Tracing my family tree


I recently started working on researching our family tree again, after taking quite a few years off, and I’m having fun discovering all sorts of things about both sides of my family. Looking back at family history can be so fascinating.

My mother’s family is of Norwegian descent. My paternal great-grandfather, Ole Jacob Amundsen, worked as a land agent in the 1880s for the King of Norway. He brought a number of families from Christiania, Norway, to Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, and then into Canada, where they settled in Claresholm in 1882. He bought a farm, had nine children and died in a car crash in December 1918 at the age of 58, along with his wife, Mary.

Ole formed a partnership with my maternal great-grandfather, John Soby, and opened a general store in Claresholm. That store was moved, many years ago, to Heritage Park in Calgary – if you visit, it’s now the candy store at the park. John Soby was also born in Norway and immigrated to Canada in 1906.

My dad’s path to Claresholm took a different route. His father, George Weston Simpson, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1904 and immigrated to Canada at the age of 10. According to my Uncle Dave, his family left Scotland for greener shores to escape “grinding poverty.”

Grandpa married my grandmother in 1929 and they moved around a bit before eventually moving to Claresholm, where he bought into a Chrysler dealership and garage. That’s where my mum and dad met, when they were 11 and 13 years old, respectively. If not for that move, I wouldn’t be here – and my parents would have missed out on 59 years of married life. That’s a bit of a sobering thought.

It’s still fun to visit Claresholm, see the old homestead and visit Amundsen Park. The Claresholm and District Museum has quite a bit of our family history on display, as well, though it’s a bit weird to see your own name in the local history book, I’ll admit.

There are a lot more genealogy resources available now than when I first started tracing our family tree 25 years ago. For instance, we all see the ads for Ancestry online and on television. I’ve discovered relatives from other branches of the family working away on their own family trees, and we’re able to share what we find. It also leaves a record for future generations, which I think is an important thing.

Have you traced your family tree? Find anything interesting? I recently discovered my paternal grandfather wasn’t born a Simpson – his stepfather was the Simpson. I’m now on the hunt to try to figure out who his birth father was. Back down the rabbit hole of history I go.


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