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Introducing the Olsons, or the Olsens

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About a year ago, I started going through the then-newly-digitized photos of my grandmother Helen's family. And I got a little confused.

There was a photo of three or four people, labeled as Olson siblings. That was fine; Helen's mother Ida's maiden name had been Olson.

But then there was another photo of three or four other people, and they were also labeled as Olson siblings.

And then there was another photo of three or four different other people, and they too were labeled as Olson siblings.

I eventually compiled a list of nine or ten names that were all labeled as Olson siblings. Except sometimes they were labeled as Olsen siblings, with an e. But I nonetheless started to conclude that they were in fact all siblings.

And then I found a copy of the relevant part of the 1900 US Census, which did indeed list ten Olson siblings living at home, with their ages as of 1900:

  • Albert E. Olson, 20
  • Ida S. Olson, 17
  • Minnie C. Olson, 15
  • William J. Olson, 13
  • Oscar T. Olson, 12
  • Dewey O. Olson, 12 [He was probably actually 2.]
  • Nora J. Olson, 10
  • Clarence A. Olson, 8
  • Leo T. Olson, 6
  • Mabel J. Olson, 5

And other sources eventually made clear that there was at least one more: Steve A. Olson, a couple years older than Albert. I'm assuming the reason he wasn't listed is that he was no longer living at home in 1900.

Ancestry.com lists some others: John Edwin Olson (1881-1900), Olga Olson, Alma Olson. I have no idea whether any of those were really members of the family; I have no clear record of them. I suspect that John was real (because there's an Edwin in one of the photos), and I suspect that some overzealous Ancestry user added Olga and Alma, but I'm not sure about any of this.

At any rate, there were at least eleven Olson or Olsen siblings. As for the spelling of their last name, the paper family tree that my grandmother put together says "Olson," as does Ancestry.com, as does that 1900 census. So I went with that spelling.

And then I found out that there were other official documents that differed. For example, the Montana registry of marriages listed Ida's last name both as “Olsen” and as “Oleson.” (She was listed as the mother of the bride when various of her daughters got married.) But in the end, I decided to go with the census spelling.

As I post old family photos on Facebook (I hope to later also post them on Smugmug, but that'll be a while yet), I'm going to include some Olson photos. But I don't want anyone to get lost in the vast number of Olsons, so here's a quick guide to the ones most likely to turn up in those photos, in approximate order of importance:

Ida Ida
My grandmother's mother; married Peder Hanson.
Nora Nora
Appears in dozens of photos. I know little about her, but find her really interesting; I'll be posting a lot of photos of her. Among other things, she seems to have spent a fair bit of time traveling around visiting her siblings and getting photos taken with them. She had an interesting and likable face; I wish there were a way to find out more about her.
Leo Leo
In my made-up story of what the Olson family was like, Leo and Nora were particularly close friends. He also appears in a fair number of photos, and I find him interesting- and likable-looking too.
Minnie and Mabel Minnie Mabel
They both appear in a bunch of photos, and their kids and grandkids also appear in various photos. I get them easily mixed up, probably mostly because their names both start with M. I probably won't focus much on them.
Steve Steve
The eldest. Usually recognizable by the cleft in his chin.

Here's the Facebook album collecting photos of Helen's family. I think it's visible to anyone, even if you don't have a Facebook account, but I'm not sure of that.

While I'm here, I may as well also link to the album collecting photos of my grandfather George's family.

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