Family Fun in the Land of Paul Bunyan

Imagine leaving your parents and homeland at the age of 17 to move to a distant, foreign country with nothing except youthful optimism that life would be better. My great grandfather, Henry, did just that in 1868, along with his brother, Ola (age 19), eventually settling in northern Minnesota in 1878, where they both raised large families.

Ola’s nine children and Henry’s eight children produced 72 offspring (give or take). And that generation subsequently gave birth to hundreds of baby boomers, and so on and so forth. Too many descendants to keep track of.

While a good number of descendants stayed in Minnesota, others did not. My family (parents + siblings) never lived in Minnesota during our growing up years, and with the exception of our first cousins, we didn’t know any relatives on my dad’s side.

That began to change in the 1980s when Dad retired and started tracking down extended family members and researching his roots. One thing led to another, and thanks to the cooperation of many people, Dad was able to construct a family tree with several generations of Henry’s descendants as well as his ancestors. On Ola’s side of the family, cousin Fred had done similar genealogy work, so he and Dad combined forces to create a detailed database with both branches of the family tree. Somewhere along the way, they also established a new tradition of holding biennial family reunions of Ola’s and Henry’s descendants.

Which brings us to beautiful Bemidji (Minnesota) for the 2019 family reunion. Bill and I arrived a little early and had a chance to explore prior to the official festivities. The view from our hotel was lovely!

We learned about bogs at Lake Bemidji State Park.

Then we met up with Janice and Mark for a stroll to the Bemidji Visitor Center, with a couple of good photo ops on the way.

Formal reunion activities included a welcome reception on Friday evening, bike ride and visit to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park on Saturday morning, group photo on Saturday afternoon, fish fry/program/raffle on Saturday evening, and farewell breakfast on Sunday morning. As they say, a good time was had by all!

A special thank you to Nancy, Becky, and Bob for hosting this year’s reunion – they made it look easy!

Enjoy a selection of photos from our family weekend in Bemidji. The galleries below are comprised of pictures contributed by multiple family members.

This is my raffle prize – I love it!

And a few other fun photos:

Rumor has it that the 2021 family reunion may be in Tucson. We’re in, and we hope to see all of you there!

Categories: Minnesota


  1. Ahhhh. I really like it! Excellent history lesson and a legacy well worth continuing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great recap of our biennial gathering!!! It really was a fun 48 hour adventure with Paul, Babe, and the rest of the family. Skol!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful legacy! We all came from somewhere else, but your family has documented it nicely!

    Liked by 1 person

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