Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

The Johnstone Clan w/spouses

Now I don't know if this photo was taken on NYE or not. It probably wasn't as Aunt Katie and Auntie Pete are sleeveless. But its the most festive photo in my collection and I think it works. This is the Johnstone clan, the children of William H. and Mary A. Johnstone, and their spouses. This photo was taken at Grandpa and Grandma Borgreen's house on Smelter Hill in Great Falls MT, sometime in the 40's. There are only two people in this group who I did not have the pleasure of knowing, Grandpa Carl Borgreen and Aunt RoseMary. They both passed away too early.
The others I knew and loved and miss terribly. Auntie Pete and Aunt Francis are still living and I would love a chance to visit with them about their memories.

Back row from L to R.
Carl Borgreen, Audrey "Pete" Johnstone, Jack Johnstone, Steve Johnstone, Bertha "Bert" Johnstone, Jim Johnstone

Front row L to R
Bill Johnstone, Francis Johnstone, Nell (Johnstone) Borgreen, George Tracy, Kathleen (Johnstone) Tracy, Rose Mary Johnstone. Not pictured are Don Johnstone and Gert Johnstone.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wedding Wednesday....Edward and Marie Marxer

Edward and Marie were my paternal grandparents. They were married on 24 Feb. 1936 at St. Ann's Cathedral in Great Falls MT. It was a small family wedding. The bride's maid was Louise Marxer, Edward's sister, and the best man was Mike Reddish. The wedding day was cold and the snow deep. The bride's bouquet of roses was frostbitten in the cold. The wedding party headed out to the ranch in the early afternoon. The car made it as far as Eden than needed to be towed by a team of horses the rest of the way. When they arrived at the house the whole community was there to greet the new bride. They played games, told round stories and tall tales and sang songs. Later they rolled the carpet up and pushed the furniture out of the way for an impromptu dance in the living room. They partied until the wee hours of the morning.

This story was told by Edward and Marie in the county history "A Century In The Foothills 1876-1976"
page 319


Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Christmas Blessing from Liechtenstein

Imagine my delight and surprise when I opened my email today and found this:

Hello Jennie

I see you need a bit of help from your relatives from the Principality (Fürstentum) of Liechtenstein. I have seen your blog and you have difficulties to find the dates of birth und death of your ancesters. My mother's name of birth is Wanger. So I know the family trees of your paternal line (Marxer and Wanger). I'm related to your paternal great great grandpa (Franz Josef Marxer) and to your paternal great grandma ( Maria Katharina Marxer - Wanger)=>Written in German.

Maria Katharina Marxer (Wanger) was a sister of my great grandpa (Dominikus Wanger). She had 12 brothers and sisters but some of them died early.

Now the details: 

Andreas Marxer *12.10.1825 +01.01.1909  was married to Anna Schächle *25.07.1829 +09.01.1881. When Anrdeas (Andrew's) wife died, the whole family decided to emmigrate to the USA. 
In 1882 his son Franz Josef Marxer *15.09.1860 +03.09.1932 emmigrated first (St.Pauls Minesotta). Two years later (1884) his father and the other brothers an sisters followed.

Here the whole family:

Andreas Marxer *12.10.1825 +01.01.1909 and his wife Anna Schächle *25.07.1829 +09.01.1881 
Their children:=>They all went to St. Pauls
Franz Josef Marxer *15.09.1860 +03.09.1932 and his wife Maria Katharina Wanger *30.12.1862 +5.01.1935 
Martina Marxer *29.03.1862 (Her date of death is unknown)
Maria Ursula Marxer *03.05.1863 +24.10.1950 and her husband Franz Näscher *18.02.1859 (date of death unknown) =>he is from Liechtenstein too.
Wilhelm Marxer *03.07.1869 +02.08.1962 and his wife Frieda Brinekof (USA)

On the picture in the attachement you can see Katherine's brother Dominikus. 
On the coloured picture you can see Edward's cousin Julius Wanger (The old man on the left).
When you are interested, I can send you the family tree of both families (Marxer and Wanger). 
I also attach you the coat of arms of the Marxer family.

One thing that interests me. Does the house, that was built by Frank Joseph Marxer still exist? I would like to know, if he has built the house in the typical style that was common in those times in Liechtenstein. 

A short information to Liechtenstein:
Liechtenstein is a tiny independant state between Switzerland and Austria and is member of the United Nations. The offspring of those who went to America think that they came from Germany because their language is German, but they are not. Liechtenstein was attached to Germany until 1866. Then we were fully independant. Nowadays we work very close together with Switzerland. Our currency is Swiss Francs. 

The village they came from:
Andrew or Frank and Katherine lived in the village of "Eschen" . It is a very nice place in the Rhine valley. It rains a lot, but when the weather is nice, all is green, even in summer. When Andrew, Frank and Katherine left the house in Eschen they could see the mountains just in front of the house (picture attached). 

Greetings from Liechtenstein and with the best wishes for a happy new year


Attached to this were some family photos the family coat of arms and a lovely shot of the village my ancestors came from. 
Marxer family coat of arms

To my newfound cousin in Liechtenstein, Danke. From the bottom of my heart.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Season's Greeting From Our House to Your House

Christmas Greeting from the Edward Marxer Family
circa late 1940's
I found this lovely vintage holiday greeting in the box of photos and memorabilia that I received when Grandma Marie Marxer passed away in 2000.

There is no handwriting on the greeting, in fact I think this was the prototype to their holiday card. The car in the front leads me to believe that this was sent out sometime in the late 1940's. I have photos of the family all gathered around a similar car from that time period.

The house was built by Great Grandpa, Joseph Marxer, on land that he homesteaded in the 1890's.
He received his land patent in 1898. Grandpa, Edward Marxer, was born in this house. My dad, Gary Marxer and his brothers were raised there and I spent many happy times visiting, the old homestead as a child. I can still hear the SWACK of the wooden screen door slamming as someone ran in or out. I can hear the wind rustling through the grass and trees. I can see, in my mind's eye, the cloud of dust from the road as someone drove by and everyone stopping to gawk to see who it was. That gawking habit dies hard. My dad  is still a gawker and his brother Neal, who lives right next door to me, gawks every time I leave my driveway. It makes me smile to see the old days and the old ways still carrying on.

Merry Christmas and Blessings in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Research the Collateral Lines

Collateral Ancestor
Definition: An ancestor not in the direct line of ascent, but of the same ancestral family.

I've been having a bit of trouble with my maternal great grandmother, Johanna "Jennie" (Felt) Borgreen.
I can't seem to find her parents' names. I ordered her death certificate and came up empty. As I was searching the 1900 census, I found Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Borgreen living in Belt MT with their small children. I scanned up and down the page and was very surprised to find a listing for Andrew Felt and family living right next door to them. I noticed that some of Andrew's children had been born in WY. I knew that Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Borgreen had lived in Rock Springs WY and the census showed that a few of their children had been born there. I also noticed that Andrew immigrated to the US, from Sweden, one year before Great Grandma. It became almost obvious to me that they may be related and their close age made me think that perhaps they were siblings. I thought that maybe Andrew would have some of the answers I was not able to get from Great Grandma. So I began to track Andrew and family through time. Below is a timeline for Andrew and his family and my sad version of source citations. I have all sources clearly sited in my records but I'll spare you the details here. 

I have yet to find evidence of Andrew's death. I do know that he was living in 1920, so can narrow my search a bit with that information. My goal is to find the place of death and order his death certificate. Hopefully there will be something of use there. I'll also do some city directory searches and newspaper research. I found a land patent for Andrew and maybe that will help me track him a bit farther. Heritage quest, which I use for census research, doesn't have the 1930 census up yet. I know that does but am not ready to subscribe again, just yet. Maybe after the holiday bills are paid, I'll renew my subscription for a couple of months. I'd like to see if any of the Felts are listed on the 1930 census. But I can wait a little bit for that.

Timeline for Andrew Felt

1874 Andrew Felt born in Sweden1
Married: 1
1887 Son Axel born in Sweden1
1889 Married in Sweden to Celia 1   Selma (Paulson) 6i  Thelma (Paulson) 6ii
1890 Immigrated to US1
18891 (1890) 6i  Son Victor born in Rock Springs6ii WY1      
1893 Son Elmer born in WY1
1895 Daughter Agnes born in WY1
1899 Son Andrew born in MT1
1900 Family is living next door to Gust and Jennie Borgreen in Belt MT1
1902 Daughter Mary was born in Cascade County MT2
1907 Andrew received a land patent in Cascade County4

1910 Family is living in Cascade County MT2

1910 Andrew and Victor are working in a coal mine2

1910 Census lists Axel as a cripple2
1911: 26 Jan 1911 Victor married Maggie Defoe (sic) in Belt MT6i
1913 Victor and Maggie are living in Wisconsin3
1913: Son, Charles, born to Victor and Maggie.3
1915 Victor and Maggie are living in Wisconsin3
1915: Daughter, Selma, born to Victor and Maggie.3
1918: 23 Nov 1918 Axle died & buried at Pleasant View Cemetery Belt MT5
Between 1920 and 1925 Victor divorced Maggie3, 6ii
1920 Andrew Felt family living in Cascade County MT3
1920 Living at home Andrew, Selma, Elmer, Mary3
1920 Andrew is a farmer3
1920 Elmer is a farm laborer3
1920 Victor is living in Anoka County, Minnesota with wife
         Maggie and her parents3
1925: 17 Dec 1925 Victor married Elizabeth Bann in Great Falls MT6ii
1957: 4 Feb 1957 Victor died and is buried at Manchester Cemetery5

11900 Census
21910 Census
31920 Census
4Land Patent
5 cemetery listing
6iMontana marriage index ref# 4716
6iiMontana marriage index ref# cn12609

Alternate surname spellings:

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Amanuensis Monday" Distracted Research isn't always bad

While searching for a land patent for my great grandfather I was led hither and yon around the internet to no avail. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an index listing for the marriage of said Great grandpa and his bride in 1891! I had looked for this record several times in the past and always came up empty. But here it was, out of the blue.

It's important to note that both the groom's surname and the bride's entire name are misspelled, but I've learned to expect that. Previously I had only the year of marriage and now I have the exact date and place. I've ordered a copy of the marriage certificate for my files.

The land patent search continues but I count this as a very good research day, indeed.

Transcript from index
Details for Marriage #1523783
Groom Last Name: Borgrun
Groom First Name: Gust (27)
Groom Residence: Rock Springs
Bride Last Name: Felts
Bride First Name: Johana (23)
Bride Residence: Rock Springs
Place: Rock Springs
Date: 5 Dec. 1891
County of Record: Sweetwater
State: Wyoming
Volume B2
Page: 61

WYGenWeb Project

UPDATE 22 Dec 2010

Found this little darling in my email today!
Thanks to volunteer Wanda Wade,
at the WY State Archives, for her speedy
attention to my little query.
I could not have received a better Christmas present
from Jolly Old St. Nick, himself.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Favorite Spot

This is my spot at the local public library. I spend as much time there as possible looking at microfilm and utilizing all the other resources available to me in the Heritage Room. I order my microfilm from the interlibrary loan program and wait, like a kid at Christmas, for the email to come to my inbox. "Your item is ready for pick up". Then I rush down to the library at the first opportunity and while away the hours searching and researching to my heart's content.

Today I spent a few hours looking through the Great Falls Tribune from June 1932. I was actually looking for a death notice for my maternal great-great grandma, but came up empty on that. Instead and unexpectedly, I found a notice that my paternal great grandpa had been released from the hospital on 15 June 1932. I have his death certificate that states 3 Sep. 1932 as his date of death. He had cancer. I hadn't expected to find him in the paper but was happy that I was able to walk away with something of interest to add to my files.
I've ordered more film from the State Library for the death dates of each of my great grandparents. Now I just wait for my notice to come. Merry Christmas to me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Swedish, Anyone?

If there is anyone out there in Blogland who can read this document and translate it for me, I will be forever in your debt. Thank you, in advance.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Poem for Judy

Judy Ellen Borgreen
This poem was written by my grandfather, Carl Borgreen, for his daughter, Judy. Judy is my mom. Grandpa was a deep soul and left many of these little treasures behind. He died suddenly, when Mom was only 17 and left a vast hole in her heart, and in the hearts of everyone who knew him.

Mom has a bulging packet of photos and poems, cards and newspaper clippings and I'm slowly making my way through it all. I'm scanning everything so that it can be assembled in a meaningful way and shared with the family. I never knew Grandpa personally, but through these snippets and the stories of him, I feel a very powerful connection to him.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

City Directories

Oh the wonderful things you can find in the city directory.
You can find out your ancestor's address in a given year, other adults who lived in the home with them, their occupation and the address of their workplace. You can also find out if they've recently moved out of the area and the directory will sometimes list the date of death for the husband, if the wife is still living. The directories came out annually; much better for tracking ancestors than the once a decade census. They are also fun for looking up the neighbors of your ancestors. This is another good way to find long lost relatives, as many times our ancestors lived near family. 

Check Cyndi's List to find directories of the area your ancestors lived in.

images from google

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday...Find a

Ruth Borgreen

 Borgreen family marker

 Johan August "Gust" Borgreen

 Johanna "Jennie" (Felt) Borgreen

Old Highland Cemetery in Great Falls MT

I was so happy the day I found Find a Grave. What a fantastic resource this site is when you are trying to
locate ancestors' final resting places from far away. At the time I found these grave site photos, I didn't even know what cemetery these ancestors were buried in. This was a very productive internet search. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the work that is done by the people who volunteer for this project. You can browse by location, date, and/or name. So helpful. You can search famous graves or just stroll through looking for  interesting epitaphs. And in true "pay it forward" style, you can join the Find a Grave contributors and help out with the project. So Fantastic!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

My Childhood memories of Santa are vivid. I would get so excited for Christmas that I would just shake and I still remember the physical ache of anticipation. I don't think I ever stopped believing. I never felt tricked or deceived by the stories. The thought of a benevolent old soul toiling all year to bring gifts the all the good boys and girls of the world just makes my heart glad. The sight of a Santa and child makes me misty eyed. Part of that may be hormones, but part of it has always been that way. 

Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.
"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. "Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. "Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' "Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?"VIRGINIA O'HANLON."115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood. 

Friday, December 10, 2010


Grandma Nell (Johnstone) Borgreen

Here's a list of funny things Grandma Nell used to say. This is only the tip of the iceberg. I'll be adding to this list as I think of more.
Grandma Nell was an RN, so many of her isms make reference to body parts or functions. That's just the way she was. 

Someone left the gate open.
Said while waiting for a break in traffic

Should have shot him and raised a pig.
Said in reference to a worthless example of a human being.

Say you eat well.
Said behind the back of someone who would do well to
cut back a little bit.

Would you look at that
Said about anything that went against the grain

Uglier than a hatful of rectums.
Pretty self explanatory

Able to sit up and take nurishment
The usual response when asked "How are you doing today?"

I was going to vacuum, then I thought better of it.
We all have this feeling from time to time.

I'm going to the hair benders
going to the beauty parlor

I have to put my face on.
Said while getting ready to go out

Went to bed with my boyfriend, Morpheus.
Referring to the god of sleep.

Went to lunch with my cronies.
Her gal pals.

That old blister
If Grandma Nell didn't like you, you were a blister

That old plaster
Similar to an old blister

Don't eat that or you'll get the Molly grubs
tummy ache

Don't get your bowels in an uproar.
Don't get excited

Don’t get your water hot.
See above

Don't get your knickers in a twist.
See above again.
Would you look at the head on that!
Quit crying, you big calf!

Quit your crying or I'll give you something to cry about
I could be wearing that like a mink stole
 Pee or get off the pot
Basically, hurry up or get out of the way

That gives me the hump
The hump was never good. Refers to feeling grossed out.

That gives me the willies
Similar to the hump but more creepy

Old Lumpy Nose - (Pres Reagan)

Hamburger 'onion' only
Always from McDonald's and in a Happy Meal

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Those Places Thursday...The Cabin

Johnstone-Borgreen Cabin est. 1936

This is "The Cabin". It was built by my grandfather, Carl Borgreen 
and my Uncle Steve Johnstone, who was Grandma Nell's brother.
Our family has been coming to this place ever since 1935. There is no
electricity or running water; no plumbing or any type of modern
convenience. There is no TV, computer and no cell phone service.
This spot is truly Heaven on Earth. There are no neighbors or stores
no street noise. There is nothing but the pure silence of the mountains
and the creek running by. 

The inside of the cabin contains many of the
same items that have been there since the very beginning. The old wood stove
and picnic table have always been there. The oil lamps and pots and pans
are the same ones that I've always known. The water bucket and dipper 
are the same ones from back in the day when we could actually drink the 
water straight from the creek. 

There have been small changes over the
years and improvements like the new roof and fresh paint. But the things
that matter, the things that make this the cabin have remained the same.
The history of this place swirls around me when I step out of my car to
open the gate. To be so firmly rooted to a place is holy. I have always come
here and I will always come back. And when my time comes to leave this 
life, I want my ashes scattered here. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wedding Wednesday

Albert and Elina Johnson
June 27, 1913
Joseph and Katherine Marxer
May 27, 1884

These are my paternal great grandparents. 

Joseph and Katerine Marxer were married in St. Paul MN in 1884. They lived there for a couple of years before coming west to homestead near Great Falls MT. Joseph was a stone mason and helped to build many structures in and around Great Falls. He built the home that he and Katherine would raise their family in with his own two hands. They eventually went into farming, but when Joseph had to go to town for work or supplies, he'd walk the 10+ miles in order to save on livery fees for the horses. When he returned home, he'd carry all the food and supplies for his family on his back. Joseph and Katherine had 15 children over the years. My grandfather, Edward Marxer was the youngest of this bunch. When Edward married my grandmother, Marie, they took over the ranch and lived there with their own children until they retired. I spent many happy times at the ranch and rambling around the old house and all the many acres of property. I would often run down the gravel road to the old stone school house that Joseph helped to build and that his children attended. Even as a small child I knew that the history of that place was rich. I haven't been there for many years, but the memories are vivid in my mind.

Albert and Elina Johnson were married in 1913. Albert came from Sweden in 1890. Elina was born in Red Lodge MT in 1894. They met and married in Red Lodge and raised their two daughters in Roberts Montana.
Albert was a farmer by trade. Interestingly, I know little about him as a person but have a pedigree chart from a cousin that traces his family back 7 generations. There is also a long and quite detailed compiled family history on the Johnsons that mainly covers the story of his parents and their arrival and life in MT. Albert and Elina died in the 1960's and my hope is that my dad and his brothers can shed some light on what they were like as people. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Family Stories

Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This day always reminds me of a story I was told about my Grandpa and Grandma Borgreen (Carl and Nell). Before I tell it, though let me just say a silent prayer for all those lost in that attack.

Now the story goes like this, Nell, who was expecting my mom, Judy, was vacuuming in the living room. Carl was somewhere else in the house listening to the radio. He heard the bulletin that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. He ran into the living room and yanked the vacuum cord from the wall, yelling "they attacked Pearl Harbor, they attacked Pearl Harbor!" Grandma Nell, in her usual way yelled back "Why did you unplug my vacuum and who the hell is Pearl Harbor, anyway?"

Monday, December 6, 2010

Oral History....or our family's version of the truth

The most important thing I've learned through this research project is don't get too attached to the details. Some things just roll off the tongue. Great Grandma Johnstone, who was born Mary Alice Coleman and came from County Cork Ireland. That must be so, right? Except her death certificate lists place of birth as Bristol England. But that might not be so either. It is her death certificate. A secondary source with information provided long after the time of her birth and by someone who was likely not present at her birth.
Perhaps the family story was really referring to her mother, Mary Coleman. Mary's death certificate says that she was born in Ireland. But the town, Carrick-on-Suir, is in County Waterford. I looked at a current map and believe that Waterford and Cork are neighbors. I need to check an historical map from that time to see if county lines have changed. Perhaps Carrick-on-Suir WAS in County Cork. Maybe there is a grain of truth to the family lore, afterall.

So who do you believe? Well, I believe no one. If/when I find her actual birth certificate or a church record of her baptismal, than I'll believe (a little bit) the information provided. In the mean time I take the clues that I find and search for the primary source. Some people might find this frustrating, but to me it's almos the most fun part of the journey. I feel like I'm channeling my inner Sam Spade here. There's one thing that is for certain. I'll never run out of things to look for.