A great-grandson tells the story behind an old photoWe knew her only as Grandmother Grieve, a young but life-worn woman surrounded by three boys in a stark photograph taken more than a century ago.
By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald
We knew her only as Grandmother Grieve, a young but life-worn woman surrounded by three boys in a stark photograph taken more than a century ago.
Now, thanks to the Internet, the growth of genealogy and the yearning some descendants feel to understand those who came before, we know so much more.
We know, for example, that her first name was Kjersti.
The photo may have passed through many hands, of family and friends and eventually strangers, until it came to rest, a corner torn, in a bin of such orphaned mementos.
Eileen Wegge found it in a St. Paul antiques store not long ago and passed it along to her sister in Grand Forks: Ginny Tupa, an amateur but driven genealogy detective who takes such serendipitous findings and runs with them.
The old photo of young Grandmother Grieve and her boys accompanied a Herald story in May about Tupa’s sleuthing on the Internet, in courthouse and newspaper archives and in countless cemeteries scattered across eastern North Dakota.
The photo was taken in a Park River, N.D., studio, Tupa noted. Maybe someone remembers.
A couple living in Brocket, N.D., recognized the name and sent the story with its photo to Gene Grieve, a friend living near Seattle.
“Wow,” he wrote to the Herald. “That’s my great-grandmother!” The three young boys included his grandfather.
Grieve contacted Tupa, “and we’ve been talking back and forth since,” she said. Grieve had a copy of the photograph, but Tupa sent her “found” copy for him to share with a relative.
“The Grivi saga is typical of Norwegian immigration,” he wrote. “Grivi is the Norwegian spelling, which became Grive and finally Grieve. It appears that it was an attempt to ‘Englishize’ the name … and to become Americans.”
Kjersti Ness Arnes had come from Telemark in Norway in 1883 to settle with her husband, Torstein Grivi, a few miles northwest of Park River in what then was Dakota Territory.
She had the three boys, but a baby girl, Ada, died. Torstein himself died at the age of 37, leaving Kjersti to raise the boys alone, first in the Red River Valley, later in western North Dakota and Montana.
“The photo is no doubt taken in the early 1900s after Torstein passed away,” Gene Grieve wrote. “It was a tough life for all.”
Kjersti and her boys survived apparently with the help of relatives who had homesteaded along the Red River in 1888. But eventually Kjersti and two sons, Ole and Edward, went west to homestead in McKenzie County in western North Dakota and later to Miles City, Mont.
Edward served in World War I but came home a shattered man and lived out his life in a soldier’s home in Sheridan, Wyo.
“Tom would marry a neighbor girl, Emma Kittleson, and would have eight children, one of whom was my father, Ted Grieve,” Gene said. The family tried homesteading in Canada between 1911 and 1925 but returned to the Park River area “because of economics and the harsh climate.”
Ted Grieve, Gene’s father, married Olga Bolstad, also the child of Norwegian immigrants, and Gene has labored to learn more about that branch of the family.
He also has tried to pass his interest in family history along to younger generations, including granddaughter Joey, who at the age of 5 walked up to him and called him “History Boy,” a title he says he has worn since with great pride.
He also fondly calls North Dakota “my home state,” though he says no Grieve descendants live here now.
“Our history of North Dakota pioneers is something to be reflected upon, for they were courageous to have worked for our future,” he said. “We must do the same for our children.”
Reach Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 102; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.