Mystery Scott photo album, part 1

Today’s post is about a photo album that’s intrigued me since I first saw it about four years ago. I’ve shared a couple of the photos from the album in previous blog posts, referring to the album in which I found them as an album that probably belonged to my great-great-grandfather Frank Scott. The album itself is quite fascinating and is filled with photos from the 1920s of a well-to-do couple named “Roland and Flo” who apparently liked to travel quite a bit.

The photo album presents a comfortable but curious mix of people from two distinct socioeconomic strata. The first group includes my known Scott relations (my great-grandmother Gertrude Scott Askew, her sister Cassie Scott, her father Frank Scott, and his second wife Lois Lanudge Scott)—poorer folk working multiple jobs to make ends meet and living in rural Wadena county, Minnesota. The second group appears to center around the couple named Roland and Flo—an apparently well-heeled and well-traveled couple.

But who were Roland and Flo? Until last week, despite having records on over 13,000 people in my family history database, not a single one of those people was named Roland, and none of the women named Flo or Florence were possible candidates for Flo in the photo album. Continue reading

Sever Severson’s craftsmanship

Severson CradleI like to think I’ve got pretty darned good internet search skills, but I have nothing on my wife. She’s got the magic touch. As evidence of that, I’d like to share with you a discovery that she made earlier tonight—a child’s cradle made by Sever Severson himself, perhaps for his own children or for a niece or a nephew.

Sever and his wife Martha had five children together—all girls. Their oldest daughter, Anne Mary, was born around 1856, Julia was born around 1858, Ellen Caroline (“Carrie”) was born in 1859, Selina was born in 1862, and their youngest, Cecila M (“Celia”) was born six weeks after her father died of dysentery in Atlanta, Georgia, while serving as a Union soldier in the Civil War. If the 1855 date for the cradle (written on the back of a photo of the cradle from 1920) is correct, then he almost certainly made this for his own children. If the 1846 date on the headboard is correct, perhaps he made this for the children of an older brother or sister, as it would date to 10 years before his first child was born.

My wife found this little gem on the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. The information displayed there was provided by the institution charged with preserving and caring for the cradle, the Mt. Horeb Area Historical Society.  Here are some extracts of what they have to say about the cradle:

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Sever Severson’s 1864 diary, part 1

Cover 1

As I mentioned in previous posts, my newly discovered cousin Anne dropped a bombshell on me about six weeks ago when she mentioned that Sever Severson kept a diary in 1864, the year he died while serving the Union Army in the Civil War. She had a faint photocopy of it that her mother had made, and she recalled that it had been passed down to another branch of the family. She tracked down these cousins and found they still had the diary. One of these cousins, Charlie, lives only two and a half hours away, and Nancy lives in Spain, but just so happened to be visiting over the last two weeks (the curious coincidences of this encounter could fill a post on their own).

A little over a week ago, I drove out to the Sierra foothills to meet Nancy and her father Charlie.  Nancy and her father are also descendants of Sever Severson, and they’re also passionate about family history. Nancy and Charlie are descended from Celia Severson, the sister of my great-great-grandmother, Carrie Severson (making Nancy and I third cousins, one removed, and Charlie and I second cousins, twice removed). After a talking for a while, Nancy took me upstairs to where their family history files are kept and showed me the diary.

It was smaller than I imagined (4.9 x 3.25 inches; slightly larger than an iPhone), and in much better shape than I expected it to be. Nancy and I both put on our cotton gloves to look through the diary, and I couldn’t help thinking that Sever would be happy to see the grandchildren of his grandchildren (or, in my case, the great-grandchild of his granddaughter) being brought together after all these generations by the diary he wrote 149 years ago.

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A Norwegian immigrant’s Civil War Death (part 2)

Martha and Sivert SiversonIn Part 1 of this post, I introduced the story of Sever Severson, the Norwegian immigrant, husband, and father of five daughters, who was drafted for military service in the Civil War and apparently died in the war, never to come home.

In a recent post, I shared news about an exciting development that’s come to light in my research into Sever Severson’s death—knowledge that Sever kept a daily diary from January 1, 1864, until September 26, 1864, just four days before he died, and that at least a copy of that diary has survived.

In this, the second post in this series, I’ll assess what I don’t know in regards to the emerging story of the life and death of Sever Severson, and I’ll formulate questions that I’ll need to answer in order to shed light on these unknowns. I’ll do what I can to answer as many of the questions as possible, and then I’ll chart a course for finding answers to the remaining questions.

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A Norwegian immigrant’s Civil War Death (part 1)

Martha and Sivert SiversonI’d like to introduce the tragic story of a Norwegian immigrant, Sever Severson, dying far from home in the service of his adopted country. Despite his death while serving his country, his service to his adopted country was apparently all but unnoticed by the very government he was fighting for. If not for his death, burial, later disinterment and subsequent reburial in a military cemetery, his country and his descendants may not have even known he died, far from home, fighting for the survival of the country that we call home.

I do not know this story first-hand, of course, because Sever is my great-great-great-grandfather, and he died a century and a half ago. Even his daughter, my great-great-grandmother Carrie Severson Bailey, was only 4 years old when he went to war, and whatever memories she may have had of her father did not make it down through the family to me.

In Part 1 of this series, I’ll present what I currently [think I] know about Sever Severson—his life, his family, his military service, and his death. In subsequent posts in this series , I’ll chart a research strategy, undertake the necessary research, present the results of this research, and will hopefully be able to draw some conclusions about the life and death of Sever Severson.

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