My Norwegians


This photo is of my great-great-grandparents, Hans Tobias Olson and Tori Jakobsdatter,  and my great-grandmother, Theoline. It was taken in Norway, before they immigrated to the United States in 1879.

Finding out more information about this branch of my family had stumped me, as I’d always heard their last name was “Soland.” But, internet searches came up empty.

But, then a breakthrough! I was on Family Search and doing a search of Hans and Tori Soland, when I pulled up a marriage document with Hans and Tori as the first names, but they had quite different last names, Olson and Jakobsdatter. I had the wrong people, I was sure.

And, then I had an “Ah-ha!” moment.

Norwegians, until the 20th century, used patronymics. This is a naming system that uses a form of the father’s first name as the child’s last name.

So, Hans Olson is the son of Ole (Ole’s son).  Tori Jakobsdatter is the daughter of Jakob (Jakob’s daughter). This is actually a boon for me as a family historian, as I don’t have to go searching for the first names of the fathers of my Norwegian ancestors. They are right there, easy to see.

But, it’s not always that easy, is it?

Because of the ubiquitous nature of Ole Olsons, for example, in Norway (there could literally be thousands), there had to be another way to distinguish one Ole Olson from another. And, that’s where farm names come into play.

My Norwegian family adopted the last name of Soland once in America. Soland had been the name of the farm of Hans, his father Ole, and his father Haaken, a farm in the family for decades prior to that.

In Norway, the farm names became an important way to distinguish one Ole from another. So, my great-great-grandfather became known Hans Tobias Olson Soland. He married Tori Jakobsdatter Glenrange (pronounced glen-ran-geh) (approximately). Tori, though, became Soland and dropped the Glenrange when she married Hans and moved from the Glanrange farm to the Soland farm.

And, while this could be as confusing as those patronymics, it is also an unexpected benefit to the family historian. Now, when I see the name  of Tori Helene Hansdatter Glenrange (my 3x great-grandmother), I know her father’s name was Hans and that she lived on the Glenrange farm or area. That’s a lot of helpful information!

And, somewhere back in that twisted branch of my family tree, I share an ancestor with a cousin, Siri. And, we met up this summer. I don’t think I doubt my Norwegian roots any longer after seeing this photo of the two of us together.



I look forward to finding more of my Norwegians and one day, visiting the Soland farm.

‘Til next time.


We just returned from a short trip to Bavaria, Germany. Our goal was to visit the little town of Moosburg, which was the site of Stalag 7A, a WWII POW camp.

My husband’s father spent the last 6 months of the war in this camp, having been captured in the Saar River Valley, November 19, 1944. He was liberated by American forces April 30, 1945. He was just 20 years old, having had his birthday March 24 while in the camp.

I’m working on a book about his experiences, based on the many personal letters both to and from him and the government documents that were all saved and managed to make it safely to today. I just wish he were still here to tell more of his story.

The photos below are of the camp during the war. Stalag 7A was built to hold 10,000 people, but by the time of its liberation, there were an estimated 100,000-110,000 prisoners there.

Today, Moosburg is a prosperous, charming town, with very little remnants of what happened here 70 years ago.



About the only remaining vestige of the camp is the memorial plaza and fountain. The former barracks have been torn down, and new housing has been built where they once stood.

The memorial plaza is tucked away among neat and tidy single-family homes and small apartment blocks. It’s really rather difficult to find.



It’s a lovely, quiet corner that has been done with thoughtfulness and care.

South of the town is the site of the old camp cemetery, rather a more solemn place. All the remains have been re-interred in other cemeteries, but the city of Moosburg bought a small plot of land for a memorial.


Of the approximately 900 prisoners originally buried here, over 800 were Soviets. The American and British soldiers were treated, for the most part, under the Geneva Conventions, but the Soviet soldiers had no such protections. And, it shows in sheer numbers of those who lost their lives here.

The city of Moosburg has done a nice job of admitting the existence of this painful chapter in its past, while moving forward to become a lovely place today. It gives me hope for the rest of the world that is in turmoil today. Perhaps my grandchildren will one day sit and have dinner in likewise-peaceful place where war is raging today. One can only hope and pray.


Pooch Finds a Home

A while ago, my mom gave me a stack of yellowed note papers, clipped together. It was the beginnings of a story that her mother, my grandmother, scribbled down years and years ago, the story of their dog Pooch.

I knew right away that I wanted to make this into another book for my grandchildren, so I was eager to get home and begin. The first chapter told the story of how Pooch came to live with my mother’s family; the second chapter had only scant beginnings, but was about the friends Pooch had in his new neighborhood.

There was plenty of story in what was Chapter One to round it out to become a single story/picture book. So, that’s what I did!


I came away from writing this book with a MUCH higher esteem for children’s book illustrators. Go take a quick gander at the artwork in a random illustrated storybook, and then think about the work, imagination, skill, and dedication it took! Amazing!


The photo above is my mom, Bula Helen Wells Keene, with her beloved Pooch.

‘Til next time!

A Quick Update

And, here it is: my long-wanted DAR certificate.

I am so happy with this, as it wasn’t easy to get. But, more so, I’m so pleased that my mother and my daughter joined with me. We have consecutive national numbers, three more generations in this family where each generation, as far as I can go back, has served this country and its military. The freedoms we enjoy today came at a cost to someone’s family and loved ones. I don’t want to take that lightly.

And, it fulfills my homage to my Nana, who influenced me greatly as I grew up. She was an amazing, strong, rather fearless woman. I loved her deeply. I only wish I had done this while she was alive. I know it would have meant much to her.

vida wells, 1966

So, thank you, Nana, for helping me to see that who my people were in the past is what has shaped who I am today.



Seaman 2nd Class George Keene: The Morning the Bombs Fell

I’ve just finished up another children’s book, my third. I love writing these!

This time, I’ve gone over to my father’s side of the family, to his younger brother, George. My Uncle George is a Pearl Harbor survivor, one of the last few remaining. I was shocked to realize that for even my children, World War II is in a galaxy far, far away. I felt the need to write a story for the next generation, hopefully in a way that makes history interesting, and most importantly, personal.


I’ve ordered enough copies for my grandchildren, and also copies for my uncle and his two daughters, my cousins. They, like me, are now grandmothers, so these books for those young ones will be about their grandfather. I can’t wait to give my uncle’s book to him. My dad is gone, so he’s the closest thing to a father I have these days. I hope to honor him while I can.

A Father’s Letter, Part 3

Today, I’ll finish up with William Gard’s letter to his eldest son, Jesse, my great-great-uncle, and half-brother to my great-great-grandfather, William Perry Gard.

“In the next place, from the very time you come to do business for yourself, always bear in mind the disadvantage of being in debt. That so long as you are in debt you are laboring to a fourfold disadvantage and living on the mercies of your creditors.

Be not in haste to contract marriage for perhaps it may not prove so great a blessing as you may think, for, if so, the longer time in procrastination the less time you will have to live in trouble. For you must remember it is for life. This advice you must communicate to your sisters and brothers, of whom you are the older, and attend to their welfare as far as circumstances will admit of. This advice with that you you can get from good authors and that of your aged friends, who will be willing to advise you for your good, may suffice to take you through this world by making use of good economy yourself. 

Therefore, I must leave you, hoping that the God of Heaven may smile upon you and the balance of the family, is the sincere wish of a father and friend to his children.

William Gard”

Upon William’s death in 1827, Jesse, who was away working in another town, returned home to take care of the family, just as his father wished. He would have been proud.

Now, I will leave you  a photograph. This is Nora Gard Cummings, 1871-1941, youngest daughter of William Perry Gard and Phebe Stewart. There is no date on this photograph, but she looks to be late teens. She seems a very composed young woman.


A Father’s Letter, Continued

Welcome back! I am picking up where I left off in in my last post in Part 1 of William Gard’s letter to his eldest son, Jesse.

“In the next place be very cautious not to keep company with those of bad character for you will be branded with the same, marked by those who stand and look on, that is of a better character. Avoid making use of bad language for it is an evil habit and mark of bad breeding and disgusting to good company. 

In the next place, for the good of your health and the good of society and a comfortable living, make use of common industry, so that you may live without being dependent of strangers with whom you will be left, and let your life be marked with strict honesty and benevolence should you be blessed with this world’s goods, in plenty never withhold your hand from helping the needy for you know not how long prosperity will last with you, and if adversity crowds upon you, bear it with fortitude, like a man, always keeping the golden rule before you and by so doing you will find friends in a strange country, whether in prosperity or adversity.” 

I’ll finish up this missive in my next post, but for now I will leave you with a little treasure I found. This is a photo of William Gard’s youngest son, William Perry Gard, and his wife, Phebe Stewart, my great-great-grandparents. William Perry was only a year old when his father, William, passed away, so he never had the benefit of knowing this truly wise man. This was taken in July 1861, in Indianapolis, IN, right at the beginning of the Civil War.

gard-william perry-phebe stewart-july 1861-indianapolis-in

Until next time!

Application Status: Filed!

I can’t say enough about the Clara Barton chapter of the DAR in Huntington Beach, CA. I just couldn’t have done it without the help of Jenice, 2nd Vice Regent, and Sharon, Registrar. They both put in hours of their own time to help me research and then to fill out the application and proper paperwork.

Thank you, ladies!

Our application was submitted the first week of May. I was told to expect to wait weeks, perhaps months, to hear back. Because of my mother’s age, 94, the process might be accelerated, so I was hopeful it would be.

The next week, I got an email from Jenice saying that the DAR genealogy department would be sending out letters to all three of us, probably requesting more information. Neither she nor Sharon knew what would be needed, but that I should call as soon as I got my letter and we’d get working. Truth be told, that was a bit discouraging.

The next day, I see an email from Jenice: Call me right away! So, I did.

Jenice: Are you sitting down?

Me: Yes…

Jenice: You’re VERIFIED!

Me: WHAT??? HOW??? WOW!!! Etc., etc., etc.!

Jenice’s thought was perhaps another genealogist reviewed the application and decided that all was indeed in order. We will never know, but according to the DAR website, we’re in!

There will be a vote June 5th, so I’m keeping my emotions in check, and not telling my mother, until I know without a doubt. But… squeal!

And, even though I (probably) won’t be needing the information I gathered after the application was submitted, I am very glad that I did a bit more digging.

For years, there was a publication called The Guardian Quarterly. Unfortunately, it’s out of print now, but the past issues are digitized at Family Search and are a goldmine of Gard family information. And, in its pages, I found this letter, written by William Gard to  his eldest son, Jesse, half-brother to William Perry Gard. I believe William wrote it during his last, fatal illness. It was copied from the Record of Births, Marriages, and Deaths in the family Bible by Uncle James McHenry on April 9, 1849.

Jesse, my son,

After I am dead and gone, I want you to take good care of this record, for your own benefit and the benefit of the family; and, as you are the oldest, I must commit to to your care , so as you may all know your ages, and by looking this over, you will see that you once had a mother, although you had very little recollection of her, and when my name is entered on the death page just below where your mother’s death is recorded, there you will see the name of a father and friend, although I expect to be called from you while you are yet young and ill-prepared to be left without father or mother. I must therefor recommend you to the hands of your Creator with following advice:

Strive to gain as good an education as you can for your opportunity. all this advice has been given to you while I am alive, but much neglected. Therefore I hope that this, my last request, will not be neglected as it had for your own benefit; and no one else can enjoy the benefits of that study only as a public good that every one ought to enjoy and without it you will step into the world like a man from the clouds entirely naked.

There is more to this lovely letter, but I shall save it for another day. Until then, I will leave you with this photograph of William Perry’s wife, Phebe Stewart Gard.

gard-phebe stewart


The Search Continues…

We thought everything was ready. A stack of documents. Completed applications with notarized signatures. Money was involved.

However, the registrar of the DAR chapter we (myself, my mother and my daughter) are joining, noticed something we had overlooked.

There was no supporting evidence between William GARD and William Perry GARD to document the father-son relationship. Oops.

So, we are scurrying around trying to fill in the blank: Phone calls, research, the random acts of kindness that fill the genealogical world.

And, in all the searching, I’ve found some interesting facts to round out the story of William’s life.

He was born in 1788 in Fayette, PA, but as a young man he moved to Ohio. I’ve found that lots of Gards lived in Ohio, including relatives that I can’t sort out. They might have been uncles, cousins, or nephews. It’s a tangled web of Jeremiahs, Levis, Jacobs, and Ephraims.  It’s a job for another day.

Once in Hamilton, Ohio, William married Sarah Woodruff in 1810. They had two children, Jesse in 1811 and Elizabeth in 1813.

In the mean time, William had volunteered for the Butler Co., Ohio volunteer militia for the War of 1812. Also in his unit were Ephraim and Levi Gard (relationships to be determined).  And, sometime before April 1813, he was taken prisoner in Detroit.

(Which answered a mystery. In my research, I’ve run across countless family trees that have William dying in Detroit. I couldn’t figure out why that random fact kept popping up. But, my theory is that someone, somewhere mistakenly thought he had died either in battle or in prison when his unit fought in the Siege of Detroit. And, it keeps getting copied to new trees.)

Sometime around April 1813, William was released and then mustered out. Three days later, on April 27, his wife Sarah died, leaving a tiny new-born Elizabeth without a mother.

Sometime later that year, William married Sarah’s sister, Phebe, in Hamilton, Ohio. Both his parents, Jeremiah and Experience, died soon after, also in 1813. It was a difficult year for William, I’m thinking.

Years later, William was a prosperous farmer in Indiana, having received a land grant for his service in the war. He was also one of the first representatives to the state legislature. He and Phebe had three children, Julia, Sarah, and William Perry, born in 1826.

On his way home from a legislative session in late 1826 or early 1827, he was caught in a storm, became ill, and never got better. He died April 14, 1827, and he was buried on his farm in York. He left Phebe with  five children, including my ancestor, William Perry, not quite a year old.

Probate 158 (1)

Above is a page for the probate of William’s estate. He had extensive possessions and property. The papers list his wife, Phebe, but there is no mention of his five children. I also have census records for 1830 and 1840, listing Phebe as the head of the household. But, until 1850, only the heads of households were named; all others were only counted in their appropriate age groupings. Below is the 1830 census.

gard-phebe-1830-census-york township indiana

It appears that Phebe never remarried. She passed away in Clinton Co., Indiana, in 1859.

I’m hoping that there is a guardian record on file in an Indiana courthouse to find the evidence I need. Until then, we are going to try to make our case with the information we have.

Until next time…

My Promised Follow-Up

In my last post, I wrote about Cyndi, the genealogist in the Switzerland County recorder’s office. And, yes, bless her; she did go out to the Gard Cemetery, spoke with the owner of the land, trekked out a mile off the road, and took pictures of William Gard’s grave and tombstone(s).

And, there’s more.

She went with a friend, also on the local cemetery committee. (Who knew that there was even such a thing?) They literally poked around in the area, finding what might be one or two more unmarked graves.  They weren’t sure if what they found was truly a grave or a rock; there needs to be more investigation to be sure.

And, there’s even more.

The local American Legion has offered to move William’s grave to the East Enterprise cemetery and rebury him with full military honors.

That just gave me goosebumps. I’d love to do this, for a variety of reasons. Where the grave is now is on private property and hard to access. Cyndi mentioned that the land will soon be up for sale, and that while the current owner has been gracious in allowing access, there’s no guarantee that future owners will be.

I’ve posted in genealogy pages on Facebook and on Find a Grave, asking for other Gard ancestors’ input. I’m not even sure if I have the legal authority to authorize a move. I need to do more searching, trying to find other descendants.

I’ll keep you posted!