I just received my results from Ancestry DNA. The results confirmed the research I’ve completed over the last 20 years that I am officially a displaced European “Mutt”!


For nearly two centuries, my genes were created by a indiscriminate breeding of the cast-off population of Scandinavia and Germany.  That my ancestors ended up in the Midwest portion of America by choice or a lack of direction is still under review. What is known is that all arrived seeking a better life for themselves or their family, not unlike the current crop of immigrant settling around us now.

My family history includes stories of young men and woman escaping war and famine. Some came for opportunities not available in their crowded homeland. Some were following their dreams, while others arrived because they drew the short straw! Whatever happened that made them take to the sea in the mid-eighteen hundreds, they all ended up as farmers and shopkeepers on the dusty plains of Dakota.

Together they survived because of a rugged independence imbued on them by the conditions they chose to settle in. They were a stubborn, some would say obstinate, people who made the best of their situation. (Who else would think that rotted cabbage and dried up whitefish (Sauerkraut and Lutefisk) could be cherished as the makings of a holiday treat?)

The fact that I still live happily in the rural midwest could be considered a testiment or a curse of the genes that shaped my being.

-CJ Holm

A Change in Direction For Me?

I have been posting to this blog for over a year now.  I have posted photos, short stories of family memories, various forms of poetry, and some things I would just term as miscellaneous.  The only thing they all have in common is that I have been mainly in the “send mode” and have been broadcasting bits and pieces of me since this blog started.

I’ve been so busy sending when what I would really like to be doing is receiving information.

For over 25 years I have been gathering genealogy data on my family history. I can tell you birthdates, marriage dates, spouse’s names, children’s names, places of birth, battle grounds, cemetery locations and all sorts of information that would amaze you. But what I really wanted to know is the why.

Why did my great, great, grandparents leave their homeland? Did anyone get left behind? Were they driven away or was it a grand adventure.

With the posts that I have already created as a background, I am going to try to ask some questions about specific cities, countries or events that someone else might have some information on.

For instance, one branch of my family is from Sweden. In 1855, my great, great, grandparents (Anders Eriksson) and his wife (Inga Stina Jean Pettersdottor Holm) left Eggvena Parish in Herrljunga, Älvsborg, Sweden with their first child (Anders Petter Andersson) to start a new life in America. Why they chose to come to follow his brother to Carver County in Minnesota is a mystery as this was new territory just opened for settlement.

They were easily among the first group of Swedes to leave and get a new start in the Midwest.

Why did they leave Eggvena? What happened to their parents? Were any brothers and sisters left behind? What happened to their first child? Did he die in the move?

I am looking to share information about what happened to our family if anyone has information on Eggvena and what their life would have been had they stayed.

Information on contacts with historians, genealogists, or historical societies would be welcome. I am interested in what life was like for them before they left and how many followed them.

Now I started the first part of the story, does anyone have something to add?

So Much To See In a Photo

– Clarence Holm

I posted a picture yesterday of two of my Aunts holding my father as a baby. All three plus their younger siblings have passed away. This picture is such a wonderful reminder of them. That is why sharing this with family and friends brings me such pleasure.

I spend so much time collecting and sharing genealogy, I do it as a way of keeping people I love with me. I look at the picture of my father and his sisters and they speak to me. The older girl seems to be holding her little brother so tightly as to protect him from the world. The other, the second oldest, is close, but is holding back a little bit, perhaps unsure of what this little boy is going to do to her position in the family.

Both girls are beautifully clothed, with their hair up in bows.  What is unseen is the fact that these children live on a farm in North Dakota, miles from the nearest city – No running water, bath water warmed on a stove. Their mother, my grandmother took great care in getting them ready for this picture.

That tenderness my grandmother shows through this picture. It’s could be easy for me to remember only her as working in the garden, pulling weeds or yelling at us for chasing and bothering the cattle in the pasture. She had a tough life, her father along with three sibling died before she was five. Her mother remarried a widower who had 5 children from the previous marriage and then 10 more before dying in childbirth with the 11th. My Grandmother helped raise them all.

She could have been excused for harboring some resentment because of a tough life – but she didn’t.

As the eldest boy, my father worked hard on the farm and I would like to think I have inherited some of his North Dakotan stoicism allowing me to accept that hard work is part of life.

But mainly I would like these people to know that through and because of them I am able to see beauty in so many parts of my life.

The Lambs of the Prairie

As a child my mother spoke gently of her family’s story and those that went before. She spoke of a special recollection of young children buried way too young on the plains of North Dakota. Her haunting stories spoke of the children buried beneath the plain white markers embossed with fading lambs representing their youth. The Prairie Rest Cemetery is solitary remembrance dedicated to the youngest lambs who died while establishing our state many years ago.

The Lambs of the Prairie

– Clarence Holm

Beneath the broad Dakota blue
On a hilltop kissed with morning dew
Were the silent lambs on prairie old
Lying peacefully, a family’s tears consoled.

Soundless sentinels endlessly resting
Reverent callers gazes arresting.
Their fading faces don’t betray
Machine etched stones, long in decay.

An eternal place of gathering,
Sweet memories in stone are offering
Old stories lost and gone
Waiting together for their eternal dawn.

Tales From The Rosencrans Family Tree

While my primary genealogy research has been on my family, I have done quite a bit of research on my wife’s paternal family tree (Rosencrans/Rosenkrans/Rosenkranz). While I knew that her family was an early arriver to America from Europe, I was surprised to discover just how early in colonial history it was.

My wife’s 7th great grandfather was Harmon Hendrick Rosenkrans, who was born in Norway in 1634 and had moved to Amsterdam in New Netherlands prior to 1657. According to census figures, the non-native American population was less than 60,000. Harmon married Magdalene Dirckse on March 3, 1657 in New Netherlands. Apparently his new wife had a sense of humor as illustrated by court records dated just a few days later.

“Only a few days after the wedding of Herman and Magdalena, the court records of New Amsterdam registered the following: [March 15, 1657] “The Scout N: de Silla, plaintiff v|s Madaleen Dirck and her bridegroom, defendants. The plaintiff says that the defendants have presumed to insult the Firewardens of this City on the public highway, and to make a street riot, according to the complaint made to his Worship. Requesting for the maintenance of the aforesaid gentlemen’s quality that the petitioners [?] be publicly punished or fined as their Worship shall think proper. Defendant Madaleen Dirck appears alone in Court; admits, that she and her sister passed by the door of the Firewarden Litschoe, and as they always joked, when the Firewarden came to their house, she said: ‘There is the chimney sweep in the door, his chimney is well swept, and not another word was said about it.’

Such behavior cannot, and ought not to be tolerated on account of its bad consequences, the Burgomaster’s condemn, as they do hereby, the above named Madaleen Dirck in a fine of two pounds Flemish, to be applied, one half for the Church and one half for the Poor, and notify her at the same time to avoid all such and similar faults, or in default thereof other disposition shall be made. Done in Court at the City Hall at Amsterdam in N. Netherland.”

-The Records of New Amsterdam, 1653 – 1674, VII., p. 146. 

To understand the seriousness of the fine, consider that a Flemish Pound was equal to 6 Dutch Guilders. On May 24, 1626 Peter Minuit, Director of the Dutch Colony was reported to have bought the entire Island of Manhattan from the Native Americans for goods valued at 60 Guilders. That would mean the fine leveled in Amsterdam on my wife’s 7th great grandmother was equal to one fifth the purchase price of Manhattan.

Obviously whatever was intended by her remarks was taken quite seriously.

John Holm – My Grandfather

John & Victoria Holm at Home

John & Victoria Holm at Home

My grandfather John Holm passed away August 31, 1951, just a little more than a year before I was born.  As a result he is the grandparent I know the least about.

Because of this, I should start this with the facts I’ve found. John Holm (no middle name) was born September 22, 1883 in Cologne, Carver County, MN the eldest child of John E Holm and Kathryn Ann Ranft. His parents were lifetime sweethearts, who defied the ethnic restrictions and combined their lives around their Swedish and German heritage. The blending of Swedish Lutheran Evangelism and Germanic Roman Catholicism resulted in my grandfather having a deep respect for education and a devotion to the lord. (Tempered with gusto for life enhanced by good German beers.)

In about 1883, he moved with his parents to the hills just west of Valley City. His father’s 1st cousin and boyhood friend, John Anderson, a real estate developer who controlled many sections of land, convinced John Erickson Holm to sell his mercantile in Cologne and bet it all on a new life in North Dakota. All went well until sometime in 1886 when a disastrous fire consumed the entire farm, sending my Grandfather and his family back to live with relatives in Minnesota. Ten years passed until John E Holm tried North Dakota again. (Although he didn’t officially move back to North Dakota till 1896 he actively worked the land near Cuba for many years during the summers leaving the family in Minnesota.) Together with his partner John Anderson he began another farming operation, this time on the flat treeless plains near Cuba, North Dakota (southeast of Valley City). Perhaps it was a testament to John E’s vision that he christened the area Meadow Grove Farm.

As a young teenager, John Jr. helped his father expand the farm to control many sections of land (A section of land is measured one mile long and one mile wide), while establishing a hardware/mercantile store serving the needs of the small Barnes County community. On November 11, 1911 John married Victoria Anna Schiele. Victoria had come to North Dakota to work on the Holm farm to help feed the growing group of hired hands that worked the expansive fields of wheat and durum that North Dakota was known for. Victoria was the sole remnant of her family, who joined the John Schug family when her widowed mother remarried. (John Schug was a cousin of Kathryn Ranft and many of Shug’s children came to North Dakota to work the Meadow Grove Farm).

Upon his marriage John and Victoria Holm were offered their choice of a section of land or the Cuba Mercantile. (It was a source of pride for my Great Grandfather that he had accumulated enough land to marry off each of his children and provide them with their own farm.) Rightly or wrongly John chose to farm and settled with his bride in Norma Township, just southwest of Cuba, ND.

John and Victoria had five children, Dorothy Anna Storbeck, Lucille Mary Kunze, my father Clarence Louis Holm, Evelyn Catherine Grant and Walter Ervin Holm. In each, John and Victoria established a strong work ethic, a love of the teachings of the Catholic Church, along with dreams of adventure and a taste for strong beer. (There seems to be a pattern evolving here)

From federal censuses I can track the family’s growth as sons and daughters married and either left the farm or stayed on the expanding farm. The original farm grew to three sections and provided shelter and sustenance for all who stayed.

From stories I’ve been told, my grandfather enjoyed life and took relish in simple pleasures, like capturing the images of farm life with his camera and tripod or driving with his grandchildren with long cane poles tied to the car, pursuing the wily “Sunnies” that inhabited the nearby Sheyenne River that flowed through the valley just west of his farm. From photos I glimpse a man, well-rounded from good German cooking served with plenty of Swedish meatballs along with an occasional touch of Lutefisk and a side of apple flavored sauerkraut.  If I look closely, I catch in his eyes a twinkle that he retained in the face of a life that included his share of challenges.

I don’t recall my father speaking much of his dad, other than the time my mother decided I should shave off a youthful mustache I had grown in the summer of my senior year of high school. While she went on and on about how horrible it looked and how it would reflect badly on me when I went looking for work, my father waited patiently for the storm to pass and stated, “I never saw my father without a mustache and if a son of mine wants to grow one that would be his decision.” My mother never spoke of my choice of facial hair again.

While I can’t say for certain that he was without faults, I can tell you I know my father loved and respected him and missed him dearly when he was gone.




1885 Julius Nicoli Family Homesteading Claim Proved

1885 Julius Nicoli Family Homesteading Claim Proved

– Clarence Holm

They came in search of independence,
Dream chasers from the east.
On tracts of land, sustained attendance,
A family’s debt would be released.

With hope so high couple’s sought their fame
On the prairie of Dakota.
They broke the sod and made a claim
A quarter section filled their quota.

The first year flew, so much to do,
There spirits would not weaken.
Another year the hardships grew
Their faith became a beacon.

The third year came, a second child was due
Space had become a problem.
More sod was cut to house the crew
The home began to blossom.

At the end of five the claim was proved,
The family had beaten the trial
Their land was theirs, the debt removed
And the effort seemed worthwhile.

The Genealogist Cometh

Recently I heard of a cat named Oscar that lives in Providence, Rhode Island. It seems his accuracy to predict the impending death of elderly hospice patients has been documented in the New England Journal of Medicine. Oscar has successfully indicated impending passing’s in over 25 cases by curling up next to them during their patients final hours. What is even more eerie is that Oscars normal disposition to humans is to be aloof at best. It seems that the cat, which had been adopted by the home, patrols the halls sniffing at the doors, stopping only to visit during the patients last few hours of life.

Doctors are at a loss to explain the phenomenon!

Over the years, I have collected the memories of relatives and kin in hopes of preserving a heritage that is quickly slipping away. While I have managed to document thousands of lives, many of the more than 41,000 names in my records are nothing more than letters and numbers on my tree. With each passing day more information is lost.

I recently read a blog entry by thegenealogygirl in which she quotes Guy Black, who states that “family history is a perishable commodity”. Thegenealogygirl posted it because it addresses a question that had been posed in a discussion group she participated in, “What is the one thing you wish you had known when you first started working on your family history?” She goes on to say that this discussion is driving her current line of research.

Now at first glance the cat mentioned above and the genealogy blog may seem unrelated, but in practice I have struggled with the knowledge that the memories I am seeking are fleeting and in many cases my inquiries requesting information are tied with circumstances, most often than not, associated with death and dying. Much like the cat in the story, my letters to relatives end up resting on the laps of individuals during their last days on earth and unlike the cat I am unable to complete my mission of collecting their memories.

The coincidental circumstances of my letters arrival and the occasion of the relatives recent death always brings a pang of remorse at the missed opportunity to share their hopes and dreams that fed their movements through life. Each lost recipe, each fragrant memory of lilacs in the spring and the smell of bread in the oven are tragic.

Sometimes the realization that I need to hurry to visit one of my older relatives holds me back, like an unconscious desire to prolong their life by ignoring the passage of time. But in the end I know that in the majority of instances, my relatives want to share their information and I have been tasked as the “Family Historian” to gather these golden memories.

As one of the doctors in Oscar’s story postulated, perhaps he was only “seeking a warm blanket”. Sometimes I, like Oscar, am looking for memories to keep me warm on my own journey through life.

1915 Canadian Land Opportunity

Talk On Western Canada

    Taking from the January 14, 1915 Weekly Valley Herald, Chaska, MN – Page 3

“You Don’t have to Lie About Canada – The Simple Truth Is Enough.

The Natural resources of the country are so vast that they cannot be told in mere figures. Man can only tell of what tine portions have done. He can only say, “I am more prosperous than I ever expected to be.” And yet, if a farmer expects to succeed on land the has been forced to pay $50 to $100 an acre for he ought to feel assured of attaining prosperity when he finds the richest prairie soil at his disposal absolutely free. If he has a little capital, let him invest it all in live stock and farm implements – he will find himself ten years ahead of the game. Some day such a chance will not be found anywhere on the face of the globe. But now the same opportunities await you as awaited the pioneer and not one hundredth part of the difficulties he encountered and overcame. Success in Canada is made up of two things, natural resources and human labor. Canada has the one and you the other. A postal card stands between you and the Canadian government agent. If you don’t hold these two forces and enjoy the fruits of the results it is your own fault.

Debt and Canada Will Not Stand Hitched.

You want a cozy home, a free life, and sufficient income. Your want education for your children, and some pleasure for your wife. You want independence. Your burden has been heavy, and your farm hasn’t paid, you worked hard and are discouraged.

You require a change. There is a goal within sight, where your children will have advantages. You can get a home in Western Canada, freedom, where your ambitions can be fulfilled. If the Prairie Province of Canada are full of Successful Farmers why should you prove the exception? Haven’t you got brains, experience, courage? Then prove what these are capable of when put on trial. It is encouraging to know that there is one country in the world where poverty is no barrier to wealth; own your own car; own yourself; be somebody.

For facts write to any Canadian government agent. Advertisement.”