A Year in the Life of Jens Dahle: 22 February 1865

Jens Dahle and James Eberhart are both prisoners in the Confederate prison at Salisbury, North Carolina. James kept a diary of his imprisonment which closely parallels that of Jens Dahle.

Finally the day of freedom arrives!

James writes in his diary:

“Feby 22, G. Washington Birth day

Was called to lines and Read a parole for us. Not to try & Escape as they were a going to Exchange. what glad news.  I drew Ration & issued the same. 2 day to walk 50 miles to Greensboro. Let us out about 12. Walked until dark and camped in woods. We had plenty of wood & a good fire although it was a Raining. Rested fairly well.” — James Eberhart.1

The stories of James and Jens diverge on February 22.  James, one of 2822 prisoners and 48 citizens were well enough to walk out.

As much as can be pieced together, Jens was loaded onto a train and taken to Parole Camp in Annapolis where he arrived on 3 March 1865, a trip of about 400 miles.

It is valuable to know what happens to James, our diarist, until we pick up the story of Jens in a subsequent blog posting.

Feby 26

Arrived at Greensboro. All hungry. after dark they gave us molasses & corn meal to eat. Slept in wood all night with a good fire.

Fby 28

Got on town in afternoon and arrived at Raleigh about 10 pm. encamped in open field. Nothing to eat.

CW flag 36 starsMch 2nd

We all signed a parole and put us on the cars and took us to own lines. Near [?] the Black River. Came in through the Colored Troops. What a joyous deliverance when we once more saw old Glory.2  I never saw it more beautifull.  the Colored Troops fed us in their camp and then we went to Welimngton about 3 miles and got all we wanted to eat. Stayed one night and took a Steamer for Anapolis MD

18 March 1865

I am home on furlough thanks be mercifull God that brought me Home again.” – James Eberhart

I cannot even imagine the euphoria….and the sense of being safe, a quality when it is taken away permeates your psyche in such a negative way.  Think of his first time in a bed or by a fire or having a cup of stew….all big events that others take for granted but James would imbue with the qualities most normally associated with miracles.

Happy Hunting!


1 James Eberhart, Diary, 1864-1865.
2 36 Star Flag, “National Treasures: Union Civil War Flags from 1861-1865″, digital image, Zaricor Flag Collection (http://www.flagcollection.com : accessed 1 January 2015), ZFC3087.
3 James Eberhart, Diary, 1864-1865.

A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 16 February 1865

hospital SalisburyOn 16 February 1865, Jens checked himself into the hospital suffering from “chills & fever”.1  but hospitals within Civil War prisons were not much more than protection from the elements. See image on left of the hospital in Salisbury.2  There are no beds, no mattresses and no heat but you received some cover from the rain. The dead were taken from the hospital and loaded onto the wagon which appeared daily at the open end of the hospital.  All items of value would be removed from the body such as clothing or blankets and given to other prisoners or taken by the guards.  This late in the war no medications were available. In a show of personal strength, Jens returned to camp the next day. He was not ready to die..or had he heard a rumor?

I hypothesize that Jens must have been very close to death at this time. He is probably also losing hope–a dangerous combination. If something doesn’t happen soon to change his situation, he will die. The reasons for my supposition include that his condition was not strong when he entered prison back in October due to his “light duty” designation when he returned from the Union hospital where he was for 7 months in 1863 and 1864.  Family tradition says he weighed only 85 pounds when he got out of prison.  Hospitals were not places one went to become well but rather to die even in good times. Subsequent events substantiate this hypothesis.

James Eberhart described the weather as “more rain” and noted that the camp had missed rations two days of the week.3 Bad food or no food would have exacerbated Jens’s condition.

It was known at this time that the South was losing the war. How much longer would it continue? Who would take the burden of surrender on his shoulders?

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  worked on the newsletter for Seattle GS, “completed” my presentation “A Scandinavian Overview” which will be presented next weekend.  …unfortunately it is about 1 hour and 12 minutes long and way too dense.  Syllabus went out to the program planner.  Also did my SGS Board report.  I have just two more newsletters to do and 1 bulletin.  I am looking forward to seeing my daughter in Tucson AZ the end of this month.  Working with Skagit Valley GS for a presentation given with Mary Kathryn Kozy.  It will be fun working with her.

1Jens Dahle, Compiled Military Service Record, (private, 2nd Company Minnesota Sharpshooters), Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington DC.
2 Image probably from Harper’s Weekly magazine approximately 1865.
3 James Eberhart, Diary, 1864-1865.

What’s New in the ‘Hood: Seattle Public Schools’ Archive

If you have been a regular reader of this blog you may remember that in 2014 Historic Seattle organized a series of tours of repositories in the Seattle area as part of a “Digging Deeper” series.  I was lucky enough to tour and blog about a few of the stops.  Here are the blog links for the ones I could attend:

This year Luci Baker Johnson, a genealogist and program chair for Historic Seattle, organized a second set of tours for the Digging Deeper Research Series with the inaugaral tour of the Seattle Public Schools Archives by Aaren Purcell, Archivist.  these tours are usually a presentation of the type of materials held and how to access them, followed by a tour of the “back rooms” including storage stacks and work rooms.

SPS student recordsThe approximately 25 attendees saw the school records of over a million students of the Seattle Public Schools, records that are of particular interest to the genealogists with ancestors from the area. These records are on microfiche and stored in the metal cabinet you see in the photo on the left. (Aaren is behind the cabinet.)





SPS artAlso, a part of the collection are art works by famous and not so famous local artists.

Or, how about the 1964 Garfield High School annual with a picture of Jimi Hendrix in it?






SPS Bruce LeeOr, the grade record of Bruce Lee.

Also included are trophies of inter-school (between Seattle schools only) rivalries, banners, annuals, school newspapers, School Board minutes, annual reports (earliest 1885), photographs, historic register applications, aerial photos (did you live near a school, perhaps the house was captured?) and school planning documents.


SPS brown boxesAaren then showed us the work rooms where they are presently cataloging and preserving school newspapers.  We then went into the stacks.  Note the percentage of brown boxes in the photo on the left–those are the materials that are not yet cataloged and therefore are inaccessible.  Aaren has volunteers to help (contact her if you would like to help.) but can only take a few at a time.

If you would like to access the archive material, Aaren recommends you email her first with your request at least 24 hours in advance (weekends don’t count) so she can better respond to your specific need.

Luci was a great facilitator and Aaren a  terrific host. Thanks to both!

The next session is at the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) on March 5.  I have been here several times and accessed the archives for the plans of my house, remodeled in 1997-1998.  It will be fun getting into the back room.  You can still sign up for this tour and others of the series; just use the Digging Deeper link in the second paragraph above.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  presented “House Histories Wherever You Live” to SGS which was enthusiastically received.  I rolled out my presentation website for them which contains reference materials, copies of the syllabus and links to articles about house histories.  It will be interesting to see if this works. While giving the presentation, I found things I wanted to improve, which I am now correcting because I give it again in mid-March.  I continue to refine the “Overview of Scandinavian Resources” which has been a bear-cat to get under control.  This last weekend I finally felt like it was settling down.  Attended a special SGS Board meeting, but I am behind in getting the next newsletter out (must be mailed by 24 February.)

Genealogy as an Academic Discipline

At the Colloquium held at Salt Lake City on the Saturday between the Association of Professional Genealogist’s (APG) Professional Management Conference (PMC) and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), genealogy as an academic discipline was the first of three topics presented that day.  Some of the best genealogical minds–Craig Scott, Jay Fonkert, Jean Hibben and Tom Jones–participated in the discussion. You can see my initial blog posting here.  Our host was the Utah Genealogical Society.

“The GPS and Beyond: Genealogy as a Profession,” presented by Jay Fonkert, addressed the challenge of genealogy being taken seriously as an academic discipline.  The conversation which followed the presentation continued for about 40 minutes without clear direction of next steps and with an air of frustration by the audience.

Before I proceed, a little background might be helpful.  There is a perception (?) that genealogy is not taken seriously by academia.  The contention is that genealogists are not scholarly enough.  In spite of these attitudes, even in my lifetime I have seen significant advances made by genealogy and genealogists. In the past 20 years, Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, Thomas W. Jones, CG and others have, by teaching and by example, encouraged and cajoled us to impose a scholarly approach to our family history. A entire generation of genealogists have benefited from their selfless commitment to “raising the bar.”

But, the the question remains….what do we as scholars and genealogists want?

It’s a simple question. Do we even know? Is “it” something we can actually affect?  Or is “it” something we have to earn?  Or a combination?

So, I pose some questions for you, the readers…

 If genealogy became an academic discipline, what would be different?

If genealogy became an academic discipline, what would be the same?

First, let’s start with a definition of “discipline” in our context. The OED defines discipline as “7.a. A branch of learning or knowledge; a field of study or expertise; a subject. Now also: a subcategory or element of a particular subject or field.”1

In a survey (very limited numbers and a regional subset of genealogists2) genealogy was identified as being most closely aligned with history and cultural anthropology and that academics within those fields do not value the micro-history which we find so fascinating.

So, here are some questions, of which I have no answers…

  • Is there a lack of respect by mainstream academics or are we just imagining that it exists?
  • If it exists, what is the basis for this lack of respect? …was it deserved? …have we ever asked?
  • Is the level of acceptance and/or respect changing?  If so, how much?
  • What does genealogy have to offer the other academic pursuits?
  • What baggage do we bring?
  • Can we affect change?
  • What are we doing to change the attitudes of others? …can we do more?
  • Does technology have an impact on our acceptance? (see article below by O’Hare.)
  • Are there any downsides to acceptance as a discipline, e.g. being subsumed?
  • What would be the criteria by which we would measure whether we were a discipline or not?

These are just some late night thoughts.

Of course, I will not let it alone.  I am a bit of a “dog on a bone” on this topic. I would appreciate any comments about approaches to advance the discipline of genealogy and on this blog in general.

You might want to read:

O’Hare, Sheila. “Genealogy and History.” Common-Place.org, April 2002.  http://www.common-place.org/vol-02/no-03/ohare/ : accessed 5 February 2015) 2 : 3.

I will soon have a reading list for you, if you wish to learn more.  I will, however, continue to explore this topic in this blog and outside of it.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: I have been working on the completion of my presentation for the South King County Genealogical Society on “An Overview of Scandinavian Records.”  I am pleased with the product but it, like “House History–Wherever You Live,” has taken an enormous amount of time to put together.  I hope to wrap it up this weekend.  I attended two GS Board meetings and made a decision not to run for office of one of them.  I had a wonderful lunch with my genealogical friend who challenged my thinking on this blog.  Thanks, Lisa!

1 Online Oxford English Dictionary. December 2013 update. http://guides.lib.washington.edu/encydict : accessed 5 February 2015.

2 I confess, I asked my friends!

A Question from a Reader

Slide1A reader recently asked a very interesting question about the Advanced Practicum:

I’m wondering (other than sharpening skills) how a class like this with Polish, German, and a slave research would help me learn better research skills for my emphasis of 17th, 18th & 19th century US records?

This question got me thinking about why I, a person who does almost all my personal research in the 19th century Midwest or overseas, would find Advanced Practicum helpful or even interesting.

The same question came up recently in the January Seattle Genealogical Society Board meeting.  We were discussing the spring seminar where we have invited C. Lynn Andersen to speak.  She is an accredited genealogist with ICAPGen with a specialty in Mid-South States.  If one has no one in their ancestral path that is associated with any of the Mid-South States (VA, WV, KY, TN, MO, SC, NC), why should they attend the seminar?

I believe they should but here are some thoughts.

Just as a refresher, the Advanced Practicum is a class taught at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) from which I returned in mid-January.  We received a different genealogy problem each day for five days to solve.

The problems varied:

  1. identifying multiple generations of women (North Carolina)
  2. sorting out multiple families when the heads of household have the same name (Poland)
  3. identifying the freed slave and his ownership (South Carolina)
  4. identifying the father who abandoned his family. (Pennsylvania)
  5. identifying 3 generations of a maternal line of an immigrant family in the Midwest (Iowa, Germany)

So, …

  • none of the families were “mine”
  • only one was in a geographic area where I regularly work

But, each problem…

  • represented a universal genealogical problem
  • improved my analytical skills , as none of them relied solely on direct evidence
  • exposed me to record sets that otherwise I would not come in contact with.
  • provided interesting “puzzles to solve” which I did with varying success
  • represented a time frame within which I work–19th or 20th centuries
  • and some day I may work in these areas.

I posed the question of why should one attend the SGS Seminar if they did not have people in the Mid-South states to Lynn, our speaker and her answer was not surprising–to learn transferable skills.  And, as she noted, you never know when you will be asked by a friend or a relative to look at their line and find that they came through these states.

So, besides having the fun of solving of puzzles, I recommend attending both the Advanced Practicum and educational events outside your focus area–not because you will find record sets that answer your problems or ethnic groups with which you are familiar but because –you won’t!  But, you will learn problem solving skills and get exposed to other record sets. The skills learned might be the  ones that break your own brick walls.  Oh, and as you work these unrelated problems you might find yourself being able to dispassionately view your own work and identify similar problems in your own family history.

So, if improving your skills is not enough of an incentive, perhaps learning about new records set is or perhaps you have an inquiring mind and just want to know.  All are great reasons to attend seminars outside your research focus or to attend the Advanced Practicum.

But, then again you might find yourself making a different decision, which is OK too.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I recovered from the “SLIG Sickness”–it was an insidious thing.  I have agreed to speak twice at Skagit Valley–a one hour session and an all-day presentation in September.  I have been madly working on two presentations which are incredible time consumers–House Histories (60 hours?) and Scandinavian Research (40+ hours?).  While I love them both, they are both very complex–more so then I was expecting. I also have helped a friend put together her first presentation.  It is interesting the tips you forget that a newbie brings to the surface.

A Year in the Life of Jens Dahle: 23-31 January 1865

Jens Dahle and James Eberhart are both prisoners in Confederate prison at Salisbury, North Carolina. James writes in his diary:

Prison Trench Burial“Jany 23-31-

We have Missed our Ration one day.  This week 200 has died this week. There wont be many of us left.”  — James Eberhart1

The bodies were collected daily and taken to the “dead house” to be counted and loaded onto a one-horse wagon. At 2:00 PM each day this wagon of the dead would be taken about ¼ mile to an abandoned cornfield where the men were buried. Eighteen trenches of approximately 240 feet each were eventually needed. These trenches are visible today.2

See photo at above.3  Prisoner labor was used to bury the (eventually) 3200 bodies who died from early November to February 1865.

James is now only writing once every three to five days and has reduced the amount of words in each entry to two to three lines.  Usually there is a note about the weather, whether they received rations and the body count.  The number dying per day is mounting.

It is a dark time.  No relief in sight.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  I have attended SLIG in SLC and the PMC conference.  Since I am writing this before the conference, I am sure I have blogged about the experience or will soon.

1 James W. Eberhart, Diary, 1864-1865.
2 “Salisbury, NC”, Civil War Album (http://civilwaralbum.com : accessed 1 January 2015).
3 National Park Service; photo is probably of the trenches at Andersonville.

Post-SLIG Observations

I am back from Salt Lake City and have some observations about the experience.

I enjoyed the experience of my class, the Advanced Practicum, organized by Angela McGhie and Kimberly Powell.   Advanced Practicum is one of several classes offered for one week at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG).

Each afternoon a new problem is presented by an advanced genealogist.  Class members work on the problem until the next afternoon at which time they submit a short explanation of the solution.  We then attend the class, hear a presentation by the advanced genealogist about the problem while sharing out findings and solutions.  Since there are usually multiple research questions, rarely does anyone “get it all right.” The goal is to learn new tools, new locales, gain exposure to new records sets and improve one’s analytical skills.  The problems varied but address some common genealogical problems:

  1. identifying multiple generations of women in the south (North Carolina)
  2. sorting out multiple families when the heads of household have the same name (Poland)
  3. identifying slave ownership (South Carolina)
  4. identifying the father who abandoned his family and then had multiple marriages. (Pennsylvania)
  5. identifying 3 generations of maternal line of an immigrant family in the Midwest (Iowa, Germany)

I did the best with the last problem using some interesting tools to work out options.  Of course, it was in a locale where I am very familiar.  I did the worst with the finding the father in Pennsylvania where I just replaced one family story with another…humbling.

But with each of the problems I learned something.

In a previous post, I noted that I wanted to research more efficiently and to develop a research plan for each problem.  I was definitely more efficient working the problems but still  lost focus on occasions.  I did develop a research plan for every problem but in almost every case I needed to revisit the  plan and revise at the midpoint or when I lost focus.

Problem #1:  I learned I needed to write as I go.  The writing of the summary of findings was crammed in at the end of this day.  If I wrote as I researched the writing would be almost completed at the end of the day with just some general editing.  I also needed to rework/revisit my research plan about every 3 hours or so.  The given information by the advanced genealogist usually makes the answers to the first research question fairly obvious.  As one proceeds with the problem and loses focus, rebuilding the research plan might be reasonable to do. Subsequent days I wrote while researching.  I did not however, revisit my research plan which I should have done.

Problem #2: In this problem the genealogist presented a huge spreadsheet of parish events in a village in Poland.  The assignment was to separate out the families of individuals who had the same name.  I enjoyed this problem, probably because it was very similar to work I do with my Swedish and Ostfriesen ancestors.  There were over 3000 entries over an 80 year time span in the database so this was no light exercise.  One had to use the births, marriages and death records to sort out the families.  I needed to know more about Excel to do this problem most successfully.  I will be taking some tutorials to add making pivot tables to my Excel skills.

Problem #3: This was an extremely complex problem with a lot of information to analyze.  The slave identification was very difficult due to another “contender.”  To be successful one had to work backwards and forwards.  First, one had to trace the “person of interest” from freedom back to slavery and then trace the slave “contenders” from likely families forward to see if  they aligned.  The researcher could get distracted and at any time go down the genealogical “rabbit hole.”

Problem #4: This was a case of trying to find the father of an abandoned mother and child in the Northeast.  I should have gotten further with this problem.  I learned some tricks for getting to online information more quickly. Due to some other work (personal and otherwise) I only spent five hours on this problem (excuse) but I doubt if I had spent more time, I would have done much better.  The best strategy would have been to start over again after working on it for 5 hours.  I did, however, record my findings in the report as I went along.  And while the report “looked good” that did not make up for the fact the findings were extremely weak.  This was a humbling experience for me.

Problem #5: The problem was to identify ancestors of immigrant (German) family on maternal side.  The day before I had done some personal work in the library and actually used some of the German resources (new to me) provided by the genealogist. That helped.  I did well enough on this problem that I  could challenge the genealogist on his conclusions on the final research question.

As with all of the problems the discussion at the end of the day was most interesting because each classmate approached the problem differently.  Previous attendees of the class noted that this year’s cohort was particularly collaborative, sharing strategies and successful approaches.

One of the highlights of any conference or institute is meeting new people and connecting with old friends. Our ProGen group (4 attendees) got together for breakfast– Rorey, Zola, Lynn and me.  It was great fun to catch up with everyone.

The class will be offered next year; perhaps you should take it.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since my last posting:  tried to recover from the “SLIG Sickness” that rolled through then entire population of SLIG.  I caught it starting on Tuesday; by Thursday I was wasted.  I recovered a bit by the middle of the week but did not attend the banquet so I had energy to pack and get to the airport the next morning