Finding Hans and Margaretha Michaelsen by Karen Hansen

by Karen Hansen
My search actually began in Walnut, Iowa, where we have lived for 30 years. My great-great-grandparents, John and Margaret Schlicht are buried in the Layton Township Cemetery. Margaret’s obituary does not list her maiden name; John’s obituary gives her maiden name as Ketelsen. “Walnut Memoirs” by Roma Arndt took information from the 1891 Biographical History of Pottawattamie County. The biography of John Schlicht, my great-great-grandfather, listed his wife as Margaret Michaelson. This was the first that I knew that Michaelson was a surname in my family tree. The information said that he (John Schlicht) came to Clinton County, Iowa in 1868 and worked for his father-in-law, who had come to the U.S. at the same time and invested $3,000 in land in Clinton County.

I was able to find the record of the purchase of this land at the State Historical Library in Des Moines. Hans Michaelsen bought 120 acres in Elk River Township in Clinton, County for $3600. (SE1/4 SE1/4 sec. 11 & S1/2 SW1/4 sec. 12) Of course, we had to plan a trip to Clinton County to see the farm and look for Margaret Schlicht’s parents.

In the fall of 2005, we decided it was time to make a trip to eastern Iowa. We went to the Clinton library and found an excellent genealogy department. They suggested that we check the cemetery indexes. We found Margaretha Michaelsen listed in the Teeds Grove Cemetery, born 22 Feb. 1815 and died 17 Feb. 1877. With maps and directions, we set off to find the Michaelsen farm and the cemetery. Elk River is north of Clinton and borders the Mississippi River. The 1874 Elk River map shows the farm being owned by C. Michaelson. It was hard to find in the hills, with streams and with the winding roads that have changed location over the years. We did find an old farm house, but no one was at home. There was an older set of buildings about 300’ to the SW. From there we drove about 2 miles to find the present day owner. She was home and allowed us to copy old farm photos of great-great-great grandpa’s farm.

Then we set out for the cemetery about 3 miles west of the farm, as the crow flies, but not as the roads run. We found the cemetery 1 mile west and ½ mile south of Teeds Grove. We easily found Margaretha Michaelsen’s stone with the help of the pages from the cemetery index. There are 21 rows in the cemetery each containing about 20 burials. The church had been beside the cemetery, but a new church was built a couple of miles south on road Z50, near Andover. Parts of the old church were incorporated into the new building. There is a house next to the cemetery now and a young inquisitive boy was playing close by.

Now that we had found Margaret buried alone, we had to find Hans. Where had he gone? Likely, he went to live with one of his children, but with which one? His children listed with them in the 1870 Census were Peter (22), Mina (17), Hans (15), and John (13). I didn’t have any luck finding him any place with these children. I did find a Hans Michaelson, father, with Lawrence and Anna Thomson in Elm Grove Township, Antelope County, Nebraska. His age was 64, which was close to what the 1870 Census said, 52. I did not know that he had a daughter, named Anna, who would have been 20 in 1870; she could have been married and she would have fit between Hans’ children who were 22 and 17. It was a hunch, but would mean another trip to search for Hans, this time to Nebraska.

On our anniversary, May 31, 2007, we set out for Antelope County, Nebraska. Our first stop was in Neligh at the Antelope County Courthouse. We started out with a big disappointment; the vital records were in Lincoln and not in Neligh. We did copy some probate records. Then I went to the Neligh Library while Jim checked us into the West Hillview Motel. Jim told the owner that we were looking for Michaelsen and Thomsen names. He showed Jim the Antelope County history book with 2 articles on Lorenz Thomsen. When Jim got to the library, he showed the articles in the library’s copy of the book to me. It said that Anna Thomsen was born to Hans and Margaretha Paustian Michaelsen on 19 Feb 1850. Not only was my hunch correct, but maybe Paustian was Margaretha’s maiden name and I have another name to search.

I looked for Hans Michaelsen’s obituary on the newspaper microfilm, but didn’t find it. I did get one for Anna Thomsen. On the internet at rootsweb, I had found burial information on Hans and his family. It listed him as being buried in the Michaelsen Cemetery. The library had a list of Michaelsen Cemetery burials and it included Hans. The library closed for dinner 5:30 to 7:00, so we copied some plat maps and drove east of Neligh to find Michaelsen cemetery, about 10 miles to the east of town. We stopped at the farm home of Verlon Furstenau. We knew we had to be close to the cemetery, but it was not in sight. He told me about losing his wife and showed me photos of his family. He said to ask his neighbor, John Frey, for permission to go on his land to the cemetery, as there was no public access. We were lucky to find his family at home. His wife copied records that her women’s club, lead by Verlon’s wife, had made of the cemetery in 1976. John showed Jim his restored antique tractors, Farmall H, John Deere B, Farmall 656 and told about a Farmall MD being restored. He had restored a Wood Brother 1-row pull type corn picker. He was excited to show his collection and knew of the Jerry Mez Museum in Avoca and hoped to visit it this year. We talked about how we could get to the cemetery to look for Hans’ grave. John offered to drive us on his 4-wheeler the ¾ mile to the cemetery. The three of us bounced through the 8 inch tall corn in the muddy field with many washouts and around his irrigation equipment. Along with his sons, they farm 3800 acres of row-crop, which was all planted to corn, due to the high price of corn. The cemetery was quite large, about the size of Lincoln Township Cemetery south of Walnut. It was overgrown with large sumac bushes, trees and tall grasses. The last burial was in the 1905 timeframe. Very few tombstones were visible as most had been knocked over by deer or cattle. We had to walk through trees and part the tall grass to search for stones. After tripping through about ¾ of the property, we were about to give up, when I spotted Hans Michaelsen’s tombstone lying flat on the ground with poison ivy around it. We did rubbings of the stone, took photos and a GPS reading and placed iris, found growing nearby, on his grave. What an anniversary gift it was to me to find my great-great-great-grandfather, Hans Michaelsen!