Friday, November 14, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 4: Berdines Rasmussen aka Benjamin "Ben" Fister

My great grandfather, Berdines Rasmussen, known in America as Benjamin Fister, was born September 1, 1864, to Rasmus Pedersen of Fister (1827-1876) and Anna Pedersdottar of Oye (1830-1915), in Nedre Fister, Rogaland, Norway.  Fister is a small village in the fjords east of the city of Stavanger.

He had 6 siblings: 
Rakel Karina (1851-1873), who was an opera singer (or had at least trained as one?) and died of consumption in Norway.
Peder "Per" Rasmussen (1856-1913), who was a farmer and fisherman in Norway.
Peder Olaus (1859-1861) died as a toddler in Norway.
Peder Olaus (1861-1900) (I guess they just moved the name to another child?), a seaman.
Faltin Rasmussen (1866-1938), known as Frank Fister in America.
Ivar J Rasmussen (abt 1874-1926), known in America and Canada as Ivar J Fister, who first came to America, and then moved to Moose Jaw/Beaver, Saskatchewan, Canada with his large family.

He was baptized on October 9, 1864 (Lutheran), and confirmed at 14 on October 13, 1878.  At 4 he received his smallpox vaccination September 16, 1868.

He was 9 when his older sister Rakel died, and 12 years old when his father died.

Berdines arrived in the US about 1884/1885, when he was about 20/21, possibly with his brothers Faltin and Ivar.  At some point he may have gone to Australia with Faltin, but decided to throw in his lot in America instead.
[A young Ben Fister/Berdines Rasmussen, date unknown]

[Berdines Rasmussen/Ben Fister, standing, with unknown, date unknown]

As Ben Feister he became a naturalized US citizen at age 28, on November 3, 1892, in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois, with J A Quan(?) and John O. Dall (likely Dahl).  The name Fister did not solidify until later.  His oldest son, Roy, used Fiester instead of Fister.
[National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts, Northern District of Illinois and Immigration and Naturalization Service District 9, 1840-1950 (M1285); Microfilm Serial: M1285; Microfilm Roll: 53]

In 1893, when he was about 23, he worked on the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, most likely as a carpenter.  This is a family story, I have no proof of this, but it certainly seems possible.

At age 30, on October 18, 1894, he married my great grandmother, 17 year-old Mette Karine (1876-1935), known as Mary Corina Anderson in America, in Norway, Mission Township, LaSalle County, Illinois.  She had arrived only a year before.
[Benjamin and Mary Fister]

In the US Berdines and his wife would be called Benjamin and Mary, so I'll refer to them that way from here on out.

Ben's brother Falentin/Faltin "Frank" Rasmussen and his wife Olive Bravick posed for this portrait with Ben and Mary sometime before Olive's death in November 1896.
[Olive Bravick and Frank Rasmussen at top, Ben and Mary Fister at bottom]

On September 6, 1895, five days after Ben's 31st birthday, his first child and son, Roy Alexander was born.
[Ben, Mary, and little Roy]

Their second son Lyle Fister was born June 28, 1897.

After Roy and Lyle were born Ben went to Europe, almost certainly to Stavanger/Fister.  He is found departing Liverpool, England in Feb 1898, and arriving at New York City on March 5, 1898 (Ben was 33).  He had traveled on the Lucania.
[The Lucania, from Passenger Ships and Images [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.]

According to the Ancestry database "Passenger Ships and Images":

Passengers: 600 first, 400 second, 1,000 third. Maiden voyage: Liverpool-New York, September 2, 1893. Badly gutted by fire at her Liverpool dock, August 14, 1909. Despite the fact that her interior had been burned, she was able to make the shipbreakers yard by her own engines, and at a speed of 17 knots, remarkable for a vessel under such conditions. Broken up at Swansea during 1910. Sister ship: Campania.
Further info on the liner:

RMS Lucania was a British ocean liner owned by the Cunard Steamship Line Shipping Company, built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Govan, Scotland, and launched on Thursday, 2 February 1893. Identical in dimensions and specifications to her sister ship RMS Campania, RMS Lucania was the joint largest passenger liner afloat when she entered service in 1893. On her second voyage, she won the prestigious Blue Riband from her sister to become the fastest passenger liner afloat, a title she kept until 1898. 

Upon arrival Ben was listed as a citizen going home and a joiner, and was living at Millington, Illinois, which was a village along the Fox River  in both Kendall and LaSalle counties.
["Ben R Fister" on Year: 1898; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 0015; Line: 1; Page Number: 86]

Ben's third son, Alvin "Al" Reginald Fister was born July 12, 1899.  Ben and Mary now had three young boys.
[Roy, Alvin, and Lyle Fister, likely about 1900.]

When he was 35 he and his growing family were living in in a rented house in Sheridan village, Mission Township, LaSalle County, Illinois (just a bit down the Fox River from Millington), according to the June 1900 Census.  He was a carpenter who had been unemployed for 3 months.
[Ben and family in the 1900 Federal Census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Mission, Lasalle, Illinois; Roll: 316; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 0069; FHL microfilm: 1240316]

On August 18, 1901, when Ben was 37, his second oldest son, Lyle, died.

Until recently we had thought that Ben and Mary had only 12 children, but another Fister researcher recently uncovered a baptism date for both Myren and a Gladys Fister at the Fox River Church in 1905 in Norway, LaSalle, Illinois.  Gladys Fister's fate is unknown, as no grave has been found yet, and Mary did not count her in the number of children born.

Ben and Mary were in Minnesota (likely Emerald Township, Fairbault, Minnesota, where they were in the 1910 Census April 15, 1910) by the time Edith Olina was born, on February 20, 1910 (when Ben was 45).  He was a farmer of a general farm and owned a mortgaged home, so presumably he had been saving up over the years.   Unfortunately it is my understanding is that the house accidentally caught fire and burned to the ground, and they went back to Illinois.  They were back in Kendall County, Illinois, where my grandmother Margaret was born May 17, 1912 (Ben was 47).
[Ben R. Fister and family in the 1910 Federal Census, from Year: 1910; Census Place: Emerald, Faribault, Minnesota; Roll: T624_696; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0078; FHL microfilm: 1374709]

About 1913 his brother Per died.
[Ben Fister and brother Peder "Per" Rasmussen, undated photo, but probably 1890's]

Around 1915, when Ben was about 50, his mother died in Norway.
[Ben's mother, Anna Pedersdatter Dahl/Sandvig, undated photo]

By the 1920 Census they were living in Newark, Big Grove Township, Kendall County, Illinois.  The census taker was uncertain if the house was owned or rented.  Ben, 55, was a general farmer.  A month after the census his oldest son Roy married Marie Erath (1901-1997).
[Ben Fister and family in the 1920 Federal Census, from Year: 1920; Census Place: Big Grove, Kendall, Illinois; Roll: T625_380; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 73; Image: 27]

His first grandchild, Roy's daughter Carolyn, was born in Feb 1921.  7 months later his last child, Doris, was born September 12, 1921, 11 days after his 56th birthday.

Tragedy struck again on July 9, 1924, when his second youngest daughter, Alvira Ruth, 6, died of whooping cough in Plano.  Either my father or my grandmother mentioned her a few times while I was growing up, and I remember how sad I felt when I was told she said she was ready to go to Heaven when she died.  This must have been a terrible blow for the family.  Ben was 59.

Ben's brother Ivar died in Big Beaver, Saskatchewan, Canada on May 13, 1926, when Ben was 61.  It is unclear to me if he was in contact with Ivar.  In fact I have no definite idea on his relationship to any of his siblings.

By the 1930 Census Ben, 65, appeared to be doing quite well, owning a house on 207 Center Ave in Little Rock Township, Kendall County, Illinois, worth $3800 (no radio though) (address number derived from his later death record).  He worked as a carpenter for buildings.  I'm not totally sure, but I think it is possibly the same property as today's 207 S Center Ave, Plano, which was built in 1900 and was a TV and appliance store for a while.
[Ben Fister and family in the 1930 Federal Census, from Year: 1930; Census Place: Plano, Kendall, Illinois; Roll: 522; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 0012; Image: 862.0; FHL microfilm: 2340257]
[Mary and Ben, undated photo]

[Ben smoked a pipe, apparently.  With Mary, in an undated photo]

[Ben and the family dog, in the 1930's]

Ben Fister died May 2, 1934, age 69, in Plano, Kendall, Illinois.  He was buried in the Little Rock Township Cemetery 2 days later.

*A big Thank You to my cousin Tom Cairns for all the family pictures.

© 2014 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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