Shirt-tail relatives

One of the interesting tasks in amateur genealogy is tracking back people who are only sort-of, in a round-about or obscure manner, related. Such as our not-really-connected-by-blood relations the Jensons.

I do not know the particulars of the story, but Clara Estella Olson married Peder J. Sjolsvold on 3 Nov. 1928. An item I have in the back of my memory somewhere was that Mr Sjolsvold was in ill-health, tuberculosis, and Clara was involved in his care, or providing house-keeping, or something. She was probably not hired to care for Agnes, Peder’s daughter by his first wife Ida. Agnes would have been in her early teens when her mother died. But as I said, I do not know the whole story.

I do know that Agnes married before her father died, on the third of November, 1930. Most of the records I have discovered list her husband at age 41 when they married, and she was 18. The couple were recorded renting a farm near Stavanger, in Traill County North Dakota, in 1940 with two sons. They would settle near Reynolds, North Dakota.

A postcard of the Oakland Park Sanatorium, Thief River Falls, ca 1930. From the collections of the Pennington County Historical Society

Agnes, however, was also surviving tuberculosis. At the time there was no cure for the respiratory disease. If your immune system is strong your body can encyst the disease and you might live for many year, decades, before it could take advantage of a weak moment and flare up again (latent tuberculosis[en.WP].) The fevers and coughing  of the active course of the disease give it its other name: consumption.

At some point Agnes was admitted to the Oakland Park Sanatorium near Thief River Falls[R R R]. This was one of the hundreds of centers across the USA which provided long-term treatment; and members of our family from several different branches were treated here. Agnes died in care 27 November 1950, and was buried in the St. Olaf Lutheran Church cemetery in Reynolds, North Dakota.

Her sons were nearly grown when she died. Her husband Bert remarried, and spent another 20 years in and around Reynolds, ND. Son John became a pilot after his Army term, while Ralph returned from military service in Germany to the farm, although he later got his pilot’s license as well. Both established families, and both passed on and are buried in Reynolds.

Like our branches of family, most of the succeeding generations have migrated from the Red River Valley regions. But there are still Jensons in Reynolds. And there is still a tenuous connection, mostly remembered by trivia-minded family genealogists. If you stumble across this story in your researches, drop me a line.