Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Part 6

The naturalization record for Sigurd Nelson that I ordered from the Iron Range Research Center arrived last Saturday and I'd give the process a 9 out of 10. The online index was easy to search, the online ordering process went smoothly, and communication from the Center was great. Three days before the document arrived I received a pleasant email letting me know that it had been mailed. The only thing that would have made it better? Receiving the record in digital format a few days quicker. (See The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Part 5)

If you've read previous posts, you'll remember that I am searching for the wife and child of a man named Sigurd Nelson. The researcher who's interested in them believes that they died of influenza before 1920 but he doesn't know anything more about them.

I have reason to believe that the Sigurd Nelson who was living in Duluth is the man the researcher is interested in and I was hoping that this Sigurd's naturalization record would give me the name of his wife and child.

Finally--a clue. The naturalization took place on 7 May 1920 and Sigurd's wife was listed as Myrtle, born 19 November 1899 in West Duluth, Minnesota.

A quick search of the 1920 census told me that Myrtle's middle initial was "L."

So, the Duluth Sigurd Nelson married a woman named Myrtle L. sometime between 5 June 1917 (draft registration card) and 8 January 1920 and it's very likely that he married her in Duluth.

Even though the researcher told me that he thought the wife and child died before 1920, I don't think I can rule this person out. It's possible that the "before 1920" conclusion was made because the family hadn't been able to find the family in the census in Chicago.

So, what's the next step?

Go after a marriage record? The client gave me parent names. If they're listed, I would learn Myrtle's maiden name (if I have the right family and if she did die, perhaps she's buried with her family in Duluth?)and be certain that I had the right Sigurd. (The researcher gave me parent names.)

Look for the death of a Myrtle Nelson in Duluth just after 1920?

Look for Myrtle's death in Chicago?

Look for a birth record to a child born to Myrtle and Sigurd?

See if I can find Myrtle and Sigurd in the 1930 census to rule them out?

Check Duluth city directories to see if Sigurd appears and if he then disappears?

What do you think? I'd love to hear your ideas.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cook County Circuit Court Archives: Criminal Case Index, 1873-1944

Recently a researcher asked if I could check indexes at the Circuit Court Archives for a crime that happened c. 1922. I'm always happy to learn something new and so I said I'd give it a try. I'm no expert on using this resource, but maybe a few quick notes about my experience will be helpful to someone else.

The microfiche index with the title "Counter Index Alpha Criminal Div" is kept in a thick black notebook on top of the filing cabinets. It covers 1873-1944, but some years are missing.

The entries for the earliest years are docket book pages. Information includes the name(s) of the defendant(s), the indictment number, the reason for indictment, a dollar amount that's probably bail, and brief dated notations that probably document various steps as the case proceeds. One of the cases had a December 1879 entry that seemed to read "Cont [or Cout] by Agt" and an August 1880 entry that said "Stricken off &c."

The later years have index pages with columns that read "Defendant," "Original Indictment #," "Charge," and "Amt of Bail." The pages are numbered and a date (month/year) is often stamped on.

The entries aren't alphabetical, but they're grouped by first letter of surname in chronological order and they're fairly easy to search. In my search, I looked at names and then checked the Charge column to take a closer look at the cases that might have been a match.

So what kinds of cases are recorded in these indexes? Skimming a single page I found entries that included

Rape, etc.
Burg, etc.
Asslt intent to murder
Con games

What's the next step if you find a match in the index? The best answer can be found on the Archives list of holdings. If the records are still available, follow up. If not, perhaps the information gleaned from the index would lead to newspaper articles or other indirect sources of information.

For my search, I didn't find a match, but the files for the 1922 cases aren't available anyway. If I had been successful, though, the indictment records still exist.

So, now that I've had a first-look at the index fiche, I'd like to give it another try and I'm looking for a test case. If you are researching someone who might be mentioned in the Criminal Case Index, let me know. If you can narrow down the date--perhaps the crime is mentioned in the newspaper--email me. If I choose your project to work on, I'll check the index and follow up for free as long as you give me permission to blog about the search. (Disclaimer: If I came across a large file and you wanted me to copy more than what I needed for my post, I'd ask you to help with copy costs.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Part 5

The researcher who is looking for Sigurd Nelson's family members provided me with new information a couple of days ago and looking back on it tonight, the birth place he sent reminded me of the World War I Draft Registration Card that I mentioned in a previous post.

The "Kristiana, Norway" from the email seems like a great match for the "Christiana, Norway" on the card for Sigurd Godferd Nelson. Earlier today I had a hunch that I might be on the right track. Now I'm thinking that I really might be.

The Duluth newspaper mentioned that Sigurd G. Nelson had naturalized with other veterans in 1920 and I decided to go looking for an online index. I found one at the website for the Iron Range Research Center in Chisholm, Minnesota.

A search for Sigurd Nelson brought up five possibilities with one clear match.

The fee to order the record was $10 and I went ahead and placed the request. If Sigurd filled out the usual forms, I'm very likely to find a spouse and child listed. If not, it was worth the gamble. I think I will put this search on hold until the record arrives and then pick it up again.

Fingers crossed. It would be so much easier to search for deaths if I had names.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Post 4

Note: If you haven't been following my posts, you can find background information for the search in The Search for Mrs. Nelson and Child Begins.

A number of years ago I spent some time searching Duluth newspapers at and so I decided to see what I could find out about Conrad and Sigurd Nelson using that approach.

A search for "sigurd nelson" in Minnesota newspapers brought up seventeen results. One was a mis-match. Seven were for a Sigurd G. Nelson who was an elected representative from Ironwood, Michigan. That left nine possibilities.

Among them I fould Sigurd the divinity student and Sigurd the young single man attending social events. It's possible this is the same person. Then I found Sigurd the soldier--possibly two men. One was mentioned as Sigurd and the other was mentioned as Sigurd G. Sigurd G. returned to be naturalized after the war. And then there were two mentions of a Sigurd being arrested for vagrancy, one before the war and one after. It's hard to tell if this is one man or two but it's likely that it's not the divinity student.

1912: Sigurd charged with vagrancy; testimony by boarding house matron from 615 W Superior who caught him going through another boarder's pockets

1915-Aug: Sigurd attends the birthday part for Miss Amanda Dignes, 27 N 66th Ave West

1915-Sep: Sigurd, a divinity student at Northwestern Theological College, goes to Chicago

1915-Nov: Sigurd Nelson to speak in the Norwegian-Danish M.E. Church

1915-Nov: Sigurd Nelson to speak in the Norwegian-Danish M.E. Church

1918-Jul: Sigurd Nelson among draftees leaving for Ohio

1918-May: Sigurd G. Nelson of 109 N 63rd Ave West is among draftees leaving for Ohio

1920-May: Judge grants citizenship to former soldiers including Sigurd G. Nelson

1919-Aug: Sigurd Nelson a guest at an Onaway Club Weiner Roast

1921-Jan: Sigurd Nelson is arrested for vagrancy

I'm not sure what to think except that the Sigurd G. who went to war is a possibility if the brother of the man I'm looking for was living in Duluth. I'll think on it over night and decide what my next step will be. In the meantime, if you have suggestions, please post.

The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Post 3

Note: If you haven't been following my posts, you can find background information for the search in The Search for Mrs. Nelson and Child Begins.

The researcher tells me that Sigurd was born 13 January 1894 in Norway and I've decided to try to use that information to find a matching record in's World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.

I usually start with bare bones information to see what I'm up against and a search for "sigurd nelson" yielded 316 matches--to many to scroll through at this point. I edited the search and added a birth year of 1894 +/- 2 years. That narrowed the search to 218 results. I'm not 100% sure that he was living in Cook County at the time he would have registered, so I added a January birth month. This gave me three results.

*Sigurd A. Nelson, born 14 Jan 1892 in Illinois (living in Cook County)

*Sigurd Nelson, born 22 Jan 1893 in Wisconsin (living in Pacific, Washington)

*Sigurd Godferd Nelson, born 31 Jan 1894 in Norway (living in Duluth, Minnesota)

The birth dates for the first and third were close enough to earn a careful look.

The first man was married and was claiming an exemption because of his wife and because of his work for the telephone company. He was born in the United States. It's likely that he's the Sigurd A. that I'm inclined to rule out based on yesterday's research. (See Post 2)

The third man was single, born in Christiana, Norway. He was employed as a car repairer for a railroad. Checking my notes, the researcher hasn't mentioned Sigurd's birth town but he did give me additional information.

Sigurd had these siblings:

Conrad, 15 Jun 1885, married to Caspara Christenson and living in Berlin, New Hampshire in 1916. Son Arthur died at age 1.
Johann, 1889
Abraham, 1887

Their parents were Johannes Magnus Nilson 1852 and Anna Kristine Kristensen 1858.

I decided to look to for a draft registration card for Conrad to see where he was born. Searching with the birth month and year returned 384 possible matches, none with the exact birth date. I narrowed the search to New Hampshire with no luck. Scanning down the list, though, I found a John Emanuel Conrad Nelson born 11 July 1885 living in Duluth. (It wouldn't surprise me to find an unmarried brother living in the same place as a married brother especially since the researcher had suggested that Conrad might have taken care of Sigurd's wife and child when he went off to war.) This man's wife is listed as "Caspara" which matches the name the researcher gave me. I was hoping that the addresses on the two cards would match, but they don't.

I'm not one to jump to conclusions but when something seems promising, I like to follow up. I think my next step will be to find out more about this Sigurd and Conrad Nelson.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Post 2

I am searching for the unknown wife and child of Sigurd Nelson. (See The Search for Mrs. Nelson and Child Begins for details.)

FamilySearch's Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947 seemed like a good first step because spouse names are included the database.

I chose the advanced search option typed in "sigurd nelson" with 1916-1922 with "Exact & Close match" selected. No matches were found. I removed the dates and searched again. This retrieved three records:

*Sigurd A. Nelson who died in 1944, wife Emma, parents listed

*Sigurd A. M. Nelson Jr., the son of Sigurd A. M. Nelson and Anna W. Bietan who died 23 May 1921. His birthdate was given as 20 Oct 1817 but he was three years old so he was likely born in 1917.

*Anna Cathrine Maurer who died at the age of 44, the daughter of Sigvard Nelson.

I decided to follow up on Sigurd A. M.

A search for "sigurd nelson" in FamilySearch's Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920 brought up 13 matches. The researcher told me that Sigurd arrived in 1912, so repeated the search with a narrower date range and got five results. Four were for women named Sigrid. One was the match for the parents of Sigurd A. M.

Groom: Sigurd A. Nelson
Groom's Estimated Birth Year: 1891
Groom's Birthplace: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Bride: Emma Bietan
Bride's Estimated Birth Year: 1893
Bride's Birthplace: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Marriage Type: Marriage
Marriage Date: 06 Sep 1916
Marriage Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois

I know that Sigurd was born in Norway but I can't rule out the match based on the groom's birthplace. The Chicago marriage licenses didn't ask where the parties were born; they asked where the parties were living.

I decided to learn more about Sigurd, Emma, and Sigurd, Jr. from the 1920 census from

According to the census, Sigurd was born in Illinois to Swedish parents and Emma was born in Illinois to German parents. Sigurd is an office clerk for a telephone company. Based on birth place, this doesn't seem like the person I'm looking for but I won't rule him out yet.

Notice that the marriage license lists the bride as "Emma Bietan" and the death record gives the mother as "Anna W. Bietan" and the census lists the wife as "Emma" with "Sigurd, Jr." in the household. I think Emma and Anna are the same person.

Looking back to the first death index search, there's a Sigurd A. Nelson with wife Emma who died 16 Jan 1944. I think I can cross this family off the list of possibilities.

So, back to square one a little farther ahead.

I decided to make a quick check of the directory at The best choice was 1917 but there was only one image available. (I KNOW that but I always forget. I'll have to use the microfilm copy the next time I'm at the Family History Center.) I checked 1923 instead.

There were four people of that name in the city in 1923.

I think I'll poke around in World War I draft registration cards next to see if I can figure out where Sigurd was living and what his occupation was. If I had an address, I could look for matches in the Chicago Death Index, 1871-1933.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Search for Mrs. Nelson and Child Begins


Recently someone asked for help finding out what happened to the wife and child of "Captain Sigurd Nelson." I haven't been able to turn up anything quickly but I think there are answers in Chicago records and I'm not ready to give up.

I thought blogging might be an interesting way to keep track of a multi-step search done over a number of days and so I offered to take on the project as a no-charge challenge in return for permission to talk about the search in a public forum.

The Starting Point

Name of wife unknown

Wife died in a flu epidemic, 1918-19??

Child of unknown age and gender also died from flu

Sigurd died at age 32 in 1926 and is buried at Montrose Cemetery

Sigurd has no grave marker and no family members are buried with him

Sigurd was born in Norway in 1894

Sigurd came to the United States in 1912 at age 18

Sigurd's military records destroyed in 1972 St. Louis fire

Sigurd had an older brother Conrad in Chicago

Conrad might have taken care of Sigurd's wife/child during the war

Other relatives buried at Mount Olive on Narragansett

Research Ideas

I can think of many ways to approach this search but I think the most obvious first step is to check FamilySearch's Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947. Spouse names are often included in the search results and a death record for a Nelson woman who died c. 1918 with a husband Sigurd would be a very likely match.

Using the Family History Library Record Lookup Service

Have you heard about the Family History Library Record Lookup Service? It's a very convenient way to obtain digital copies of Chicago vi...