Obituaries: Search Example

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Towards the end of the ship manifests search example, I described how I used ship manifests to determine that a brother and sister of my great-grandmother Marie Alm had joined her near Christine, North Dakota.

Next, I wanted to learn more about their life and where they died. The ship manifests search example ended with an 1895 Minnesota Territorial Census record showing brother and sister living in the same household with another person named August Johnson. I searched the 1900 U.S. Federal Census for Emma with the various last names she used (Skogland, Nelson, Satterstad), but had no luck. So, I tried searching for any Emma (no last name) in the Wolverton, Minnesota area. This is where she was living in 1895. I found the record shown below.

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Emma Johnson 1900 Census

But, the Emma is Emma Johnson. Did she marry the August Johnson who was in the household in the 1895 census? But that Johnson's first name was Charles. This record does show that Emma Johnson immigrated to the United States in 1894 and that is consistent with Emma's ship manifest.

I then searched the 1910 U.S. Federal Census for Wolverton, Minnesota and found the following record:

Emma Johnson 1910 Census

This is likely to be the same Emma. The immigration date is the same. Her husband's name is listed as Carl A., not Charles or August. I thought maybe the "A" is for August?

I continued my search with the 1920 U.S. Federal Census for Wolverton, Minnesota:

Emma Johnson 1920 Census

Now, her husband's name is listed as August. So, I was pretty sure this is the same couple. Again, Emma's immigration date is 1894.

Moving on the the 1930 U.S. Federal Census:

Emma Johnson 1930 Census

Her husband is listed as C. August this time. By now, I'm quite confident I have the same couple.

I could not find Emma in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census for Wolverton. I did find a Charles August Johnson listed as a widower. So, presumably, Emma died between 1930 and 1940. I searched the Minnesota Historical Society online PeopleFinder and found this reference:

Emma Johnson Death Index

I then ordered her death certificate from the Minnesota Historical Society:

Emma Johnson Death Record

One problem. After all this work, I could not be sure this Emma is the same Emma who was the sister of my great-grandmother Marie Alm. Since I live about twenty minutes from the Minnesota Historical Society, I drove to their History Library. The History Library holds all the newspapers going back to Minnesota's territorial days. Using the death date on Emma's death certificate, I found her obituary in the local Wilkin County, Minnesota newspaper:

Emma Johnson Obituary

Note that Mrs. Marie Alm (my great-grandmother) is listed as Emma's sister. The obituary confirmed the two sisters continued to live near each other after they came to the United States.

Sometimes obituaries can have misleading information. The name of the sister in Sweden was Inga Thudin and not Ingot Todeen as shown in the obituary.

Emma's brother John also came to Christine, North Dakota. I could not find any census records for him after 1895. I found a John Skoglund who died February 2, 1900 in Wilkin county where Wolverton is located. I also found a grave in Wilkin County for a John Skoglund at the Find A Grave website. So, that was probably Emma's brother. I could not find an obituary. In 1900, the local paper was not printing obituaries.

If you are not sure that searching for an obituary is the next best option for your research, consider using the advice feature of this site. This will help you pick your next best steps in your research. Go to the Free Search Advisor.