Chasing a dream: Family searches area for relatives

Editor’s note: The Olsen family recently visited Ishpeming in search of ancestors. They hope that someone reading this story can help with information regarding their great-grandparents.

I had been dreaming of this for years, now along with my sisters, Marlene Olmstead and Deanna Lovett, we decided to follow that dream and find the path leading to our great-grandfather. Known to us only as A..J Forsberg, we knew it was time to find this missing link of our ancestry!

Having only the adoption papers that listed him as the sole survivor of our grandmother, Martha Maria Forsberg, her birth date of March 13, 1896, born in Ishpeming, gave us little information to begin searching. Our great-grandfather placed Martha for adoption at the Children’s Home Society in Minneapolis, Minn., in December. Martha was adopted eighteen months later and renamed Gladys Hazel Tolman.

With the help of the Internet, we found an A.J. Forsberg listed in the 1880 Census in Ishpeming, living with Carl and Anna Forsberg (maybe siblings) in the Carl Lind household. He was a 22-year-old miner, coming to the U.S. from Sweden, but we wanted to know more and if this was our great-grandfather.

So here we were, our bags packed, maps in hand and the GPS pointing toward Ishpeming, not knowing where this would lead us; but ready to search for answers for our mom, Ormalyn, and her brother, Quentin Oleson,

Arriving in Ishpeming Monday, we checked into the hotel and unpacked. Tuesday morning, we stopped for breakfast at the Country Grill and met some very friendly residents of Ishpeming. Our waitress, Nancy Jones, found phone numbers of Forsberg families and Peter Filizett was excited to share information he knew.

We laughed when he said, “At least there is some excitement around here today!” Our next stop was The Mining Journal. We were told that all records were kept in Marquette. Then, off to Cliff’s Shaft Mining Museum where a few helpful guys listened to our story, but were sad to say records did not go back that far, telling us to check Carnegie Library downtown.

Next, we visited the courthouse looking for marriage records. The clerk, Cheryl, was unable to find anything with the little information we had. Then, at the library we viewed the 1896 issues of the Iron Ore Newspaper on microfilm, not finding anything of use in that search.

After lunch, we called June Forsberg, whom I had contacted years earlier. She invited us to visit at 4 p.m. Her daughter would be there and we could look through information she saved. Meanwhile, we stopped at the Ishpeming Cemetery, only to find that the office was closed until morning. Looking around, we spotted a Carl Forsberg family plot and took pictures, hoping they may be related somehow.

Then it was time to visit June and daughter, Lynn Healy. They were as excited as we were wanting to find a connection. Glancing at pictures we brought along, Lynn commented that her niece resembled our grandmother’s baby picture. They shared copies of family pictures, including June’s husband, Burton, his dad, mom, brothers and sisters. After much discussion and looking through records, Lynn showed us the Forsberg Homestead still standing on New York Street. Then it was back to the cemetery to take pictures of her family’s tombstones. Leaving the cemetery, we said goodbye to Lynn and thanked her for their hospitality in accepting us on such short notice.

Wednesday morning, we stopped at the Country Grill for breakfast. Our new friends, Peter, Bobby, Wayne and Nancy were waiting anxiously to hear if we had any new developments in our search. After taking pictures with us, they headed out the door and wished us good luck in our search. Finishing our breakfast, we went back to the cemetery, and found many Forsberg names on their register. We spotted a baby Forsberg plot, but the section of graves were so old, the names were not visible, many were only marked with crosses or flowers.

When we reached Marquette, our first stop was Forsberg Flowers. The owner, LouAnn Balding, said her maiden name was Forsberg, but did not believe we were related. She did say that in Sweden, all the Forsbergs were related, so maybe we were related back in Sweden.

Our next stop was the courthouse. After talking to employees and hitting dead ends, they suggested we try the historical museum across the street. Off we went to the museum where we began looking through books of history and census but not finding anything. Beth Gruber and Rosemary Michelin, the librarians at the museum, suggested we go back to the courthouse, ask for Martha’s birth record instead of Gladys Tolman.

Marlene and I went back while Deanna continued to page through the books. The girls at the courthouse said records were destroyed or sealed when adopted and therefore not available unless we went through probate court in Minnesota where grandmother was adopted. So, we hunted for marriage records of Forsberg from 1880 on; no results except for a few names that we recorded for our records just in case the name came up later in our search. We were told that records of the years of 1882 to 1890 were destroyed in a fire, so more disappointing news.

We hurried back to see if Deanna found anything new. Looking through old directories, we spotted many Forsberg names. Beth and Rosemary were excited at that point thinking they found our great-grandparents. They came across an Albin and Katharine Forsberg and three living children (two deceased) living in Ishpeming in that time frame. Katharine passed away in February of 1896 and Rosemary thought that grandmother may have been born earlier than the date on her adoption papers.

They kept searching and found Albin had been married three times. Albin married Katherine Johnson in 1884, then married Lovisa in 1900 Census, then the 1910 Census his wife was Annie Sundstrom, in the 1920 Census he was living with a brother, Oscar. Albin was born July 20, 1860, died Nov. 16, 1925 in Ishpeming and buried in the Ishpeming Cemetery.

Albin and Katharine’s children were David, Carl, Helga and two deceased children named Henry, born September 1885, who died two months later, and Simon, born Aug. 6, 1888, who died eight months later, maybe a twin to David. Albin was employed by the Cleveland Cliffs Mine. We were hopeful with this information that we may have found our great-grandparents. We said good-bye to Beth and Rosemary, thanking them for all their help, promising to let them know of any other information we find.

Thursday morning, we packed for our trip home, stopped for breakfast and found our friends waiting for us. We were later than usual as we had to check out of our hotel. Peter had a huge smile on his face when we walked in and said he thought we had left without saying good-bye. We said, “No way, we couldn’t leave without a final good-bye and some South Dakota hugs.”

After saying goodbye to Peter, Wayne and Bobby, (Nancy had the day off), our waitress sat us at “our table” and mentioned we brought smiles to Peter during our stay! The folks in Ishpeming and Marquette treated us like family and it was sad to leave our new friends, not knowing if we would see them again.

After breakfast, we visited Albin’s homestead, which is still standing on Bank Street. Next, stopping at the cemetery to find Albin’s grave, we located the tombstones of Albin, Katherine and other family tombstones. After a tearful goodbye to our great-grandparents, we headed to the Bethany Lutheran Church to find records of Albin’s and Katherine’s marriage. Karen Kasper, the archivist, would not be in until morning, so we left information for her to contact us through email.

After grabbing a cup of mocha, we drove off, watching Ishpeming disappear through the back window. Our thoughts were going in many directions, wondering if we really found the right family and wanting to believe that we did. Good bye Ishpeming, it’s been an interesting adventure and a sad feeling that we may never pass this way again!

Then back home, something unbelievable happened. God answered our prayers and what a blessing that was! I received an email from Karen and many of our questions were answered. After asking her to search for Albin, I mentioned grandmother’s full birth name and date that was on the adoption papers.

Karen searched and there it was, grandmother’s baptismal record with this information: Martha Maria Forsberg was baptized on March 30, 1896 at Bethany Lutheran Church. Her birth date was recorded as March 10, 1896 (she was born three days earlier than the adoption papers recorded). Her parents were Andres (Andrews) Gustaf Forsberg and Hilda Beckman. Anders became a member of Bethany on Dec. 3, 1893.

Andres and Hilda were not married at Bethany, but records Karen found showed their marriage date was June 7, 1895. Andres was born in Norrbacke, Kopparsberg, Sweden, April 10, 1866, coming to America in 1893. Hilda’s nationality was Swedish, but it’s not known where she grew up or when she came to America.

Andres dropped his membership in 1896, giving our grandmother up for adoption. Andres’s father was Jno (John or Johan) and Hilda’s father was George Beckman. We have yet to find Hilda and Andres’ death records or any information after Andres dropped his Bethany membership. Grandmother Gladys was told her mother died in childbirth and her father placed her for adoption.

We do know that Andres and Hilda lived in National Mine, one of the Upper Peninsula’s ghost towns, located south of Ishpeming.

Our ancestors came to America with their dreams and now we continue to chase our dream and keep searching until we find all the answers that we’re looking for. The cities of Ishpeming and Marquette, and our friends that shared in our dream, will forever remain in our hearts!

Merolyn Olsen’s address is 212 Clark St., Viborg S.D. 57070.