Searching for Grandfather Hans Anderson of Manitowoc, Wisconsin

The past two weeks has found me searching for Grandfather Anderson. All of them. Well, some I’ve found, but a lot I haven’t. Let me tell you about the first of two Grandfather Andersons we’re looking for.

Hans Anderson from Norway

Our original Hans Anderson arrived from Fredriksvern, Norway, to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in 1851. He was one of six children, for whom we know nothing. We also don’t know his original name, his parent’s name, or what boat or port he arrived in. But we do know his children.

Hans Anderson (June 21, 1844 – September 1, 1924) married Sarah Olson (c1846 – 1930), also born in Norway, on June 15, 1867, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Sarah and Hans moved around a lot with their family, beginning in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and then moving in 1867 to South Dakota. About 1875, he and his family moved to Cicero, Outagamie County, Wisconsin, where he appeared on the 1880 Census. In 1894, they moved to Lessor, Shawano County, Wisconsin, until 1904 when they moved to Sawyer in Door County, Wisconsin. The Census reported that Hans was a farmer throughout his long life, dying at 80 years old.

Together, Sarah and Hans had 11 children of which 6 died very young. They were:

  • Amelia Anderson
  • Louis Anderson (c1869-?)
  • Otto Anderson (c1870-?) married Julia
  • John Anderson (c1873-1855) married 1) Helena A. Blickfelt/Swendsen (Svendsen) (1879-1906), 2) unknown, 3) Charlotte King
  • Caroline Anderson (c1871-?)
  • Shena Anderson (c1873-?)
  • Gena Anderson (c1873-?) married John Swendsen/Svendson (1870-?), son of Christopher Svendsen (Norway)
  • Mary Anderson
  • Ida Anderson
  • Anton Anderson (May 1880 – ?) married Lily (1880-?) in 1906 in Wisconsin
  • Unknown Anderson

We are searching for the parents of Hans Anderson, or one of his brothers. We’re looking for immigration records, and pouring though old microfilms looking for some record of how he immigrated and what his original name was. It’s been very frustrating as the Norwegians changed their names, often drastically, from the original when they immigrated, making the process that much harder.

Helena Blickfelt Anderson as a young woman in Wisconsin

Helena Blickfelt/Svendson

What we do know about his life is that he was married to Sarah for most of his life. They were also blessed with many grandchildren. But all was not joy. When their son, John, lost his wife, Helena, leaving him with six living children to raise, the rest of the family stepped in.

Helena Blickfelt Anderson’s life was a tragic one. Born with a twin who died at birth, her mother died very soon after. According to family stories, Helena was unofficially adopted by Christopher Svendson and his wife, for unknown reasons. We can assume that the Andersons and Swendson families were close as Helena married John Anderson and John Swendson, Christopher’s son, married Gena Anderson about the same time in Wisconsin.

John and Helena Anderson children

John and Helena Anderson Children, circa 1910

When Helena died, Hans and Sarah took in three of the grandchildren to raise. John and Gena Swendson took in two of the other children, repeating what his father had done with Helena many years before.

As age finally made it more difficult to live independently with three young children, in 1914 they moved in with Helena’s adopted family, John and Gena Swendson, reunited five of the Anderson grandchildren. Plus any children the Swendson’s had on their farm in Lessor, Wisconsin. One of those grandchildren, Raymond, became the Raymond Anderson whose grave has been lost in Monroe, Washington.

If you have any information on Hans Anderson or the Christopher/John Swendson (Svendsen) part of our hunt for our Grandfather Andersons, please leave a comment below. We’ve hit a dead end and we need some help. Thanks!

Update: 2006

We’ve found the father of Hans Anderson. On a whim, with only a day or two of notice, my mother and I caught a plane to Wisconsin to research both sides of her family. At the Michigan National Archives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, we found Andrias Anderson, and you can read the story in Finding the Citizenship Documents for Andrias Anderson.

We found his tombstone and most of his family and immediate descendents in the Our Savior’s Lutheran Cemetery in Lessor, Shawano, Wisconsin, helping to fill in even more blanks.

We’ve still a lot to learn about this man who made the long journey from Norway to New York with his family, his wife and what we believe to be only one of his six children, Hans, and to understand why he went to Wisconsin immediately, who came with him, and what was his life story before and after he arrived in the United States. We continue to dig, but now we have the oldest member of our Anderson line in place. It’s just a stepping stone across the see to uncover more information!

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About Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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