The Connection Between Kelly Clarkson and Ms. Jeannie

This past Tuesday marked the return of one of Ms. Jeannie’s most favorite shows…

Who Do You Think You Are on Tuesday nights at on TLC

Who Do You Think You Are on Tuesday nights on TLC

Now in its fourth season, Who Do You Think You Are is the pet project of actress Lisa Kudrow (from Friends fame) that follows celebrities as they trace and discover their own roots. Ms. Jeannie loves this show because everyone can learn from it – regardless if you are famous or not, everybody follows the same format.  You have to look back in order to look forward.

Lots of different types of celebrities from film stars (Susan Sarandon), to sports figures (Emmit Smith) to singers (Lional Ritchie) to comedians (Chris Rock) to models (Brooke Shields) have been featured on past episodes.

This week it was singer Kelly Clarkson, who Ms. Jeannie realized she actually had a few things in common with.  This is the trailer for Kelly’s episode…

http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/who-do-you-think-you-are/videos/kelly-clarkson-video.htm

Kelly’s great, great, great grandfather, Isiah,  was a Civil War soldier from Ohio who fought for the Union side. Ms. Jeannie’s great, great grandfather was also a Civil War soldier from Ohio who fought for the Union side…

Ms. Jeannie's great great grandfather Albert

Ms. Jeannie’s great, great grandfather Albert (1840-1921)

Kelly’s ancestor fought in the war for four years. He was captured and taken prisoner by the Confederate soldiers and sent to a prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia.  Ms. Jeannie’s great, great grandfather also served for four years and fought in battles all over the Southeast – his last one was very close to Andersonville, GA and it was there that he suffered trauma to his eyes.

The prison camp at Andersonville was awful – holding over 40,000 soldiers in a barracked field open to the elements and left to their own devices for toiletry, food and shelter.

Camp configuration at Andersonville. Photo courtesy of mihp.org

Camp configuration at Andersonville. Photo courtesy of mihp.org

Andersonville Prison. Photo courtesy of old-picture.com

Andersonville tents. Photo courtesy of old-picture.com

Union soldier held at Andersonville Prison.

Union soldier held at Andersonville Prison.

Men were walking skeletons from mal-nourishment and disease, they were angry from being confined, and they were exhausted from fighting the war and then fighting to survive in a prison camp. Andersonville is the United States version of Holocaust camps in Germany. There was no regard for human dignity or for human life. Men were thrown together en masse and left to fend for themselves.  Over 13,000 soldiers died in camp at Andersonville during the Civil Wa,r and now the park serves as a memorial to the bravery of lost victims.  Thankfully Kelly’s great, great, great grandfather escaped the prison confines and re-introduced himself to civilian society. He carried on with strength and determination to lead a long and fruitful life.

Ms. Jeannie’s great, great  grandfather mustered out of the Civil War cavalry after his eye trauma in 1865. He went home to Ohio to collect his sweetheart, Martha, who lived in a neighboring county in Indiana…

Albert's wife, Martha. Ms. Jeannie's great, great grandmother.

Albert’s wife, Martha. Ms. Jeannie’s great, great grandmother.

A month and a half later, in the summer of 1865, they married at Martha’s parents home in Johnson County, Indiana, and the very next day, they embarked via covered wagon on a journey to Iowa. Martha’s parents accompanied them.  Ms. Jeannie can only imagine what kind of “honeymoon” this was!  During the month and a half-long  trip, Martha made this quilt, which you might recall from a previous post…

Martha's churn dash style quilt, which Ms. Jeannie now keeps.

Martha’s churn dash style quilt, which Ms. Jeannie now keeps.

Martha made this quilt so that she would have a bed covering once they reached their new home in Iowa. It would be a reminder of their journey across country and also a symbolic token for the beginning of their marriage.  By the time this blanket was created, Albert, 24,  had seen all sorts of horrendous acts at war, he had defended his country, he had fought for his beliefs. Martha was a young bride, 18, leaving the only life she had ever known in Indiana to travel thousands of miles across country to begin anew. Neither knew Iowa nor what lay ahead for them.  They simply set out and hoped for the best.  Like Kelly Clarkson said in this past episode ” These are brave choices, made at this time – all these men and women.”

Kelly’s great, great, great grandfather went on eventually to serve a seat in the House Senate. Ms. Jeannie’s great, great grandfather also went on to a career in the public arena.  When he and Martha reached Iowa, they staked their claim in Vinton where they became farmers and eventually, Albert,  became the town clerk and justice of the peace, a position he held for 25 years. He and Martha became parents to 11 children – 9 of whom lived to see their adult years…

Martha and Albert, center, at their 50th wedding anniversary with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren by their sides.

Martha and Albert, center, at their 50th wedding anniversary with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren by their sides.

Albert died in 1921 at the age of 80. Martha died in 1929 at the age of 82. Ms. Jeannie is so thrilled that there are two pieces in her family to remember them by.  The quilt from Martha and this civil war ink well from Albert…

Albert's inkwell that he carried with him throughout the Civil War.

Albert’s inkwell that he carried with him throughout the Civil War.

Both items are warm and hopeful pieces and Ms. Jeannie just loves that. Martha’s quilt kept the two of them warm for years. Albert’s inkwell may have aided in letters home while he was away at war. There is no documentation in Ms. Jeannie’s family of anything written using ink from this inkwell, but Ms. Jeannie thinks something special must have come from this font in order for it to have been passed down through the family for all these years. It could have been something as simple as an “I Love You” from Albert’s hand to his parents, James and Nancy in Ohio or a sweet “wait for me – I’m coming soon” sentiment to Martha in Indiana. Either way it was a valued vessel.

Kelly ends the episode by returning to Nashville and reporting to her mom all that she uncovered on her genealogy adventure. “Now we know…” she said to her mom. ” This is in our blood.”  This is what makes this show, and genealogy in turn,  so great. It is in your face history that has directly affected your life.   Had there never been Isiah there would never be Kelly and had there never been Albert there never would be Ms. Jeannie. And while we can’t sit down and have a face to face conversation with these past generations, we still know them, because we are them.

We are all, a lot more related then we realize!

Who Do You Think You Are airs every Tuesday night at 9:00pm (eastern) on TLC. Next week, it’s the actress Christina Applegate. If you are a fan of the show, please comment below, Ms. Jeannie would love to hear your thoughts.

Journey of a Norwegian American Family: An Adventure in Research

For a time, when Ms.Jeannie was small, she thought she was Asian.

She recalls a story, her mother was telling at the dining room table one night about her great grandparents, the Wongs. Certainly Ms. Jeannie didn’t look Asian, with her dark blond hair and green eyes, nor did any of her family members look Asian. But Ms. Jeannie had a wonderful imagination as a child and of course, she was a subscriber to National Geographic.

She could picture the Far East with it’s geishas, it’s red paper dragons, it’s rice fields….the silk brocades, the fishing villages, the serene gardens. She could here the gonging of the metal.

As the dinner conversation continued, Ms. Jeannie learned from her mother that in fact the Wong ancestors were not really Asian at all. They were Norwegian actually.  Their named just happened to both look and sound Asian.

Well, from that moment Ms. Jeannie was hooked. She peppered her mother with questions about her Asian sounding now Norwegian ancestors. But Ms. Jeannie’s mother knew very little, so the questions went unanswered, and the spark laid dorment for a time.

Years later, taking matters into her own hands, Ms. Jeannie emabarked on a mision to find out just who these Nordic people were. She started with this information from her mother…which turned out to be the only things that her family knew about the Wongs at that time.

So she knew that Martin & Clara had eight children and she knew there birthdates & the parents death dates. It was a mystery where they were born, where they lived, the last name of mother Clara and what happened to all the kids.

So the research began! Through careful study, the process of eliminaton and millions of census records, the mystery of the Wongs started to unravel.

Ms. Jeannie learned the Wong name was really spelled Wang (and pronounced Vang) so out the door the Asian culture theories flew!  Now that Ms. Jeannie had the correct spelling, her search got much simpler.

She narrowed it down to households containing the name Martin & Clara and all the children.  There were only two families with similiar names, one in North Dakota and on in Wisconsin. Ms. Jeannie’s grandmother was born in Wisconsin, so she started researching that family. Luckily she was on the right track! Through ancestry.com she found a few records for Martin Wang and a picture of he and Clara…

Martin & Clara Wang

Exciting! Through the information provided in the census, Ms. Jeannie learned that Martin & Clara were from Ostre Toten Norway and Hurdal, Norway respectively.   And Clara’s last name was Erickskillet. Martin applied for American citizenship in 1876 as determined by this document:

Martin Wang’s citizenship card

Martin & Clara actually had nine children. J. William Wang died when he was 12 years old. Ms. Jeannie uncovered this picture of the Wang family taken at J. William’s funeral. Everybody looks sad, especially little Edwin (the one holding the frame)…

Ms. Jeannie was on a role now – gathering various bits and pieces of information. Martin had a glass eye. He was a cabinet maker. They lived on a farm.

Martin built a church in Wisconsin:

The church that Martin built

Interior view of the church.

Contemporary picture of the church.. It’s still there!

Ms. Jeannie’s mother found a box with some old unmarked family photos and now they could add names to faces…

Wang Family Portrait

Juna Wang.

Originally everybody thought this was Nora Wang – Juna’s sister. But extra research put the right name with the right face.

Juna and her sisters.

Juna and her sister. Unidentified men -pPossibly her brothers.

Meeting other Wang family relatives on ancestry.com led to the sharing of this picture of Clara Wang in her senior years. She sure looks like a hard worker.

Seeing this picture, Ms. Jeannie’s mother realized she had  this  picture of Clara that was taken with Clara’s granddaughter.:

Clara Wang with grandaughter.

Ms. Jeannie’s mother now recalled stories  of  Clara not being able to  speak any English. The census lists the family as speaking Norwegian in their household. Possibly Martin spoke English and Norwegian, in order to conduct business in America.

Ms. Jeannie has now learned quite a bit about of information about the Wang Family. She has all their birth & death dates and places, information about all the children, who they married, where they lived and died, etc.

It’s exciting to see that Ms. Jeannie started here:

And wound up here:

Custom Ancestry Chart by msjeannieology

If you’d like help tracing your family stories and photographs, send Ms.Jeannie a message! She would love to spark your interest in genealogy!

Want to learn more stories? Watch celebrities trace their roots on  Who Do You Think You Are on NBC every Friday at 8:00pm.  They are already in their third season!

Here’s a clip from one of Ms. Jeannie’s favorite episodes from season 1 featuring Lisa Kudrow:

Who Do You Think You Are

Search for amazing Norwegian antiques on etsy.com. You never know…you might find something that once belonged to your relatives!

Antique Scandinavian Oval Wedding Box from mustnc

Antique Norwegian Baptismal Spoon from davidjp1927

1879 Norwegian Psalm Book from Bill

1927 Map of Norway & Sweden from ImSoVintage

Antique Photo Card – Lady in Norwegian Uniform from christmasangel

Miniature Norwegian Folk Art Chair from BlackRoosterVintage

1920’s Norwegian Christmas Card from BurtsFirstRodeo

1920’s Ivar T. Holt Brooch from ZoesGems