Baby Samuel: Some Answers, More Questions

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A team of researchers at the California Genealogical Society joined forces this week to give Elizabeth O’Neal some new information in her quest to solve The Mystery of Baby Samuel. In just a couple of days Dick Rees, Laura Spurrier and Lavinia Schwarz found several new leads for her to pursue.

As with any genealogical research, answers often reveal more questions, and this is certainly the case with the information found in the Danish work previously described.

The Danske I California og California Historie contained two biographies of interest. This is Laura’s translation:

Brothers Jens and Peter Nielsen, born in Udby Sogn, Holbæk Amt, came to California in the 1860s. They worked in the gold mines, and Peter Nielsen for a while ran a rooming house in San Francisco. They last resided in Kansas where they homesteaded. Two grandnephews, brothers Ejlert and Lars Mortensen, live in Riverside, California.
Mrs. Samuel K. Swartz (Inger Anna Nielsen), sister of the previously mentioned Nielsen brothers, came to San Francisco in 1906. She was president of the “Zion” society, under the auspices of the Ansgar Church, and she also active in the Danish Ladies’ Aid Society.
Dick Rees visited the San Francisco Public Library and pulled microfilm in the Herb Caen Magazines and Newspapers Center to look for obituaries. He was unable to find one for Samuel K. Sr. but he did find this:

The Rees-Spurrier-Schwarz team all expressed some concern about the apparent age difference between Inger and her elder brothers. Dick’s comment was “I found it interesting that the brothers Nielsen arrived in the 1860s and sister Inger wasn’t even born until 1883. I’m hoping Father Nielsen had at least two wives!”
Vinnie commented on a problem that Elizabeth already discussed, “Inger’s age and Samuel’s birthdate, as well as daughter Irene’s birthdate don’t add up well. Sam is a late baby, but possible. Irene’s birthplace seems off.” The married name for Irene in the obituary provides some new clues.

Laura offered this:

Danske i California, though very, very useful, is not infallible in my opinion. I would look for the dates of naturalization for Jens and Peter in the 1890 Great Register of California, then find their naturalization papers. I’d also try to find their ages at death. I would try to find Inger’s own immigration records and her marriage record. The records of St. Ansgar Lutheran Church in San Francisco should be checked. Raking the Ashes states that St. Ansgar merged into St. Francis Lutheran Church but doesn’t say if the records are extant. If Inger didn’t reach San Francisco until after the ’06 quake, relevant records might still be there — certainly the record of her funeral if she remained a member. Inger may have been a daughter or niece of one of the Nielsen brothers, not a sister. Another possibility is that Inger was the grandmother of Baby Samuel and the records were fudged in order to cover up an illegitimate birth. Sources in Denmark, may shed some light too.

We all wish Elizabeth much luck if she chooses to continue her research of Baby Samuel’s family. Happy birthday, Elizabeth!


1. Sophus Hartwick, Danske I California og California Historie: Beretninger om de Danskes liv og Virke Fra de Tidligste Pioner Dage [Danes In California and California History, a Report on Danish Life and Work from the Earliest Pioneer Days], 2 volumes, San Francisco, 1939, p. 658. Chapters in the work are arranged by county. The Nielson Brothers biography appears in the Los Angeles County chapter, translated by Laura J. Spurrier, M.L.S.

2. Sophus Hartwick, Danske I California. p. 840. Inger Swartz’s biography appears in the chapter on San Francisco.

3. Inger A. Swartz Obituary, San Francisco Chronicle, microfilm, Monday, 28 May 1973.

Part 1: Baby Samuel: A Few More Clues About Mom



  1. Elizabeth O'Neal  August 23, 2008

    Wow, you guys have really given me a lot to think about on my birthday!

    You are all so AWESOME for helping me to continue my strange quest for information about this family. Thank you so much! If you ever need research done in my neck of the woods, please let me know!

    Little Bytes of Life

  2. footnoteMaven  August 24, 2008


    Here is more information. It may be possible that Irene is Samuel’s daughter and that he had a first wife Elsie.The names and addresses match.

    1918 California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968
    Samuel K. Swartz 3386 16th Salesman

    1918, September 10 World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
    Samuel Karstetter Swartz Birth Date 5 Mar 1876
    476 Ellis San Francisco Occupation Drummer
    Mother – Margaret Swartz – Ickesburgh, Perry County, PA

    1920 California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968
    Samuel K. Swartz 480 Ellis Salesman

    1920, November 29
    Irene A. Swartz born

    1923 California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968
    Samuel K. Swartz 416 19th Ave. Salesman
    Mrs. Elsie C. Swartz 416 19th Ave. Housewife

    1929, 1 June
    Baby Samuel is born

    1930 Census Address 416 19th
    Swartz, Sam K. 47 yrs, born PA
    Swartz, Inger A. 47 yrs.
    Swartz, Irene 9 relationship to head of household daughter
    Murphy, Jennie 65 year old lodger
    (It looks as if the enumerator missed a line (that of Irene) and was placing Jennie Murphy’s information on Irene’s line. You can read Kentucky under California in Irene’s place of birth. For the father’s place of birth the enumerator starts the word with a P but leaves the ennessee from the line below.

    1932 California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968
    Samuel K. Swartz 416 19th Ave.
    Mrs. Inger Swartz 416 19th Ave.