Baby Samuel: Some Answers, More Questions

by Kathryn Doyle (8/23/2008)

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

Baby Samuel: A Few More Clues About Mom

by Kathryn Doyle (8/21/2008)

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

Wordless Wednesday

by Kathryn Doyle (8/20/2008)

California Genealogical Society Membership Committee
Sandy Fryer and Nancy Hart Servin
(Not shown: Anne Cyr)

Photograph by Kathryn M. Doyle, July 15, 2008.