Friday, March 16, 2007

All about Amund

A project as enormous as a collection of stories about a Great Lake could never come off without the help of a lot of good people. People like the Eidsmoes.

While I was researching the sinking of the steamer Atlantic in 1852 (a story that I've excerpted on this blog) I came across a rather nagging problem: even though it was a tragic tale, and many lives were lost on that foggy night on Lake Erie, I just couldn't connect, on a personal level, with the story. Unable to move ahead, I tried setting the project aside for a short while, hoping an idea would form. But it didn't, and I was stuck.

So, to the Internet I went. A number of Google searches eventually pointed me to the genealogy page of the Eidsmoe family, many of whom live in the American Upper Midwest, where their descendants settled in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The site featured Amund Eidsmoe's own account of his emigration from Norway, during which he took passage on the Atlantic and survived her sinking.

I sent an e-mail to the site's webmaster, who quickly responded that, yes, the account was authentic and I was welcome to use it in the manuscript if I wished. He copied in his mother, Louise Eidsmoe of Minnesota, an indirect descendant of Amund's who provided me with even more information. She, in turn, forwarded my e-mail to Bruce Weaver of North Carolina who told me that he had, coincidentally, just written about the wreck of the Atlantic in Budstikken, a magazine for Norwegian Americans. Could I get a copy? Of course, he said, just e-mail the magazine's editor, Gayle Struska. I did, and sure enough, two weeks later the issue arrived on my doorstep -- free of charge.

But that wasn't all; when I needed to know when Amund died (in 1902, it turns out), I questioned Louise again. She referred me to Robert Eidsmoe, Amund's great grandson (now aged seventy-five and living in Arizona), who is the self-professed family historian. He responded with all the details I needed plus an entire family timeline by e-mail -- the next day.

The Eidsmoes and their friends will certainly get their props in the form of an acknowledgement as soon as I kick this sucker out the door. And they are far from alone; over the past two years I have gotten endless amounts of help from people from all around the Great Lakes. Regardless of whether this project is successful, I am in their debt.

It's taught me a lot about how kind people can really be.

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