Veterans Day

While researching the family history, so many people focus on the basics (birth, death, marriage, and children). You also need to pay attention to what jobs are listed in census records, public directories, draft cards, and in obituaries. Sometimes you stumble military records, military headstones, or obituaries that talk about their military service.

This year to commemorate Veterans Day, I have compiled a list (which I am sure is incomplete) of the descendants of Tollef Lyndom Tollefson [Generation 1] that fought for the USA. I did not include spouses of Tollefson descendants, since they are not Tollefson’s themselves. Most of this information is from military records (headstone applications, burial records, pension records), while more recent records could be elaborated with information contained in obituaries.

Tolof Lyndom Tollefson (1900-1954) [Generation 3]
Tolof, the grandson of the above mentioned Tollef, served in Navy as a Seaman from 8 Mar 1918 until 7 Apr 1919 in World War I.

Lyle J Tollefson (1892-1941) [Generation 3] – my great-great uncle
Lyle served in World War I from 24 June 1918 until 11 June 1919. He was a Private in  Company H – 349th Infantry of 88th Division.

Howard W. Tollefson (1922-1972) [Generation 4]
Howard served in World War II from 28 Jan 1943 until 8 Dec 1945. He was a technical sergeant in the 106th infantry. Howard was most likely involved in the Battle of the Bulge.

Carl Lyndom Tollefson (1924-1982) [Generation 4]
Carl served in World War II from 17 Jun 1943 until 17 Mar 1946. He was a Signalman, Second Class in the US Naval Reserve, Selective Volunteer (US Navy). He was stationed on the USS Otus (AS 20) on V-J day.

Paul Victor Tollefson (1913-2002) [Generation 4]
Paul served in World War II from 13 Mar 1942 until 16 Aug 1945. He was a Chief Radio Technician in the Navy. He was stationed on the USS Bond (AM 152).

Herbert Scott Siggelkow (1914-2007) [Generation 4] – Caroline Tollefson’s [Perkins] grandchild
Herbert served in the Army during World War II from 17 Apr 1943 until 2 Mar 1946.

Dr. Richard A Siggelkow, PhD (1918-2014) [Generation 4] – Caroline Tollefson’s [Perkins] grandchild
On 5 Aug 1941, Dr. Siggelkow served a 3 year enlistment in the Army as captain in the European Theater of World War II and was awarded the Bronze Star. He later graduated Fort Leavenworth Command and General Staff school.  He then joined the Army Reserve and retired as a colonel.

Herbert Rufus Tollefson (1919-2015) [Generation 4] – my great uncle
Herb was drafted into World War II. He was trained to be a Demolitions Engineer and earned four major battle stars in Africa, Italy and Germany with the 5th Army.

LaVerne George Tollefson (1921-2015) [Generation 4] – my great uncle
LaVerne served in World War II. He was assigned to the US Army 84th Infantry 309 Combat Engineers. His combat duty put him in three major battles in Northern France, Germany-Rhineland plus the Battle of the Bulge. He was a black-out driver and rifleman for the many assigned missions and combat duty. He was seriously wounded March 4, 1945, and was honorably medically discharged in 1946 after four and a half years of military service. He was awarded the following medals: the Purple Heart, the European and Middle Eastern Campaign Medals, three bronze battle stars, the American Campaign medal, the World War II Victory medal and the honorable service medal.

Generation 5 – mentions. Not a complete list, as their is no historical reference to pull the data from.
Garry Richard Tollefson – South Dakota National Guardsman serving in the 153rd Engineering Battalion.


Know of a missing military service of a Tollefson descendant? Post below with the info. I did not post military service for the living, but feel free to share your service below. Please list branch, years of service (total or timeframe), and optionally major conflict and regiment/ship. If your post doesn’t show, it may just need my approval for spam reasons.


Genealogy Site Software Update

I have been using phpGedView as the framework for my online family tree for about 10 years. The last update for phpGedView was in 2012. The underlying technology the package was designed for has mostly deprecated and the efficiency of the accessing the database was using resources way beyond what I had available. With that being said, it is really hard to think about starting over…importing gedcom files and media. Then I found the answer I needed.

I am now running Webtrees on Webtrees is actually based on phpGedView and has a very familiar look and feel that I was accustomed to. Webtrees is designed to replace phpGedView and had a very nice conversion wizard.  Once I moved my media files to the correct directory, all of my media showed up and is still attached to the correct people.

I just started using Webtrees, but I must say that I like it.

Garry Richard Tollefson

With a heavy heart I bring you the newest addition to my collection of obituaries, my uncle Garry.
Dates: February 3, 1940 – May 8, 2016

Garry Richard Tollefson was born February 3, 1940 in Sanborn County near Cuthbert, SD to Lyle Richard and Dorene (Adams) Tollefson. He attended school in Mt. Vernon, SD.  He loved working for his uncle, Herbert Tollefson, on the farm near Woonsocket, SD, and hunting with his uncle, LaVerne Tollefson, starting cherished life-long relationships. At the young age of 15, he met the love of his life, Sara (Sally) Morgan, marrying 3 years later, September 20, 1958.  As a young man, Garry worked as an automobile mechanic for Marlyn Gjesdal in Mt. Vernon, SD.  He spent five years in the sport of boxing with Mitchell UCT.  He went to work for Montgomery Ward in Mitchell, SD as a tire shop foreman before he accepted a position at Hormel Meats Company.  When the Mitchell Hormel plant closed, Garry went to work at Mt. Vernon School, maintaining several buildings and classrooms and driving the school bus.  His mornings would start very early, especially in the cold winters, to be sure the school was warm for the students and faculty.  He was excited to connect with children and develop life-time relationships at the school and when driving the bus.  Garry was proud of his 32 years of accident free driving.  He was known in the community to mow your lawn, cut down your tree, fix your car or till your garden.  Garry served the community of Mt. Vernon as the Justice of Peace and 41 years as a volunteer fireman with the fire department.  He was a South Dakota National Guardsman serving in the 153rd Engineering Battalion.

Garry’s heart was full of love.  His love for his wife moved him to start his family and raise 6 children making a home in Mt. Vernon.  It was important for Garry to instill his unique genuine qualities to his children, his work ethic, honesty, loyalty, generosity, passion, sense of humor and sense of pride in accomplishments.  Life lessons and qualities were taught first hand at the farm, in the garden, pheasant hunting, camping, fishing and while playing pinochle.

He was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1973, serving faithfully for 43 years.  He was an encouragement to his congregation.  His faithful example taught spiritual values to his children.  Garry brightened your day by making you laugh.

He is survived by his wife, Sara (Sally); four sons:  Roger (Pamela), Gering, NE,  Richard (Teresa), Myrtle Beach, SC,  Daniel, Sturgis, MI,  Matthew (Diedre’), Syracuse, NY;  two daughters:  Janette (Dan) Block, Sioux Falls, SD,  Nancy (Don) Gehrke, Luverne, MN;  three brothers: Darrell ‎( DeeDee ),‎ Aberdeen SD,  Herbert L., Luverne, MN;  Eugene (Kathy), Parkston, SD;  two sisters:  Gloria Ann (Mel) Tuffs, Mt. Vernon, SD,  Dorene (Richard) Polz, Jackson, MN;  one sister-in-law:  Mary Lou Tollefson, Mitchell, SD;  eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Garry was preceded in death by his parents; one brother, Randall; one sister, Martha Hanson and one brother-in-law, James C. Hanson.

Thursday, May 12, 2016
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Bittner Funeral Chapel
805 West Havens
Mitchell, South Dakota

Friday, May 13, 2016
10:30 AM

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses
S Highway 37
Mitchell, South Dakota


Mount Vernon Cemetery
Mount Vernon, South Dakota

Understanding the Ethnicity Estimate

I was really taken back by the fact staggering 64% Great Britain number. After reviewing some information, I learn how this information is calculated at and how this compares to other people. 

The DNA markers for each region are compared to 40 different samples of your DNA (40 random segments of your DNA are sampled and compared).  This sampling is done on each of the 26 global regions. The results for each region are essentially weighted to determine the total percentage.

The 3,000 DNA reference markers are taken from people living in that region where many generations of grandparents are all from that county/region.

So I viewed the actual percentages and found my ranges as such:
Great Britain: 64%, Range: 45%-84%
Europe East: 17%, Range 8%-26%
Scandinavia: 8%, Range 0%-20%
Europe West: 4%, Range 0%-17%
Ireland: 4%, Range 0%-12%
Asia South: <1%, Range 0%-2%
Finland/NW Russia: <1%, Range 0%-4%
European Jewish: <1%, Range 0%-2%

Additional notes of interest are that a typical native of Great Britain has a 60% DNA match for that region, but I matched at 64%.

In an ideal world where every person gets half of their DNA from each parent where that DNA is exactly made up of 50% of each parent’s DNA and their parents are exactly 50% of each of their parents and so on. In the real world, the 50% from your father may be an uneven split of the DNA they received from his parents. The variations in the percentage for Scandinavia can easily be explained by DNA passdown model I just explained, but that model also means there probably is more Great Britain ancestors hidden in other areas of my family tree.

single backgroundWhile researching and trying to understand the results, I found a tool at to explain the admixture (ethnicity estimate) in better terms (sort of).

GEDMatch allows you to compare your mixture with a European-centric DNA comparison group. The difference between this DNA comparison and the version is that the GEDMatch uses real world samples of typical popuations with an array of past ancestry and they validate the results against actual family trees.

The result statistically match your results with populations of the countries studied to see what countries closely match your DNA. The first picture shows the admixture percentages that don’t make any sense to a layman followed by the closest heritage matches based on that admixture result. The second pictures shows the same information, but only when the test group are of 2 different populations.

Essentially, the results show the my closest match (Distance) for a single ancestry is Norwegian. For a mixed ancestry, I really match close to Norwegian (and West Norwegian [Fjords area]) and East German.  Now these results make much more sense. Based on my quit search, I found that the West Norwegian area had the highest immigration to the plains states of the USA.


I ordered the AncestryDNA kit to see if I could expand my family tree and see what the ethnicity estimate would reveal.  My prediction was Scandinavian, English, Western European, and some Eastern European.

So I activated and shipped my kit in early February 2016. My timing results mirrored other people: 5 business days to receive the kit after I mailed it, 20 business days before the lab received the sample, about 20 business days for the lab to start processing it, and about 10 business days to receive results. For me the process took about 2 months.

So now the results. The first thing Ancestry does is reminds you that this information is an estimate and that it is not necessarily 100% correct representation of all of your family. Remember that DNA comes your parents, from their parents, from their parents, and so on. DNA mixtures vary based on the genes your parents actually pass on to you. With that being said, here is my estimated ethnicity.

Ethnicity Details

I was surprised that had such a large percentage of Great Britain. The other things I did not expect was Asia South (India), Irish, and European Jewish. Irish, really.  I always insisted that I was 0% Irish (as a bad joke) on St. Patrick’s Day.

I am now off to digest what this information actually means and what connections I can make.  I already noticed a few names in tree matches that I recognize.

Charles W Tollefson Family

While researching this family, I found a few things that I found family several misfortunes. I already knew all the people in this family from my research from years prior, but because I only focused on the people and the dates, I didn’t really comprehend what the family actually experienced.

Charles W Tollefson

For reference, Charles W Tollefson is my third great uncle.

Charles ‘Chas’ William Tollefson, (1857-1947) is the son of Tollef Lyndom Tollefson. He married Tressa Anna Swoyer (b. 1858) in 1886. They have 3 children: Carl William (b. 1889), Olive Ann (b. 1891), and Tolof Lyndom (b. 1900).

Carl William appears to have a fairly normal life. I will cover his live in a future post. Olive Ann on paper, appears dedicated to her family. Tolof Lyndom appears to have a life filled with interesting episodes.

The first tragedy to strike this family is the loss of mother Tressa in 1903 at the age of 44. I am not sure why she died at this point in time. Because of this event and the events that unfold through the years, this even may be why Olive is not married until much later in life. 

WW1 comes and son Tolof serves in the Navy from 3/8/1918 until 4/7/1919 when he is honorably discharged. During this time, Carl has listed an exemption on his draft card because he is married with 2 children. With no one else at home, Olive is most likely helping on the family farm.

In 1920, Tolof is shot at his farm in Elk Point by rum runners moving liquor from Canada to Sioux City and presumed dead by the newspaper.

boose runners

After this incident, it seems that Tolof then becomes a game warden, which I learn from the next mention of him in a newspaper article seen below. The article dated Nov 24, 1933 says that Tolof had amnesia and is found in Omaha.

Located In Omaha

After that, Tolof spends some time in the in the Disable Vets home from March 1, 1934 until July 31, 1934. His admission notes list the symptoms of graves disease, cavities in teeth, and arthritis. This document also lists Olive as living in Pierre at this time (as closest living relative).

Supporting documents show that Olive ends up working for the State of South Dakota. She is a census taker for the state census and then ends up moving to Aberdeen where she is listed on the 1940 census and her father Charles is living with her. While in Aberdeen, it appears that Olive is still working for the State of South Dakota. A few years after her father dies, Olive marries Merrill Martin Korte in 1950. The 1950 will be troubling though, as her brother Carl dies in 1953 followed by Tolof in 1954 and then her husband Merrill Korte dies in 1958. Olive continues living in Aberdeen until her death in 1975.

Reproving my Ancestors

I was working a different branch on my family tree and couldn’t quite make a connection. I explored a possible connection and was able to follow the line for 5 generations. I felt excited and discovering all these new people was great. The issue was that I could not actually define a solid link between the person I had been at a dead end with and this new found family line.

I realized at that point that there could be other assumptions in my family tree. Since I did not research every person in my family tree, I could have an error in the tree. This is not to put down the work of my cousin or my aunt, but if they had information that was not completely true or if the “family member” used as a source wasn’t actually from my family tree.

With that information, I started my tree from scratch within I started with what I know and then proved every single item in my tree.

My current quandary is my Caroline Tollefson, my 3x great-aunt. I have not been able to prove she is married to the person I have connected to my tree. The issue is that she disappears from the 1870 census, when she would be 17. The Caroline that I found to be married Mr. Perkins, is still living with her family in the same county as him in 1870.   There are 3 Caroline Tollefson’s in Wisconsin that are close in age during the 1860 census. In 1870, there is a third Caroline, about the same age, living in another town and the birth is listed as Norway and not Wisconsin.

The only proof that I have is the obituary of Tollef Edward Tollefson [located on the About page], that includes the sentence “He is survived by three brothers, Nels of Sioux City, Charles of Elk Point, and Ole of Woonsocket, and four sisters, Mrs. Albert Perkins of Waukesha, Wis., Mrs. H. L. Collins of Vermillion, Mrs. C. B. Smith of Fairburn, S. D., and Mrs. Wm. Headley of Orlando, Fla.” So while the information I found missing official document could not proof her link to Mr. Perkins, the obituary did.