Digging those Norwegian roots
The Reporter's Notebook
Last updated 5/26/2021 at 7:23am
My grandmother, Marie Rusten, was born in Norway in 1861.
I have spent a lifetime trying to get information about her, while some of it was right at my fingertips all the time.
I don’t have much that was my grandmother’s, only two pictures of the family farm, a photo of the church they attended, pictures of her parents, and a little black booklet.
I have only fleeting memories of my grandma.
She came out West with my parents and lived with us until passing in 1937.
I was 7 when she died.
She always kept her Norwegian ways, barely learning enough English to get by. My mother was an only child and didn’t pick up much of the language. I think Grandma knew more English, just didn’t have the confidence to go with it.
When I go home to Palouse, I always go to the cemetery to pay respects to my parents, but never could locate my grandma’s gravesite.
She died during the Depression, and my parents put off getting a gravestone because times were tough.
It has been one of my goals to locate her plot and see that a proper stone was purchased.
So I went to the funeral home in Palouse and asked for their assistance. Several weeks later, I received a call stating that the records were not clear as to her plot location.
Several years went by and I tried again. Weeks later I got the same response. Time passed again, and three years ago I tried again, this time talking with the owner. This time, I was called after only a few days with a positive response with the location and the fact that there was not a gravestone.
With the help of my eldest daughter, Kathy, we had a stone made and located. I later made a trip back to Palouse to find the plot and see the granite stone.
That left only the little black book. The booklet is about three inches wide and five inches tall, with pages written in Norwegian script.
My grandma had kept the book, then my mother got the book and gave it to me prior to her passing in 1970.
It is remarkable that the booklet had a long life.
I would get it out from time to time and look at it, but the language barrier was always there.
Then just recently I called Kathy and talked about getting the writings translated.
The book was sent to West Seattle, and within a couple of weeks we had the translation.
The writings were words from my grandma’s classmates at schools in Vonheim and Solheim.
That was in 1886.
That helped date the approximate time that she immigrated to the United States.
At this time, my best guess is that she came over here shortly after her classmates wrote in the booklet.
There were other members of her family already in Minneapolis, where she was located.
Then she did something strange; she married a Dane.
My mother was born in1899.
There’s still a lot that I don’t know, and I am searching the documents that I have to see if there is additional information for me.
I would strongly urge people to get all the information they can from grandparents and parents and write it down.