It may be a sign that I’m getting older, but I’ve recently become more and more interested in history (which was never my favorite subject in school). Soon after my first son was born, I found myself wanting to examine my family tree and requested copies of the extensive genealogical work done by my late grandfather so I could build a family tree using an online tool I found. This information was all gathered over the course of many years, without the help of the internet, and goes as far back as 1662! Yeah, my grandpa was quite a researcher.
As I read through the information, I was fascinated by some of the facts that have somehow made their way down through the years (or up into the branches of the tree). For instance, in the early 1800’s, my ancestors lived on a farm in the area of Gol, Norway, that was known as Ruspengarden. A Google search for that name yields zero results, so it appears to be a very unique name! Gol didn’t even become an official municipality until 1838, so it was likely a small and rustic farming community at the time my family lived there. The current population is still only about 4,000.
Then last spring, I found myself engrossed in a book called “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”. The book tells the story of the woman whose cervical tumor gave rise to one of the most important cell lines in the history of medical research. The story followed the major discoveries associated with her cells, but also spent many chapters exploring the previously undocumented life of the woman herself and her family. It was a fascinating and sad story of a poor family who lost a wife and mother and then spent years hearing contradicting stories about what the doctors had done with the cells they removed from her tumor with no consent from Henrietta or her family. It was definitely one of the best books I’ve read in awhile and rekindled my interest in learning more about history.
So I decided to do some research about South Minneapolis, where I live. I found a number of interesting facts and pictures that really piqued my interest. Of course, my reading snowballed from there and I read about all kinds of interesting people and places from the past. There is a lot of information out there, but I’m going to focus on a few stories that I think are most interesting. I’m putting this out as a series of posts called “MPLS History” that will take us through the month of September. I hope you enjoy it!