It’s been a while since I wrote about the Mystery Postcard – here’s a quick re-cap of where I left off.
I found in my files a postcard sent to my great-grandfather, P.W. “Will” Pearson, from his “cousin” E. H. Olson. I was unaware of any Olson cousins, so I figured this person had to be on Will’s mother’s side of the family. After some amount of digging, I was able to confirm that E.H. Olson was in fact Eulie H. Olson and he was a first cousin to Will. Eulie’s mother and Will’s mother were sisters. This was a previously unknown side of the family! It turns out that Eulie and his mother had a pretty rough go of it back in Sweden – Eulie was an illegitimate child and his mother Bengta did the Swedish version of suing for child support, naming the birth father as Håkan Ericsson. She was successful and apparently used the money to emigrate to America. Very soon after her arrival, she married Håkan Olson and settled onto his homestead farm in Saunders County. I presume that her sister Johanna (my great-great-grandmother) was the connection that brought her to Nebraska.
Eulie’s real name was “Joel”, and Eulie is probably just an Americanized version of the Swedish pronunciation. Eulie married a local Saunders County girl, Hannah Sandstrom, and moved to Omaha where he became a successful builder and contractor. He built the family’s home in the new Benson suburb of Omaha. In fact, the picture of the house on the postcard is likely one that he built – maybe even the family’s home!
By the 1920’s, he and Hannah with their three sons moved to the Chicago area where he resumed his career as a building contractor. Eulie was a few years older than Will, and our family seems to have lost touch with the Olson cousins after Will’s death.
In the process of researching this postcard, I found a couple of online family trees that included Eulie. By tracking down the people who posted them, I eventually came into contact with Eulie’s grandson, Bob Olson. Bob shared with me some of the history of the Olson family.
Eulie and Hannah had three sons: Harry, Clarence and Clayton. Clarence never married; Clayton married but did not have children. Harry married Vernetta Price and followed his father into the construction business. Harry and Vernetta were the parents of Robert “Bob” Olson. Bob and I have exchanged emails and photos. He would be a third cousin to my mom. He is retired and living in Philadelphia. He and his wife Lizzie have two very accomplished children:
- Son Josh Olson (he’s got his own Wikipedia page!) is a writer and had one of his screenplays was nominated for an Academy Award – “A History of Violence“. The movie was critically acclaimed and won several other awards. Why have I not heard of it before? It’s on my list now.
- Daughter Katherine “Katie” Olson has four degrees, including a PhD, all from Columbia University and is now a teacher at the Friends Seminary (a private high school) in New York City. She and her husband have two children.
Josh and Katie would be my fourth cousins.
Bob sent me this photo, saying “here’s me, looking like an old Swede”. I see on his Facebook page that he is a graduate of Brown University – our own daughter Katie has just decided to attend there this fall.
I am so happy to know about these long-lost cousins and I hope I find a way to know them better someday.
It’s so interesting how the currents and eddies of history bring people together, then apart, and then back together again. I’m glad that in the age of the internet I can reestablish connection with long-lost family.