Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

Archival Anecdotes: The stories told

Many Americans have a story of an ancestor who once lived in a far away land and made a big decision to leave home for a new place. These stories can be inspiring and can even lead to a greater understanding of our own existence.

I first began studying my family tree after my father's passing in 2012. Learning about his lineage helped me cope in countless ways. I learned about my great-great-grandmother, Josephine who, according to family history, enjoyed ice fishing. I learned that she immigrated from Sweden at the age of 20 in pursuit of a better life. Records indicate that her alternative was likely playing mother to her 17 siblings. Instead she decided to settle in Chicago. There, she worked as a maid for wealthy households, and even had a side hustle in fortune telling. She had two children and lived to 91 years of age.

Of course, there's much more to Josephine's story. While the internet offers insight to some aspects of our ancestors lives, the richest of stories come from histories told through the generations. One of the greatest resources we have in learning about the past are the words of our elders.

In 1961, the Eddy County chapter of Pioneer Daughters formed and began documenting their own "Pioneer Histories." Here are a few samples:

Clare Collins Payne's father, Jeremiah, immigrated from Ireland and worked carpentry in Minneapolis before marrying and moving west, eventually settling in Stutsman County. Clare worked as a depot agent with her husband William Payne.

Anna Ackerman wrote of how her mother, Francis Adams Ackerman, left Otterstadt, Germany with her parents and came to Dakota Territory in 1881. They settled outside Fargo. It was Francis who after marrying Jacob Ackerman settled 10 miles west of New Rockford.

Mrs. Howard Stone wrote about how her mother Signe Hustveit left Sweden for Sheyenne as a newlywed with Sveineng Aslakson.

Jennie Doyle shared her grandfather's story. Darby Doyle ran away from his wealthy Pennsylvania household and eventually landed himself in Fort Totten where he enlisted in the Army. He later married Jennie Feltcamp of Sheyenne and the two homesteaded and farmed together. Later in life he took on the profession of baking.

There are dozens more stories available at You can find them under the "Library" tab in the menu. These histories tell stories of ancestors who traveled alone or with family, and with a brand new spouse. They rode on horses and on wagons from Ohio, Illinois or Nebraska. Some crossed oceans – which could take up to three months!

Eddy County Museum board member Janet Bower Heskin got involved with the Eddy County Museum almost eight years ago because of her growing interest in her ancestors' story. Janet grew up in Bremen, not far from the places that three sets of great-grandparents settled.

When asked how she got interested in her genealogy, Janet shared that she had read a book written by her great-grandmother and North Dakota pioneer Mary (Gardner) Twist titled "Just an Ordinary Family." From there, Janet has researched her family's heritage back to Europe. Along the way she's not only found facts and dates, but also stories and connections that help her round out her family tree.

What family stories do you remember?