Baby Samuel: A Few More Clues About Mom

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Yesterday I had a full day of meetings at CGS but I thought I would sneak in a little research time for a friend. I planned to noodle around in some San Francisco city directories to see if I could find any new information about the SWARTZ family for Elizabeth O’Neal of Little Bytes of Life. On Tuesday she reported on The Mystery of Baby Samuel and how she had become strangely obsessed with his short life.

When I got to the library, I discovered that the crack team of researchers at the society were already on the case. Since Elizabeth had done the basic census work, CGS “Look-up Maven” Lavinia Schwarz, did what anyone who has San Francisco ancestors should do. She searched the California Names Index on the California Genealogical Society Web site.

Through the years, CGS volunteers have indexed a wide variety of state, county, and local references, creating an enormous and unique database of the library’s holdings. The California Names Index currently contains over 265,000 entries. Search results yield a full name and an Index Code that tells the source type of the information.

These are the results that come up after a search for “Swartz.”

The bottom listing is for Baby Samuel’s parents: “Swartz, Samuel K. (I. Nielsen) BIO $10.00.” The three letter code “BIO” indicates that some biographical information is available in our collection of more than 50 California state, county, and local histories. $10.00 is the charge for copying and sending the information. (Elizabeth, this one is on us!)

Lavinia recognized the source for the Swartz biography as one she had consulted for several previous look-up requests. It is a two volume set and it is in Danish.

Danske I California og California Historie: Beretninger om de Danskes liv og Virke Fra de Tidligste Pioner Dage is: Danes In California and California History, a Report on Danish Life and Work from the Earliest Pioneer Days, according to Google Translate.

Author Sophus Hartwick was once an owner and publisher of the San Francisco Danish Newspaper Bien (the Bee), the only Danish newspaper west of the Rockies when it began in 1882. The paper is still being published, a bi-weekly printed every other Thursday. Another interesting coincidence: the paper’s local editor at its Solvang office is a Nielsen!

The biography is actually for “Mrs. Samuel K. Swartz” and it names her Inger Anna Nielsen. Luckily, CGS’s Library Committee chair, Laura Spurrier will be able to translate the passage for us. Stay tuned.

Part 2:  Baby Samuel: Some Answers, More Questions



  1. footnoteMaven  August 21, 2008

    A fascinating story, can’t wait to see what you find!


  2. wendy  August 22, 2008

    Kathryn – Elizabeth gave me permission to use her blog post as a submission to my Freaky Friday challenge. I just added another link to your web site & article so folks can see more of the story! Thanks so much for helping Elizabeth out! I can't wait to hear the rest.

  3. Elizabeth O'Neal  August 22, 2008

    Your post popped up in my Google Reader last night, just as I was getting ready to shut down and go to bed. I was absolutely stunned and speechless when I read what you and the wonderful ladies of the CGS have been up to. By the time I finished reading your article, I had tears in my eyes (again).

    Solvang is only about 25 miles east of where I live, and is a well-known Danish community visited by thousands of tourists each year. I’ll have to run out and pick up a copy of that paper, “The Bee,” (when I’m over the flu) and maybe find out if the publisher is a relative of Ingar. Plus, there’s a great playground out there that my daughter loves, so now I have another excuse to visit!

    Please give the ladies – and yourself, of course – and big thank you hug from me.

    I have no idea why this story has affected me the way it has, but I hope someday to find out.

    Little Bytes of Life

  4. Kathryn Doyle  August 22, 2008

    fM, Wendy, and Elizabeth,

    Isn’t this fun? I know exactly where Solvang is and I knew it was in your backyard. I actually left a phone message for Ms. Nielsen but I get the feeling that they are only in the office around their publication date. I think that this whole story would be a great article for their paper.

    Life is intruding today (car trouble) but I will be posting the amazing results later today. Laura has finished the translation and – surprise – there were TWO bios in the book! Also, Dick Rees got into the act and found an obituary. The volunteers at CGS really do ROCK.

    fM, as soon I can sit down and write some proper source citations I’ll get the post up.

    Wendy, thanks for spreading the word.

  5. Family Curator  August 23, 2008

    Great story, Kathryn and Elizabeth. I can’t wait to hear the epilogue.