Monday, July 8, 2013

In Search of Anna Mickelsen

One of my objectives for driving the 900 miles to Chicago for the ALA conference (aside from proving my insanity) was to have a car for my own nefarious purposes. I have several relatives from earlier generations buried in Chicago cemeteries. To me, the most intriguing is my great-grandmother and namesake, Anna Kristensen Mickelsen, who died in the flu pandemic of 1918. After the conference was over, I dragged Kristi with me to Mt. Olive Cemetery on the north side of Chicago before we started our long drive back east.

The first thing I had to do after we got there was find out where in the cemetery her stone was located. I had previously visited her grave site at some point in the late 90s with the rest of my family, which resulted in zero useful recollections. My father told me that she died October 22, 1918, and that and her name was the only information I had to give to the cemetery office. The person helping me had some difficulty finding the information, bringing me a few possibilities on 4x6 notecards: an Anna Mickelsen (d. 1929) and an Anna Mickelson. After I politely rejected these, he brought out the big guns, a huge book with a label that read something like "Internments 1911-1921."

Who says print is dead?

After some confusion about October vs. December, we found the right page and the right name (pardon the photographer's shadow):

The listing had precise coordinates for her grave site, which he then tried to show me on a map of both the cemetery and the specific section (20). Unfortunately, looking at a map and knowing the general location did not prepare us for the search that followed. There was a good deal of wandering about and peering at tombstones:

Kristi proves her devotion to me.
There were a lot of Annas in this part of the cemetery, and a lot of people with variations of the Mickelsen (Mickelson, Michaelsen, Mikkelsen) surname. After fifteen minutes of fruitless searching as it threatened rain, I began to identify strongly with the inhabitants:

Then, just as I was about to give up hope, Kristi spotted it!

Located within twenty feet of the place where we parked the car.
The stone was under a tree, which I had sort-of-not-really remembered from my last visit. It's a peaceful spot:

Seeing the physical stone brought me a sense of accomplishment as well as a wistful sort of feeling about how much I don't know in terms of family history. I have lost three grandparents and my mother since college, and neither my father's mother nor mine have a concrete place they are buried. Approximately half of my mother's ashes are in a tupperware container on my bookshelves, which works fine for me because I knew her. But what about my grandchildren? Is it better for them to have a bunch of dust or a few square feet of stone? I guess that the loved ones we are missing exist in neither place, but it was still nice to make this pilgrimage to find Anna Mickelsen.

1 comment:

Cathy in AK said...

Glad you found her : )