Category Archives: Stories

Anna Hamre, unmasked

Today another brickwall came down as a result of DNA analysis. Brickwalls are often left in place when documentation can’t get you back to your forebears. Today we finally know who Anna Hamre was back in Norway. Born in 1834, Anna Hamre came to America and married John (Johan) Dahle. Few records exist to place her though it was fair to assume she was from a place called Hamre. After a DNA match to a Christopher Hamre descendent of Southern Minnesota, the search was on. Eventually it was confirmed that Christopher had a sister Anna also born in  May of 1835 and they were from Hamre.  No other family matches would have provided the distance in the calculation and after a bit of digging at Digital Arkivet, the match was made.

Anna Hamre was born Anna Christophersdotter on the 21st of May, 1835 in Leikanger, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. They lived at Hamre and then at Veten just west of Leikanger. This is not to be confused with Hamre church close to Bergen, which is the former municipality of Hamre.

It’s a great feeling when a brickwall comes down!

A witch! A witch!

Naturally the first question you might ask is, does she weigh the same as a duck? However witches in historic American narratives have a much darker past. As it stands, we have one in ours and her story is worth remembering to this day.

Her name is Ann (Alcock) Foster and she died in prison in Salem Massachusetts. She was accused of witchcraft after some people who were searching for the source of another woman’s illness “fell into fits” upon seeing her. At that time she was 72 years of age. She was “put to the question” (tortured for her confession) but refused to admit any wrong doing. It wasn’t until they threatened to charge her daughter and grand-daughter as well, that she finally accepted the charges and pled her guilt. Convicted after two and a half years, she went to prison where she died 21 weeks later.

Her Son and our ancestor Abraham petitioned the authorities after the trials were discredited and ended to recoup the money spent on her upkeep in prison. This was considered testament to her innocence.

Now for a twist on this story, the other side of the Salem witch trials was the Putnam family, amongst which we also have family members. That’s right, the great grand-daughter of Deacon Edward Putnam married the 2x great grand-son of Ann Foster. In fact, one of Ann Foster’s accusers was Ann Putnam, Edward’s niece. We can hope the reconciliation was touching.

When researching genealogy you find a very human story.


Achiulf King of the Ostrogoths

Lets take a moment to discuss the farthest reaching relative in any of the trees posted here. That is Achiulf. Now first, this research is not our own. It comes from a worldbook encyclopedia of research on a tree at which was shared. This connection is through Charlemagne and the link to Charlemagne is well documented. However does that mean we should call ourselves descendents of the Ostrogoths? Well sure, if you want your friends to look at you sideways.

In the end the ancient records on this site are more for informational purposes to show how diverse human progress has been and how our lives were shaped by it. You cannot get to know Achiulf. Not a lot is even written about the Amali dynasty on Wikipedia. However it is an interesting dive into history none the less. Take it for what it is. A curiosity and a reason to see the whole world as tied together in an amazing organic way.

The Missing Child

Genealogy can be an exciting past time for those who like puzzles. One would think it is the monotonous review and regurgitation of records kept over the centuries but you must consider that the goal of many of these records was to settle legal matters for those communities at that time. The idea that these records would be used this way hundreds of years later was a novel or unheard of concept.

However it is not always what you see but what you don’t see that leads you to discovery. In the case of Karen Anderson, this led us to an unknown child. It was known that she lived in Minnesota with her two sons, Christ and Andrew. However in her 1900 census response, she indicated that she had been the mother of 7 children. She listed 3 as living. Simple math leads us to the conclusion that as of 1901, Christ and Andrew had another sibling.

Little was known about this sibling until we found the family on the 1880 US Federal Census. There we find Christopher, Caren, Christian and a 6 year old daughter by the name of Clara.

To date little has been discovered about Clara. She would have been married likely by the 1900 census and using another name but the search continues. You have to know someone is there to search for them and sometimes your only clue is that someone should be there.

They Came to America

It was long believed that the Bly family in America started with Christ and Andrew Bly who immigrated to America from Norway. Our oldest generation was told that their parents were Christopher and Karen. It wasn’t until the discovery of a Christopher Anderson buried near Foston, MN that we discovered that Andrew and Christ came to America with their parents.

Some digging revealed Christopher Anderson’s original homestead from 1891. A review of the original land grant showed not only that the property is still clearly identifiable from arial photography but that his burial was done at a church built on the corner of his original homestead!

The story here is mainly from oral tradition. It goes that the family came to America around 1870. Much of their records went up in the great fire in Chicago. However we have come to find some records that suggest when and how some of the family arrived through emigration records and one record in Quebec where they would have stopped off on the way to Chicago. After some unknown time in Chicago, they moved to Douglas County, Minnesota. It was at this time that they discovered Bly Creek which would later give our family its name.

Karen appears to have immigrated first, bringing four children with her. Bertha, Karelius or Torveig, Andrew and Christ. Nothing is known about the first two and they appeared to have died before 1900.  Christopher appears to have come at a later date as we do not find him on the ships manifest.

Through extensive review of a bydgebok found at the University of Minnesota by some experienced genealogists at, we have discovered much more about the family and their ancestors in Norway.

Viva La Revolution

The Smith family is interesting in that there is very little recent immigration compared to other families. Most of the ancesters were in the “New World” in the 17th century, either in New France or the English colonies. Many of their children would later become the revolutionaries that set our country up for battle against England.

A number of relatives were soldiers in the US revolution including:

If you’re looking to join the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution, now is your chance.

A Brown By Any Other Name

Many would with reason, conclude that the Brown surname is in fact a German name. Braun after all is a long dated and historic family name from the Germanic states. However in this case, in so far as we have been able to research, the Brown name in this case is Norwegian.

Johan Johannessen Brown was born in Sogn og Fjordane in Norway in 1833.  The use of a family name in Norway was unique around this time. It would be another 50 years before this practice became common. Little is known about the family origins and it is reasonable to assume that they may have been immigrants around that time as well into Norway. What is known however is that Johan Brown did immigrate to the US in 1860 and served an enlistment in the US Civil War. He died quite young in 1871 at age 37.

Origins of the Surname – Bly

First it is important to recognize that there are a large number of families which use the surname of Bly. Our family has only used this name since the early 20th century. The family immigrated under the name Andersen from Norway in the late 19th century.

The story carried down over the years tells of two homesteads about ten miles apart. Back then groceries, supplies and other goods would be delivered to the farms. Unfortunately both farms were under the name Anderson and this resulted in confusion. It is said that Andrew first took the name of Bly to avoid this issue.  In fact the original homestead claim is the first time where Andrew’s name is shown as Andrew Anderson Bly in 1902. Christ later adopted this surname as well.

It is said that they chose the name Bly because of a creek where they liked to fish. Interestingly Bly in Norwegian is their word for “lead” like the metal. While they surely would have known this, no part of the story mentions this. However we have found that in Douglas County where the family lived for a short time after arriving in Minnesota, there was in fact a Bly Creek which to this day is a very popular fishing location.

Opsahl in America

In the course of researching genealogy there are no shortages of mysteries to ascertain. One of those mysteries still outstanding is that behind a young girl named Annie Opsahl who came to America in 1915. Settling in Northfield she took a job as a housekeeper before she met Per Algot (later Algot Pearson) who she would marry.

She is one of the cases of an immigrant who appears to have come without her family. In fact researching girls her age with a similar name it would appear that Annie was an orphan. At a young age a girl matching her name and age was living with a family west of Oslo (then Christiania) as a “house servant”. Later in her 20s she can be found east of Oslo working as a house keeper and her religion is listed as “Salvation Army”. This is a unique situation which has not been explained by experienced genealogists from Norway.

Whatever the case this young woman would go on to help create a new name for their family in America.

UPDATE, 2023: Annie was finally identified as Anna Gurine Olsen, born July 29th, 1887 in Delbekk, Opsal, Nes, Akershus, Norway. She was the daughter of Sigvart Olsen of Opsaldelbekk and Elen Indiane Halvorsdatter of Skogen.

Bistodeau Babies

If there was a family which took the phrase “go forth and multiply” seriously it was the Bistodeau’s. In fact there are hundreds documented in the family tree. At a recent reunion for a small part of the family, the sign posted only had a letter “B” because they didn’t want to put out the call to the hundreds of people who might just happen by.

If you are a Bistodeau from Albertville, MN or related to one, you very likely descent of Louis Oliver Bistodeau who immigrated from Canada. Louis had 13 children. His children went on to have double digit families. There are in essense innumerable numbers of Bistodeaus out there and amongst the many families launched from them.

Much is known about Louis. He was a doctor and he obviously liked delivering babies. (Or making them. This topic is not currently under great speculation.) Either way, he was successful in the process. Pictures of Louis are posted and of much of the family. Click here for a direct link.