The Adoption Witness: Rare Postcard to Skog-Vefsn; Revealing What?

This is sixth in a series on Edward Hemmingsen and his wife Anna Tobiassen, or Thompson. See Notes and Source, for details.

Sisters! Here is an undated photo-postcard of Johanna Karoline Tobiassen in Minneapolis, with two unnamed Swedish companions. She sent it inside an envelope to some Skog-Vefsn folk such that it is unaddressed and unstamped. Her granddaughter wondered if it somehow fit into our “Anna, adoptive mother of Betty” story – as part of Johanna’s 1926 trip to deliver the wee Baroness to Anna’s arms. It did not seem reasonable, though, for Johanna to have taken a side trip to Minneapolis at that time, when her urgent destination was Wickersham, Washington or Lake Cowichan, British Columbia. She needed to complete that mission quickly, to return to her own young children in Norway. When could the photo otherwise have been taken and what did it represent?

The card spoke anew. A look at the card showed it to be an original, crafted by the professional photographer C. W. Gerlach at 5 Washington Avenue South, in Minneapolis. Just what we needed! Data at the Minnesota Historical Society indicates Gerlach operated at that premise only until 1915.1 We know that Johanna Karoline became Mrs. Johan Skog in 1913 and was home in Norway for the birth of her daughter, Anne, in 1914. She did not leave Norway again, until 1926. The card had to have been mailed before 1913.

A new story emerges. We first checked Passenger Lists inbound to America, but found Johanna’s first recorded docking was 1926. The postcard called it differently and we could put Johanna K. Tobiassen on Norway’s outbound Tasso, in April of 1907.2 (That fit with Gerlach’s posted dates of operation.) Luckily, we had noticed that another young lady from Mosjøen, Helga Helmerson, was next-in-line to Johanna, to board that ship. Johanna’s arrival in America was then found by searching for Helga; she was also next to Helga on the manifest of Saxonia, which they had boarded in Liverpool, for Boston.3 Johanna’s name had been logged to its manifest, spelled with error. They landed on 10 May 1907, both bound for Wisconsin. Johanna was reportedly off to see her sister, Anna Tobiassen in Ashland, but would be staying at the grand Knight Hotel which was on East 2nd Street.4

OH! That address reminded that Anna had just returned to the US from a visit to their sisterly home in Norway, eight months earlier. Now Anna had told authorities, as her manifest statement, that she was a servant who had been domiciled in Ashland previously, but that she was now to visit her brother, Theodur – on “… 2nd …”. While “2nd” had caused a nudge, in fact, one address was East 2nd Street; the other, West 2nd Avenue; a great prompt from otherwise useless information. Anna’s romance with great uncle Ed Hemmingsen must have been topical by then, 1906, and at the very least, a secret among the “Oldefam” sisters. Ed, as we know, was raised in the Ashland area, but had gone west, by 1905.

How very odd, then, for Johanna to come to America so soon: mid-May of 1907 and to meet Anna in Ashland. It appeared that Anna was now a Seattle girl. Such was suggested, not proven, by Seattle City Directories, that placed domestic Anna Thompson (an aka for our Anna) in Seattle from 1905 through 1907, but not later.5 Such absence from further listing would make sense for someone who married there, in the latter half of 1907. The couple domiciled in Washington’s Snohomish County, directly thereafter.

Here now, mid-May 1907, it seems Anna was early with child, for, as previously posted, her son was born December, in Snohomish. Surely she shared this secret with Johanna, her very dear, close sister. Given that, one would expect the unencumbered Johanna to travel farther west, not for Anna to travel east. Further, that Johanna was put up in a hotel, suggests that Anna was not living in Ashland at the time. As it turned out, Ed and Anna’s ceremony was civil, with non-family witnesses. Not much planning needed for that. Then why not marry now, in Wisconsin, with Johanna present? Had her beloved remained on the west coast?

Did this undated photograph memorialize this mid-May meeting? Of course, it could have been taken in connection with Anna’s trip to Norway in 1906. However, Johanna’s granddaughter said ” … the dresses and hats were not common in Mosjøen those days. I wonder may be the picture is taken in USA? Year? …”

This photo seems not to have been taken at the Gerlach studio since Johanna’s clothes are no match for the one, that was. Nor does it seem taken at the same time as the Oldefam photo in Norway. That can be judged by viewing the side by side details of both, below.

Commentary on the postcard was frivolous. It gave no clue as to the focus of the family reunion – what else was going on? We are reminded that Ed’s sister-in-law, Caroline Hemmingson (Dybedal) had passed from TB, in the Ashland area, mid-February. Matt had brought her home from British Columbia, in fact, they arrived the very same time that Anna met Theodur, in 1906. Matt returned to the west coast in August of 1907 to attend to the Tsolum River Logjam, such that he was available in Ashland, mid-May.

Was Anna already in Ashland, having come east to mourn Caroline? If so, given her condition, Ed must have too. It then would have been an excellent venue, for Johanna to meet her intended, his closest brother and their extended family. Then again, why no wedding? Or was it something more acutely Tobiassen? Something that would postpone a joyous event?

The Tobiassen brother, Edvin has gone unaccounted, except the Family Bible says he died in the woods in the US – in 1907. Edvin M. Tobiassen (1870-1907) was last known to be in Oconto WI. Was this a meeting of his siblings, Theodur, Johanna and Anna to mourn, or, perhaps, bury him? We have not found Edvin’s resting place. Nor have we found those of Ed Hemmingsen’s parents, or his siblings Harry, Marie and George, all whom we suspect, lay in this Ashland area.

We may never solve this riddle for certain. However, Johanna’s side trip to Minneapolis MN now seems consistent with her known, nearby destination of Ashland WI. Had Anna accompanied her, the photo which was sent to family, would have included. her. The sisters would not unite again until 1926 when Johanna would bring her niece, Dorthea Larsen of Mosjøen Norway, to become Betty Hemmingsen of Lake Cowichan, BC. Unless, that is, another story should emerge.

1913 VEFSN: JOHAN SKOG wed Johanna Karoline. Born Daniels(sen/dtr) of Daniel Tobiassen, she and her siblings changed their surnames to Tobiassen, then to Thompson – creating ancestry havoc. Her niece, Thora, had a son, Lloyd Bailey, who dubbed himself Baron of Skog-Vefsn, in fun for family history. He died in 2006, after leaving a key clue for our story series – CLICK HERE for list.  


This post is sixth in a series on Edward Hemmingsen (1882-1966) and his wife Anna Tobiassen or Thompson (1884-1954). They had two children: George born 1907 and Dorothea Elizabeth (Betty) born 1920. The preceding five posts are found on this blog under the “Before Memories” tab: 1.Comox Valley: Sunny Days Ahead, 2. So, Was Ed Hemmingsen at the Wedding?, 3. The Baroness of Skog-Vefsn Emigrates to Lake Cowichan, 4. Tales of Skog-Vefsn Before Lake Cowichan and 5. Those Peripatetic Skog-Vefsn Folk at Lake Cowichan.These stories are written within a broader series on Ed’s brother, Matt – the rollout of the Memoirs of Matt Hemmingsen (1876-1967)

Documentation can be found in the above 5 cited posts, otherwise, new material is cited below.

1 Directory of Minnesota Photographers

2. The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, Massachusetts, 1891-1943; NAI Number: 4319742; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series Number: T843; NARA Roll Number: 107. Massachusetts, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2006. for Helga Helmerson.

3, The National Archives of Norway, the Digital Archives.  For Johanna K. Tobiassen and Helga Helmerson: Trondheim politikammer 1/32 Emigrant protocols, no. 13: Emigrant protocol no. 12. 1904-1907.

4.Ashland Historical Society Museum File Name 2-9-008 Knight Hotel.jpg

5. US City Directories, 1822-1995 accessed on 23 Sep 2020 at U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. For Anna Thompson. Publication Title: Seattle, Washington, City Directory 1905, and 1906 and 1907.

8 thoughts on “The Adoption Witness: Rare Postcard to Skog-Vefsn; Revealing What?

  1. Two pictures and WHAT a story you have found in a short time!!! I love the story about the sisters !!! Now I wonder how long was grandmother Johanna staying at the grand Knight Hotel? I was told that she had been working for a periode in the States? I wonder if Anna had a wish to have her sister closer to her than in Norway? I was told that Johan Skog had to wait a long time before he could marry Johanna? But at last in 1913. I think the dead of Edvin in 1907 must have been the reason why Johanna was visiting in 1907, but it`s a guess. Thank you for the sister story!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I can’t believe how thorough you are with your genealogy, Marilee. It makes for a very descriptive retelling of their story. They looked very glamorous in the photographs. It still amazes me that family traveled so far in past days.


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