Värmland, Sweden, image courtesy of

On a spring day in May 1875, Maria Nilsdotter, age twenty-one, embarked on the biggest adventure of her life. She began a journey that would take her over 4000 miles from the small farming village of Skällarbyn, Sweden, to the rural town of Clinton, Iowa. The month-long trip included travel by train and steamship, transportation that would have been an exciting yet intimidating experience for a village farm girl.

In a previous blog, I told the story of the discovery of Maria Nilsdotter’s origins in Sweden. I know Maria as Mary Nelson Nichols, my 2x-great grandmother. I uncovered her past by following the paper trail in Swedish Archival records. Maria did not leave a diary nor letters, which I would have appreciated. However, many other Swedish emigrants wrote accounts of their travels to America that enabled me to reconstruct a likely account of Maria’s emigration story.

Piecing together the travel route is only one part of the story. Another aspect is to understand what prompted Maria to leave everything that was familiar. She knew she might never see her birthplace nor her family again. She turned her back on the life she knew. Was it the strict Swedish class system, the intolerant religious domination, or a lack of job and marriage opportunities that compelled Maria to emigrate?

Motivated by a desire for change and the promise of a brighter future in America, Maria’s decision altered her life and made mine possible.


The picturesque province of Värmland, Sweden is a land of bright blue lakes and rivers surrounded by dense, dark, deep forests. Set in the middle western portion of the province on the edge of Lake Ränken, Skällarbyn today consists of about ten homes, most painted in the traditional Falun Red.

Skällarbyn, Värmland. Image courtesy of Lars Olsson.

Although I lived in Europe for 20 years and visited Sweden and Norway, Maria’s origins were a mystery to me at the time. If only I had known when I visited Oslo that Maria’s village was just 56 miles away. Skällarbyn is a short distance from the Norwegian-Swedish border – 18 miles.

Skällarbyn village sign – image courtesy of Lars Olsson.

While searching the internet for images of Skällarbyn, I came across a youtube video taken by a paraglider sailing over Lake Ränken. I have no idea what the paraglider is saying in Swedish. If any of my readers can tranlate, please let me know.


For more than four generations, Maria’s ancestors lived in Skällarbyn and the surrounding area. I can trace Maria’s maternal line in Skällarbyn back to the birth of her great-great-grandfather, Anders Jonsson (1714-1799), a tenant farmer. At some point, the family became landowners, a position that offered more security and social status. The farm prospered and eventually passed down to Maria’s mother, Karin Olsdotter, and her maternal uncle, Anders Olsson.

Click  here  MAP to view the area where Maria, her family and ancestors lived for generations.

  • Karin Olsdotter (1822-1896) &  Nils Persson (1824-1909) – Maria’s parents
  • Olof Andersson (1796-1881) &  Karin Andersdotter (1793-1867) Maternal grandparents
  • Anders Andersson (1752-1835) & Karin Bengtsdotter (1762-1833) Maternal great-grandparents
  • Anders Jonsson (1714-1799) & Kerstji Örjansdotter (1720-1773) Maternal 2x great-grandparents

The earliest records for the Skällarbyn farm date to 1631. Formerly spelled Skålaby, the name means “barking dog.” The legend is that a village dog barked incessantly.

Origins of Skällarbyn name- “barking dog.” Courtesy of Institut för språk och folkminnen.

Barking dog of Skällarbyn . Photo courtesy of Nordiska museet.






An individual farm, such as Skällarbyn, consisted of several families rather than a single family. I examined the Swedish Household Examination Records (Husförhörslängd) for the period 1856-1916. The Skällarbyn households included immediate and extended family members as well as “live-in-laborers,” journeymen, tenant farmers, and boarders.

View of Skällarbyn and surrounding communities. Google maps

Piga” was the term used for a female employee. Her tasks included indoor and outdoor chores. A “Drang,” a male farmhand, performed more burdensome duties on the farm, such as tilling the fields.

Image of farmer plowing. Courtesy of Norman A. Sandin.

Six of the Skällarbyn households were farm landowners (hemmansegare), including Maria’s father, Nils Persson, and her uncle, Anders Olsson. In addition to landowners, tenant farmers, and laborers, the Skällarbyn community included one miller and one soldier, plus their respective families. The village population fluctuated over the years from a low of 98 (1866-1870) to a high of 139 (1871-1875).

The average Swedish rural dwelling ranged from a tiny one-room cottage to a tenant cottage (a kitchen and a combination living room/bedroom)to a two-story landowners home. The probate records for Nils Persson, Maria’s father, stated that the family owned a large house, garden, and approximately eighty acres. The large two-story home was probably a pine or spruce log building. If they were fortunate, they had two chimneys to warm the house during the long cold dark winter.

The household inventories for Maria’s parents and grandparents provided a glimpse into their home. Two sofas offered a place to sit and relax. The larger one had cushions covered in a higher quality fabric, the smaller a more casual gingham. Spread around the room were drop-leaf tables with brass candlesticks and candle snuffers. A dresser with locks contained half a dozen (Dräll)  tablecloths (a traditional Swedish two-block weave),  and assorted napkins.

Lined skin rugs warmed the floors. Three dozen wooden chairs spread throughout the house offered enough seating for family and guests. Some had gingham cushions, some were painted, and others were plain. A hymnal, Bible, and textbooks filled a small bookshelf. Curtains covered the windows – thirteen pairs.

The women in the family probably spent a lot of time in the kitchen preparing meals. Was the (Ligg Soffa) laying sofa, a place to rest as well as an extra bed for guests? Kitchen supplies could be found in a large wooden food cabinet.

Swedish Ligg soffa – image courtesy of Norman A. Sandin.

Image of kitchen in Kvekgården farm near Enköping town. Photo courtesy of Hans Högman, 1992.

The table was covered with a yellow checkered cloth and set with blue striped dishes. The corner cabinet contained an assortment of kitchenwares: pressed glass bowl, finer and plainer dishes, pastry forms, soup tureen, stoneware platters, salt shakers, even schnapps glasses. The kitchen wall clock reminded the family to take time for the afternoon (fika) (coffee/tea break). The family prepared coffee in the old roaster and served it from the coffee kettle they poured into a dozen blue coffee mugs. The creamer jug, sugar bowl, and silver spoons were laid out on the tea tray. Perhaps Maria’s mother baked traditional Kanelbulle (cinnamon rolls) for (fika.)


The upstairs rooms had clothes-cabinets, two yellow-painted tables, a mirror, pull out beds, and boot beds. Some of the bedframes were painted brown others blue. All of the beds were piled high with feather mattresses and pillows and covered with quilts.

Despite the large home, conditions were probably still crowded with multiple family members who shared bedrooms. The household records indicate that Maria lived with her parents, eight siblings, a nephew, and her maternal grandparents. Nearby, a second household included Karin’s younger brother, Anders, his wife Anna, and their nine children. Six of the cousins shared the same names as Maria and her siblings. It must have been confusing when the families mingled for work or pleasure.

Skällarbyn reflected a typical rural Swedish community of the late 1800’s – steeped in tradition and peppered with superstition, myths, and lore. Rigid class society and social conservatism limited and dictated choices for everyone.



When Maria Nilsdotter was born on August 31, 1854, her 29-year old father, Nils Persson, and her 32-year old mother, Karin Olsdotter, already had five children. Over the next 12 years, Karin gave birth to three more children.

Maria Nilsdotter – baptism. Arkivdigital -Köla (S) C:11 (1844-1856) Image 27 / Page 46 (AID: v6149.b27.s46, NAD: SE/VA/13309)

Until 1864 the law dictated that a child be baptized within eight days after their birth. Aside from the law, superstition compelled parents to baptize their children as quickly as possible. Reverend Begnsson baptized Maria 4 days after her birth at the local parish church, Kölakyrka.

Köla Church, Värmland, Sweden. Wikimedia Commons

A child that was not christened was a danger both to itself and to others; it was e.g. believed that trolls were on the lookout for pretty little human babies – they were thought capable of changing their own ugly, stupid and wayward brat for the cute little child…For the protection of the child, different things were put in the cradle: it could be a small pouch of spices (e.g.caraway), a steel knife or a silver coin.”

[The only memento remaining in our family from Maria is a Swedish coin, dated 1846. Could this (copper) coin have been placed in her cradle and later given to her as a good luck talisman when she emigrated to America? I’d like to think so.]

Swedish coin -2 Skilling 1846. Crossed arrows . Coin in possession of author.

Swedish 2 Skilling coin – Oscar Sveriges Norr. G.O.V. Konung -Oscar King of Sweden, Norway, the Goths and the Wends.

Dressed in as beautiful a baptismal dress as possible, Maria’s godmother carried her during the ceremony. Maria’s mother, Karin, remained at home until she could be “churched” (kyrktagen). The churching ceremony usually took place on the fourth Sunday after the birth of the child.

For a description of Swedish customs, I turned to articles by the ethnologist Ingela Martenius, “Rites of Passage in Sweden.

A mother not yet churched was according to popular belief thought ‘unclean’ and on par with a heathen, and both she and the farm with all who lived there, both human and animal, were in danger. Churching originated within the Jewish faith, and there was regarded as a purification.”

“The churching ritual was very simple: before the regular church service began, the woman about to be churched kneeled before the altar and the vicar read a short prayer expressing thankfulness. The woman rose, and the vicar shook her hand, at the same time saying, ‘The Lord guide you in His truth and fear, now and unto eternity. Amen’The woman then returned to her pew.”

A married woman knelt on a plush and decorated stool. An unmarried woman first had to confess to the vicar. Then she could be “churched” while kneeling on the bare floor or an uncovered stool. The vicar did not shake her hand after the ceremony. Maria’s eldest sister, Christina, who had an illegitimate child, probably experienced the harsher method of “churching.”


According to Ingela Martenius, another superstition surrounding the care of babies required that they be swaddled; it guarded them against evil spirits. A more practical reason was it protected them from cold floors and kept them away from open fires.

Children until the age of 5-7 wore a smock-frock (kolt),” a sort of dress that went down to the middle of the calf, differently cut for boys and girls and often made from yellow (simplest color to dye) wool or linsey-woolsey and worn over a linen shift/shirt. On top of the smock-frock an apron was worn, a bib apron for boys and a waist apron for girls. Both boys and girls wore a cap at all times.”

Childrens clothing -image public domain, courtesy of Nordiska museet.

After the age of 5-7 years, children dressed in simpler versions of adult clothing. After they were confirmed and considered adults, they had the right to wear adult clothing, long pants for boys, and floor-length dresses for girls.


Confirmation marked the coming of age in old agrarian societies, a rite of passage into adulthood. Maria passed her confirmation exam in 1869 at age 15. Confirmation instruction took place at the local parish and required weeks or months of preparation. After  her confirmation, Maria probably continued to live at home for a few years. At some point she worked as a (piga) in the nearby community of Växvik, less than one mile away from Skällarbyn.

Confirmation – Maria Nilsdotter – 1869Husförhörslängd – Arkivdigital Köla (S)A1:30 (1866-1870) v11980.b398.s380.

What did confirmation lessons comprise?

Well, there was the reading of various texts in the Bible, but above all learning by heart Luther’s Small Catechism – mostly the Ten Commandments, the Confession and the Lord’s Prayer – including the difficult explanations. The confirmation lessons ended with the much-feared examination in church, before the entire congregation…Once you were confirmed you were examined together with all the (confirmed) people living at your farm once a year by the vicar, on exactly the same subjects as at confirmation.”

Ecnomic factors were a driving force behind Swedish mass emigration, dissatisfaction with the intolerant and dominant state-run Lutheran church was a contributing factor.

The parish clergy who served the state completed the Household Examination Rolls (husförhörslängder). These records included detailed information about each person listed.

  • Name of place, such as farm, village, or address in the city
  • Names of all members of the household
  • Birthdate and birthplace for each individual
  • Occupation for the head of household
  • Marriage date
  • Vaccination information (after 1800 – smallpox)
  • Religious examination results – pastor checked parishioners ability to read,
  • Write and understand their catechism. Notations made if the parishioner
  • Received communion
  • Death date
  • Moving in and out of the area
  • Notes in the special remarks column

Maria’s family received acceptable marks  in the Household Records and passed their parish exams. However, noted twice in the special remarks column, Karin and Nils received a reprimand for “disagreements,” (Varnade för oenighet), once in 1865 and again in 1877.

Household Record for Maria’s family 1876-1880. Arkivdigital – Köla (S) A1:32 (v11982.b403.s392).


According to a London Times article written in 1879, a British reporter noted, with surprise, that 90% of the population could read and write. The reporter was impressed with the value Swedes placed on education which began long before the 1842 Swedish law that mandated a public 4-year primary school education for all children.  They learned to read sometime between the age of 7-10. In some parishes, there was an actual schoolmaster; in others, the sacristan taught the students, and sometimes the children learned to read at home.

Classroom from around 1850 in Linköping City. Photo courtesy of Hans Högman, 2004.


Like my 2x great-grandmother, Maria Nilsdotter, I grew up on a farm. I know how much hard work is involved. Every day.Day after day.Year after year.

Farm life in a remote rural Scandinavian community taught self-reliance. The farmers had to depend on what they could produce locally. The short and fast-growing season made this more challenging. It was impossible to grow more than one crop a year. Although the summer months boasted long nights and the midnight sun, winter was long, harsh, and cold.

Everyone in the family had to pitch in and do their share of the work. The tasks assigned to each member depended on their age and gender. The division of chores probably began at an early age. Small children could gather firewood for fuel, fetch water, pick wild berries, and perform household chores and gardening.

Nils and Karin had six daughters and three sons. The household records show that Nils only required additional help on the farm during the period 1856-1860 when his children were too young to be of much assistance. He hired three local women. Perhaps they were hired during the summer months to assist with the animals.

Although they worked hard, Maria and her siblings probably participated in fun outdoor activities. In the summer they could swim in the lake or fish, build forts in the woods, and make toys out of pinecones and sticks. In the winter they could sled or maybe even ski.

Young women and children had the responsibility of herding livestock to the summer pastures. Most farmers didn’t have enough cleared land to support cattle over the long winter months. They relied on summer pastures located nearby or some distance away. Several families from the same village shared the summer pasture (fäbod). It consisted of several simple buildings, such as cottages, cattle houses, and cookhouses.

The women usually milked the cows; twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening. After the milking, the chore of separating the milk had to be done while the milk was warm and fresh. The farmer’s family rarely consumed the milk fresh. Instead, they preserved it in the form of cheese and butter or fermented milk (filmjölk). The butter and cheese were usually sold to pay for land taxes and church tithes.

The boys/men in the family performed the barn chores, feeding the animals, and cleaning the stalls. They tilled the soil and planted crops.

Based on the probate records, I know Maria’s family planted the following crops: hay, rye, wheat, and oats, potatoes, vetch (a type of pea), and flax.

Nils had a meager probate record, probably because he shared his house and property with his son and daughter-in-law after his wife’s death in 1896. The extensive inventory for Maria’s grandparents provided a broader picture of life on the farm.

The grandparent’s livestock list included: 31 sheep,19 lambs, three horses,14 cows, two calves, and a 3-year old bull. Many of the cows had names: Rödgas, Fruka, Böja, Docka, Hjertros, Sommargas, Frögas, Bjorna, Lillja, Grefwinna, and Molik. I imagine they became fond of the cows as we did on my father’s farm.

A few of the items listed for farm equipment included:

Large equipment:

  • – Work carts, travel cart, carriage, and sleighs for transportation.
  • – Plows, threshing machine, harrows, timber sledges and a sleigh to spread manure

Smaller tools:

  • Scythes, planes, handsaw, hammer, anvil, workbench, axes, drills, timber hooks, sledgehammer, sharpening stones, shovels, sheep shears, buckets, milk pails, troughs, water, and schnapps barrels, and lynx traps.

The probate for Maria’s paternal grandmother also included a boat, nets, fishing line, and hook. The family took advantage of the bountiful fishing in nearby Lake Ränken. It was a privilege that belonged to landowners with land surrounding a lake; others had to seek their permission.

Lake Ränken provided a variety of fish: pike,perch,eel,burbot,bream,bleak,smelt,carp,and vendace.The fresh fish offered a change from what was otherwise a monotonous diet of porridge, potatoes, cabbage, turnips, dried peas, and salted or fermented herring.

Another dietary staple was bread: the inventory noted bread troughs, bread baskets, and winnowing trays for sifting grain. If the farm had a windmill to grind the grain, then bread could be made every 2-4 weeks. The household examination records for Skällarbyn listed a miller. Perhaps the farm had a windmill.

If not, then the village relied on a watermill, and bread would have been baked only a few times a year in the form of (knäckebrod). The rye bread is made quite thin, baked, and then dried. It can last for months.

[I discovered how delicious (knäckebrod) is when we lived overseas.I’m fortunate to live near a European delicatessen and can still enjoy the pleasure.]

Knäckebröd – Swedish Rye Crisp Bread

Besides kitchen tasks, Maria and her sisters would have been taught to knit, spin, and weave. The probate inventory for Maria’s mother, Karin, in 1896, listed one spinning wheel, one ball of yarn, one needle, one ring, and one frame. In contrast, Maria’s paternal grandmother, Kerstin Jonsdotter, owned  numerous handwork tools: five spinning wheels, skein-winder, winder chair, yarn winder, one weaving loom, weaving reeds, accessories, heckling combs (for flax), and one heckling machine(used to prepare flax to spin the fibers.) Never-ending tasks kept the woman busy every waking hour. Handwork could be done after dinner and especially during the winter months.


During the 19th century, Sweden had a large population growth. However, there wasn’t sufficient farmland for the growing numbers of landless farm laborers and the poor. Mass emigration to America began when crop failures and famine struck the country between 1866-1868. Maria was 12-years old at the time, it may have left a lasting impression.  Enticed by free land and prosperity, three-hundred thousand Swedes left for America in five years.

Although Sweden is a large country, only about 10% could be considered good arable land. For farmers who owned property, there wasn’t enough land to divide amongst the children once they reached adulthood. Traditionally young adults left home to work on nearby farms as laborers. It provided job opportunities and an opportunity to meet eligible partners. Another alternative was to seek work in nearby towns or cities.

As a young woman in Sweden in 1875, Maria had few options for her future. With so many siblings, including brothers, it was unlikely that she would inherit the family farm. If she was fortunate, she might marry a local landowning farmer; if she was unlucky, then a tenant farmer, or laborer. The pool of eligible men shrunk as large numbers chose to emigrate. Her chances of maintaining her social and economic position through marriage or employment were limited. If she didn’t find a husband, she would work the remainder of her life as a servant (piga). Working as a laborer meant long hours, hard work, small wages, and lower social status.

A more enticing option was emigration, an infectious disease known as “America Fever” swept through Sweden. Spread through newspaper articles, emigration guidebooks, and letters from early emigrants, Swedish families and single adults flocked to the United States with high expectations. They anticipated a better life in “the promised land.”

The emigrants wrote letters home with great pride extolling their new life in America. The book From the Promised Land provided numerous examples.

The country is beautiful if any land on earth deserves to be called so. And if you compare conditions here with Sweden’s, there is no similarity at all….one can get such land as a gift or for an insignificant sum compared with its natural value. You soon have an idea why America is truly undeniably better than old Sweden.Lower taxes than in Sweden, no expensive royal house, no inactive armies. Hundreds of thousands of persons have found here the happiness they vainly sought in Europe’s lands…” [C.F. Larson 1880 writing about Nebraska]

Most emigrants painted the American Midwest as an earthly paradise. Once they had committed themselves to the new life, they were anxious to justify themselves.


Why did Maria to choose Clinton, Iowa? The answer – chain migration. Early Swedish pioneer colonies settled in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, and Wisconsin. Their glowing letters home focused on employment, views of American society, increased personal freedoms, religious freedom, and social status. Members of a community or family then followed their lead and went to those areas in America. Maria followed her trailblazing eldest sister, Christina, who emigrated in 1872. (Two younger siblings followed several years after Maria. Anna emigrated in 1880, Per Axel in 1888.)

Christina, a 27-year old mother with an illegitimate child, had even fewer options in Sweden than Maria. She must have heard about the opportunities in America by word of mouth or through a letter. The arrival of a letter from America in rural Sweden aroused the curiosity of the entire community. It would be read aloud for all to hear. Several neighbors had already emigrated, including the 49-year old widower Olof Nilsson from nearby Växvik. Olof departed in July 1870 and settled in Clinton, Iowa, with his children.  One of the daughters, similar in age to Christina, may have sent a letter encouraging her friend to emigrate. A couple of years after Christina settled in Clinton, she married Olof Nilsson.

Letters from Christina in Iowa made their way back to the family in Skällarbyn. How many did it take to entice Maria? Perhaps she received one similar to those I found in “I go to America: Swedish Women and the Life of Mina Anderson.”

In 1855, the Swedish immigrant Maria Janson wrote to her family:

“My employers are excellent and kind people”. Several months later, she reflected on her immigration: “I have not worked outside a single day; it is not common for women to work outside here in this country…Here [there]are absolute equal rights for all and no difference of respect for other persons. After having absorbed the free atmosphere of life in America, I believe I would not be happy in Sweden.”

“Another young woman stated: We girls travel to America because our working time is so horribly long and our wages so small in relation to what everything costs, and we get no respect – a servant is worth nothing [in Sweden].”

It was the era of the Swedish maid in America. Middle-class town families required maids, and young Swedish women were in demand. Generally, they were treated like members of the family by their employers. Not only did they not have to do outdoor work, but they had certain hours of the day and days of the week free. They had their own room and were paid weekly. If they were unsatisfied, they could quit whenever they wanted and quickly find jobs elsewhere. In Sweden, they were bound to a year’s contract. An average Swedish maid in America, even with basic knowledge, could expect better wages, hours of work, and benefits than in Sweden. A maid could also dress as fancy as her mistress, and American men treated her like a “lady.”

Opportunity and personal freedom awaited Maria in America. Convinced of a better life, she planned her trip to America.

Adjö Mor och Far – Goodbye Mother and Father

Hejdå Sverige – Goodbye Sweden

(To be continued – Maria’s travel by steamship and train to reach Clinton, Iowa.)

© 2020 copyright -Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: [Mary Nelson/Maria Nilsdotter 1854-1931]
Parents: [Nils Persson 1824-1909] and
[Karin Olsdotter 1822-1896]
Spouse: [John Mathew Nichols 1857-1929]
Children: [Carrie Bertha Nichols 1881-1915, Charles Clinton Nichols 1883-1930, Frederick Mathew Nichols 1885-1957, Mabel Elvina Nichols 1888-1954, John Lee Nichols 1890-1967]
Relationship to Kendra: [Great- Great- Grandmother]

  1. [Mary Nelson/Maria Nilsdotter 1854-1931]
  2. [Mabel Elvina Nichols Hyde 1888-1954]
  3. [John Frederick Hyde Jr. 1911-1980]
  4. [Jean Hyde Hopp Eichorn]
  5. Kendra


  • ArkivDigital.
  • Brownstone, David M, Irene M Franck, and Douglass Brownstone, Island of Hope, Island of Tears. New York: Fall River Press, 1979.
  • Clemensson, Per and Kjell Andersson. Your Swedish Roots, A Step by Step Handbook. Provo, Utah: Ancestry,, Inc. 2004.
  • From the Promised Land: Swedes in America, 1840-1914. H. Arnold Barton, editor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press for Swedish Pioneer Historical Society, 2000.
  • Högman, Hans. Hans Högman’s Genealogy and History Site,
  • Institutet för sprak och Folkminnen: Ortsnamnsregistret.
  • Johanssson, Carl Erik. Cradled in Sweden. Logan, Utah: Everton Publishers, 1972.
  • Ljungmark, Lars. Translated by Kermit B. Westerberg, Swedish Exodus. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979.
  • Lintelman, Joy K. I go to America: Swedish American Women and the Life of Mina Anderson. St. Paul Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Press, 2009.
  • Martenius, Ingela. “The Swedish Emigration to America.”
  • National Library of Sweden.
  • Quad City Times. Davenport, Iowa. 1879.
  • Nordiska Museet.
  • Norman A. Sandin. Sandin and tillner Families.
  • Värmland, Värmlands Officiella Besöokssida.
  • Weatherford, Doris. Foreign and Female- Immigrant Women in America, 1840-1930. 
  • Wikipedia
Posted in Biographies, My Family Ancestry | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Celebrating the 4th of July, 1914 -Omaha, Nebraska

Anna Jane Beaton, July 4, 1914, Omaha, Nebraska.

What did the 4th of July mean to your ancestors, and how did they celebrate it?

My grandmother, Anna Jane Beaton,  was as American as apple pie. Her father, Alfred Beaton, was an immigrant of Scottish heritage from Prince Edward Isles. Her mother, Edith Orcutt, descended from early Puritan settlers, including Governor William Bradford. Alfred and Edith captured their memories on one memorable 4th of July in 1914.

Two pages of delightful images display Anna Jane Beaton, age 7, her older brother, Orcutt Phillip Beaton, age 14, and three neighborhood friends celebrating the 4th of July on a warm summer afternoon. The children gathered together in the Beaton’s front yard at North 40th street. Orcutt posed with his friend George Graham, draped by two American flags. In the next image, Anna Jane’s hand is warmly clasped by her best friend Pete Frenzer. Anna Jane wears a big smile and an even bigger hair bow. The third photograph Anna Jane and Pete still hold hands and are joined by Kathy Lake, who wears an equally immense bow in her hair. I like Kathy’s saucy look, one hand on her hip and the other on the shoulder of her friend Pete.  The fourth image, Anna Jane, seated in a rocking chair, holds a large doll with a face that would give me nightmares. Kathy kneeling beside Anna Jane, holds the American flag over her shoulder. In the background, three more flags lean against the porch stairs.


Anna Jane Beaton, Orcutt Phillip Beaton, Peter Frenzer July 4, 1914, Omaha Nebraska.

Was it Alfred who took the photographs? His son Orcutt, a gentle smile on his face, proudly posed with his baseball mitt ready to pitch a ball. Alfred Beaton owned a furniture and toy store, so perhaps Anna Jane’s doll and the baseball glove were new gifts?

Orcutt Phillip Beaton, July 4, 1914, Omaha, Nebraska.

I imagine the Beaton’s had a picnic, played games, and later attended some of the numerous activities mentioned in the Omaha Daily Bee for July 4, 1914. Various immigrant groups are mentioned in the article celebrating their participation and contributions to their community.

Omaha, Daily Bee, July 4, 1914, page 1. Courtesy of

“All-day celebration and formal opening at Fontenelle Park, under auspices of Park Commissioner J.B. Hummel, Central and Monmouth Park Social Centers, Clairmont, Kenwood, Fairfax and Fontenelle Park Improvement clubs; prize games and contests morning and afternoon; flag raising and speech making at noon; fireworks in evening; band concert all day.
Reception at Fontenelle park by members of Olivet Baptist church to Rev. Willaim A. Mulford, new pastor.
Joint celebration all day Riverview park by Riverview, Deere Park and Southeast Improvement clubs.
Picnic and fireworks display at Kountze park by residents of the neighborhood.
Swedish-American patriotic festival all day at Spring Park, Florence, under auspices of Norden Singing society; program of contests, music and speaking at 4:30 p.m; fireworks in evening; dancing afternoon and evening.
Special golf matches, tennis and baseball games, dinners and dancing at all the clubs.
Cabaret entertainment at the Field Club.
Special fireworks display at Seymour Lake Club.
Women’s tennis tournament start at Country club.
Cricket match at Miller park at 11 a.m.
Finals in tennis singles and doubles at Happy Hollow; band concert at 11 a.m. followed by oration by Judge W.W. Slabaugh; reading of Declaration of Independence; program by male quartet and singing of patriotic songs.
All-day program at Carter Lake club; trap shoot at 10 a.m.; land and water sports in afternoon; special dinner, dance and fireworks in evening.
All-day program at Young Men’s Christian association summer park; tennis, base ball and big camp swim in morning; music by camp quartet and speaking by Rev. G.A. Hulbert and Judge Bryce Crawford in afternoon; picnic supper at 6 o’clock; big Venetian water carnival and fireworks in evening.
Special program of races, contests and sports at Dietz park, with dinner, dancing and fireworks in the evening.
Free balloon ascension, moving pictures and concert by Finn’s band, dancing and other attractions at Lake Manawa.
Mullen’s animal show, free band concert, motion pictures, dancing and other attractions at Krug park.
Fireworks, music and feature films at Rome summer Garden.
Boating, fishing, music and dancing at Nathan’s lake summer resort, five miles north of Florence on upper road.
City tennis turnament starts at the field club.
Double-header base ball game at Rourke park between Leland’s Chicago Giants and Bradford’s Brewers; first game called at 2 p.m.
Irish celebration of the passage of the home rule bill, under auspices of Emmett Monument association at Thirtieth and Fort streets; program of Gaelic sports, music, speech-making, dancing and refreshments.
Display of fireworks by Hanscom Park Improvement club on hill near Thirty-fourth and Wright streets in evening.
Old fashioned celebration of the day by comrades of George Crook post, Grand Army of the Republic, and Women’s Relief corps, at Florence park all day, commencing at 10:30 a.m.
Parade, band concerts, ball game, dance, fireworks, salutes and races along Vinton street from Sixteenth to Twenty-fourth streets, from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., by Vinton Booster club.
Plattdeutscher Verein celebratioin by the German home.
Water polo, other sports and contests, dinner, dance and fireworks at Council Bluffs Rowing association on Lake Manawa.”

What images and memories do you have from your ancestors of this special day we commemorate each year on July 4th?

© 2019 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Sketch

Anna Jane BEATON
Name: Anna Jane BEATON 1907-1998
Parents: Alfred James BEATON and
Edith Marion ORCUTT
Spouse: John Frederick HYDE Jr.
Children: Jean Ann Marie HYDE
Relationship to Kendra: Grandmother

  1. Anna Jane Beaton Hyde
  2. Jean Ann Marie Hyde Hopp Eichorn
  3. Kendra Hopp Schmidt


Posted in Biographies, My Family Ancestry | Tagged , | 11 Comments


Scotland.Colombia.Austria.Sweden and Norway: Arbuckle Bros. 1890. digital image. David Rumsey Map Collection.

A long forgotten sixty-year-old envelope lay safely tucked away in a large metal steamer trunk in my mother’s garage. As a child, I always thought the chest held treasures, now I know it does. The letter lay among stacks of old family correspondence and childhood memorabilia. I whooped with joy when I read the contents. It held the key to solving the mystery of my 2x great-grandmothers Swedish origins, the topic of my first family history blog.

Letter from John Nichols to Jean Hopp, dated June 1958.

Mary Nelson Nichols’ past was shrouded by the veils of time. Spurred on by my mother’s fascination with her Swedish ancestry I tried to solve the mystery four years ago. My mother attempted to solve it almost sixty years ago.  A  lack of information and misinformation hindered my search. None of Mary’s American records indicated specifically where she came from in Sweden, a vital element when doing Swedish research. To trace Mary Nelson’s past, I needed to know the parish where she was born.

Mary Nelson/Maria Nilsdotter – photograph taken between 1875-1880. In possession of author.

A summary of the information I had about Mary Nelson Nichols before the discovery of the letter:

  • Name: Mary Nelson Nichols
  • Birth: August 31, 1856, Sweden
  • Immigrated: 1875
  • Married: April 13, 1881, Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, Omaha, NE; Witness: Anna Nielson
  • Parents listed on wedding certificate as Nels Nelson and Carrie Oelson

Conflicting information: Marriage certificate stated Mary’s birthplace as Clinton, Iowa; all other records noted her birthplace as Sweden

  • Children:
  • Carrie Bertha Nichols
  • Charles Clinton Nichols
  • Frederick Mathew Nichols
  • Mabel Elvina Nichols (my great-grandmother)
  • John Lee (Johnnie) Nichols

Death: January 15, 1931, birthplace on death certificate noted as Warwick Sweden, information provided by Johnnie Nichols.


I was one step closer to finding Mary’s parish when I discovered the letter. After the birth of my brother in 1957, my mother, Jean HYDE Hopp, wrote to her great-uncle Johnnie to ask about their shared family history. She hoped that Johnnie, the last surviving child of Mary Nelson Nichols, could answer questions about both the Nelson and Nichols families. Jean’s half-Swedish grandmother, Mabel Nichols Hyde, died before Jean became interested in recording family stories.

In June 1958, Johnnie wrote a response. He supplied what little information he knew. Some of it was correct, some of it was wrong, and some of it was a mixture. Johnnie provided enough details for me to research and find  Mary’s two sisters, Anna and Christine.

Letter from Johnnie Nichols to Jean Hopp, June 1958.

“Mother had 2 sisters and Bro.[sic] named Anna, Christine, and Alex, all born in Ingeborg Sweden, dates unknown. Anna was married in Clinton Iowa in 1881 and raised 5 children, Carolyn, Albin, Roy, Carl, and Natalie. Anna died in Ft Worth Texas 1946 and was buried in Clinton Iowa. Albin died in 1912, buried Clinton, Iowa, and Roy died 1924, buried in Clinton. Natalie Webb lives in Fort Worth Texas, and Carl lives in Los Angeles. Anna’s married name was Nyberg. That’s all I can give you on the children. I don’t know if Christine or Alex ever married.”[i]


The family story that Mary was born in southern Sweden and came from the town of Ingeborg must have originated with Johnnie. Nobody checked an atlas and google maps didn’t exist. “Ingeborg, Sweden” is not a place. Johnnie confused a place with a person’s name. Research later revealed that Ingeborg was one of Mary’s older sisters. On his mother’s 1931 death certificate, Johnnie provided a second incorrect place name, “Warwick, Sweden.”[ii] He spelled what he had heard pronounced by his mother, but it wasn’t close enough for me to discern the real place-name.

Death cert Mary Nichols

Douglas County, death certificate no. B486 (1931), Mary Nichols; State of Nebraska Bureau of Health, Omaha.

Fortunately, Johnnie remembered the correct married name for his Aunt Anna. If I could find a document for Anna that stated her birth place, I could find the parish for Mary and her siblings.

I quickly found Anna Nyberg and her family in census records.  Anna immigrated in April 1880 to Clinton, Iowa. Two months later in June, she married Swedish immigrant Karl Nyberg. Karl, who changed his name to Charles, worked as a carpenter until his early death in 1906. Anna and Charles had five children, just as Johnnie stated in his letter. He was wrong about some of the birth and death dates, a minor detail.

NILSDOTTER_Anna_1900_census 2

1900 U.S. census, Clinton County, Iowa, population schedule, Clinton Iowa, (ED) 12, sheet 13, dwelling 505, family 298, Charles Nyberg; digital image, ( : accessed 2 November, 2018), citing National Archives microfilm publication 1240426.

I hoped that Anna’s death certificate would note her birthplace in Sweden.  Anna’s youngest daughter, Natalie, who provided the information for the death certificate, included a crucial location. I eagerly scanned the Texas document and found on line # 11, BIRTHPLACE “Varmaland Sweeden.”[iii] The information narrowed the search, but it still wasn’t precise enough. Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982 [databae on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Texas Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate 25177 (1950), Anna Nyberg.

Sweden is divided into three larger regions, Götland (southern Sweden), Svealand (central Sweden), and Norrland (northern Sweden). Värmland is a province/county in western Svealand.

File:Sverigekarta-Landskap Text.svg. (2017, February 18). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 17:06, November 24, 2018.

According to Family Search website in 1890, Värmland consisted of 92 parishes.[iv]

Map of Värmland’s parishes, courtesy of Varmland Roots.

A parish, (socken) kept the records for all the members, (birth, marriages, and deaths). Every source I consulted stated that knowing my ancestor’s parish was vital to Swedish family research. I scoured every collateral record I could find for Anna’s children. Once again, one of Anna’s family members came to the rescue.  Her youngest son, Carl Walter, had a delayed birth certificate with a precise location: “Skallarbyn, Varmland, Sweden.”[v] Iowa, Delayed Birth Records, 1856-1940 [database online]. Clinton County, Iowa, Delayed birth Records, 1856-1940, certificate no. 507-16 (1933), Carl Walter Nyberg; State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa

This was the information I needed to search for Mary, Anna, Christine, and Alex in Swedish parish records. Swedish archives are exceptional. However, they are written in Swedish, and the handwriting can be difficult to read.


The next step was to contact various Swedish Genealogy Facebook groups to ask for their help.  I am very grateful to the “Swedish Genealogy,” “Maryland-Virginia Swedish Genealogy,” “Swedish American Genealogy,” and “My Ancestors are from Värmland” groups.  Just one day after posting my query, group members located Mary, eight siblings, and her parents in Skällarbyn, Köla, Värmland, Sweden. Skällarbyn a farming village in the parish of Köla, is located in the province/county of Värmland, Sweden.

Skäallarbyn, Värmland, Sweden, image courtesy of google maps.

Various members provided translations as well as current photographs of the area. Through the assistance of a researcher familiar with Swedish archives, I obtained the birth, marriage, death, and probate records for Mary and FIVE more generations. Solving Mary’s Mystery required a combination of sleuthing, research, Swedish genealogy Facebook groups plus DNA.

Maria Nilsdotter family tree


Johnnie gave me the married name for Anna Nelson –Nyberg- which made it easy to find her in American census records. Tracking down sister Christine proved to be more difficult. I didn’t know if she had married, and if so, what was her name? I searched Iowa census records for every Swedish “Christine” I could find; there were too many. I expanded my search to include DNA matches. Using shared DNA matches on, I found a family tree with Christine Nilsdotter. According to the Swedish household records, twenty-eight-year-old Christine emigrated in April 1872 to North America.[vi]

Köla Household Records, Köla (S) AI:31 (1871-1875) Image 426 / Page 416 (AID: v11981.b426.s416, NAD: SE/VA/13309), ); digital images, Arkiv Digital ( : accessed 10 November 2018).

The single mother was accompanied by her 7-year old son, Karl Bryntesson. After their arrival on the east coast, the two headed west to Clinton, Iowa.

Clinton, Iowa, c 1860, image courtesy of FB page “Old Clinton Pictures”.

Two years after her arrival in Clinton, Christine gave birth to a second son, Elmer Oscar Nelson, born on January 2, 1874. It is through a descendant of Elmer Oscar Nelson that I made the DNA connection to Christine. On July 10, 1876, Christine married a 56-year-old Swedish widower Olaf Nilsson. On February 26, 1878, Christine gave birth to a daughter, Christine Rosalie Nelson.  Good fortune seemed to evade Christine because one year after her daughter’s birth, Olaf disappeared or died. The thirty-five-year-old widow raised her three children alone.

1885 Iowa Census, Clinton, County, Clinton, IA, Ward 4, p. 481, dwelling 13, family 13, Christina Nelson.

Christine’s eldest son Charles (Karl) lived with her throughout her lifetime and supported her. He worked as a pharmacist, at a lumberyard, and later a sash factory. After Christine’s death in 1912, Charles took in two Swedish boarders. He never married. In 1924 he moved to Moline, Illinois where he died two years later at age 60.


Swedish research requires a basic understanding of the patronymic naming system, which was common in Sweden up to the end of the nineteenth century. If the father’s name was Nils Persson, then his son’s name might be Per Nilsson (Per the son of Nils). Similarly, a daughter named Maria would be Maria Nilsdotter (Maria the daughter of Nils). A woman retained her own patronymic name when she married. I knew that Mary Nelson probably Americanized her name, as many immigrants did, for practical reasons. After locating Mary and her sisters in Swedish archives, I learned that Mary’s given name was Maria Nilsdotter. Although Mary’s two sisters, Anna and Christine kept the spelling of their Swedish first names in the United States, they changed their surname from Nilsdotter to Nelson/Nielson.

Initially, I relied on two documents for Mary’s parent’s names. One was her marriage certificate and the other her death certificate. In both cases, the parent’s names were altered from their original Swedish. The marriage certificate listed Mary’s parents as “Nels Nelson and Carrie Oelson.”[vii]

Douglas County, Nebraska, marriage certificate (1881), Nelson-Nichols.

I assume Mary provided the information. In the case of her death certificate, Mary’s son Johnnie provided the names. They are noted as “Nelson” and “Christine.” For years I was chasing the wrong names. I should have been searching for Maria Nilsdotter with parents named Nils Persson and Karin Olsdotter. Name changes certainly do complicate research.

Birth record for Maria Nilsdotter, born 31 August 1854, Parents Nils Persson and Karin Olsdtoter; Köla (S) C:11 (1844-1856) Image 27 / Page 46 (AID: v6149.b27.s46, NAD: SE/VA/13309)

There is one more confusing name change. It involves Mary’s brother, Alex, whom  Johnnie referenced in his letter. According to Swedish archives,  Mary didn’t have a brother named Alex. She had two elder brothers, Anders and Nils, and one younger brother, Per, who immigrated to North America in April 1888.[viii] Because Johnnie supplied the name Alex and knowing that immigrants often change their names, I plugged in name variations in my search and found a likely candidate. I discovered an Axel Peter Nelson, born on the same day as Mary’s brother Per, January 23, 1862, from Sweden.

U.S. naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992, database, ( : accessed 22 November 2018), entry for Axel Peter Nelson.

Axel and Per both immigrated to North America in April 1888. Axel Peter Nelson, a farmer, settled in Osco, Illinois. At age 45 he married Teda Skoog, a Swedish immigrant. Since Axel Peter and Teda had no children, I can’t incorporate a DNA search.  I could obtain Axel’s 1922 naturalization record, perhaps it can resolve if Per Nilsson and Axel Peter Nelson are the same person.[ix]

One more element that complicated my research was Mary’s  birthdate. A family bible[x], census records, and a death certificate noted Mary’s birthdate as August 31, 1856.

Jean Hyde Hopp Eichorn Family Bible Records, 1925-1931, The Red Letter Holy bible Illustrated; privately held by Jean Eichorn.


According to Swedish parish church records, Mary was born August 31, 1854.[xi] She shaved two years off of her age to appear younger. She wanted her husband, John Nichols, to believe she was only six months older than him.

FICTION                               VS.                       FACT

NAME: Mary Nelson                         Maria Nilsdotter

BIRTH: August 31, 1856                  August 31, 1854

PARENTS: Nels Nelson                    Nils Persson

Carrie Oelson/Christine                    Karin Olsdotter

BROTHER: Alex Nelson                    Per Nilsson/Axel Peter Nelson

BIRTHPLACE: Warwick, Sweden    Skällarbyn, Sweden

(Växvik is the correct spelling for a small village near Skällarbyn where Mary may have worked prior to her emigration.)

Ingeborg, Sweden                                  Ingeborg- Mary’s sister

The search for Mary’s origins began six decades ago. Time, patience, persistence, and technology solved the mystery. DNA doesn’t lie; the match for Anna’s descendant confirms my research. In addition, the Swedish probate records for Mary’s parents, Nils Persson and Karin Olsdotter, identify the three sisters, Mary, Anna, and Christine, noting where they lived and Mary’s married name – Nichols.

Thanks to my mother and her uncle Johnnie for jump starting the research that helped me solve the mystery of Mary’s origins in Sweden.


Köla-AI-30-1866-1870-Image-398-page-380;digital images, Arkiv Digital ( : accessed 10 November 2018).


  • Occupation – farmer landowner (Hemmansägare)
  • Birth – October 3, 1824, Hallebol, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Death – October 24, 1909, Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Cause of death- throat cancer – Age 85
  • Married – April 17 1844


  • Birth – January 6, 1822, Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Death – January 6, 1896, Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Cause of death – Old age – Age 74

Children of Nils Persson and Karin Olsdotter


  • Birth – June 1, 1844, Baptised June 3, 1844 – Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Emigrated to Clinton Iowa, April 1872 – Age 28
  • Married – July 10, 1876, in Clinton, Iowa, USA to widower Olaf Nilsson b. 1820 in Sweden, d.1879 Clinton, Iowa.
  • Children: 
  • Charles (Karl) Bryntesson 1865-1926
  • Elmer Oscar Nelson 1874-1945
  • Christine Rosalie Nelson 1878-1951
  • Death – April 23, 1912, Clinton, Iowa, USA – Age 67
  • Cause of death- Cardiac Hypertrophy, with endocarditis, cause embolism of both femoral veins


  • Birth – January 2, 1846, Baptised January 3, 1846 – Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Married – September 9, 1889, Kerstin Andersdotter
  • Child – Johan Emil Andersson 1889-1964
  • Death – September 1902 Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Cause of death – Cancer of the larynx – Age 56


  • Birth – September 30, 1847, Baptised October 1, 1847 – Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Married – November 1, 1873, Anders Andersson
  • Children –
  • Hulda Amalia Andersdotter 1873
  • Anna Christina Andersdotter 1878
  • Jenny Teresia Andersdotter 1885
  • Ingeborg Viktoria Andersdotter 1888
  • Death – March 21, 1924, Hallebol, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Cause of death – Arteriosclerosis – Age 76


  • Birth – October 16, 1849, Baptised October 17, 1849 – Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Occupation – carpenter (snedker)
  • Married Marie
  • Children –
  • Anna Westlund 1885-
  • Oskar Westlund 1891-
  • Emigrated to Oslo, Norway, October 10, 1885
  • Death – July 24, 1941 – Oslo, Norway


  • Birth – March 4, 1852, Baptised March 6, 1852 – Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Married – Nils Tonberg Andersson (He immigrated to North America in 1886 after his wife’s death)
  • Children-
  • Albert Nilsson 1875-1939
  • Olivia Christina Nilson 1877-  (Emigrated to the United States in August 1887)
  • Karin Emilia Nilson 1882-
  • Anna Lavinia Tonberg Nilson February 22, 1884-1968, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Death – February 22, 1884, Köla, Värmland, Sweden
  • Cause of death – unknown – Age 31

MARIA NILSDOTTER/MARY NELSON – my 2x great-grandmother

  • Birth – August 31, 1854, Baptised September 4, 1854 – Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Emigrated to Clinton, Iowa May 1875 – Age 21
  • Married April 13, 1881 John Mathew Nichols, Omaha, NE
  • Children-
  • Carrie Bertha Nichols 1881-1915
  • Charles Clinton Nichols 1883-1930
  • Fredrick Mathew Nichols 1885-1957
  • Mabel Elvina Nichols 1888-1954 – my great-grandmother
  • John Lee Nichols 1890-1967
  • Death – January 15, 1931, Omaha, Nebraska, USA – Age 76
  • Cause of death –Bronchopneumonia


  • Birth – November 23, 1857, Baptised November 27, 1857 – Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Emigrated to Clinton, Iowa, April 1880 – Age 22
  • Married – June 19, 1880, in Clinton, Iowa to Carl (Charles) Nyberg b. 1857 Krokebol, Älga, Värmland, Sweden d. 1906 Clinton, Iowa, USA. Her marriage document spelled her name as Anna Nielson.
  • Children –
  • Karin Carolyn Cecilia Nyberg 1881-1964
  • Albin Nyberg 1886-1903
  • Leroy T E Nyberg 1890-1924
  • Natalie Olga Nyberg 1893-1982
  • Carl Walter Nyberg 1894-1979
  • Death – May 13, 1950, Fort Worth, Texas – Age 90
  • Cause of death – Myocardial Failure and senility


  • Birth – January 23, 1862, Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Married – February 11, 1908, Andover, Illinois to Teda Skoog at Augustana Lutheran Church
  • Emigrated to North America April 1888
  • Death- September 1, 1944, Osco, Illinois, USA


  • Birth – January 10, 1866, Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Death – November 29, 1883, Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden
  • Cause of death – Heart Failure – Age 17


Värmland, Sweden, image courtesy of

Finding Mary and her birth family in Skällarbyn, Köla Parish, Värmland, Sweden led to a flurry of book orders, research, and emails. I wanted to immerse myself in my immigrant ancestor’s story. Mary and her three siblings joined 1.25 million Swedish immigrants who were part of the great migration from Europe(1880-1920.) They left all that was familiar to them, knowing that they might never see their families again. Their journey to America would change their lives forever.



© 2018 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: [Mary Nelson/Maria Nilsdotter 1854-1931]
Parents: [Nils Persson 1824-1909] and
[Karin Olsdotter 1822-1896]
Spouse: [John Mathew Nichols 1857-1929]
Children: [Carrie Bertha Nichols 1881-1915, Charles Clinton Nichols 1883-1930, Frederick Mathew Nichols 1885-1957, Mabel Elvina Nichols 1888-1954, John Lee Nichols 1890-1967]
Relationship to Kendra: [Great- Great- Grandmother]

  1. [Mary Nelson/Maria Nilsdotter 1854-1931]
  2. [Mabel Elvina Nichols Hyde 1888-1954]
  3. [John Frederick Hyde Jr. 1911-1980]
  4. [Jean Hyde Hopp Eichorn]
  5. Kendra
[i] John Nichols, to Jean Hyde Hopp, letter, June 1958, Personal Correspondance; Nichols Family, privately held.
[ii] Douglas County, death certificate no. B486 (1931), Mary Nichols; State of Nebraska Bureau of Health, Omaha.
[iii] Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982 [databae on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Texas Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate 25177 (1950), Anna Nyberg.
[iv] Family Search Wikipedia (, “Värmland County, Sweden Genealogy,” 03:56, 21 November 2018.
[v] Iowa, Delayed Birth Records, 1856-1940 [database online]. Clinton County, Iowa, Delayed birth Records, 1856-1940, certificate no. 507-16 (1933), Carl Walter Nyberg; State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa
[vi] Köla Moving Records; Köla (S) B:5 (1861-1894) Image 64 (AID: v6138.b64, NAD: SE/VA/13309); digital images, Arkiv Digital ( : accessed 22 November 2018).
[vii] Douglas County, Nebraska, marriage certificate (1881), Nelson-Nichols.
[viii] Köla Moving Records; Köla (S) B:5 (1861-1894) Image 154 (AID: v6138.b154, NAD: SE/VA/13309), digital images, Arkiv Digital ( : accessed 20 November 2018).
[ix] U.S. naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992, database, ( : accessed 22 Novembre 2018), entry for Axel Peter Nelson.
[x] Jean Hyde Hopp Eichorn Family Bible Records, 1925-131, The Red Letter Holy Bible Illustrated(Philadelphia), “Births and Deaths”; privately held by Jean Hyde Hopp Eichorn, Tucson, AZ, 2018.
[xi] Köla Birth and Baptismal Records; Köla (S) C:11 (1844-1856) Image 27 / Page 46 (AID: v6149.b27.s46, NAD: SE/VA/13309); digital images, Arkiv Digital ( : accessed 22 November 2018).
[xii] Köla Household Records, Köla (S) AI:31 (1871-1875) Image 426 / Page 416 (AID: v11981.b426.s416, NAD: SE/VA/13309), ); digital images, Arkiv Digital ( : accessed 10 November 2018).
Posted in Biographies, My Family Ancestry | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments


Home of Mabel and John HYDE, 5335 Izard street, Omaha, NE. Taken 1933, photograph in possession of author.

As I stepped out of the rental car, a warm spring breeze gently blew away my trepidation. I recognized the large Tudor Revival style home from the photographs my mother and grandmother shared with me.  Located in the historic Happy Hollow District of Omaha, Nebraska, the house at 5335 Izard Street appeared as charming as I’d envisioned. Nervous but excited, I rang the doorbell and waited. A tall, slender, woman opened the door. Her blue eyes gazed warmly at me as if she thought she recognized me. We’d never met in person, but I knew her immediately. I introduced myself. Mabel NICHOLS HYDE, my great-grandmother, wrapped me in her arms and invited me inside.

Mabel NICHOLS HYDE, portrait taken by Claude Constable 1940, Omaha, Nebraska. Photograph in possession of author.

I followed Mabel into the kitchen where the aroma of a freshly baked dessert filled the air. An excellent baker, Mabel’s specialties included her husband’s favorite cakes, chocolate, and angel food.  She served us each a slice of light angel food with a dollop of whip cream and fresh berries. We had a lot a lot to talk about.

No, it wasn’t real, just a fantasy. When I research and write about my ancestors, I envision what it might be like to meet them in person. I know Mabel NICHOLS HYDE  through many anecdotes my mother and grandmother told me. They always called her “Nana” which is how I think of her. My grandmother, Anna Jane BEATON HYDE, lived with Mabel, her mother-in-law, from 1935-1940, and again from 1950-1953.  Anna Jane experienced first-hand Mabel’s loving and challenging personality.

Even when they didn’t share a home, the two HYDE families lived less than a mile apart. My mother, Jean HYDE, was an only grandchild on both sides of her family. Mabel was her “young” grandmother. Time spent together included: playing card games, stories, shopping excursions, and travel.

Mabel HYDE and Jean HYDE, Evergreen, CO, 1942. Photo in possession of author.

The two  HYDE families often shared Sunday dinners and holiday celebrations.

Christmas 1949 Mabel NICHOLS HYDE & John HYDE, Anna Jane Beaton Hyde, Jean HYDE and Sunny. Omaha, NE. photograph in possession of author.

At age ten, my mother learned that visiting a grandparent and living with a grandparent paint different pictures. Her grandfather, Dr. John HYDE, died unexpectedly March 23, 1950, from a cerebral hemorrhage.[1] Devastated by her loss, Mabel asked her son and his family to move in with her. My grandfather had just designed a new home for his parents the year before his father’s death and Mabel was too distraught to leave.

Significant events affected Mabel’s life in ways I can only imagine. Keeping a timeline in mind enables me to appreciate local and world events that shaped her life. She gave birth to her children before the discovery of childhood immunizations; lived through two World Wars worried her husband, son and brothers might be called to serve;  gained the right to vote at age 31, and opened her home to family members during the Great Depression.


  • 1913 – [Mabel age 25] Omaha Tornado struck on Easter Sunday, about 6 p.m., F4 storm, 103 people killed, 240 injured, 3000 buildings damaged, property damage $3.5 million (equal to $89 million today).[3] It swept diagonally across the city in a path six miles long and two to three blocks wide. Today it is still considered one of the most catastrophic events in Nebraska history. The day after the tornado a snowstorm struck the town.[4]
  • Courtesy of Library of Congress, Chronicling America, The Omaha Bee, March 30, 1913.

  • [Mabel and John’s home was not in the path, but her parents and siblings were narrowly missed by the tornado.]
  • 1914-1918 – [Mabel age 26-30]   World War I – U.S. enters WWI April 6, 1917. [Mabel’s brother Johnnie served briefly in the Army Signal Corp. He was one of 20,000 Omahans who served in the armed forces. Although this created labor shortages “…the most serious hardships experienced on the home front were “wheatless” and “meatless” days.”[5]]
  • 1915 – First long distance telephone service between New York and San Francisco
  • 1917 – First regular airmail service begins with one round trip a day between Washington D.C. and New York.
  • 1918 – Worldwide influenza epidemic strikes; by 1920 nearly 20 million are dead. In U.S. 500,000 perish.
  • 1919 –[Mabel age 31]  Prohibition
  • 1919 – Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, granting women the right to vote.
  • [Mabel’s mother-in-law, Florence FOLLETT HYDE, campaigned in 1914 for women’s right to vote. She became an active member of the Lincoln, Nebraska League of Women Voters.][6]
  • 1923-1927 – First vaccines developed for diphtheria, pertussis, tuberculosis, and tetanus.
  • 1928 – [Mabel age 40] Bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin.[7]
  • 1929 – Stock market crash precipitates the Great Depression
  • 1939 -1945 – [Mabel age 51-57]    World War II
  • [John HYDE jr. exempt from service due to flat feet; John HYDE Sr. served as an examining physician for the Selective Service System of the United States from Oct 10, 1940-May 3, 1947.[8]] My grandfather had flat feet; he passed this genetic trait on to members of my family. However, I do wonder if Mabel told her husband that she did not want her only son to serve in the military.

Bird’s eye view of Omaha, NE, 1918-1920, with permission by Omaha Public Library.

A “gate city to the west,” Omaha prospered in the early twentieth century. It was the Terminal for the Union Pacific railroad which made it easy to ship agricultural products throughout the United States. It was also home to the “Big Four” meat-packing plants, Armour, Cudahy, Swift and Morris. [9] To celebrate the city’s Golden Jubilee in 1929, The Chamber of Commerce adopted the slogan “Onward Omaha.” A promotional publication stated:

“Omaha faces a future rich with promise of continued domination in field, garden, and stockyard. Omaha faces a future in which the great economic battles will be fought and won by cities with transportation facilities and quick contacts. Omaha is the country’s center. Already it is the fourth railroad center; already it commands the highways, but now commerce is to travel by water and air…Omaha leaders have been quick to grasp their opportunity, and the city is riding the rising tide of aviation. Omaha faces the future backed by all of her old allies, and fortified with the strength of two new ones – water and air.”[10] 

Omaha was also an immigrant city. “In the 1920’s when roughly fifty percent of the population were immigrants and their children, Omaha reached the zenith of its ethnic diversity.[11] It gave the city a diversified cultural heritage as well as caused tensions. Mabel grew up in one of the many immigrant neighborhoods on the north side of Omaha with her Swedish born mother. Omaha’s immigrant community was a mix of Germans, Czechs, Italians, Polish, Bohemians, Irish, English, Welsh, French, Belgians, Lithuanians, Serbs, Croatians, Romanians, Hungarians, Austrians, Scandinavians, Syrians, Greeks, and Mexicans.[12]


In a earlier blog, I described Mabel NICHOLS’ marriage to Dr. John Fay HYDE on May 8, 1909. [13] The newlyweds took a few days after the wedding to visit friends and the groom’s parents in Lincoln, NE.  When they returned to Omaha, Mabel continued to work as her husband’s receptionist for about a year, possibly until she became pregnant.

Mabel NICHOLS HYDE c. 1909, taken at Dr. John HYDE’S office at 460 Brandeis Building, Omaha, NE. Photograph in possessionof author.

After she married Dr. John HYDE, Mabel’s life changed drastically. Her childhood home didn’t have indoor plumbing or electricity; she eventually had houses with every modern convenience. Her mother and sister had worked as servants; Mabel employed housekeepers. She could afford beautiful clothes, travel, and a life of leisure.

Family connections played an essential role in Mabel’s life. Cards and photographs recorded family events. Newspaper articles, census records, directories, and death records revealed Mabel’s devotion to family in difficult times.


Two years after their marriage, Mabel and John’s first and only surviving child, John Frederick HYDE, arrived on Friday,  October 13, 1911.[14] Typical for the time period, Mabel gave birth at home, attended by a colleague of her husbands, Dr. Charles Pollard.[15]

My favorite studio photograph of Mabel and my grandfather, John Jr., taken in 1912.

Mabel NICHOLS HYDE and John HYDE Jr. 1910, Omaha, NE. Photo in possession of author.

Both mother and child have a playful smile on their faces. John Jr. wore a cotton romper. Mabel wore a delicate silk and lace gown. Pinned to the ruching on the bodice is Dr. John Hyde’s Medical Fraternity pin, Phi Rho Sigma, he gave to her upon their engagement.

John HYDE Sr., Medical Fraternity Pin, Phi Rho Sigma.

Mabel pampered John Jr. as a baby, a child, and as a young man. An adorable boy with blond curly hair and blue eyes, John’s photographs depict a cheerful child.

John HYDE Jr, 1915, Omaha, NE, photo in possession of author.

Ten years after their son’s birth, Mabel, and John had a baby girl in September 1921. Joan HYDE survived only a few days.[16] Her tombstone has one date on it, Sept. 3, 1921.

Joan HYDE, tombstone, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Omaha, NE.


From 1915 -1931 Mabel lost five family members.

  • July 26, 1916, Carrie Bertha NICHOLS (sister age 34 – no death certificate on file.)[17]
  • Sept. 3, 1921, Joan HYDE (infant daughter)[18]
  • May 19, 1929, John Mathews NICHOLS (father age 72– cause of death myocardial degeneration, died at Covenant Hospital, death certificate signed by Dr. John F. Hyde.)[19]
  • Nov 9, 1930, Charles Clinton NICHOLS (brother age 47– suffered fatal internal injuries when he was struck by a car while crossing a street.)[20]
  • Jan 15, 1931, Mary NELSON NICHOLS (mother age 74- Mary died at Mabel and John Hyde’s house after a month-long illness of bronchopneumonia and influenza. Dr. Hyde signed her death certificate.)[21]


Four years after Mary NICHOL’S death, the HYDES celebrated the marriage of their son John to Anna Jane BEATON, on June 25, 1935.[22]  The young couple moved in with Mabel and John Sr. at 5335 Izard Street while John Jr. built up his practice as an architect. There was little demand for architecturally designed homes during the Great Depression. My grandparents, John and Anna Jane, lived with my great-grandparents for five years. They moved into their own apartment in 1940 after the birth of their only child, my mother, Jean Ann Marie HYDE.

Mabel HYDE and granddaughter, Jean HYDE, 1940, Omaha, NE. Photograph in possession of author.

Also adversely affected by the Great Depression, Mabel’s younger brother, John Lee NICHOLS, known as Johnnie, had difficulty finding a job. In 1935, Johnnie was 45 years old, divorced, and needed a home and a job. He moved into the HYDE household at Izard street and lived there from 1935-1940. Mabel and Johnnie shared a strong sibling bond. While going through family photos and negatives, I discovered a blurred image depicting Dr. John HYDE and Johnnie NICHOLS playing poker.

Dr. John F. Hyde and John Nichols, c. 1939 playing poker, Omaha NE. Photo in possession of author.

It might have confused the family to have three “Johns” in the same house, except two of them used nicknames. Dr. John HYDE was always called ‘Doc’ by everyone in the family. John NICHOLS had the nickname ‘Johnnie’ from childhood because his father shared the same first name.  John HYDE Jr., my grandfather, went by his given name, ‘John.’


Mabel Nichols Hyde and Dr. John F. Hyde, 1942, Evergreen, CO. Photo in possession of author.

Thanks to my mother I have some ideas about my great-grandparents shared interests. As loyal Nebraskans, they attended college football games to watch the Cornhuskers play. The sixty-mile drive from Omaha to Lincoln also offered the HYDES an opportunity to visit John’s relatives. His younger sister, Hazel HYDE KIESSELBACH lived in Lincoln as did his mother, Florence FOLLETT HYDE.

1923Mr. and Mrs. T.A. Kiesselbach [John’s sister Hazel and brother-in-law Theodore] will preside at a family dinner for twenty guests after the games….The guest list will include Mrs. Florence HYDE [John’s mother], Miss Lorraine Follett [John’s aunt], and Mrs. C.W. Roberts and family [John’s youngest sister Elizabeth and husband], Dr. and Mrs. J.F. Hyde and son John Jr., of Omaha.”[23]

Leisurely weekend afternoons or evenings would include a game of canasta, pitch or bridge with friends. Traditional games were an alternative to reading, which Mabel and John also enjoyed. In the 1920’s, mass marketing and mail-order book clubs promoted Tales of the Old West and mystery novels. Mabel relished western pocket novels or stories such as  Little Orphan Annie while John Sr. preferred the classics.

The 1930 census noted that John and Mabel owned a “radio set,” then considered a luxury.

Sears Roebuck Catalog Fall 1937, p. 661,

[24] Perhaps as they sat together in the evenings, Mabel sipped her preferred cocktail, a Bourbon Mist, while she relaxed to her favorite piece of music, Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”

  • Bourbon Mist Cocktail
  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 2 oz. crushed ice
  • 1 twist lemon peel
  • Pack a Collins glass with crushed ice. Pour in bourbon. Add the twist of lemon and serve.

Mabel and John Sr. also listened to popular radio shows. I don’t know their favorites, but I can imagine them enjoying the same episodes of the Lone Ranger, detective Sam Spade or Jack Benny that my husband and I listened to on Armed Forces Radio when we lived overseas.


The HYDE family traveled more than I’d anticipated. After reading newspaper articles about their trips, I learned that Mabel had extended stays with family and friends.

1924 – “Dr. and Mrs. J.F. Hyde and son, John, accompanied by Bobbie Young, son of Dr. and Mrs. G. Alexander Young have returned after spending two weeks in Estes Park.[25]

Downtown Estes Park, 1924. Photographer Frank Phelps. With permission by Estes Park Museum.

Note- the Hydes frequently traveled to Estes Park, Colorado during the summers and often stayed at Sprague’s Lodge in Rocky Mountain National Park. It became a family tradition for my great-grandparents as well as my grandparents and mother. Sprague’s Lodge is where my parents met and fell in love. Three of my siblings live in Colorado and still explore the same areas.

My grandparents, Anna Jane and John HYDE Jr. took the photograph below in 1949. Sixty-seven years later, my sister, Kimberly Stansberry took the second photograph from nearly the same vantage point on one of her visits to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Spragues Lake and lodge c. 1949, Estes Park, Colorado. Photograph in possession of author.

Spragues Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, 2016, photograph by Kimberly Stansberry.

1925-Mrs. J.F. Hyde has returned after a six-week trip through the Black Hills and Yellowstone Park. Dr. Hyde and son, John Jr. returned earlier in the month.”[26]
1930 – “Mrs. J.F. Hyde has returned after spending five weeks with her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Charles K. Nichols, [Mabel’s uncle and aunt]  in Pittsburgh, and in Chicago, where she was cruising with Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Shukert of Council Bluffs, who have their yacht in Belmont Harbor. Mrs. Hyde went east with Mr. and Mrs. Nichols, when they stopped in Omaha on the way by motor to their home, after spending the winter in Los Angeles.”[27]
1936- Mrs. John Hyde sr. is visiting Mr. and Mrs. Charles Nichols in Hollywood, Cal. Mr. and Mrs. Nichols spend their winters in Tarentum, Pa., and stopped here en route to the west coast to be joined by Mrs. Hyde. Dr. Hyde expects to leave for California the first week of September, and they will return together the middle of the month.”[28]
1938 – “Dr. and Mrs. J.F.Hyde are home from Estes Park, where they spent two weeks at Fall River Lodge, and a brief stay at Denver.”[29]
1941 – “Dr. John Hyde Sr. made a solo trip home for Mrs. Hyde who accompanied him west on the special is settled for the rest of the winter in a Los Angeles apartment.”[30]

Note – Mabel enjoyed traveling by train to California. She made annual visits to see her younger brother Johnnie who moved to Oakland circa 1941 to work for Western Pacific Railroad. A 1941 article in the Omaha World-Herald featured enticing advertisements to explore the west coast.

Many Americans have unknowingly seen parts of Santa Catalina Island, Death Valley, Palos Verdes, Lake Arrowhead and other scenic contrasts of southern California in the movies. they thought they were seeing the South Sea isles, parts of Africa and Arabia, French Riviera or Swiss Alps – so nearly do the southern California counterparts of these areas duplicate landscapes famed throughout the world.”[31] Streamlined trains offered a day and a half trip on “the speedsters of the North Western Union Pacific-Southern-Pacific. Such trains as the City of Los Angeles and City of San Francisco carry both Pullmans and coaches.[32]

Pullman car built 1938 – Arizona Railway Museum.

Note – As a young girl, my mother traveled to California with her grandmother in a Pullman. Recently, I toured two train museums to view sleeper and buffet-lounge cars. My mother recalls it took 2-3 days to reach the coast. When she exited the train in California, her legs felt a bit wobbly.

Sleeper Car 1938, Arizona Railway Museum.

Pullman Dining Car 1938, Arizona Railway Museum.









1943 – “Mrs. W.H. Taylor was joined at San Antonio by Dr. Taylor, Dr. and Mrs. Calvin Davis, Dr. and Mrs. John Hyde and Dr. and Mrs. Clarence Rubendall…The Omahans traveled to Mexico for a two-week stay, making their headquarters at Mexico City.”[33]

Acapulco, Mexico 1943, Mabel Hyde (front left), Dr. John Hyde (back right). Photo in possession of author.

Note – The trip to Mexico is the only trip the John and Mabel made outside the United States. Their visit to Mexico with friends included a fishing excursion. Finding newspaper articles has helped me date photographs.


To celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in 1934, John Hyde Sr. surprised Mabel with a night out at the elegant Blackstone Hotel. Built in 1915, it developed a  nationwide reputation as a premier hotel.[34]

“Bostwick-Frohardt Collection, Blackstone Hotel, 1928. With permission by Durham Museum Photo Archives.

Dr. J.F. Hyde entertained last evening at the Blackstone at a surprise dinner for Mrs. Hyde on the occasion of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Dinner was served in the Fern room, and silver and pink tapers, with pink and white flowers, were used on the table around a huge wedding cake. Forty-six guests were present.”[35]

In honor of their 25th anniversary, the HYDES received two silver footed bowls, one with the initial “M” and the other with “J”. Engraved on the bottom of each is the date “1909-1934.”

Silver wedding anniversary gift, footed bowl engraved with letter “M”, and 1909-1934 on the bottom.


Between 1909-1950 Mabel and John HYDE shared six homes together.

2410 South 10th Street – 1909 – Rented home #1 located around the corner from Grace Baptist church where the HYDES married, and a short distance from where Dr. HYDE worked as a staff physician at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Original home no longer exists.

2528 South 10th Street – 1911- Rented home #2 located one block away from their first home. Original home no longer exists. [Home where John HYDE jr was born.]

John F. Hyde Jr., baby book.

2541 South 10th Street – 1916 – Rented home #3 across the street from home #2. Original home no longer exists.

3227 Lafayette – 1918 –Not sure if they owned or rented home #4 located six miles from home #3. The house still exists.

3227 Lafayette Street, Omaha, NE. Google images

Description: Single-family home, 1,511 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath.

5335 Izard Street – 1926- 1949– Owned home #5, the house still exists.

5335 Izard Street, Omaha, NE. Home of Dr. John F. Hyde and Mabel Hyde, c. 1940. Photograph in possession of author.

Located in the Happy Hollow neighborhood a garden suburb with “…rolling hills, lush shrubbery, manicured lawns, numerous trees, Tudor-style homes, and winding streets.”[36]

“Bostwick Frohard Collection,” Homes in Dundee on Izard Street. With permission by the Durham Museum Photo Archives.

Description: Single-family Tudor style Brick home, shingle roof, 2 ½ stories, built 1926. Designed and built by Bert Hene Construction Company. 3,852 sq. ft., 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, screened porch, 400 square foot basement. Value in 1930 – $23,000.[37] The HYDES sold their home on Izard street in May 1949 for $25,000.[38]

5335 Izard Street, Omaha, NE, taken about 1990, photograph by my sister Karen Kenagy.

A description in the Omaha World-Herald features a charming description of the garden. “The garden is of simple, informal design, adaptable to the city home grounds, where space is limited. Some interesting feature is to be placed in every view from the house. Many varieties of shrubs, trees, and flowers are to be used. They will be arranged and selected as to give almost a continuous succession of bloom the entire summer, and yet all are to be in harmonious relation with each other. The landscape department of the Sonderegger nurseries designed the garden, which will be planted in the early spring. The residence is being built by the Hene Construction company, which is also architect.”[39]

Note – John HYDE Sr., a passionate gardener spent his free time tending to the yard. An impressed passerby inquired if John was available for other jobs not realizing Dr. Hyde was the homeowner and not the gardener.

420 JE George Boulevard 1949- Owned home #6, still exists.

420 JE George Boulevard, Omaha, NE, taken 1949. Home of Dr. John F. HYDE and Mabel HYDE. Designed by John F. HYDE , Jr. Photograph in possession of author.

Description – Colonial style single family home, designed by John F. Hyde Jr., 1.5 stories, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 3402 sq. Ft.

420 JE George Boulevard, Omaha, NE. Google images.

My grandmother saved several newspaper articles about the house. The home had to be rebuilt after a fire nearly destroyed it when it was near completion. The fire started about 2:30 a.m. in the morning caused by salamander stoves used to warm the concrete floors. Mabel and John’s son and family lived in an adjoining lot. Alerted by their barking Cocker Spaniel, Sun Tan, known as “Sunny,” John Jr. rang the fire department at 2:59 a.m., but it was too late.  “Mr. Hyde found the building ‘a mass of flames.’”Although the house carried 15 thousand dollars of insurance, it was valued at 35 thousand dollars.[40]

“Omaha World-Herald”, November 27, 1949, p. 69.

HOME FINISHED DESPITE BLAZE – Hyde Residence has Fine Features.

Dr. and Mrs. John F. Hyde were dismayed last January 13 when fire destroyed their nearly-completed house at 420 J.E. George Boulevard. So was their son, John Jr. He was the architect who designed it.
The house was too fine to abandon, however. Now completed, it is one of the most attractive in Omaha.
Yellowwood siding, a green door, and a white board fence give it a color that suits its colonial lines. It faces east on a large lot and looks, as Mrs. Hyde says, ‘as though it grew out of the ground.’
A fireplace surrounded by bookshelves and a welcoming bay window are features of the living-dining room.
Utilitarian Features
The dining area has built-in cupboards which are back-to-back with cupboards in the brightly decorated breakfast room on the west side of the house.
Off the living room to the south is a cheerful sun porch, glassed-in now, but equipped with removable screens for summer outdoor dining.
Off the kitchen is a utility room containing heating and laundry equipment and nearly enough cooking facilities for a second kitchen.
A “back porch” room contains air conditioning equipment and can be locked off from the rest of the house for package deliveries when the owners are away.
No Basement
There is further storage space in the garage, and a garden tool room opening off the garage. The Hydes realized they would need plenty of storage room about the house because it has no basement.
A closet near the front door contains a wood box which can be filled from the garage and racks for the storage of card tables.
There is a powder room on the first floor and a bathroom for each of the three upstairs bedrooms. The lavatory in Dr. Hyde’s bathroom has a now seldom-seen marble top, an old-fashioned idea that fits in well with modern design. Silvered wallpaper adds to the charm of Mrs. Hyde’s bathroom.
Old oak furniture, given a gray finish are in the doctor’s room. It includes a desk and shelves for his medical books.
William Votava helped plan the interior decorating”.[41]

A few months ago I rediscovered 265 color slides from my grandparents. They included an image of my mother and her constant companion, Sunny,  in the living room at 420 George Boulevard.  I examined the image and found eight items that still belong to family members.

Jean HYDE with Sunny seated in living room at 420 JE George Boulevard. Photograph taken 1949, in possession of author.

#1 Regency mahogany round table with spiral legs – Victorian reproduction

Regency table, lamp, and cigarette dish from Mabel HYDE.

#2 Dresden porcelain cigarette dish designed by Carl Thieme.  [A chain smoker, Mabel displayed her cigarettes in a classy container. It held 19 cigarettes as depicted in the photograph above with Jean and Sunny.]

Dresden porcelain cigarette dish designed by Carl Thieme.


#3Cobalt blue lamps [Mabel and Anna Jane both had these lamps in their homes. I’ve had to change the lampshades and have them rewired, but they are still elegant.]

#4 Framed wedding photograph of Mary NELSON NICHOLS and John Mathews NICHOLS taken in 1881. Mabel kept the treasured picture on a bookshelf in her living room.

Wedding photograph of Mary NELSON NICHOLS and John Mathews NICHOLS taken in 1881, Omaha, NE. Photograph in possession of Karen Hopp Kenagy.


#5 Wingback chairs x 2 (Mabel HYDE had the chairs upholstered in a purple floral pattern as featured above. I’ve had them reupholstered.)

#6 Set of Junior Classic Books that belonged to Dr. John HYDE

#7 Dresden Porcelain Figurine

#8 Steubenware glass bowl


Mabel kept an impeccable house that looked like a show home. She didn’t accomplish this on her own; she had several maids over the years. A fastidious housekeeper with strict expectations, it wasn’t easy to live with her.  My mother and grandmother described cleaning day as “a revolution.” The oriental rugs were taken outside and beaten; the bedframes set out on the lawn and cleaned; countertops had to be smoothly polished; the carpet vacuumed so no footprints were visible. My mother distinctly remembers each fork tine had to be thoroughly dried. Mabel supervised and assisted.

Despite being very particular, Mabel did have a house cat. I wasn’t surprised when I saw that “Rattles” was a Persian cat. Or is this “Boots”, the other cat my mother remembers?

Mabel Nichols HYDE, Jean HYDE, and John HYDE Jr. & Rattles, 1940, Omaha, NE. Photograph in possession of author.

Mabel had a pleasant relationship with her housekeepers but expected near perfection.  The 1940 census lists the following members in the HYDE household:[42] Dr. John HYDE worked 60 hours a week; John L NICHOLS’ occupation is listed as a railroad yardman, but he was unemployed during the census taking; Irene Franklin, the housekeeper, worked 70 hours/week. 

1940 U.S. census, Douglas County, Omaha, NE.

  • John F. HYDE            age 56            Physician       worked 60 hours/week
  • Mabel HYDE             age 52
  • John L NICHOLS       age 50            yardman/RR
  • Irene Franklin           age 34            servant          worked 70 hours/week


During WWII the HYDES kept a Victory Garden. Mabel canned the surplus produce including homemade jam. The housekeeper assisted with some of the daily cooking, but Mabel preferred to do the baking herself. My mother recalls walking into the home on Izard street and the delicious aroma of fresh-baked treats. I think the special ingredient she added to her baking was love.


Recipe cards from Mabel HYDE.

Chocolate cake– John HYDE Sr.’s favorite. While scanning negatives, I found the only known photograph of Doc celebrating his birthday and it includes a chocolate cake.

Dr. John F. HYDE, 64th birthday celebration with a chocolate cake. Taken in 1949 in his new home on George Boulevard. Photograph in possession of author.

Angel food cake – In honor of Nana, I baked an angel food cake from scratch. I’d forgotten it requires 12 egg whites. The only dilemma was what to do with 12 egg yolks. What did Mabel do with all those yolks?

Angel Food cake ingredients.

Angel Food Cake – Delicous – thanks Nana.








Brownies – Chocolate remains a favorite in our family, in any form.

Date Bars

Chocolate drop cookies with nuts and dates – A Christmas tradition started by Mabel HYDE that my grandmother continued. My mother, sister and I make them every year and think of Nana and Grams (Anna Jane).

Hot sauce for gingerbread – I like gingerbread but haven’t tried it with sauce.

Homemade ice cream – made with real cream, chocolate, vanilla, or fresh fruit.

Sweet milk pancakes


Like her mother, Mary NICHOLS, Mabel was a talented seamstress. Mary sewed clothes for her grandson, John HYDE Jr, as described in his baby book.

John F. HYDE Jr. baby book with description of “first short clothes.”

First Short Clothes – Made by Grandma Nichols & put on 1st time Jan 30, 1912. Got so large that all clothes had to made over.”[43]

Mabel liked to sew skirts and dresses for her granddaughter. My mother, Jean, is pictured here in a darling blue and white gingham dress. Her playmate Sunny delighted in all the attention.

Jean HYDE wearing dress made by Mabel HYDE; playing with Sunny, 1946, Omaha, NE. Photograph in possession of author.




















When Jean was a young teen, Mabel made her a Christmas party skirt. It’s gaily decorated with felt Christmas trees, stars, and bells outlined with beads and sequins.  Although the colors have faded, my sister still wears the skirt for special Christmas gatherings.

Karen Hopp Kenagy, wearing Christmas skirt made by her great-grandmother, Mabel HYDE, Dec 2017, Tucson, AZ. Photograph in possession of author.


Karen Kenagy with niece and nephews wearing the Christmas skirt made by Mabel HYDE. Taken in Berthoud, CO, photograph in possession of author.






Mabel HYDE’S sewing kit and pin cushion.


Mabel’s trim 5’7” frame made it easy for her to find beautiful clothes and she delighted in shopping. Trips downtown to her favorite department stores, such as Orchard and Wilhelm or Aquila Court,might include a visit to the hair salon and then lunch in the Ladies Tearoom. She might have needed another bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume which would be displayed in colorful perfume bottles on her dresser.

Perfume bottles from Mabel HYDE. In possession of Karen Kenagy.

Going to a department store entailed a bit of ceremony. Fashionable attire required dressing up and wearing a hat and gloves. My mother has fond memories of shopping trips with her grandmother, getting her hair done and then having a ladies luncheon with dainty sandwiches.

“Bostwick-Frohard Collection,” Aquila Court Building, 1947. With permission by the Durham Museum Photo Archives.


An active volunteer in the auxiliary to the Omaha-Douglas County Medical Society, Mabel served as president 1935-1937.[44]

Mrs. John F. HYDE, President of Medical Auxiliary. Omaha World-Herald, April 4, 1937.

Founded in 1927 by a group of physician spouses to socialize, it developed into a volunteer organization focused on community health concerns. Funds raised by the auxiliary went to various causes,  the Nebraska Tuberculosis association, infantile paralysis, medical services for families with lower incomes, improving standards for pasteurization of milk, and during WWII a civilian defense committee to coordinate hospital, personnel, and facilities for the patient care that could arise. The organization is now called the Metro Omaha Medical Society (MOMS) and is still very active in the Omaha community.[45]


Even though my mother thought of Mabel as the “young” grandmother, she had an assortment of infirmities. Severe migraines forced her to retreat to a darkened room until they passed. ‘Doc’ occasionally gave her “sugar pills,” according to my grandmother, and sometimes they worked.

Sadly, Mabel’s last few years were very painful. When John HYDE Sr. died in 1950,  she asked my grandparents to move into her house on George Boulevard. After two years the stress of living together became too intense. Mabel had to sell her beautiful new home and move into the Buckingham apartments on Chicago street. The last six months of her life she developed liver cancer and moved in with my grandparents. A nurse assisted with her care. Mabel died in her son’s bed without her beloved doctor by her side.


Genealogy Sketch

Name: Mabel Elvina NICHOLS “Nana” b. 1888 – d. 1954
Parents:  John Mathews NICHOLS b. 1857 -d. 1929 and
Mary NELSON b. 1856 – d. 1931
Spouse: Dr. John Fay HYDE “Doc” b. 1885 – d. 1950
Children: 1. John Frederick HYDE b. 1911 – d. 1980   m. Anna Jane BEATON b. 1907 – d. 1998

2. Joan HYDE b. and died 3 Sep 1921
Relationship to Kendra: 2x great-grandmother

  1. Mabel Elvina NICHOLS HYDE
  2. John Frederick HYDE Jr.
  4. Kendra HOPP SCHMIDT

© 2018 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.


[1] Douglas County, Nebraska, death certificate no. 50-02615 (1950), John Hyde Sr.; State of Nebraska Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics, Lincoln.

[2] U.S. History: Progressive Era and World Wars – 1900–1949.” Infoplease.
© 2000-2017 Sandbox Networks, Inc., publishing as Infoplease.
28 Jun. 2018   <;.

[3] Measuring Retrieved 7 Jul 2018 from


[5] Lawrence H. Larsen and Barbara J. Cottrell, The Gate City A History of Omaha, (University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 145.

[6] “Makes Canvass of Third Ward, Suffrage Workers Are Busy Lining Up the Vote There,” The Lincoln Star, 27 Oct 1914, online archives, (  accessed14 mar 2016) p.2.

[7] “Medical Advances Timeline.” Info please.
© 2000-2017 Sandbox Networks, Inc., publishing as Infoplease.
28 Jun. 2018   <;.

[8] Dr. John F. Hyde Selective Service System Award, Hyde Family Collection; privately held by Kendra Schmidt. Vienna, VA, 2018. Certificate of Service awarded to Dr. John F. Hyde from the President of the United States and the Governor of Nebraska May 1947. It passed from Dr. John Hyde to is son John Hyde Jr. to Kendra Schmidt, who inherited it in 1986.

[9] Lawrence H. Larsen and Barbara J. Cottrell, The Gate City A History of Omaha, (University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 142.

[10] Lawrence H. Larsen and Barbara J. Cottrell, The Gate City A History of Omaha, (University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 154.

[11] Lawrence H. Larsen and Barbara J. Cottrell, The Gate City A History of Omaha, (University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 158.

[12] Lawrence H. Larsen and Barbara J. Cottrell, The Gate City A History of Omaha, (University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 163.

[13] Nebraska. Douglas County. Marriage Records, Douglas County Clerk’s Office, Omaha.

[14] Douglas County, Nebraska, Certificate of Birth card file, John Frederick Hyde Jr.; Omaha Douglas County Health Department, Omaha.

[15] “Omaha, Nebraska, Directories, 1912, database, ( : accessed 15 June 2018), entry for Charles W. Pollard; citing “Omaha City Directory, 1912 (Omaha, NE: Omaha Directory Co., 1912),” page number 707.

[16] “Bulletin of The University of Nebraska, Alumni Directory, 1923, 1869-1923,” database, ( : accessed 18 Feb 2016), entry for John F. Hyde; Series XVII, No. 7.

[17] “Deaths and Funeral Notices,” The Omaha Bee,, 28 July 1915, online arcives ( : accessed 15 Jun 2018, .9.

[18] “Bulletin of The University of Nebraska, Alumni Directory, 1923, 1869-1923,” database, ( : accessed 18 Feb 2016), entry for John F. Hyde; Series XVII, No. 7.

[19] Nebraska, certificate of death no. A 5527, John Mathews Nichols, State of Nebraska Bureau of Health, Lincoln.

[20] Nebraska, certificate of death no. A 1236, Charles C Nichols, State of Nebraska Bureau of Health, Lincoln

[21] Nebraska, certificate of death no. B486 Mary  Nichols, State of Nebraska Bureau of Health, Lincoln

[22] Saint Peter Churc (Omaha, Nebraska), Sacramental Certificates, (privately held by Kendra Schmidt, Vienna,VA, 2010),  John Frederick Hyde, Jr. and Anna Jane Beaton (1935), issued 2010.

[23] “To Entertain at a Family Dinner,” The Lincoln Star, 24 Nov 1927, online archives ( accessed 14 March 2016) p. 14.

[24] 1930 U.S. Census, Douglas County, Nebraska, poulation schedule, OMaha, Enumeration District (ED) 28-110, sheet 37A, dwelling 544, family 560, John F. Hyde; digital image,  ( : accessed 5 Jul 2018, citing National archives microilm publication T626, roll 2667.

[25] Omaha World-Herald, 24 Aug 1924, online archives (  accessed 27 June 2018) p.31.

[26] Omaha World-Herald, 27 Sept 1925, online archives (  accessed 27 June 2018) p.35.

[27] “Mrs. J.F. Hyde is Home from the East,” Omaha World-Herald, 28 Jul 1930, online archives (  accessed 27 June 2018) p. 10.

[28] Omaha World-Herald, 17 Aug 1936, online archives (  accessed 27 June 2018) p.12.

[29] Omaha World-Herald, 23 Aug 1938, online archives (  accessed 27 June 2018) p.6.

[30] Omaha World-Herald, 7 Jan 1941, online archives (  accessed 27 June 2018) p.6.

[31] “California Boasts Varied Scenery,” Omaha World-Herald, 7 Dec 1941, online archives (  accessed 27 June 2018) p. 47.

[32] “South Ready for New High Tourist Trade,” Omaha World-Herald, 7 Dec 1941, online archives (  accessed 27 June 2018) p. 47.

[33] Omaha World-Herald, 8 Apr 1943, online archives (  accessed 27 June 2018) p.14.

[34] “Blackstone Hotel (Omaha, Nebraska)” 24 Nov 2017. In Wikipedia. Retrieved 3 July2018, from,_Nebraska)

[35] “In Social World,” Omaha World-Herald, 9 May 1934, online archives (  accessed 27 June 2018) p. 10.

[36] Lawrence H. Larsen and Barbara J. Cottrell, The Gate City A History of Omaha (NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 153.

[37] 1930 U.S. census, Douglas County, Nebraska, populations schedule, Omaha, Enumeration District (ED) 28-110, sheet 37A, dwelling 544, family 560. John F. Hyde; digital image, ( : accessed 27 June 2018), citing National Archives microfilm publication T626, roll 2,667.

[38] “Buys 4-Bedroom Home,” OmahaWorld-Herald, 29 May 1949, online archives (  accessed 27 Ju ne 2018) p. 39.

[39] “Charming Garden for New Residence,” Omaha World Herald, 26 Dec 1926, online archives ( accessed 27 June 2018) p. 36.

[40] “Fire Destroys Dream House,” Omaha World-Herald, 13 Jan 1949, online archives (  accessed 27 June 2018) p. 3.

[41] “Home Finished Despite Blaze,” Omaha World-Herald, 27 November 1949, p. 69.

[42] 1940 U.S. Census, Douglas County, Nebraska, poulation schedule, Omaha, Enumeration District (ED) 94-769, sheet 6A, dwelling 146, John F. Hyde; digital image,  ( : accessed 5 Jul 2018, citing National archives microilm publication T627, roll 02274.

[43] John Frederick Hyde Jr. Baby book, Hyde Family Collection; privately held by Kendra Schmidt. Vienna, VA, 2018. Cloth bound book, pink titled “Baby Days”.

[44] “Medical Club Expecting 200,” Omaha World-Herald, 4 Apr 1937.

[45] Metro Omaha Medical Society. 150 Years: Making an Impact for he “Good of their Cause,” database :2017.

Posted in Biographies, My Family Ancestry | Tagged , , | 10 Comments



Mabel E. NICHOLS & John F. HYDE, wedding photograph, May 8 1909, Omaha, Nebraska.

Spring is the perennial season for weddings and new beginnings. One-hundred-nine years ago Mabel  NICHOLS  exchanged vows with Dr. John F. HYDE. She entered into matrimony as well as a different social class.  The transition commenced with a modest ceremony attended by immediate family members.

Example of wedding invitation early 1900’s

The simple wedding required little preparation and minimal cost. Two days before the event, on Thursday, May 6, 1909, Mabel and John obtained their marriage license from the county courthouse. It was duly recorded in the Douglas County Register and posted in the Omaha World-Herald newspaper on May 7th.[1]  The two necessary witnesses chosen were Mabel’s older brother Fred, and John’s younger sister Hazel.

A good omen, the sun shone, and mild 55-degree temperatures prevailed on Saturday, May 8, 1909. Twenty-one year old Mabel must have been both nervous and excited. Known for her elegance, Mabel styled her hair in the fashionable low pompadour. Yes, there was a high pompadour style as well. Quite the rage in 1909, the pompadour required time to style, although the look was intended to seem effortless. Perhaps her elder sister Carrie assisted that morning because Mabel looked particularly lovely in her wedding photograph. Afternoon weddings were typical in the early twentieth century.  Thus Mabel had time to prepare.

Following a trend set by Queen Victoria in 1840, Mabel chose to wear white. Since she couldn’t afford expensive lace, satin or silk Mabel selected a modest, yet elegant gown in cotton lawn.  The high-necked bodice featured an embroidered yoke with narrow tucks.   Unfortunately, Mabel’s photograph is not full length so I can’t view her complete ensemble. However, a Sears and Roebuck spring catalog from 1909 provides examples of period clothing.[2]

Sears and Roebuck Spring Catalog 1909, Source

According to the Sears and Roebuck catalog, Mabel might have purchased her outfit for $5. It sounds inexpensive, but consider purchasing power in the early 1900’s. In 1909 an office worker in Omaha earned on average between $40-$55 a month.  Mabel  probably worked two days to pay for her dress.  She wore no accessories, neither a veil nor jewelry.

I would like to believe Mabel’s complete family attended her wedding but I have no evidence to support this. The NICHOLS family consisted of Mabel’s parents, John and Mary, and her four siblings. Carrie, the eldest, 28, lived at home;  Charles, 26 lived a few blocks away with his wife Annie; Fred, 24, also lived at home as did 19-year-old John. Did they go with Mabel on her five-mile trip from their home in north Omaha to the church at the corner of Arbor and South 10th street?


  • John Mathews NICHOLS                1857-1929
  • Mary NELSON NICHOLS                 1856-1931
  • Carrie Bertha NICHOLS                  1881-1915
  • Charles Clinton NICHOLS               1883-1930
  • Frederick Mathew NICHOLS          1885-1957
  • Mabel Elvina NICHOLS  “Nana”                  1888- 1954
  • John Lee NICHOLS                           1890-1967

The most accessible means of transportation across Omaha was to use the extensive streetcar system. From the NICHOLS’ home at 1402 Jaynes street, the closest stop was only a few blocks away. For a few cents per person, the NICHOLS  could hop on the tram and ride across town.

Bostwick-Frohardt Collection”, “Street View” c. 1909. With permission by Durham Museum Photo Archives.


Their route took them past Kountze park where the Trans-Mississippi Exposition was held when Mabel was a child, through the busy downtown area and beyond the Union Pacific Railroad yards where John Nichols and his sons worked. Their destination was the Grace Baptist Church.

Grace Baptist Church, Omaha, NE. Reprinted by permission.

This is the only Baptist marriage I’ve found in my family research. Why did Mabel and John choose a Baptist church when neither of their families practiced as Baptists? The bride came from a  Methodist/Episcopalian background and the groom from a Congregational/Unitarian. Could it be that neither family was particularly devout nor attended services regularly? As a married couple, Mabel and John were not churchgoers, although they often read the Bible.  I believe the answer is convenience. Dr.John HYDE lived and worked five minutes away from Grace Baptist Church. The Pastor of the church, Benjamin F. Fellman, also lived in the neighborhood. The two men probably met one another over the course of time. John found the minister  an amiable chap and concluded the nearby church was the ideal choice for the wedding.

Rand McNally & Co. Omaha. Courtesy of “David Rumsey Map Collection”. 1903.

The original Grace Baptist Church, founded in 1893, still exists. I Emailed the current pastor, Greg Ubben, to ask three questions.

  1. Were there pictures of the church that dated to the early 1900’s.
  2.  Did the church have a record book that listed Mabel and John’s wedding?.
  3. Did he know what a typical Baptist ceremony included in the early 1900’s?

Regrettably, the answer to all the questions was – no. Several years ago a fire in the church destroyed the oldest clerk’s record. As for the ceremony, Pastor Ubben couldn’t attest to the format in the early 1900’s, but if it followed today’s practices, Mabel and John’s wedding would have proceeded as follows.

After the guests sat down, Pastor Fellman and John HYDE took their places at the front of the church. Mabel’s father escorted her up the aisle in the traditional “giving away of the bride.” Next, Pastor Fellman led the couple as they repeated their vows and he pronounced them man and wife. After the quick ceremony, the witnesses signed the wedding certificate. Sadly, I don’t have the original, but I do have the county court records.[3]

License and marriage registration for Mabel NICHOLS and John HYDE.

A more personal record is Mabel’s wedding book with the signatures of the bride, groom, the two witnesses, and the pastor.[4]

Wedding book for Mabel NICHOLS and John F. HYDE.

The male witness was Fred NICHOLS. He was three years older than his sister Mabel and  at 24, the same age as the groom, John.  Hazel HYDE, John’s younger sister, was the second witness.  Like Mabel, she was twenty-one years old and engaged. Her June wedding to Theodore Kiesselbach took place in Lincoln where the HYDE family lived.


  • Frederick Albert Hyde      1851-1926
  • Florence FOLLETT HYDE  1860-1940
  • John Fay HYDE   “Doc”               1885-1950
  • Hazel Hortense HYDE      1886-1975
  • Sarah Elizabeth HYDE      1891-1955


Hazel Hortense HYDE KIESSELBACH, 1908. Graduation photograph, the 1907 Cornhusker, University of NE, Lincoln.[5]

The HYDES probably traveled the 60 miles from Omaha to Lincoln  by train.  Similar to the NICHOLS family, I wonder if all the HYDES were present. Mabel’s small marriage book includes a guest list. [6]

Wedding book for Mabel NICHOLS and John F. HYDE – guest page.

Under the title “Guests” one name appears, “Mother Hyde.” Does this imply that only Florence HYDE attended or that she was the only one designated a “guest?” John’s parents separated in 1902.  Florence settled in Lincoln, Nebraska with her three children. They all attended and graduated from the State University. John’s father, a former school superintendent, moved to Colorado and  taught at schools in Walsenburg and Silverton. Was he unable to attend because of schedule conflicts? As I wrote this article more questions arose than answers, but there’s no one left to respond. I can only surmise that after the wedding, the family members gathered together to celebrate with a  small reception.

Mabel’s eyes shine with hope and joy in her wedding photograph. Her marriage to John brought her the love and devotion she craved as well as the creature comforts associated with middle-class status. She settled into her new life, moved from smaller homes to increasingly larger ones, traveled, and established a family. Although I don’t have information about the young Mabel’s personality, I do have many stories shared by my mother and grandmother (Mabel’s daughter-in-law.) Their memories reveal her strengths and flaws.

(Yes, Mother, you will have to wait a few more weeks for the conclusion.)



As a side-note, the connection between the newly married HYDES and KIESSELBACHS deepened as they shared holidays and family reunions. They captured their memories in photographs and established strong family bonds.  It is a direct result of these family connections that led to my research and blogging about my family history.

John HYDE’S mother, Florence FOLLETT HYDE, had a keen interest in family history. Both she and her husband had Revolutionary War ancestors, including Captain William MEACHAM who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Her father, John Meacham FOLLETT, was a Civil War veteran, as were his two brothers. The  transcribed letters and diary of the FOLLETT brothers are available online at Ohio State University ehistory website.

Florence researched and recorded family history in a small notebook. Her daughter, Hazel HYDE KIESSELBACH, shared her mother’s interest and preserved the family documents. She, in turn, passed them on to her daughter, Helen KIESSELBACH GREENE (my 1st cousin 2x removed). Like her grandmother, Florence FOLLETT, Helen passionately researched family history.  I met Helen in 2010  at a family reunion in Washington D.C.. She generously offered to loan Florence’s compiled family history book to me.

As I gingerly turned each page in the book, fascinated by the names and stories, I wanted to know more about their struggles and triumphs. At the time, I lived in Washington D.C., so access to the Library of Congress and the National Archives prompted me to request the Revolutionary War records for the HYDE  and MEACHAM ancestors as well as Civil War records for the NICHOLS and FOLLETT veterans.

Knowing, sharing, and connecting with family, both close and distant is a continuum of life.  Which leads me back to the focus of this blog, Mabel’s story.

To be continued in part III.



Genealogy Sketch

Name: Mabel Elvina NICHOLS “Nana” b. 1888 – d. 1954
Parents:  John Mathews NICHOLS b. 1857 -d. 1929 and
Mary NELSON b. 1856 – d. 1931
Spouse: Dr. John Fay HYDE “Doc” b. 1885 – d. 1950
Children: 1. John Frederick HYDE b. 1911 – d. 1980   m. Anna Jane BEATON b. 1907 – d. 1998

2. Joan HYDE b. and died 26 Sep 1921
Relationship to Kendra: 2x great-grandmother

  1. Mabel Elvina NICHOLS HYDE
  2. John Frederick HYDE Jr.
  4. Kendra HOPP SCHMIDT

© 2018 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.

[1]“Marriage Licenses.” Omaha World Herald, 7 May 1909,

[2] “Sears and Roebuck and Co.” : 2010. Spring 1909.

[3] Nebraska. Douglas County. Marriage Records, Douglas County Clerk’s Office, Omaha.

[4] Nichols-Hyde Marriage Record. May 8, 1909. In possession of author.

[5] Myers, Herbert, ed. The Cornhusker : The University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 1907. Print.

[6] Nichols-Hyde Marriage Record. May 8, 1909. In possession of author.

Posted in Biographies, My Family Ancestry | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments







Mabel Elvina NICHOLS, circa 1909, Omaha, NE, photo in possession of author.

As a caterpillar changes into a butterfly, my great-grandmother, Mabel Elvina NICHOLS HYDE transformed herself from a forlorn child into a confident young woman. Known for her elegant style, the tall slender beauty became a matron of society. In later years her niece, Helen KIESSELBACH GREENE, wrote on one of Mabel’s photographs,  “…the only truly beautiful woman in our entire extended family.”

My previous blog featured one photograph and story about Mabel. Thanks to my mother and grandmother, I know Mabel through numerous anecdotes. They always referred to her as “Nana.”  As a child I thought it was her given name. Her friends called her “Mabe,” but no one used the middle name she despised, Elvina.

Most of the stories I heard about Mabel mentioned her adult life, one of privilege. She attended social functions; vacationed each summer in Colorado on a scenic ranch; and eventually lived in a beautiful home designed by her son, my grandfather,  the architect John F. HYDE Jr.


There were references to her difficult childhood, but research revealed the obstacles she faced. The fourth child of a Swedish immigrant and a Pennsylvania transplant to Nebraska, Mabel Elvina NICHOLS was born March 31, 1888 in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Located on the eastern bank of the Missouri River, Sioux City was in the center of the western corn belt and was a booming railroad town.[1]


  • John Mathews NICHOLS                            (1857-1929) born in Pennsylvania
  • Mary NELSON NICHOLS                          (1856-1931) born in Sweden
  • Carrie Bertha NICHOLS                              (1881-1915) born in Omaha
  • Charles Clinton NICHOLS “Charlie”         (1883-1930) born in Omaha
  • Fredrick Mathew NICHOLS “Fred”         (1885-1957) born in Norfolk
  • Mabel Elvina NICHOLS “Mabe” “Nana”(1888-1954) born in Sioux City
  • John Lee NICHOLS “Johnnie”                   (1890-1967) born in Omaha

It was the railroad that brought the NICHOLS family to Sioux City. By the end of the 1880’s a web of railroad tracks covered 5000 miles in Nebraska.[2] John NICHOLS, a railroad worker, followed job prospects. He moved his family from Omaha, to Norfolk, to Sioux City and back again to Omaha. The NICHOLS eventually settled in North Omaha, an area densely populated by  Scandinavians, many of whom were railroad employees.[3]

Old Omaha

“Bostwick-Frohardt Collection”, “Old Omaha”, late 1800’s. Permission granted by Durham Museum Photo Archives.

John and Mary NICHOLS initially rented then owned their home at 1402 Jaynes Street. Typical for the late 19th century, the one story home was less than 1000 square feet and probably had two or three bedrooms. Indoor plumbing and electricity were not available yet for that area of town.


NICHOLS home, 1402 Jaynes Street, Omaha, NE, photo courtesy of Nancy NICHOLS Hackett, a NICHOLS cousin who kindly responded to my genealogy inquiries.

Are sibling bonds strengthened when you share small spaces and hardship? I think they are.  Mabel had a close relationship with two of her brothers, Fred and John. One of the stories she related is so typical of brothers and sisters at the dinner table. Mabel had to guard her favorite food on her plate. She liked to save it until last to eat but her brothers would reach over and swipe it for themselves if she wasn’t careful.

The NICHOLS children most likely attended Saratoga school located at North 24th and Ames street, about 1.5 miles from their home. Originally established in 1866 by local citizens, the original one room school house was one of the first public schools in Nebraska. [4]


Old Saratoga School, Omaha, 1885. Courtesy of North Omaha History.


Rand McNally & Co. Omaha. Courtesy of “David Rumsey Map Collection“. 1903.

The NICHOLS shared a neighborhood not only with Swedes, but also Danes, Norwegians, Germans, Austrians, Swiss, Irish, Dutch, Canadians, and English. “In 1900 when the recorded population for Omaha was 102,555, there were 23, 552 immigrants, accounting for twenty-three percent of all Omahans. Most were Scandinavians (6710)…”[5] Their immediate neighbors were a mix of Americans and immigrants, many with children old enough to be playmates with the NICHOLS children. Perhaps one of Mabel’s best friends was a next door neighbor, 12-year old Annie Rick. She had four brothers close in age to the NICHOLS boys; her widowed mother was an immigrant from England. Eventually the two families joined when Charles NICHOLS married Annie in 1906.


“Bostwick-Frohardt Collection” “State of Nebraska”, Immigrants in front of parade float. Permission granted by Durham Museum Photo Archives, 1916.

Mabel, her sister and three brothers probably didn’t learn very much about their Swedish heritage.  This wasn’t unusual for Swedish immigrants. The majority of Swedes and Danes who originally settled  in Omaha were former peasants. They escaped a life controlled by the landed gentry. “In the United States, they rejected their past life to the extent that few made an effort to teach their children the rudiments of Swedish or Danish.” [6]

Mabel learned a few words in Swedish.  She fondly referred to her granddaughter,  my mother, as “Vacker flicka” = pretty/beautiful girl. I imagine that Mary used the term to describe her two daughters, Mabel and Carrie. Mary passed along her Swedish language cookbook to Mabel as well as her enjoyment of cooking and baking.  Unfortunately, the cookbook and memories of favorite Swedish recipes have been lost.


While researching The Gate City A History of Omaha, one event triggered my imagination. It described the grand Trans-Mississippi International Exposition held from 1 June – 31 October 1898 in Omaha.


Detroit Photographic Co. “Grand Court, Looking West. Trans-Mississippi Exposition”. Photograph. Detroit, Michigan, 1898. From Library of Congress. (accessed 9 April 2018).

Inspired by the success of the Chicago World’s Colombian Exposition of 1893-4, Omaha’s community leaders decided to host a similar affair. After suffering through a financial depression in the 1890’s, the Exposition offered a rebirth for the growing Midwestern town. The exposition grounds spread over 184 acres at the northern edge of Omaha, just a few blocks from where the NICHOLS family lived on 1402 Jaynes street.

Ten year old Mabel may have attended the wondrous spectacle with her family. They may have visited during the two Swedish-American Days, June 24 or September 28. If not, perhaps they visited on Railroad Day September 17  or during Railroad week October 27-29.[7]

Trans-Mississippi Exposition Map 1897 3

Grover, Alva. “Trans-Mississippi & International Exposition guide map of Omaha. Omaha Nebraska, 1897.From the Collections of the Omaha Public Library. (accessed 9 April 2018).

Were they among the over 2.6 million visitors who came from far and wide to experience the magical city constructed from temporary structures? Twenty-one classical buildings featured products and sites from 40 states and 10 countries.

“…throngs walked the tree-lined avenues, lounged on the green lawns, marveled at the multitude of flower gardens and fountains, took in the exhibits, sweltered to Little Egypt’s hoochie-coochie dance, then cooled off with a lemon phosphate.”[8]


Rinehart, F.F. “N.E. Section Grand Canal”. Photograph. Omaha, Nebraska, 1898. From : Wikimedia Commons. File: Trans-Mississippi Canal. (accessed 9 April 2018).

  • Venetian Lagoon with small craft and gondoliers.
  • Moorish palace
  • Japanese Tea Garden
  • Old English Country Fair
  • Streets of Cairo
  • Chinese Village
  • Hawaiian Theater
  • Mammoth Whale
  • Ostrich Farm
  • Wild Animal Show
  • Great Omaha Wild West Show

Although I’m not sure that Mabel attended the grand event, I’m inclined to think she did. I picture the impressionable 10-year old wholly enthralled by the fantastic sights, just as I would have been.


The NICHOLS family lived in a working class neighborhood where opportunities for men, but especially for women, were limited. When Mary NELSON arrived in Omaha in 1875, she worked as a servant until she married John NICHOLS in 1881. During the following two decades job options for women didn’t improve. After leaving school at about age 16, girls had two choices; they worked low paying jobs and lived at home or they married. After marriage they usually only worked part-time to supplement their husbands income.

Occupations listed for women:  1900 census, Omaha, NE, Enumeration district 46 (NICHOLS’S neighborhood)

  • teacher
  • saleslady
  • domestic/servant

Occupations listed for men – 1900 census Omaha, NE, Enumeration district 46 (NICHOLS’S neighborhood)

  • bar keeper
  • barbour
  • bike repairer
  • blacksmith
  • boilermaker
  • bookkeeper
  • butcher
  • clerk
  • delivery clerk
  • coach cleaner (railroad)
  • dairy farm
  • farmer,
  • fisherman
  • florist
  • gardener
  • grader
  • hide packer
  • horse trainer
  • iceman
  • machinist
  • painter
  • peddler
  • rendering packing house
  • sheep butch
  • shoemaker
  • stenographer
  • tinner
  • U.S. Army

In 1900, twelve-year old Mabel, her two brothers Fred, age 14, and John, age 9, attended school. Carrie, 18-years old, worked long hours as a servant and 16-year old Charlie as a day laborer doing odd jobs. [9] As unskilled workers they likely earned about ten cents an hour on average, or $5.50 a week. [10] In contrast, their father, a railway switch man with 20 years experience, made about $1.42/hour. [11]


1900 U.S. census, Douglas County, Nebraska, Omaha, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 46, sheet 2 (handwritten), dwelling 25, family 25 , line 9, John Nichols, digital image, ( accessed 29 Mar 2018); citing NARA microfilm publicationT623 , roll 1854.

In the following decade technology and economic growth opened job opportunities for young women like Mabel.  The 1910 census for the NICHOLS’S neighborhood listed the same unskilled jobs for women such as laundress and servant, but it also included occupations that commanded more respect. Women could work as a nurse, teacher, stenographer, telephone and telegraph operator, or as a clerk at a retail store/office. Granted, the choices were limited but “as one early twentieth century editor put it, “Maggie” in the mill became “Miss” in the store.”[12]

Mabel completed four years of high school and searched for work. I don’t know what her first jobs were, nor what kind of training she received. Did she scan the want ads in the local newspaper, the Omaha Bee, for possibilities?

Stenographer wanted 1907 Omaha2

Advertisement for Clerical and Office. The Omaha Bee, 26 July, 1908, accessed 10 April 2018.

I couldn’t find Mabel listed in the, 1906, 1907 nor 1908 Omaha directory.  She would have been 18-20 years old and working age. There is a Mabel E. Nichols listed in the 1906, 1907, and 1908  Lincoln, Nebraska directories, but is she my Mabel? The Mabel in Lincoln worked as a clerk for three years at the Nebraska Telephone company and lived near the university. I searched to see if a “Mabel E Nichols” appeared in other records for Lincoln from 1900-1920 but the name only appears in the directory for the three years that my Mabel is missing from Omaha. My Mabel turns up again in the 1909 Omaha directory. She lived at home with her parents and successfully found employment as a clerk/office assistant for J. F. Hyde.[13] The new job changed her life.

NICHOLS_Mabel_1909_Omaha_dir_clerk 1

Omaha Directory Co., Omaha, Nebraska, City Directory for the Year 1909, p.841, Nichols surname; digitized in “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,: database, Ancestry ( : accessed 27 March 2018).

Her employer, a handsome young physician, graduated from the University of Lincoln, Nebraska in 1907. He moved to Omaha and opened a practice in the Brandeis Building.  Recovering from the rejection of his former fiancee, was Dr. HYDE susceptible to the charms of his attractive blue-eyed assistant?

Stay tuned for PART II.


Mabel NICHOLS, 1909, Omaha, NE, Brandeis building, photograph in possession of author.



Mabel NICHOLS, back of postcard, 1909, Omaha, NE. Photograph in possession of author.


The story of MABEL NICHOLS HYDE is dedicated to my mother in appreciation for her passing on family history and sharing so many inspiring memories with me.


© 2018 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.


[1] History of the Counties of Woodbury and Plymouth, Iowa Including an Extended Sketch of Sioux City. Chicago, IL: A Warner & Co., 1890. Accessed September 12, 2017.
[2]Larsen, Lawrence H, and Barbara J Cottrell. The Gate City A History of Omaha. University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
[3] Fletcher, Adam F.C. “A History of Scandanavians in North Omaha”. North Omaha History, 26 Jan. 2017,

[4]Fletcher, Adam F.C. “A History of schools in North Omaha.” North Omaha History, 22 Sept 2013,
[5] Larsen, Lawrence H., and Barbara J Cottrell. The Gate City A history of Omaha. University of Nebraska Press. 1997.
[6] Ibid, p. 160.
[7] “List of Special Says at the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition.” Trans-Mississippi & International Exposition. 1899.

[8]Rowley, Walter H. “Omaha’s First Century.” 1954.
[9] 1900 U.S. census, Douglas County, Nebraska, Omaha, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 46, sheet 2 (handwritten), dwelling 25, family 25 , line 9, John Nichols, digital image, ( accessed 29 Mar 2018); citing NARA microfilm publicationT623 , roll 1854.
[10] Schlereth, Thomas J. Victorian America Transformations in Everyday Life. Harper Collins, 1991.

[11] United States, Bureau of Labor. “Rates of Wages in Various Occupations.” Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor, No. 29, Volume V, 1900, p. 766, Fraser Discover Economic History Federal Reserve.

[12] Schlereth, Thomas J. Victorian America Transformations in Everyday Life. Harper Collins, 1991.

[13]Omaha Directory Co., Omaha, Nebraska, City Directory for the Year 1909, p.841, Nichols surname; digitized in “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,: database, Ancestry ( : accessed 27 March 2018).


Genealogy Sketch

Name: Mabel Elvina NICHOLS “Nana” b. 1888 – d. 1954
Parents:  John Mathews NICHOLS b. 1857 -d. 1929 and
Mary NELSON b. 1856 – d. 1931
Spouse: Dr. John Fay HYDE “Doc” b. 1885 – d. 1950
Children: 1. John Frederick HYDE b. 1911 – d. 1980   m. Anna Jane BEATON b. 1907 – d. 1998

2. Joan HYDE b. and died 26 Sep 1921
Relationship to Kendra: 2x great-grandmother

  1. Mabel Elvina NICHOLS HYDE
  2. John Frederick HYDE Jr.
  4. Kendra HOPP SCHMIDT


Posted in Biographies, My Family Ancestry, Photographs | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments



Mabel NICHOLS circa 1893, Omaha, NE, Hughes & Co Photographers. Cabinet card in possession of author.

A little girl, captured by a photographer’s camera stands frozen in time. Taken about 1893 by Hughes & Co. in Omaha, Nebraska, this cabinet card of my maternal great-grandmother, Mabel NICHOLS HYDE (1888-1954) has a story to tell.

The full length portrait of Mabel NICHOLS depicts her standing atop a platform covered with a long hairy hide.  She needed to be elevated so she could place her left hand on the faux rock wall.  The incompatible element is the plant patterned drapery hanging behind Mabel. Did the photographer intend to add a floral dimension to the portrait?

Photographers in the late 19th century used various movable props to create indoor and outdoor settings. They might have included a painted backdrop and real or faux objects to add a three-dimensional effect. The Hughes & Co photographer grabbed a bit of whatever was at hand.

Mabel, possibly wearing her best dress, appears to have outgrown it.  A removable lace collar tied around the neck adds a bit of decoration to the otherwise plain garment. Black stockings and button-up boots complete her outfit. Missing from the photograph of a girl for this time period is long hair set off with a bow. Mabel’s head has a cap of fine, straight, short hair.

Now for “the rest of the story.”

One day while playing, Mabel found a pair of scissors and decided to trim her hair.  How much she snipped is unknown. When her stern father discovered she had cut her fair hair, he decided she needed to learn a lesson. He chopped off  her remaining tresses and cut it to look like a boy.  To further shame her, he took the time and money to commemorate the event by escorting her to a photographer’s studio owned by Benjamin E Hughes & Co at 205 N. 16th Street. I imagine John NICHOLS dragging Mabel  3 1/2 miles from his home at 1402 Jaynes Street berating her along the route. She didn’t forget.

Mabel NICHOLS saved the photograph, the only one taken of her as a child.

Mabel NICHOLS, back of cabinet card, note written by her daughter–in-law, Anna Jane BEATON HYDE.



Genealogy Sketch

Name: Mabel Elvina NICHOLS “Nana” b. 1888 – d. 1954
Parents:  John Mathews NICHOLS b. 1857 -d. 1929 and
Mary NELSON b. 1856 – d. 1931
Spouse: Dr. John Fay HYDE “Doc” b. 1885 – d. 1950
Children: 1. John Frederick HYDE b. 1911 – d. 1980   m. Anna Jane BEATON b. 1907 – d. 1998

2. Joan HYDE b. and died 26 Sep 1921
Relationship to Kendra: 2x great-grandmother

  1. Mabel Elvina NICHOLS HYDE
  2. John Frederick HYDE Jr.
  4. Kendra HOPP SCHMIDT

© 2018 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.


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A trio of unidentified faces seek re-connection with their families. The final installment of photographs from the NICHOLS-CARNEY collection.

TINYPE #1      2.5″x 3.5″, 1/6 plate 

Unidentified young woman, circa 1880-1882, Pennsylvania.

This young woman is smartly dressed for her portrait in a rustic setting. The props, such as the tree branches, and the tree backdrop, lend the appearance of an “outdoor” setting.

The image is a tintype, taken about 1880-1882. As with all of the photos in the NICHOLS-CARNEY collection, it originated from Pennsylvania.

I referred to Dressed for the Photographer, Ordinary Americans & Fashion, 1840-1900, by Joan Severa, and found an image of a woman wearing a very similar dress and hairstyle. I learn new vocabulary each time I refer to the book.

“The ‘casaque overdress, a distinctive style of the first two years of the eighties, is distinguished by its long, slim shape and symmetrical drape. Together with the generous coat sleeves, reminiscent of the past decade, the style pinpoints the early date of this photograph and the corkscrew bangs confirm it.”

Wearing the latest fashion for the early 1880’s, the woman gazes confidently at the photographer. The striped pattern of her silk dress contrasts nicely with the smooth satin lapels, cuffs and trim of the inverted V casaque.  The bodice is closely fastened with ornate metal buttons. A braided cord is tied around the fluted collar and adorned with a lapel pin. Sitting with her hands folded in her lap, her torso slightly turned,  there is a sense of anticipation on her face. A drop earring dangles from her visible ear.

Her hairstyle, popular in the 1880’s, shows corkscrew curls over her forehead. The hair was cut short around the temples and curled with a hot iron. The remaining hair is worn coiled atop the crown of the head.


TINTYPE #2      2.5″x 3.5″, 1/6 plate 

Unidentified young boy, circa 1885-1900, Pennsylvania

Although this young boy is also dressed quite fashionably, I’m not certain he is as pleased as his mother was when she purchased the outfit.  He has a very serious look on his face. The Fauntleroy suit, (also known as the Buster Brown suit) became popular from 1885 until the turn of the 20th century. In 1885, the English-American writer, Frances Hodgson Burnett, published her first children’s novel, Little Lord Fauntleroy.  The book created a fad in middle-class America to dress children in black velvet suits, fancy shirts with lace collars, and ringlet curls. Not all wore the complete Fauntleroy suit, just certain aspects.  Fortunately for this boy, his hair is cut short, parted on the side and slicked down with pommade.  Under his dark jacket he wears a fancy white shirt with a large ruffled collar. An immense plaid taffeta bow envelops his neck and upper chest.

He stands with his arm resting on the back of a tasseled chair. The backdrop and carpet props provide an indoor setting. It is difficult to determine the date of the photograph because both his hair and clothing style were popular from 1885 until the 20th century.


Photo # 3 – copy of an image

Unidentified bearded man, circa 1890, Pennsylvania

His face weathered by the sun and the years, an elderly gentleman poses for his portrait in an informal setting. The man wears a long, black, wool, sack coat fastened by just the top button, with a matching vest and pants. His white shirt is barely visible under his long flowing white beard. He gazes intently at the photographer.  Perhaps it was a traveling photographer who visited this farmer? One work-worn hand rests on the paisley covered wooden table. His other hand holds a walking stick.  A ceramic vase adds a touch of refinement to the otherwise rustic setting.

Probably taken about 1890, this photograph could be Phillip CARNEY, the father of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bell CARNEY NICHOLS, and the grandfather of Helena May NICHOLS LEFKOWITZ. In 1890 Phillip CARNEY was 76 years old and farmed in Armstrong County, Pennyslvania.

All of the NICHOLS-CARNEY photographs were important enough to be saved and passed on for over 100 years. If only they had labeled these treasures.

© 2017 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.

Posted in My Family Ancestry, Photographs | Tagged , | 6 Comments


Seeking information regarding the identity of this unidentified mother and child. Last possible location – Pennsylvania. Associated family names: NICHOLS and/or CARNEY.

Unidentified mother and child circa 1890, Pennsylvania.

A mother and daughter pose with their heads nestled together in a cameo portrait.  A hint of a smile plays across the mother’s face but the daughter looks a bit pensively at the photographer. The little girl, about 5 years of age, wears her hair dressed in ringlets gathered in a side part and fastened with a barely visible bow. Her cotton striped dress sports a wide lace-edged collar with a satin bow. Her mother wears her hair loosely piled atop her head, almost a Gibson style. Only her blouse is visible in the portrait. The finely pleated front is offset by a white lace jabot with a circular pin attached in the center. Based on the clothing and hairstyles, the portrait was likely made 1900-1905.

I do not have the original photograph, just a copy, so I don’t know if there was any writing on the reverse side. Please see a previous post for more details about this collection of NICHOLS-CARNEY photographs.

© 2017 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.

Posted in My Family Ancestry | 7 Comments


Would the real Elizabeth Bell CARNEY please step forward.

Please let me know if you think the two babies featured are the same child.


A serene young mother lovingly holds her baby. Both mother and child have such an endearing look upon their faces.  The woman’s short bangs and small topknot indicate the portrait was taken in the 1890’s. The dress style is also indicative of the 1890’s. The full sleeves appear to be leg-o’-mutton that became popular after 1892. The bodice has a striking number of tucks and pleats set off by a contrasting collar and dark trim.  A pearl and gold pin adds a touch of elegance to the neckband. The baby wears a fine cotton gown.

Is this the same baby I featured in a previous blog about Helena May NICHOLS?   If so, then this woman could be her mother, Elizabeth Bell CARNEY.

Is this the same baby?


Helena May Nichols, 6 1/2 months old. Photographer A.S. Schreckengost, Kittaning and Apollo, PA.

I have copy of the photograph, not the original, so I don’t know if something is written on the reverse side.  The photographer, John J. Garvin, had a studio in Pottsville, Pennsylvania from about 1880-1910. I’m going to use my imagination to explain why this photograph might be Elizabeth Bell CARNEY. In a previous post I included an image that I suspected was Elizabeth CARNEY.   I have reconsidered for the following reasons.

  • Several years ago when I shared information with the owner of these photos, she mentioned that there was one photograph of a mother and a baby. The back of the photograph was labeled “Lizze B. Nichols” (Elizabeth Bell CARNEY NICHOLS used Lizzie as her nickname). Unfortunately, the owner of these photographs is deceased and I did not receive the original. Obviously, I need to find out who has the originals.
  • The time frame fits for this to be a photograph of Helena May NICHOLS (born May 1895), and her mother, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Carney NICHOLS.
  • Helena’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Ackley NICHOLS, lived in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. He died in February 1895, but left his son, Charles Knerr NICHOLS, as guardian of his underage children. Charles and Lizzie may have traveled 250 miles from Apollo, Pennsylvania to manage his father’s affairs or visit family. Lizzie and Helena probably accompanied him, and they had their photograph taken one afternoon while Charles was occupied.

The logical, analytical part of my brain tells me not to jump to conclusions. The romantic side of my brain wants to believe this is Helena and her mother. Of course, until I have conclusive evidence I will apply logic. What do you think dear reader?

© 2017 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.




Posted in My Family Ancestry, Photographs | Tagged , | 13 Comments