is not.

Perhaps Nellie immigrated to America as a young child, settled Duluth and married L.H. Smith.

On Nov. 21, 1957, Nellie died in St. Louis County. She was buried at her final resting place in Forest Hill; I found her there 51 years later.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

Discovering Melvin Riley Baldwin

DCN Correspondent

My first step for any story is always Google. I discovered the Web site http://bioguide.congress.gov that provides biographies about every congressman since the beginning of Congress. Since Melvin was a congressman, it was here that I found a general overview of his life.

Melvin Riley was born near Chester, Vt., on April 12, 1838. He moved with his parents to Oshkosh, Wis., in 1847, and attended the common schools. He entered Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., in 1855. He studied law but adopted civil engineering as a profession.

Melvin worked on the Chicago & North Western Railway until April 19, 1861, when he enlisted as a private in Company E, 2nd Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and was eventually commissioned captain of his company.

He was captured at Gettysburg and confined in Libby Prison for 18 months. After the war he engaged in operative railway work in Kansas, becoming general superintendent for four years.

He moved to Duluth, Minn., in 1885 and was elected as a Democrat to the 53rd Congress, serving from March 4, 1893, to March 3, 1895. Melvin then became an unsuccessful candidate for re-election in 1894 to the 54th Congress. He then moved on to become chairman of the Chippewa Indian Commission from 1894 to 1897.

He went to Alaska in November, 1897; died in Seattle, Wash., April 16, 1901; and was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Duluth, Minn.

I found this to be a substantial amount of information, but many holes still needed filling: Why was he in Alaska? Why was he in Seattle? How did he die? Why was he buried in Duluth? Did he have a wife or children? After thoroughly searching Google and failing to find anything more, it seemed nobody had dug deeper—I was determined to be the one to do so.

I immediately went to Pat Maus. As the only connection to historical documents I had heard of, she seemed the best option.

We found that Melvin was listed in the Duluth City Directory of 1900, which meant that he was still living in Duluth the year before he died. It was there that we also discovered a Harold R. Baldwin listed at the same address—711 W. Second St. We assumed this was his son, but continued looking at directories to find other family members.

We moved on to the 1901 directory. Here we found an Emma Baldwin listed as a widow to Melvin R. Baldwin living at 711 W. Second St. We had found his wife. Harold was still listed at this address as well, which raised even stronger suspicion that he was their son.

We continued to the 1910, 1913-1914, 1917, and 1918 directories to see if his wife or son ever left Duluth after Melvin's death and to see if there were any other Baldwin's living at that address. In each, both were still listed at the same address, and no other Baldwin's seemed connected to them.

In the 1910 directory we hit some confusion. It listed a Jeanette Baldwin as the widow of Melvin R. Baldwin and living with Harold R. Baldwin at 711 W. Second St. Every directory from this one on had her as Jeanette, but we were sure it was the same person as Emma. Pat said that sometimes they put people down by their middle name or nickname, so it could be that she did this.

I was overwhelmed with this additional information about his family, but still wanted to find the missing links in Melvin's own life. I took leave of Pat Maus and went up a floor of the library to search the microfilm newspapers for an obituary. I easily found the Duluth Herald issue from April of 1901, and on the front page of the April 17th issue, a headline ran: “Gen. M.R. Baldwin Takes His Own Life.?

The article was surprisingly long and gave me some interesting additions to information I already found. I discovered that, not only was he captured during the war, but he escaped and was recaptured, one of only 200 to survive the prison.

He was also severely wounded in the first and second Battles of Bull Run. He quickly became general through his courage and devotion.

The article said that he was involved in real estate when he first came to Duluth, which apparently brought him to there in the first place.

Baldwin spent time in Alaska doing mining work because he was part of the Alaska Gold Mining and Exploration Co. He was not successful there and frequently wrote home to his wife about his troubles.

While working in Alaska, he went to Cape Nome a couple of times. While there the second time, Melvin suddenly fell very ill. Doctors sent him to Seattle to undergo an operation, saying it was his only chance of survival.

However, before the operation, he was found at 7:30 on April 16th in his apartment, 2018 Fourth Ave., lying in a pool of his own blood in his bed with a bullet in his head.

They guessed he had shot himself about two hours before. Those who knew him well said that it must have been from the pain of his illness, for he would never take his life for any other reason.

I was hoping to solve the mystery of his wife's name by her mention in the article, but she was only referred to as “Mrs. Baldwin?.

I did learn that he had another son. I did not find him in the Duluth directories because he was older and had been living in Minneapolis—his name was George M. Baldwin. The article said he had another son as well: Harold R. Baldwin. My pieces all came together.

As far as his burial went, I found the reason of the location to be particularly interesting. A close friend of Milton's, Mr. Willcuts, said that he should be buried in Duluth because Milton's prospect was always to come back to his family in Duluth and make money. The decision for his final resting place was based on a letter to Mr. Willcuts from Milton himself. It read: “I want to get back to Duluth where the best lot of fellows on earth live.?

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

Veteran’s story resonates well past his time

DCN Correspondent

A trip out to Greenwood Cemetery is well worth the drive. Located south of Superior on Wisconsin Hwy. 35, it houses grave sites dating back to the early 1900s.

The wind in the cemetery during February is unforgiving, even with the ancient trees scattered around. I lasted about 5 minutes. Digging around in the snow with my back to the wind, I uncovered the gravestone of Miles P. Clark.

Miles lived from 1826 to 1906, resting in one of the oldest parts of the cemetery. His most visible neighbors are World War I veterans with their gravestones surrounding a tall memorial, peaking halfway up through the snow. Miles was a fifer in the Civil War with the 4th Regiment of the Minnesota Infantry.

While I don’t sense Miles left this world a lonely man, I do wonder what role his family played in his life. I found no evidence of marriage, even though his obituary cited a son, O.H. Clark, and a daughter, J.C. Ashby. He lived with Mrs. Ashby for the last ten years of his life. Miles died in her home on Ogden Avenue at the age of 81 following a four-month battle with tuberculosis, which the obituary referred to as “illness of consumption.?

Unlike many of his peers, Miles got an obituary and a short article about his funeral. The obituary emphasized that he was active in the community up until the time of his illness, particularly with the Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.), a fraternal organization for Union Civil War veterans.

The funeral story illustrated how friends honored Miles’ memory.

"At the grave site, G. A. R. performed the military burial ceremony and by request of the dead, Comrade Major A. S. Eaton spoke a few words. After the major’s words, a squad from Company I fired a salute to the dead and trumpeter Walter Earnshaw played taps. Following the musical sound off, members of the post filed by the open grave, with each dropping a flower on the casket."

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

March 12, 2008

The last man standing made Duluth home

DCN Correspondent

"The American people have lost the last personal link with the Union Army ... His passing brings sorrow to the hearts of all of us who cherished the memory of the brave men on both sides of the War Between the States." — President Dwight Eisenhower

He fought in the Civil War. He lived to the age of 106, and he was officially listed as the last remaining survivor of more than 2,200,000 men of the Union Armed Forces.

He was Albert Henry Woolson.

On Feb. 11, 1847, the world welcomed Woolson. He was born in Antwerp, N.Y., to Willard Woolson. At the age of 17 he joined the fight as a drummer boy for the Union Army. He was never officially in a battle, but drummed at many grave sites. He survived the Civil War and married Sarah Jane Sloper in 1868. Unfortunately she passed away in 1901. Woolson then remarried three years later to Anna Haugen. This marriage lasted until 1948 when she passed away as well.

Leading up to his death, Woolson spent nine weeks in the hospital over a reoccurring collapse of a lung. Eventually Woolson fell into a coma that he never recovered from. He died in St. Luke’s Hospital on Aug. 2, 1956. He is buried at Park Hill Cemetery.

My search for Woolson began at Park Hill Cemetery where I managed to stumble across five different sights. They were Anna Hagen, Okerlund, John Nelson, Joahnn Nelson and Albert Woolson. To decide which one of these I would do research on, I decided to type all the names into different search engines to see what would pop up.

Nothing really came up at all for anyone until I typed in Woolson’s name. This was a jackpot. He was everywhere and was an important person.

I checked with a couple of Web sites and they gave the same information of his birth date and date of death. I then went into Gen Web to find some information. Through the death index I was able to confirm that this was his death date. Other than that I didn’t find Gen Web that helpful in finding information on Woolson.

I then Googled “Albert Woolson and obits? and I came across his obituary that was printed in The New York Times. This gave me the bulk of the information that I used.


This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

Woman gone but flowers remain

DCN Correspondent

Walking through Incarnation Cemetery in Roseville, Minn., I was looking for something special.

After a couple minutes, I came across a tombstone that caught my attention. It was the middle of winter, near 10 below, and there were flowers at the foot of her grave.

The grave was marked “Jennifer L. Baker 1972 – 1995.? Some super-quick math skills helped me determine that she had died at age 23. The young age of death, combined with the flowers, led me to believe that this dearly departed soul was going to be the most interesting.

The first good piece of information on Jennifer came from a Lexis Nexis search under her name of major newspapers of the year she died. From this search I was able to obtain her obituary. The obituary told me that she was from White Bear township, that she had died on Oct. 15th, the names of all her surviving family members, and that her death was accidental. The most important information, it turned out, was the listing for the funeral home at which her service was held.

I contacted the Holcomb-Henry-Boom North Chapel in Shoreview, Minn. They were able to pull up a computer file on Jennifer and tell me over the phone her date of birth (April 9th, 1972), her middle name (Lee), and that her medical examiner’s report listed her death as the result of a car accident.

Naturally, my next move was to call the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s office. I asked them for information on their report for Jennifer Lee Baker and the woman found the file for me. However, just as she was about to give me the information she conveniently remembered to ask me if I was the next of kin. I told her I wanted the information for research and she told me it was private except to the next of kin.

I then tried to dig up more on Jennifer by calling the Minnesota Historical Society and asking them for their records. They served mainly as a means of confirming the information I already had. However, it did provide me with new information like her state of birth (Minnesota), her mother’s maiden name (Bentley), and the county her death took place in (Ramsey County).

I really wanted more information about her death specifically and I was thinking about how lame it was that I couldn’t get that medical examiner’s report. I told professor Chris Julin that I was denied it because it was private information. He thought that was weird also so he did a little research for me. We found a statute in the Minnesota Data Practices Act that stated that medical examiner’s reports were completely PUBLIC information unless otherwise requested by the family of the deceased.

So, ready for a vocal rumble, I called the examiner’s office back. Using my best big-time journalist voice, I told them that under the Minnesota Data Practices Act Section 13.83 they were required to give me the information on the report. The receptionist, without missing a beat, calmly and confident then explained to me that yes, this was true, but there is a Ramsey County statute stipulation that makes an autopsy report private until at least 30 years after the death, except to the next of kin. I have no idea if this was true or not, but she said it with such confidence that I chose to believe her. Unfortunately, I was not able to obtain the information.

The last source I contacted was the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department to see if they had an accident report. They were able to tell me that on Oct. 14 (note the difference of death and accident date) Jennifer Lee Baker was involved in a fatal accident that occurred in the city of North Oaks, Minn.

My research on Jennifer led me to conclude that her death was a very painful and tragic one. This information and the flowers on her snowy grave lead me to believe that her family members are still feeling the sting of her demise. May she rest in peace.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

March 11, 2008

A search for life in a death

DCN Correspondent

My search for names in the graveyard brought me to a headstone bearing the names of a couple: Per Eric Okerlund, born Jan. 25, 1852, died Nov. 6, 1906; and Eva, wife, born Dec. 26— or perhaps it was 28, I couldn’t quite tell which it was on the stone—died Jan. 3, 1943.

The next stop for me was online at the GenWeb site for St. Louis County, where I searched the death records index. I found both of their certificate numbers, death dates and names, and I learned that “Per Eric? was recorded as “Peter E.? on the St Louis County Death Records Index. This showed me I had to be open minded as to how Mr. Okerlund’s name might be recorded in different sources.

I also searched on the Minnesota Historical Society Web site and found that “Peter Erick Okerlund,? who died in St. Louis County on Nov. 6, 1906, was born in Sweden. That's all I could accomplish with the St. Louis County GenWeb site, so I moved on.

With the information I had gathered thus far in hand, I visited Pat Maus at the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center in the University of Minnesota Duluth library. She and I looked through the Polk City Directories from the Okerlunds’ lifetimes, and we found that Per Erick was listed as being a shoemaker in 1905, and Eva was never listed as having an occupation.

According to the 1942 directory, Mr. and Mrs. Okerlund had lived at 723 E. 5th St. in Duluth, and sometime after Per Eric’s death, Eva was living at 4114 Colorado in Lakeside and then moved back to 723 E 5th St. before she went to St. Anne’s Home for the Aged located at 2002 W 3rd St. in 1942.

From those directories, we also learned that Olaf M. Falk, who was married to Emma E., and Bernhard S. Ottoson, married to Hilda, were all living at the 723 address when Eva was at the 4114 Colorado address.


Thinking that these were perhaps their children, I looked through some public schools’ yearbooks from the early 1900s. Finding no proof of relation, I moved on.

Pat Maus pointed me in the direction of the courthouse: Joanne Sher, Thursdays 1-4:30 p.m., Room 101, 726-2559, ext. 4647. So, I made plans.

First I decided to go to the cemetery to look at the death index cards. Eva’s card told me her date of death, location in the cemetery, address, age at death, name, and record number. None of this was new or helpful. Mr. Okerlund's card gave me “Per Erick Okerlund? and didn’t even supply a death date. With some concern, I finally went to the court house.

There I found a wealth of information from a helpful woman named Sher. Through Ancestry.com, she found census data from 1895: Peter E. and Eva Okerlund came from Sweden, and Per Erick was a shoemaker at this time.

In the 1920 census, Eva, 72 years old, was listed as living with Olaf M. Galk and Emma Galk; these are recorded with last names of “Falk? in the next census, 1930, and Eva is always listed as a widow—here was my connection to the residents living at Eva's old 723 address while she was living in Lakeside.

It also said that Falks are both from Sweden, and that Eva’s relation to the head of the household, Olaf, is as a mother-in-law, meaning that Emma E. must be Eva’s daughter. I now had proof that it was, indeed, their daughter and her husband living at their old 723 address after Peter died.

Sher also pulled up on microfilm the Duluth Deaths Records for St. Louis Co., Minn., for “Peter Erick Okerlund,? “Mrs. Eva Okerlund? and “Emma Eleanora Falk,? along with the Ottoson couple. The records showed that Peter Erick Okerlund was 53 at his death, was a shoemaker, was born in Sweden, and lived at 723 E. 5th St.

His father was Olaf Okerlund, and his mother’s maiden name was not listed. Length of residence in town was 20 years, and his cause of death was tuberculosis of the lung and intestines.

Eva’s death certificate told more. Her place of death was in St Louis County at “St. Ann’s Home,? where she had stayed for a year and three months, though she had lived in the community for 55 years, or since about 1888.

Her cause of death on Jan. 3, 1943, was described as “broncho. pneumonia.? Her birth date and place were listed as Dec. 28, 1848, in “Saldahl Floda Sodenialand, Sweden,? and her father was Anders Anderson, who was also born in Sweden. Nothing was noted about her mother. The informant on the death certificate was none other than Mrs. O.M. Falk, Per Erick and Eva’s daughter.

Emma's death certificate said was born on Oct. 16, 1876, living a long life and dying on May 19, 1976, at the age of 99. Like Eva, she outlived her husband, who died Jan. 11, 1959. Since her mother was recorded as living in Duluth since 1888, I would guess that Emma came to America from Sweden at age 12 with her parents and any siblings (who I couldn’t find if they ever existed), and then Emma married Olaf Falk, also from Sweden, in America. However, she could have stayed in Sweden, married, and come over to America post-marriage.

I was unable to find any records of marriage for Emma. Emma’s death record also showed that she died from “cerebral arteriosclerosis with multiple CVA’s? and had this condition since about two years prior to her death. Emma was living at 4002 London Road, and was institutionalized at Lakeshore Lutheran Home before her death. She was buried at Sunrise Memorial Park in Duluth.

Having solved the mystery of Emma and Olaf, I was still curious about this Ottoson couple that was living with them. The death certificates from the Ottosons revealed no immediate family connection, but they did have a connection to Sweden. They could have been extended family or simply other Swedes living in the building, which might have been a duplex and allowed for more than one unrelated family to live at the location.

In the Federal Naturalization Index at the St. Louis Co. courthouse, Sher also found that Per Erick Okerlund applied for citizenship through the federal level and was fully naturalized in October 1897, thus causing Eva to become naturalized by default through her husband.

My final step was to find the actual obituaries. Sher was able to give me the Duluth News Tribune (DNT) death notice for Per Erick, but that told me nothing new. She pointed me back to the UMD Library to find obituaries of Eva, Emma and Olaf on the DNT microfilm.

From the obituaries, I learned that at Eva’s death in 1943, she was living with her daughter, O.M. Falk, and that two grandchildren and two great grandchildren were still living. Emma, then, must have had children and grandchildren. At the time of Eva's death, Emma was 67 years old. Emma’s husband would die 16 years later in 1959, and Emma would follow in ’76.

Olaf’s obituary spelled his name as “Olof,? and revealed that he was 84 when he died. He was born in Sweden and was a Duluth resident for 55 years. Olaf was part of the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, “and was a city inspector for 29 years, retiring in 1940.?

Still living at the time of his death were his wife, a brother named John in Manistee, Mich., and “several nieces and nephews.? Because no children or grandchildren of Olaf’s are listed as surviving at this point, either he and Emma had no children—in which case, Eva must have had another child who bore children and died before Eva—or Olaf and Emma's children and grandchildren died before Olaf.

And who are the nieces and nephews? If Eva did have a child besides Emma who bore children, it could be those children, or it could be Olaf's brother John's children—I still don't know for certain.

Emma’s obituary in 1976 told me little more: She lived at 4002 E. Superior St., died in her home, was born in Sweden, and was a Duluth resident for 88 years—which confirmed that she came over from Sweden with her parents at age 11 or 12 as I suspected. She was also a member of the Lutheran Church and the Royal Neighbors of America. At this point, her living legacy consists of two nieces and a nephew, but no more information is given about her relations.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.

March 10, 2008

Axel Edman: founder of Edman Apartments

DCN Correspondent

Axel A. Edman was born on June 6, 1867. He died on Dec. 7, 1946. I know this because it says so on his gravestone. Of course, it was going to take more than a gravestone to learn who Axel was.

My journey started, of all places, on Google. I searched the name and didn’t find anything about Axel himself. I did find a message board where a Mr. Dale Edman had inquired about the genealogy of Axel. He had been researching the Edman family, so I sent him an email. He quickly responded to my email. Dale is a distant ancestor of Axel’s. Because Axel’s family was an offshoot of his, Dale had only limited research on Axel, which he graciously shared with me.

Axel August Edman was born in Stornäs, Sweden. His family immigrated to the United States, via Norway, on Jan. 7, 1884, aboard the ship Thingvalla. Axel’s family initially came to St. Paul via the rail. Eventually, Axel and his brother, Carl, wound up in Duluth. Unfortunately, that’s where Dale’s research stopped, but I had a wonderful starting point.

All the online resources did was verify the death date on his headstone, so I went back to the graveyard. There I learned that his home address was 2717 E 5th St., and that he died due to a cerebral hemorrhage. There was also a woman, Elizabeth Edman Swanson, listed with him. Another good start, but still not complete.

I then sought an obituary. After some long searching, I found Axel’s death report in the Dec. 9 edition of the Duluth News Tibune. Axel died on Dec. 7 from injuries received in a car crash on Nov. 15.

Axel had lived in Duluth for 60 years, so he must have come to Duluth within years of his family’s arrival in the US. He was a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, as well as a few other organizations that I’ve never heard of. Axel was survived by his wife, Elizabeth, which confirmed the cemetery report. Using the death date given to me at the cemetery, I was able to find her obituary.

Elizabeth died almost 30 years after Axel, and between then must have remarried, as she was listed as Elizabeth Edman Swanson. The most interesting part of her obituary was that she was said to be owner and operator of Edman Apartments. This was interesting because Axel’s obituary said he had been “in the real estate business for 25 years.? This lead brought me to the Northeast Minnesota Historical Society’s collection of Duluth directories, where it came together.

Axel Edman was listed as a bartender until 1926, which was the same year Edman Apartments first shows up, located at 1731 E Superior St. Presumably, Axel opened the apartments with his wife that year. The building can still be seen today, marked by a large EDMAN engraving over the front door. This appears to have been his occupation until his death.

Axel’s obituary doesn’t list any children, and Elizabeth’s only lists stepchildren, presumably from Charles Swanson, so it seems that Axel never had any kids.

Elizabeth Edman remains as a widow in the directories for another four years until she appears in 1951 as the wife of Charles Swanson. Apparently, Elizabeth remarried sometime from 1950-51, but continued living at the same residence where she and Axel had lived on Fifth Street, just with a new man. She ran Edman Apartments all the while until she went to a nursing home.

With further time and research I could find when and where Edman Apartments definitely opened and if Axel had any other real estate endeavors. As it appears, those apartments were his main undertaking. I could also learn when Axel married Elizabeth and more about Axel’s brother, Carl. For now, this is what I have.

This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.