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.
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.