Saturday, January 25, 2014

Johan Roy Tolve Johansen

I wrote a story about my grandfather, Roy T. Johansen, in the third week of the "52 Ancestors" goal for 2014. This is the fourth week and I am writing another story about the same grandfather. He was born in February 1900 at Omaha, Nebraska to Danish immigrants, Johan Johansen and Juliane Hansen. He always wrote his name as "Roy T. Johansen" and on some records his name was recorded as Roy Thorvald Johansen.

In 1965 the whole story changed.

Grandpa was working for the Southern California Edison Company (SCEC) and in 1965 he wanted to retire. However, there was a glitch. He had to prove he was 65 years old. The story I always heard was that he couldn't retire if he couldn't prove he was 65 years old. The problem he encountered was that Nebraska was not keeping official state records of birth in 1900, the year he was born, so getting a birth certificate was impossible.

The story continued ...

Grandpa wrote letters to everyone he could think of that might have a record of his birth. He wrote to the schools he attended, the churches he attended, the places that he had worked as a youth. Eventually he found the little church in Omaha where he was christened as an infant and luckily they had the old record book where his name, birth date, christening date, and parents' names were recorded. I remember hearing that he obtained a birth certificate from the church where he was christened and that this certificate was used as his proof of age for his retirement.

Grandpa learned a lot more about himself as a result of finding his christening record. He learned that the name he had been going by his whole life was not the name he was given as his christening. Instead of being Roy Thorvald Johansen, he was christened as Johan Roy Tolve Johansen. When grandpa asked his half-brother Armand about his name, he was told that the "Tolve" meant 12 and he was given that name because he was his mother's 12th child.

12 children in the Johansen family? How can that be? Grandpa only knew of five children, including himself. The oldest was Armand, then Carrie, and Hans. The three oldest were grandpa's half-siblings. His biological sister was named Alma. That's the family that grandpa knew and grew up with. Where were the other seven children? Who were they? Boys, girls, who knows? No one knew the answers. Grandpa passed away never knowing the names of his 7 other siblings.

Last week in the "52 Ancestors" series I wrote about the scrapbooks that my grandpa Johansen kept. In one scrapbook he pasted all the replies he received from the letters he wrote to prove his date of birth. I searched every scrapbook for the "official" birth certificate he received from the church where he was christened. I asked every family member if they knew where the certificate was. No one had seen the certificate. We assume grandpa gave the certificate to the Southern California Edison Company when he applied for retirement.

In one of the scrapbooks I also found a birth certificate that I thought was a copy of a delayed record of his birth. However, it proved to be a form that my grandfather filled out, but never submitted to the state for official filing. It's no doubt that this is grandpa's handwriting. I would recognize his handwriting anywhere:

This little piece of paper is a short history of his family. At the time of grandpa's birth, the family was living "On South Vinton St. So. of R. R. Track in 3300 Block". His father, Johan Johansen, was born "near Copenhagen, Denmark" on 6 May 1871. He was a butcher and also a "Theatre owner from 1909" and the last time he engaged in this work was March 1934.

His mother, Juliane Hansen, was born at Ringkiobing, Denmark" on 6 Sept 1862. In the "late 1890's" she "ran Hotel in Omaha, Nebrs" and she was a housewife from 1900. The last time she engaged in this work was 23 July 1911.

Question 27 on the form asks the "Number of children of this mother (at time of this birth) and including this child. (a) Born alive and now living." Grandpa wrote the word "Five." "(b) Born alive but now dead." Grandpa wrote the word "Four." The last part of the question was "(c) Stillborn" and grandpa wrote the word "Three."

I think that my grandfather's retirement years were a little unusual. I can't imagine what it was like for him to learn at age 65 that the name he went by all his life was not the name he was given at his birth. I also can't imagine was it like to find out that there were seven other siblings in his family that he knew nothing about. We are still searching for my grandfather's other siblings. I'm so glad that grandpa loved to create scrapbooks because they are filled with stories and little clues about the genealogy research he did during his retirement years. In twelve days, we will celebrate grandpa's 114th birthday. Happy Birthday Grandpa! This story is for you!

(See grandpa's story on FamilySearch)

My Grandfather Was A Scrapbooker!! Big Time!!

My grandfather, Roy T. Johansen, was an avid scrapbooker. I remember watching him write on the pages in his scrapbooks. He always used a ruler. Placing the ruler on the page, then writing each letter above the ruler, but ending the word at the straight edge. If any letter needed finishing below the ruler's edge, he completed the letters after removing the ruler from the page. As a result, his writing was always perfectly straight and very legible.

Each scrapbook was given a title, a purpose for it's creation. Most often, the purpose for the scrapbook was to document a vacation both grandma and grandpa had taken. Consequently, the pages were often filled with photos, postcards, maps, napkins from restaurants, receipts for gas, hotels, and food. Some of the trips were not vacations, but were taken to attend family funerals or family weddings. Consequently, some of the scrapbooks contain wedding invitations, funeral service programs, and newspaper clippings for births, deaths, and marriages. We know of at least 18 scrapbooks that were created by my grandfather. A few of the titles are:

  • Our Family Fun Times
  • Trip to Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah
  • Ada Curtis Family
  • Dona and Reed; Brigham City; Jackson Hole; Hayden Lake; Crater of the Moon; Glenn Canyon; Monument Valley; Moab (The longest title of all the scrapbooks)
  • Clayt and Mel
  • 1961 Trip with Florence and Clifford
  • 1965 Southern California Edison Company Retirement

Literally, thousands of photographs are in the scrapbooks. Grandpa did not write a lot of the details in the scrapbooks, but we could still piece together hundreds of stories based upon what he saved in each book. The maps he saved plot the exact route they took while on their trips. Grandpa was a map-maker and worked for the Southern California Edison Company. I'm sure that his profession was the reason he included so many maps. I also think his meticulous writing was a result of his work as a map-maker. Unfortunately, he did not write a lot in the scrapbooks and rarely were people in the photos identified. But I can still imagine what it was like for him to take a trip back home to his place of birth, a place he had not seen since he was four months old. I wish his thoughts and feelings were recorded in the scrapbooks about the places they traveled to and the friends and family they visited. My father and his sisters have helped identify some of the people in the photos, but not everyone. I've learned a lot about my grandparents, Roy and Ada [Curtis] Johansen from the scrapbooks. I'm grateful grandpa took the time to create each book and I'm grateful we still have them in the family. They are a treasure in our family that we will always cherish. Thank you Grandpa for taking the time to create your scrapbooks!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Aldred Erskine

My grandfather taught me to be honest. As a young child I remember being a passenger in his car and on our way home to my house. On the way he stopped at a local store to buy something. We were in the car ready to go and he noticed the change the clerk gave him was too much. Grandpa said he needed to go back into the store for a minute to return the extra change, so he walked back in, returned the extra change, and then took me home. I don't remember how old I was, but the memory of hearing him tell me that the clerk gave him too much change and then watching him return to the store to give the extra change back is as vivid today as it was over 50 years ago. A small moment in time for me, but a very valuable lesson was taught that day. I will always be grateful for his good example of honesty.

Aldred Erskine was born at Superior, Douglas, Wisconsin on 30 January 1896 (1). He completed grammar school on 30 June 1914 (2) and four years later filled out the WW I Draft Registration form (3). He served in WW I as a cook and was assigned to Camp Kerny, California (4). At the end of the war and while waiting for his discharge papers, he wrote a letter home to his Aunt. The letter (5) was dated 28 February 1919:

Dear Aunt:
Received your kind and ever welcome letter and was glad to hear from you. Am in the best of health and hope these few lines finds you the same. I haven't heard anything about my discharge yet, I expect to be out within a month anyway. I sure do wish I were home, this kind of life sure gets tiresome. I got a letter from home the other day, they are all well, only wishing I were home with them. It sure did make me feel blue when my brother left and nearly all of my friends from around home have gone also, well I guess my turn is coming some time. I signed the pay roll yesterday, expect to be paid Monday. When we are discharged we get $60 paid too us by the Government, that will help out a little bit. The time seems to pass so slow here waiting for my discharge to come, but sure will injoy [sic] it when I do get it. The Knight of Columbus are moving over close to us, they are moving in one of the mess halls just a few steps from my tent. It is nearly time for the mail to go so will close as ever yours.
Your Loving Nephew, Aldred
P.S. Give Jossie and all the rest my best regards. Love to all.

Two months later, on 24 April 1919, Aldred was honorably discharged (6). After his discharge, he returned to Provo, Utah and met a young lady named Frances Berniece Hartley. They were married 28 December 1920 at Provo, Utah (7) and then moved to California.

Aldred and Frances raised their family in Burbank, California. Aldred was a police officer for the City of Burbank (8). In 1935 he completed his Scout Master training and was awarded a certificate for the training (9). Unfortunately we do not know if he ever served as a Scout Master in the local community. He completed his WW II Draft Registration in 1942 (10), so we find him in both the World War I and II draft registration records. He loved the pies his wife made and often brought home his fellow-workers from the Police Department to enjoy a piece of pie. On 1 November 1951, Aldred officially retired from public service as a police officer for the City of Burbank, California (11). His monthly retirement benefit was $183.10, which continued until his death in 1964 (12).

My grandfather, Aldred Erskine, had a full life. I will forever be grateful for the lessons he taught me through the way he lived his life each day. Honesty will always be my special memory about grandpa.

1) "Wisconsin, Births and Christenings, 1826-1926," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 12 Jan 2014), Erskine, 30 Jan 1894.
2) Mendocino County, California Board of Education, Pepperwood District Grammar School Diploma of Graduation for Aldred Erskine, 30 June 1914, privately held by Dorothy Johansen [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Riverton, Utah, 2014.
3) "United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 12 Jan 2014), Utah > Utah County; A-R; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d).
4) United States War Department, Certificate in Lieu of Lost or Destroyed Discharge Certificate for Aldred Erskine, discharged 24 April 1919, privately held by Dorothy Johansen [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Riverton, Utah, 2014.
5) Aldred Erskine letter to his Aunt, 28 February 1919, Letter to "Dear Aunt", privately held by Dorothy Johansen [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Riverton, Utah, 2014.
6) United States War Department, Discharge Certificate for Aldred Erskine.
7) "Utah, County Marriages, 1887-1937," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 12 Jan 2014), Aldred Erskine and Frances Berniece Hartley, 1920.
8) City of Burbank, Office of Chief of Police, Los Angeles County, California, Aldred Erskine, certificate of appointment to police officer 27 January 1930, privately held by Dorothy Johansen [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Riverton, Utah, 2014.
9) National Council Boy Scouts of America, Verdugo Hills Council, Elements of Scoutmasterhip-Part 1 Diploma, Aldred Erskine, 4 December 1935, Burbank California, privately held by Dorothy Johansen, [ADDRESS FOR PRVATE USE,] Riverton, Utah, 2014.
10) "United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 12 Jan 2014), 004669303 > image 691 of 2807.
11) State of California, Board of Administration, State Employees' Retirement System, City of Burbank, retirement notification for Aldred Erskine, police sergeant, 1 November 1951, privately held by Dorothy Johansen, [ADDRESS FOR PRVATE USE,] Riverton, Utah 2014.
12) State of California, Board of Administration, State Employees' Retirement System to Aldred Erskine, Burbank, California, 5 February 1952, privately held by Dorothy Johansen, [ADDRESS FOR PRVATE USE,]  Riverton, Utah 2014.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Minnie Steffens

Quilt Top Made by Minnie Steffens Erskine
Minnie Steffens Erskine made this quilt top and it was given to my grandparents Aldred and Bee Erskine when Minnie passed away. Aldred was Minnie's son. The quilt remained in Bee's possession after her husband Aldred passed away. In 1976 when my grandmother Bee passed away the quilt top was given to my mother Dorothy. Bee's full name was Frances Berniece Hartley.

Minnie and her husband Charles Clarence Erskine lived in Burbank, California, in the same neighborhood as my mother did when she was growing up. Grandma Minnie always saved the chicken legs for her granddaughter Dorothy, who remembers "popping in to see her" grandma Minnie often.

My mother has always wanted to finish the quilt, add the batting and the backing, then the quilting. I'm not sure why the quilt still remains unfinished. Minnie was born on 26 February 1873 in Davenport, Scott Co., Iowa. She was living in Iowa during the 1880 US Census and on 18 November 1890 she was married to Charles Clarence Erskine in Little Falls, Morrison Co., Minnesota. Their first seven children were born in Superior, Douglas Co., Wisconsin, including my grandfather Aldred Erskine. The last three children were born in Fairview, Richland Co., Montana. Three of the ten children died in infancy. Eventually the family settled in California.

The quilt top makes me think about all the unfinished projects I have that are stored in closets and boxes around the house. Some of my finished projects I have taken out of frames, folded them up, and placed them in my cedar chest. Will anyone wonder about my unfinished projects or about my finished projects that are tucked away out-of-sight? I wonder about great-grandma Minnie's quilt top. Was the fabric for each doll taken from scraps that she used to make clothing for her ten children? Or maybe Minnie made clothes for my mother when she was young and the scraps were used to make this quilt top? Minnie's two daughters died before they reached one year of age. Was the quilt started in the hopes of giving it to one of her daughters? Maybe after the loss of both daughters, Evaline Dorothy and Minnie May, my great-grandmother could never bring herself to the point of finishing the quilt. Did the quilt bring all the sad memories of her daughters to the surface?

I will never know the answers to my questions about my great-grandmothers unfinished quilt. The lesson I learn from this is that I should record somewhere the stories about my own unfinished projects. There are reasons why I hang on to the unfinished projects I have stored in boxes and closets. Maybe the reasons for my unfinished projects can be turned into stories about me. Will my great-grandchildren in the future wonder about the stories related to my unfinished projects?

I think everyone might have at least one unfinished project and a story to go with it.