Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Norwegian Immigrants on the Illinois Prairie

The Chicago area had unusual heat all summer, then off and on into the fall. What better way to spend a hot, late October afternoon than in a cemetery?!

Using FindAGrave to select area photo requests, I settled on a visit to Helmar Lutheran Cemetery, in rural Newark, Illinois. I had never been there and had no idea what I would find. I hoped it would be a small, accessible farm cemetery.

It was perfect!

I wandered as I usually do, to get a sense of the cemetery and it's residents. Helmar is surrounded by a new white fence and is clearly well-cared for. As also happens, I found many of the same surnames as my requests, but not all of the right people. (Sometimes I think I pick the requests that are extra-super challenging!).

I photographed several of the oldest stones. I am always attracted to those. And I had to head home. Rats!

The next weekend, I loaded up two cameras and extra batteries. You can see it coming, right? I spent a couple hours and photographed the whole cemetery.

It then takes me a while to get the photos uploaded on FindAGrave. I had to spend an inordinate amount of time on the "A's". Most of the residents here are of Norwegian descent. There are lots and lots of Anderson's! And Larson's. And Nelson's.

Ole Anderson, Bernt Larson, and Nels Nelson

As I posted the photos and read some of the biographical information, I kept seeing the same hometown: Skaanevik. I did a Google book search and found "A History of Norwegian Immigration" by George Tobias Flom. A quick scan shows several references to Skaanevik and Helmar. I hope there is a researcher or family member out there who will benefit from this information. I have no people in this cemetery or from Norway, but this type of connection fascinates me.

Learning is a beautiful thing.