Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ada Marie

Ada Marie died on March 2nd, just a couple of weeks ago. She was 92. I never got to meet her. In fact this was the first time I had heard her name and was never sure of her existence. Frankly, I never thought about it much. If it ever came up in a conversation, it was only with my brother on rare occasions.

She was born on the 9th of November in 1925 to Hanna Maria Olsen, an unmarried 26 year old factory worker.  The father was listed as a married electrician named Adalsten who was my grandfather and already the father of two sons.  I have no idea how this was looked upon in Norway at that time or how it was looked on by Klara, his wife and my grandmother. Maybe it was a big deal and maybe it wasn’t and it doesn’t matter now. 

This means I had an aunt that I never got to know which makes me sad.  She apparently had some siblings, not by my grandfather, and three children who I now get to add as cousins. To me this is a very cool thing. I believe they live in the Trondheim area in Norway, a beautiful place that I have only been to on one occasion for a few days a long time ago. I found one on Facebook and sent her a message, but it doesn’t appear that she is very active on Facebook, so I won’t hold my breath. Her name is Elin. She has two brothers, Johnny and Øystein.

I will try to find them and try gently to get a hold of them. I don’t know how much they know about the past and it has only been a couple of weeks since the death of their mother, so I need to be sensitive I think. 

How did I find out about all this? A guy named Tom sent me a note through telling me of the passing of the daughter of his wife’s grandaunt, Hanna Maria. He apparently does some genealogy as a hobby and also gave me some links from farther back in the Norwegian archives which got me back at least another generation. 

I recognized Tom’s last name from something, but couldn’t remember what. I asked the mighty Google and realized that Tom’s granduncle mushed the final leg of the serum run to Nome back in 1925 which is the basis for the Iditarod sled dog race of today. One of my former neighbors is the Race Director/Race Marshall of the Iditarod. Tom also has some relatives that live about 90 miles farther down the coast of Lake Superior from me. Degrees of separation? Not many.

I need to figure out how to tell my Norwegian cousins, assuming they don’t know any of this, and attempt contact with my new cousins. Maybe this will make one bigger happy family or just fizzle out, I don’t know, but I will do my part and see what happens. Coincidentally (or was it?), I just renewed my passport last week and I just found out about all this two days ago, the day before St. Patrick’s Day. I still can’t figure out where my 11% Irish DNA comes from.

What do you think of that? 


  1. So fascinating. Genealogy can be a very cool thing. There is something ... grounding? ... about understanding where we came from.

  2. Definitely fascinating.
    Growing up we only had the immediate family. My father, a German Jew, flatly refused to talk about his, and we believe that he was the only survivor. My mama lied about hers. A decade after she died I learned we had cousins. And that at the time of her death I had an uncle.
    I still feel a tad 'unmoored'.
    I hope you are able to connect with your new found relatives.

  3. I learned of some family connections when my father was in his last year of life. It made me view my grandfather in a different light - he would be the equivalent of your grandfather in this story. My grandmother, like yours, probably did not have the luxury of being upset. Men then did what they liked; both women bore the shame - the wife with the wandering husband and the unwed mother. And I don't think it was uncommon, unfortunately.

    My thinking (only because you asked!) is that if my cousins came looking for me, it would mean it mattered to them and I would welcome them, but I am not going to take my information to them in case it would be an unwelcome revelation. Maybe part of my outlook is that I have so many cousins I don't even know all the ones who were within the marriage boundary let alone outside of it. I am very close to a few whom I knew as we were growing up, even though we lived far from each other, but the rest didn't seem concerned with our shared heritage and we never kept in touch. It takes two, y'know?

  4. I was reading about DNA a while back,and it is absolutely fascinating. The way they can use the average rate of mutation in mitochonrial DNA to estimate when any two peopleon Earth had a common ancestor.

    I've never been into geneology, but it's great stuff.

    As an American mutt, the idea of tracking DNA back to specific areas of Europe or elsewhere is amazing but possible.

  5. Very interesting about finding new cousins, Jono. I somewhat recently found out I had a 1st cousin that I didn't know existed. Ah, Norway. I'd like to visit the blue rock again some day.

  6. my condolences on your loss. we are all interconnected somehow.

  7. I believe most Norwegians learn English from a young age, so language shouldn't be a barrier. Give them your own story in the US and see if any of then want to take it further.

  8. Agi Tater, Yes, It is nice to know that we have common ancestry with people we often don't know. What makes it entertaining is that there are often physical features that carry through.

    EC, My Aunt in England was the only one in her family to survive the Holocaust. It was a time she can rarely speak of.

    jenny_o, It was and still is a society where women are "undervalued" (a nicer way of saying it)and I imagine you are correct about that time in history. It was a time that women had recently won the right to vote in Western countries and equal rights are not a sure thing even now. I'll have to wait and see how the new cousin thing works out.

    Harry, I am pretty much of a mutt, too, but I do know some specifics. I like the fact that we are all of African descent. It makes racists look even more stupid and ignorant.

    AK Coldweather,You will have to tell me about your new cousin when you get a chance. I may know more about mine by then. A meeting again at the blue rock would be a wonderful thing to do again.

    anne marie, Did you know that three generations of my new female relatives use the same variation of Marie as a middle name? Those are just the ones I know of so far. I wish everyone could understand just how closely we are interconnected. Maybe we would all be nicer to each other.

    Gorilla Bananas, Yes, their English is much better than my Norwegian, but I will be going to language camp again in about a month. Good idea about telling them my story. That might be an interesting way to go about things. Thanks for the idea!

  9. I imagine the affair and the unplanned pregnancy were huge blows to Klara, and I can only imagine what the upheaval was like for Hanna Maria. At that time and in that culture, I wonder how such things were handled.

    As for your confusion over the 11% Irish DNA, I can relate. My surname is Dutch, but my family is of Polish and Austrian descent and we have no memory of any Dutch ancestors.

  10. As an adoptee who never got to meet her birth mother but who DID get some photos of her (along with two half-sisters), I think you should try to make as many connections as possible. That biological thread that genetically sews us all together is sometimes frayed and sometimes it knots up or gets torn, but it can be knotted back together...

    I'm sorry for your loss--the loss of a woman who could have given you some insight into your grandfather's life, and the loss of an opportunity.

  11. Ahab, Those are my questions, also, but the time is long ago and everyone got on with their lives. My surname name has changed at least three times in as many generations mostly to accommodate the predominant language.

    Sioux, Yes, there is a sense of loss, but the hope that new connections can be made should outweigh it. I can't imagine the suffering of families torn apart by war, disease, famine, etc. Not trying to help them get some semblance of life back seems cruel and inhuman. We are all related just by being the same species.

  12. How interesting to find a new branch of your family. Chuck's Mom (long deceased) was adopted and we were able to find her birth family, who were left anyway, six years ago. It has been wonderful getting to know them.
    Good luck with all this Jono!

  13. That's so interesting. I hope your overtures are accepted. My daughter did some genealogical research a few years ago, and although she didn't discover family we didn't know about, she learned a lot that we didn't know about certain family members.


  14. I mean no disrespect, but I'm guessing that 11% Irish in your DNA came from some unmarried 26 year old factory worker at some point in the dim distant past. (I envy you all who can trace your ancestors back to Europe, since my line (at least on my father's side) reaches a dead end with my grandparents who arrived sometime before 1900.)

  15. Cat Lover, How lucky you are to have found additional family! I hope to meet mine in person someday. For now it will just be correspondence.

    Janie J, The people are great, but the stories behind the ancestors can really be fascinating. Life wasn't always as easy as we seem to have it.

    Tom, I am not easily offended, but 11% would indicate a great grandparent at the least, but probably something closer. I initially blamed it on the Vikings, but I think your guess is probably better. Since both my parents came to the U.S. after WW2 most of my relatives are still in Europe. It's a great excuse to go there. I would bet some good research would get you back across the ocean.

  16. Wow, that's fascinating! As the current keeper of family records (more or less), I'm always interested in little offshoots like that. It's too bad you didn't get to meet your aunt, though. Hopefully the cousins will be amenable to contact.

  17. my Roycroft family had always thought we were Irish, then I started doing the search on and found out the Roycroft's came over in the Norman Invasion ..we were fecking vikings..
    I'd love to find some more of my kin from the Roycroft side.

  18. Diane, The latest is that one of my cousins in Oslo has to travel to Trondheim this week. I just found out that she will meet Johnny (the oldest of Ada Marie's children) and he is very excited about it!

    JACKIESUE, It's funny how so many of us aren't exactly who we thought we were. I thought your demeanor was more viking than anything. :)

  19. It's like going on a treasure hunt. How exciting! Also exciting (much, much more exciting)--you won my book. Do you want to email me your address at and I'll send it to you?

  20. Jenny, I haven't had this much good fortune in a long, long time! I will email you a little later. Thank you so much! Sarah Palin’s Expert Guide to Good Grammar: What You Can Learn from Someone Who Doesn’t Know Write from Right should be a great read!

  21. Fun fact: my birthday is also November 9th. However, it was not in 1925 (to my knowledge). has taught me so much about my family. In fact, my dad recently reached out to a cousin he didn't know he'd had, who only lives 30 minutes away. They had lunch, and now they hang out from time to time.

    So I hope you're able to connect with some of these 'new' family members.

  22. How exciting! Isn't it amazing how small the world has become with the Internet?

    My husband gave me one of those DNA kits for my birthday. Now I just have to sign up and spit in a cup...and wait. I'm expecting to be 100% German, because my family's records go back quite a few generations (the churches keep excellent records in Germany) and the ancestors are all from the same area. It will be really exciting if there is any other DNA!

    Well, from what I understand, there will be some Neanderthal DNA...

  23. ABFTS, Happy birthday in advance because I will not remember it come November. I have found a couple of cousins or they found me through all this genetic stuff. One is in NYC and the other in Australia. Both are very cool guys.

    Pixel Peeper, I can't wait for the surprise you get when you get the results. I thought I knew my background, but there were some surprises. Norway and Iceland have pretty good records, too, but people weren't always truthful about things that had social stigmas. Some days I think I have a LOT of Neanderthal DNA. Apparently, groups that never left Africa do not have any Neanderthal bits. Some of the trace DNA is the interesting stuff.

  24. I'm amused by the revelation you had about a centuries old dog race serum that connects you to extended family. Very cool, Jono. The stories from you keep getting more and more intriguing.

    Be well, friend.

  25. I missed this post, how could I miss this post, this is wonderful. Den't worry about telling them, these connections are too common to be life shattering. We all expect the the 'America cousin' to come forward at one point or another. What they do with the information however will depend on a number of things, not so much the death of their mother, but more the tmining and interest they have for these things. But the information will not be lost, even if they don't respond. It might take a generation before somebody is interested. (But do tell them if you are rich and if there could be an inheritance coming- we all expect the 'America cousin' to be wealthy. (Mine are but they are fourth cousins and there will be nothing left for me - but the families have kept in touch since they left 1905.)

  26. Genealogy and DNA make for interesting discoveries. Some you want to know about and some you may not. I do hope you can connect with your half something cousins and that they welcome you. In 2005 we connected with a branch of the family we knew existed but nothing more. I now have 3rd cousins living in Australia.
    I want to do the full meal deal on DNA, general, mtDNA and Y-Chromosome just to see what I can learn. Written history and Archaeology do not always agree; then throw in DNA and linguistics for a real confusing mix. A Dutch name but Polish ancestry could go back to Peter the Great who imported Dutch sailors and ship builders. 11% Irish is interesting, for sure.