Brick Wall Solutions – The Aase Gunderson Story

Regular readers of this blog will have noted that yesterday (21 Dec 2009) there was a Brick Wall blog by Rosemary Kopittke, another Unlock The Past (UTP) team member. A decision was made to include Brick Wall stories from other speakers so you will be seeing a wider range of solutions in 2010. Don’t forget to let us know any comments or your own stories and solutions.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my first Brick Wall Solutions blog on 28 Nov 2009 and shared their own stories and experience. The second on 10 Dec 2009 attracted no comments and it is interesting, but I think I have become a ‘comments addict’.  Maybe I was spoilt with five on the first one and zero is more the reality for blogs.

For my third Brick Wall I am selecting yet another one of my direct ancestors who served time in gaol, although briefly in this case. I also want to pick up on what Bobby said in his comment on my Helen Carnegie story:

Rule No.1 – there is no such thing as a brick wall. Some things just take longer to resolve than others.

To me this is similar to the glass is half full or half empty depending on your perspective. But it is apt for Aase’s story because I could have solved it years earlier than I did – I had the answer in my file, only I didn’t realise what it actually meant.

I have partially told her story in my website blog SHHE Genie Rambles so apologies if you already know some of this.

My 40 year old Norwegian gg grandmother Aase (Osie) Gunderson decided one day in 1885 to hit her landlord over the head several times with a piece of hardwood without provocation and for reasons unknown. She was arrested and eventually released as the trial did not proceed. When researching this many years ago I found four references in the Brisbane Courier which were more informative than the court records. She still spoke Norwegian with some English but would not converse with the court appointed interpreter so the official record is not all that helpful from her perspective.

The four newspaper references helped me fill in more of the details although it is still not clear why she did it. By her account, he had been breaking her windows (but she rented a room from him so it would have been his windows he was breaking). By his account he thought it might have to do with his reporting her for cruelty to three puppies. His wife had also recently complained about my gg grandmother’s obscene language but that case was dismissed. There is no mention of Aase’s husband and two sons other than her husband posting bail and a surety.

After her release from gaol, I lost track of her. In the days before BDM indexes, I paid for a search for her death but it was unsuccessful. Her husband Anders remarried in 1890 so that meant she died between 1885 and 1890 or she disappeared/ran off (perhaps through shame or embarrassment at having been in gaol). If the latter, Anders would have committed bigamy and I just didn’t think that he would.

When Queensland BDM indexes were eventually released I did my own search but could not find a relevant entry or one that matched the details I knew. As it was before women got the vote I couldn’t search electoral rolls and post office directories only mentioned her husband Anders.

The years went by and then the Brisbane City Council released online burial information for the major cemeteries in Brisbane so I again searched. I already knew that Anders did not have a headstone as the Queensland Family History Society and the Genealogical Society of Queensland had transcribed headstones in Brisbane cemeteries. I noticed the other day that World Vital Records Australasia has the Brisbane cemetery headstones in their collection now.

I also knew from Anders’ death certificate in 1897 that he was buried in the South Brisbane (Dutton Park) cemetery. By the time of his death he was using the name Andrew rather than Anders.

Dutton Park cemetery ca 1898The Brisbane City Council’s Grave Location Search is easy to use so I put in Gunderson as it is a relatively uncommon name. Only 18 entries came up from a range of cemeteries in the Brisbane area. No Aase but Anders was there as I expected and under the name Andrew. He was buried with four other people and I had to stop and think about who they might be.

Mary Gunderson –died in 1890, age unknown – no idea

Dorothy M Gunderson –died in 1898, age unknown – no idea

Hans M Gunderson –died 1927, he was Anders son and my g grandfather

William Henry Pollard –died 1890, age unknown. I knew that Anders’ second wife was Ann Pollard so I guessed some relation of hers.

With three people to investigate, I went back to the Queensland BDM indexes (now online) to see who their parents were and whether that would help me identify them.

Brisbane Courier noticeDorothy May Gunderson

A search for Gunderson between 1890 and 1898 revealed only one entry – Dorothy May and she was the daughter of Andrew Gunderson and Ann Pollard but she wasn’t on his death certificate. Why didn’t I know about her? Relooking at my certificates and other information it became obvious that Dorothy had been born after his accidental death in 1897.

Ann was probably only about three months pregnant when her husband was killed and he may not have even known that they were going to have their third child. Sadly Dorothy died when she was eight months old so one can only imagine how Ann coped with losing her husband, her pregnancy, and the death of her baby all within a twelve month period while caring for her two other small children.

William Henry Pollard

William was the illegitimate child of an Annie Pollard and he was born in Queensland in 1890 and died aged 3 months in 1890. The fact that he is buried in the same grave as Ann Pollard’s husband and son indicates that Annie and Ann was one and the same person.

Anders and Ann were married in July 1890. As William is buried in the Gunderson family grave, then he was probably alive when they married. When he died he was buried with Mary Gunderson.

Mary Gunderson

Mary did not show up in the online BDM index under Gunderson so I then tried spelling it Gundersen and there she was. Her parents were given as Halvard Dotter and Mary Lars. She had died in 1890 the same year that Anders had remarried – could she be my Aase?

Aase’s parents were Halvor Tovsen and Margith Larsdatter. I had found the Mary Gundersen entry on the microfiche but because the year was the same (could he have remarried that quickly) and because the parents names were not that close (although in hindsight!!) and that it was a Mary not an Aase or Osie, I did not purchase the death certificate all those years ago.

There was no choice – I had to get the death certificate of Mary Gundersen because she had to be related somehow to be in the same grave. Yes it was my gg grandmother and yes I should have spent the money years ago but I didn’t want to waste money on a wrong certificate. In the intervening years prices went up and up so I was probably worse off delaying.

I should also have bought William Henry Pollard’s birth and death certificates because they would have helped to fill in the timeline between Aase dying and Anders meeting and marrying Ann. Now it would cost me $68 to get them and I am still hesitant to spend that money. Perhaps if I wait long enough the pre 1900 BDMs will become free (I can hear everyone laughing!).

Brick Wall Tips

  • Check alternative spellings of given names and surnames especially with European ancestors
  • Also be aware of Anglicisation of European given names and surnames
  • Check all available sources and recheck as new resources become available
  • Buy certificates early in your research (they were only $5 when I started and I still regret not buying more then but $5 was a lot of money then so it is all relative I suspect)
  • Obtaining other certificates helps to fill out the details and often provide clues that can’t be found anywhere else
  • Take a chance – sometimes it just might pay off.

And to give Bobby the last word – there is no such thing as a brick wall. Some things just take longer to resolve than others.

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