Category Archives: Genealogy

The GGGT of the Great Lakes

*** Originally scheduled for 2020 … postponed for years … now planned for Summer 2025 ***

A 19th century Korb portrait, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin

The Great Grand Genealogy Tour of the Great Lakes States, aka the “Great Lakes Greats”, will be a driving tour through Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin. We will be visiting the graves, churches, and farms of about 18 ancestral couples: ancestors of my grandmothers Eileen Korb-Beck and Loretta Meyer-Fagerland. Descendants of Norman Wirth have some ancestors on this route too. Anyone who’s interested is invited to join some or all of the tour. There are only two rules:

  • I will set the itinerary
  • You must pay for your own way

Places and (originally planned) dates are pinned below. Colored pins in IL, IN, MI, OH, and WI show the points of interest: Red for graves, green for churches or farms, purple for libraries or historical societies. If you don’t see anything on the map, please click the slider at upper left and make sure that “Great Lakes” and the “GGGT 2020 Driving Route” are checked. Most of the highlight pins indicate (K) for Korb ancestors or (M) for Meyer ancestors. Note that all of the Korb / Wirth ancestors are in Fond du Lac, WI, where we will wrap up our tour. There are Meyers at all stops, including Fond du Lac.

Updated dates will appear below:

Be sure to check this page regularly for updates!

Announcing the GGGT of Scandinavia

I did not take a Great Grand Genealogy Tour (GGGT) last year because we’ve been saving up and planning for this year’s — the GGGT of Scandinavia!  We are taking this particular tour now in honor of my grandfather, Warren.  He is my oldest grandparent, and this is the only place where his ancestors lie outside of America.  Grandpa is generously sponsoring a good portion of our travel expenses in exchange for enjoying this adventure vicariously through us!

Warren’s grandparents were all born in Scandinavia:  His father’s father, Ole Hanson Fagerland, was born in Rogaland County in southern Norway.  His father’s mother, Mary Johannsdotter-Fagerland, was born in Kronoberg County, Sweden.  His mother’s father, Anders Andersen, was born in Nordland County in northern Norway.  His mother’s mother was born in Oppland County in central Norway.  We will be making an ambitious two-week loop through all four counties.  Time only permits us one day each in Nordland, Oppland, and Kronoberg Counties.  We will have three or four days to spend in Rogaland County.  The rest of our trip will be spent in transit, cruising up the coast, and resting in Oslo and Copenhagen.

I have marked several genealogical points of interest in the map.  Green pins mark homes, and red pins are churches and cemeteries.  (There are also a few purple pins for logistical points of travel).  Feel free to zoom in and browse these points.  If you are familiar with any of these areas, please contact me with information or recommendations!

Updates will follow.  I plan to make a photobook of the trip as I did for the GGGT’s of 2014 and 2015.


GGGT 2015: Korb discoveries

This is the fourth and final post summarizing the discoveries of my 2015 Great Grand Genealogy Tour.  Today’s entry is dedicated to the Korbs (my maternal grandmother’s branch).

Grandma’s sister Marjorie, also known as Sister Maris Stella, has spent her life in service to the Catholic church.  I always felt a special connection to Sister, my mother’s godmother.  She was one of the first adults that I related to; she wrote letters to me when I was barely old enough to read them.  On this trip, I spent one night at Sister’s convent in Fargo.  I was curious to learn more about her career.  She has no children to carry on her memory, and her own memory is fading now, so I felt that this was the right time to ask for her recollections.  I was excited that she had plenty to say, not only about her career but her parents too.  Sister spent decades working with the poor, the addicted, mentally ill, and afflicted.  Then she wrapped up her career on a “social justice” committee, where she wrote newspaper articles, talked to leaders, and even spent a day at a UN forum.  Someday I’ll write more about this intriguing conversation, but while she’s still alive, you can ask her directly!


Sister Maris Stella with Great Grandpa Korb (and probably Great Grandma’s finger in the upper right). Right before …


… he tickled her.


Sister with Great Grandma, 1963. She says this is one of the few times she was ever actually in habit.


Sister Maris Stella serving the poor


Good-bye hug. July 12, 2015.

The final point of interest was Turner County, SD.  This was where Grandma’s grandparents (my 2GGPs) met.  He was Bernard Janowski and she was Christine Schowalter.  3GGPs Schowalter, German immigrants, were homesteaders with a fairly large farm near Hurley, SD.  This was just 100 miles away from De Smet, where Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up in her “Little House on the Prairie.”


3GGPs Schowalters’ land. For all we know, the barn and playhouse may have been theirs.


3rd Great Grandparents Schowalter are buried near their homestead in Turner County, SD.

3GGPs Janowski immigrated from Poland in 1892 and spent their first few years in Marion, SD.  They did not own land there but lived with a sponsor family.  It was in this area that Bernard and Christine met and married.

_south-dakota-065_edThe Schowalters had been Mennonites for centuries.  The Mennonite line in our family came to an end when Christine married Bernard, a Catholic.  The Janowskis left SD shortly afterward to homestead their own land in Calio, ND.  Of course, many lines of the family are still there.  2GGF Janowski was known to visit SD occasionally for the rest of his life, though I don’t know what was still drawing him there.



GGGT 2015: Beck discoveries

It’s been a year now since my last Great Grand Genealogy Tour (GGGT).  Man, I think it’s about time to finish posting my findings!  This tour took me through the heart of Beck country.


Lunch … or dinner … or supper or something. 7/10/15. Pat, Grandma, Grandpa, me, at G&G’s house, Munich, ND.

The name “Beck” (originally Böck) comes down through my maternal grandfather, Rallan Beck (born 1931, ND).  Grandpa’s ancestors have been in ND and MN since the 19th century, with surnames Beck, Helten, Nosbusch, and Mueller.

My goals for the trip were to rediscover historic Beck sites, to visit as many farms, churches, and graves as possible, and to learn more about Grandpa’s own younger days and recollections.  Like most family history, a lot of basic knowledge had been lost to our collective memory.  Even Grandpa and his sister Pat did not know much beyond their grandparents.

The most significant discoveries of this trip were the graves of 3GGPs Nicholas and Annie Helten.  (GGM Beck’s paternal grandparents).  It was amusing and bemusing to discover that Nicholas has been buried under our noses all this time, but we forgot about him!  He is located right next to the flagpole in St. Boniface Cemetery.


Grandpa has three great-grandparents in the St. Boniface Cemetery. They had already been lost to family memory by his time, and were only “rediscovered” this decade.

It turns out that Annie is still in Minnesota.  3GGPs Helten had spent most of their life together in Stearns County, MN.  They must have moved in with one of their children in Benton County, MN, because Annie was buried there when she died in 1903.


Cousin Kassie Zimmer did some library research in MN to help me rediscover 3GGM Helten’s grave.

After that, Nicholas moved to ND to live with one of his daughters.  Great Grandma Beck remembered him.

My 2GGPs August and Margarethe Beck met in St. Leo, MN.  Margarethe had grown up as a Nosbusch, just a mile north of town.  August was a newly arrived immigrant, a young single who bought land a mile south of town.  I visited both the Beck and Nosbusch farms, as well as the St. Leo Cemetery where 2GGPs Beck and 3GGPs Nosbusch are buried.


The August Beck farm near St. Leo, MN. Great Grandpa John Beck grew up here before bringing the Beck name to ND. The house is gone now … for who knows how long.


2nd-great grandparents August and Margaret (Nosbusch) Beck, St. Leo, MN.


3GGPs Nosbusch (Great Grandpa Beck’s maternal grandparents), St. Leo, MN. I had to walk the whole cemetery twice to confirm that this was the right grave, because it doesn’t bear their first names!

I had a photo of the house that 3GGF Nosbusch built.  The house that I saw on the lot looked similar but different, so that was confusing.  Of course, a lot can change in a century.  I know that I was on the right property, because an old map identified a schoolhouse on the Nosbusch land.  When I was there, I met a boy who lives there now.  I asked him if there used to be a schoolhouse there, and he knew exactly where it had been, where some siloes stand now.  So this was definitely the right land.  I’ll post both pictures here and let you decide.


The known Nosbusch house. From Mary Nosbush’s family history book “Rooted, Uprooted, Rerooted” : “Michael Nosbusch built the left half of this house on his homestead in 1884 …. At present [1982] Alphonse Nosbush lives there.”


The house that stands on the Nosbusch farm now. So similar but different — look closely at chimneys, windows, etc. Do you think it’s the same house?

I have put together a book about this whole trip, which explored Fagerland, Meyer, and Korb history as well.  The book details my research (how I made my discoveries) and then presents a daily travelog of this two-week adventure.  You can purchase a copy here if interested.  There are two price options, hardcopy or PDF / eBook.