The Yellowstone Trail

yellowstone_trail_mapI haven’t posted a blog entry in a very long time! I was reminded today of a project I worked on a little over a year ago. I don’t only do genealogical research. In 2017, I was hired to research the history of the Yellowstone Trail in Carver County, Minnesota. I have to admit, it sounded familiar, but when I accepted the job I really didn’t know what the Yellowstone Trail was, and I certainly didn’t recognize its importance to the history of our state and of the country.

Until the early 1900s, railroads provided the main mode of transport for most Americans; road conditions throughout the country were generally very poor. Pioneer settlers had laid out roads as they were needed, often following trails used by Native Americans, fur traders and wagon transport between important points, following the landscape that made for easiest travel. Most routes were simply rutted dirt trails. Some followed the few early mail routes or military roads established by the federal government. Local residents were responsible for the upkeep of their portion of these road systems.

Bicycle tourism became popular in the late 1800s and riders were some of the earliest proponents of an organized road system. Then the automobile came along and changed everything! Of course, businesses wanted to promote tourism through their communities, so they banded together to form associations that printed maps to guide drivers of the new-fangled automobiles through a complex network of private trails that directed them through their communities, and to their service stations, restaurants and lodgings.

2017-11-22 mn hwy dept corresp registered trails (17)The Yellowstone Trail was the creation of a network of existing roads through fourteen states, conceived in 1912 through a grassroots effort of private citizens and businessmen and led by the visionary Joseph W. Parmley of Ipswich, South Dakota. He envisioned a highway system that would stretch from the East Coast all the way to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming. There were many trail associations but only three were transcontinental: National Old Trails Road (1912), Yellowstone Trail (1912) and Lincoln Highway (1913). The Yellowstone Trail was one of the most prominent private trail organizations. At a time when federal and state governments were not obligated to support road construction or improvements, through the efforts of its 8,000 members the Yellowstone Trail Association persuaded counties to join together to create the first coast-to-coast intercontinental highway, “A good road from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound,” becoming its motto.

The Yellowstone Trail Association and its supporters, including those in Carver County, played a significant role in the Goods Road movement that ultimately led to the establishment of our state and national highway systems. It is ironic that in the end, progress led to extinction of the early Trail associations when modern, numbered highway systems replaced the patchwork of scenic and networked historic Trails.

2017-11-22 mn hwy dept state aid roads (1)There is a vast array of records relating to transportation, especially at the Minnesota History Center. This is an example of just one box of records I made my way through… I wondered if anyone had looked at it before.

If you’re interested in learning more, here is a link to the full report I prepared for the Southwest Corridor Transportation Coalition, back in December 2017.


Some Hagen ancestry charts from the Kapp Museum in Toten, Norway

It sure takes me a while to get around to doing things that need to get done! These are copies of charts related to our HAGEN ancestry that were found by the archivist at the Kapp Museum in Toten, Norway, at the request of cousin Mette, also a genealogist, whom I visited in 2014. I added the annotations; don’t think I’ve figured out yet what it all means! These charts were made by a priest named Neuman, probably in the early 1900s, based on his examination of the original church books in Ostre Toten, Norway. I have not yet had time to thoroughly compare these documents to the data at, the website of the Norwegian Digital Archives. Mom (Nancy) has done a lot of research and is more familiar, and it has been years since we copied records from the microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Thank goodness for Mom’s organized files, and Mette, to help us with translations!

The page on the left shows the ancestry going back from our ancestor Hans, whose name is circled at the bottom of the page. (The names of our direct male ancestors are circled.) Hans Olsen (1822-1875) was the father of Ole Hansen (1851- ), who was the father of “our” Oscar Hagen (1884-1959). So, we can follow this chart to see that Hans’ father was Ole Thomasson, whose father was Thomas Olsen, and so on, back to Thure Vernersen Glemmestad (a place), born in 1628!

The page on the right shows the children born to our ancestor Hans Olsen (1822-1875, also called Hans Olsen Rustadeie, because he came from the Rustad farm) – a “maler” or painter, like Oscar Hagen! – and his wife, Pernille Andreasdatter (born in 1826 in Kobberstadeie, died in 1892): Hans Petter, Andrina, Hanna, Marie, Peder, Nina Marie, Thaale, and “our” Ole, born in 1851. The boys would have used the last name Hansen, and the girls, Hansdatter. That is, unless they decided to use the name of the farm where they lived. Until the 1880s, Norwegians weren’t required to use surnames, so the son of Hans became Ole Hansen, his daughter used Hansdatter, and so on… Confusing to Americans, indeed; but as cousin Edel said, “It worked for us!”

I’ll keep working on this, and I am sure some corrections and additions will be in order. Contact me if you want a clean copy, or if you have any questions.

Creating a Young Family Legacy DVD

For my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary in August, I worked with a professional to create a video documentary containing interviews with my folks and some of our historical family photos. The end result was far better than I ever imagined! I had DVDs made as Christmas gifts for all family members including each of the 10 great-grandchildren. I hope they will treasure this DVD and its memories as much as I do.

I have a fair amount of experience in conducting oral history interviews so I considered trying to do this on my own in order to save money, but I am glad that I did not. It turned out to be affordable, and the quality is far better than if I had tried going solo. I still composed the interview questions and conducted the interviews with my parents– first individually, and then as a couple (which I found lent humor to the remarks, since they didn’t always agree on an answer). But having a professional attend to the filming and production reduced my stress as well as the amount of time I had to dedicate to the project (since my siblings and I were busy planning an anniversary party.)

I met with Tommy Platek of TP Productions early in the year, to discuss a vision and a budget for the end product. I’m a genealogist and not always a realist. I realized that my scope of a complete family history was way too big for a 30- to 45-minute project, and Tommy helped me to see that. I decided to narrow in on my parents’ family memories, their marriage, work lives and raising children in South St. Paul. After all, we were doing this to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

We started by filming the interviews in early spring, based on a list of questions I developed in consultation with Tommy. Then I had to sort through mounds of family photos to choose the  best ones to go along with the stories my parents told. Those were scanned, labeled and uploaded to Dropbox.

It was a massive task to whittle down over two hours of interviews into a cohesive 40-minute story. TP Productions did that based on my recommendations, then added music, titles, transitions, sounds and special effects. He even included some of the “bloopers” I didn’t want to lose, at the end of the film. The end result is nothing short of spectacular, if you ask for my biased opinion. Showing the video at the anniversary party was a fun surprise. Our family even learned some things about our parents that we never knew before!

I highly recommend interviewing your family elders as soon as you can, while they are able to share their memories.

A Letter from Ingvar Dybal to His Brother

Oh, the things I come across while I am trying to get organized! Today I found a photocopied letter dated 9 March 1900, written by our ancestor Ingvar Dybdal (1854-1947) from the Grotberg Farm in Norway to his brother Lauritz (1856-1949) who used the surname Mylius and moved to work on a farm at Horten, Norway. The feeling of brotherly love that emanates from this letter is touching. This letter was kindly translated by cousin Mette Nordengen, who is the half great grand niece of Ingvar.

“Brother (Lauritz),

I told old Even Grotberg that you love to work in the garden. Because of that he wanted to send you some of his best onions from this year. So you can see that he also knows something about gardening. 

He asked me to give you some advice about how to care for onions in the winter, in case you don’t know. Take a box and make some holes in the bottom, and fill the box with dirt. Cut the onions 3 cm from the root and put them in the middle of the box and remember, give them some water. When it’s cold, you can put the box in the cellar. Now I stop with this!

Helene (Grotberg, Ingvar’s wife) loved the sailing on Lake Kristiania on our way back home. Yes, it was really nice on the smallest part of the lake, but when we arrived at Kristiania (the former name of Oslo), the fun was over. We were on a trip to Odalen (a place in the eastern part of Mjosa), dead quiet; it’s much  better in Horten (where Lauritz lived). Dear brother, I’ll never forget that evening you, Amanda (Lauritz’s wife?), Helene and I were sitting on the top and looking out on the lake. Maybe it was the only time we will be sitting together on that beautiful place, because you and I are both only ordinary workers, and the money tells us what we can do. 

Helene asks me to send love to Amanda and you all, and Anne (Ingvar’s daughter) asks me to say hello to Torolf (Lauritz’s son) and she said, “It would have been nice to lift him up in my arms.” 

Love to you all,

Ingvar Dybdal.”



Welcome to my family history blog and website.

For a long time I’ve wanted to find a way to share my research with family members and others. Please bear with me as I learn how to do this. It will take me a while to figure out the right structure and organization, and I’m sure there’ll be a few mistakes.

First, I’ll focus on sharing Norwegian family history findings from a trip I took in 2014. Aided by my wonderful genealogist cousin Mette, we traced the Hagen and Dybdal (Grotberg) families back many generations! I also took photos of many of the farms where our ancestors lived in the Toten area of Oppland fylke in Norway.

Later I will fill in more information about other family lines as well as historical research projects I’ve been working on, including the documentary film, “A Thousand Dollars and Back: Recollections of Early Romanian Immigration to Minnesota.” (You can link to that website if you care to learn more about it.) If you have any questions, you can contact me using the form on this page.