I conducted an interview with my Father Matthew Olsen on March 25th, 2013.
1. What is the earliest history you know about our family?
A. There are a couple of lines on both of your parents’ sides that go back to European royalty in the 12th through 16th centuries. Some of the ancestors include King Charlemagne and King Henry III. One of our uncles recently discovered that we’re also descended from an Italian family that produced several of the Popes during medieval times.
2. Why and when did our ancestors come to the Americas?
A. At least three ancestors were on the Mayflower, so the immigration started in 1620. Over the next few decades, addition ancestors arrived in settled in New England. One on your paternal grandmother’s side was a Scottish man rumored to be a bit of a hooligan who was sent to the Americas on a work program instead of serving a jail sentence. Many of your Danish and English ancestors arrived in the 1850s and 60s as part of a large Mormon migration to Utah. The most recent immigrants where on your Mom’s side. The Sukos immigrated from a German enclave in Russia in 1903 to avoid being drafted into the Russian army. Actually, he came to Canada and then snuck into North Dakota as an illegal alien!
3. Do you know any stories about our family during the colonial times?
A. Most of our ancestors that were in the Americas at the time were in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Some were Puritans, while some definitely were not. There were tavern owners and others were ministers. Most lived in little farming communities and had a life of hard work and fear of Indian attacks.
4. What part did our family play in the western expansion?
A. Many on your Father’s side were part of the Mormon trek to Utah, and then were sent out to settle neighboring areas such as Idaho and Arizona. Your 4th Great Grandmother used to sew clothes to sell to the men working on the transcontinental railroad in northern Utah.
5. How did our family come to Arizona?
A. On your Father’s side, some ancestors lived in the Gila Valley area and then Tucson just around 1900. They came in wagon trains from Utah, but they all eventually gave up on the hard life here and moved back north to Utah or Idaho. In 1978, your Grandpa was relocated by IBM from Colorado to Arizona. On your Mom’s side, the McCarrolls moved here from Iowa in the 1950s for a work opportunity.
6. Have any family members been involved in wars?
A. We have good records of our New England ancestors being involved in the French and Indian Wars, and also in the Revolutionary War. They were part of the militias that fired on the British at Lexington and Concord. Another ancestor, Joseph Pickens, was killed in a battle in South Carolina by a loyalist neighbor. More recently, your Great Grandpa Olsen was an electrician in a navy patrol boat off San Francisco when the government feared attacks on the coast by the Japanese during World War II.
7. What traditions from our ancestors do we still do today?
A. Not a lot of unique ethnic traditions, to be honest. On your mother’s side, the Grandma McCarroll (born a Suko) still makes German food on special occasions, including kase knepfla (a type of cheese raviolis) and pfeffern￼sse (spiced cookies).
8. What occupations have our ancestors had?
A. The first Danish ancestor to immigrate was a horse carriage maker. One the ancestors who moved to Arizona was a blacksmith and also transported freight in wagons. Many were farmers on both sides of the family, most recently on your Mother’s side. One of your ancestors was a merchant, along with his wife. They signed the charter for the city of St. Louis.
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