Category Archives: Bly Family

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.

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.