Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mamma -

One of our followers sent me a copy of a discussion which took place back in 2003.  The discussion was regarding the various children's books that may or may not have been fictionalized.  The writer of the post had gathered a nice supply of information, but he had some questions - so I thought I would respond to him here.

In his post he wrote,
 Fitzgerald's mother's name was also changed for some reason -- she was called 'Tena' in all the books, but was, according to the historical sites I found, named 'Minnie.' All very confusing. 
That was a stumper for me for quite a while.  I first found the discrepancy when I received the Utah Since Statehood biography.  Mamma's name was Minnie.  (I was very sad when I first read it - I loved Tena).
I also was confused because Papa Married a Mormon is set on the premise of Mamma being a Mormon, yet in The Great Brain it seemed as if the entire family was Catholic (in  fact the poster on chat room had the same confusion).  That confusion led me to wonder if Papa and Mamma were made up.

I began with what I knew - Thomas had married a lady named Minnie.  I called Utah Vital Statistics and asked if they had a marriage certificate on file for them.  They did.  I purchased a certified copy of it.  On are their names, birthdays, witnesses, and performer of the wedding.  Sure enough they were married by a Justice of The Peace, in Salt Lake City and have 2 attendants I know nothing of.  Sounds to me like an elopement.
Mamma also worked as a bookkeeper in the Olsen's Mercantile - so John wasn't far off in that representation  either.  According to various dates, Thomas and Minnie only knew each other a few months before - heading to Salt Lake to wed.  All of this was reassuring - but it still didn't answer the name issue or the religious question.  To get that answer I needed to visit the LDS genealogy library.

I had tried typing in Papa and Mamma's name on but nothing matched.  Assuming John had held to facts on Mamma's religion I expected to easily search up a match and be done with it.  I am not a genealogist by any nature.  As I crept into the silent room, that housed the library, I felt horribly conspicuous.
I found a corner machine, hid my two documents on my lap (the Utah Since Statehood page and Thomas and Minnie's Marriage Certificate).  I threw in every combination possible including, dates, names, versions of names such as Millicent, Minerva.  I tried her parents names - but just couldn't make a match.  I was sure John had lied sufficiently enough for me to discard his work and call him a fraud.

Unbeknown-st to me, one of the librarians had been watching me. (In truth this was my second or third day trying to make this work).  I remember glancing at the clock, knowing I had to leave in 10 min.  As my gaze left the clock, I saw her watching me.  When our eyes met, she stood up and asked if she could help.  Wanting desperately to get this done, at the same time praying that the stories were still fact based,  I agreed to let her help.  I showed her my papers, and the notes I'd been taking while I had hunted.  She did some amazing typing - throwing this date here, rolling this date forward there, connecting something with a Thomas Fitzgerald Sr. from Towanda, Pennsylvania - and suddenly - there they were Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Fitzgerald.  More accurately - Thomas Fitzgerald and Loriminel Christine Nielsen.  Loriminel Christine one of the daughters of Niels Christian Nielsen and Caroline Anderson of Mygdal, Hjorring, Denmark..

As I stood there looking at the names, two things crossed my mind.  First (since I was still a bit skeptical about John's work) I wanted some verification that this Nielsen family was Mamma's. I didn't have to look long - child number 7 on the genealogy record is Sena Christina Nielsen.  John references his aunt Sena in Papa Married a Mormon  pg.96
Nothing had happened to upset the tranquility of Grandpa Sweyn's life until Tom Fitzgerald came into it.  At sixteen his daughter Sena had married a man named Bunderson, who did not believe in polygamy, and had moved to Emery, Utah Territory, soon after the marriage.
 Beyond Sena's name alone, there was on the data below her name the name of her spouse Peter Victor Bunderson.  As would happen a thousand times over, my faith in John's work re surfaced.  Yes maybe it wasn't day to day accurate, but his ideas came straight from experiences and people who had lived and built the Utah Territory.

Driving home I realized that Lorminel (or Lorimine I have found in other documents) is a hard name to carry.  Obviously Minnie was easier to write, say, spell, etc.  Just like many Katherine's choose be called Katy.  I also realized Tena fell into the same category as Minnie, it was an extrapolation of -Tina from Christina.

Some years later I was sent his character affidavit form.  Next to Tena's name he writes - Minnie - changed "less euphemistic than Minnie- can use either."

There is the wonderful saga of a beautiful name for a beautiful girl.

Many thanks for the inquiry Rubin - this is one of my favorite discoveries.  I floated for weeks after I pieced it together.


  1. Wow Carrie - That is a really wonderful discovery and hard one too!

  2. It was remarkable. It was days like that and events coming together that kept me searching. I think if it had been all there for me to just "read" I would have given up. Hunting made it fun.

  3. In one of your earlier posts, you mention that Mamma's funeral service was in the LDS chapel, so I'm assuming she was a Mormon. What are your thoughts on why she is Catholic in the children's books? Because it was easier to tell the story that way?

  4. Bobbertsan-
    Yes - Mamma was Mormon. I think your guess as to why she is Catholic in The Great Brain is correct.
    So many years had passed since Papa Married a Mormon and The Great Brain - they (publisher and writer) probably assumed no one would know about Mamma. Plus this story was more about the kids and they all remained Catholic in real life, it just fit in the plot line.
    That's my guess.