Oral Historian and Project Intern

Oral Historian Project Intern Needed

The deadline has been extended for applications.

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Giants of The Earth Heritage Center, Spring Grove, MN
Contract Positions (2): Oral Historian and Project Intern
Norwegian Ridge Oral History Project
May-October, 2018

Organization Background
Giants of the Earth Heritage Center was incorporated in 2009 as a non-profit educational institution dedicated to honoring, preserving, and interpreting the history and heritage of the people from Spring Grove’s Norwegian Ridge in southeastern Minnesota. Drawing on a rich cultural history, the Center records and reflects the achievements of people in the Spring Grove area. The Center draws upon varied resources, while also providing a gathering place and a sense of community and identity to its public.
Project Description
Presently, the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center is actively collecting oral histories related to life and culture on local farms. In 2017, we self-funded a farm oral history project and filmed oral history interviews of 25 local farmers representing 17 families to document their experiences. As part of this project, we identified additional families we wished to interview.

We are conducting this second phase our project to document the stories of 13-15 families in the Highland and Caledonia Township areas. We seek to reach between 15-20 individuals from these families, representing between 13 to 15 of these previously identified families. The project goal is to interview, record, transcribe, and archive between 15 and 20 oral histories.

We have been awarded with a $9974 Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage grants to support this stage.
Job Descriptions

The Giants of the Earth Heritage Center is seeking competitive bids for two services related to this project. The services are:

1. Oral Historian:
Tasks: The Oral Historian will prepare and secure the release forms for all interviews; schedule all interviews; prepare and revise the interview questions; conduct all interviews; review all transcriptions; review all inventory forms; and be responsible for all deliverables. The Oral Historian will conduct local history research pertaining to the individuals and oral history topics. The Oral Historian will also assist in recruiting and interviewing the intern- if needed, and will manage the intern. Total hours were estimated to be 118.5 at a rate of $50 per hour, with 10 hours of travel time at a rate of $25 an hour. Travel expenses up to $376 will be reimbursed.

Deliverables: 15-20 high quality video interviews in digital format; the corresponding transcriptions for these interviews, the corresponding inventory forms; and the corresponding release forms. The Oral Historian work is expected to take place between May 1 and October 31, 2018.

Qualifications: Proven experience with managing and conducting large (10+) oral history projects. A BA in history or a related field. Familiarity with agricultural history and the Spring Grove area. Excellent oral and written communication skills and an attention to detail will be required.

2. Project Intern:
Tasks: The selected intern will assist with set-up before-hand and break-down after interviews, as well as general support during interviews. The intern will be responsible for choosing which online transcription service to use; transcribing and editing 15-20 oral histories; and creating and revising the inventory forms. The intern will conduct supplemental local history research pertaining to oral history topics, and will also scan and digitize any photos or similar materials that were loaned for the project, and return these items. The Intern work is expected to take place between June 1 and October 31, 2018. Total hours estimated for this work is 195, at $15 an hour. Travel expenses up to $376 will be reimbursed.

Qualifications will be: experience in local history research, and familiarity or interest in collecting and archiving oral histories. A high level of curiosity, commitment, creativity and attention to editing and detail will be required.


Date Activity
April 9, 2018 RFP Issued
April 23, 2018 Bids Due
May 1, 2018 Estimated Contracts Award
October 31, 2018 Estimated Project Completion

Proposals will be evaluated within approximately one (1) week of the bid closing and bidders will be notified of their status as soon as possible thereafter.


Proposal contacts

If you have any questions about this rfp, please submit them to both Karen Gray at kbjbgray@springgrove.coop and Nancy O’Brien Wagner at nancy@bluestemheritage.com. We will forward answers to all bidders by Tuesday, April 24, and allow for amendments to bids if requested.

Submission of Proposals
Please submit all proposals to both Karen Gray at kbjbgray@springgrove.coop and Nancy O’Brien Wagner at nancy@bluestemheritage.com by end of day on April 23, 2018.
Conditions on Receipt of Proposals
This Request for Proposals does not obligate the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center to award any specific project. The Giants of the Earth Heritage Center reserves the right to cancel this solicitation. The Giants of the Earth Heritage Center also reserves the right to waive irregularities in proposal content or to request supplemental information from prospective bidder(s).
Minimum Proposal Contents
 Description and schedule of proposed work.
 Description of work on comparable projects, with client references for those projects.
 Company profile and identification of Bidder personnel and any subcontractors who will supervise and/or conduct the work of the project, including details of their training and experience, and where Bidder personnel and subcontractors are located.
 Detailed cost proposal for services.
 Sample work (if applicable).
Proposals will be evaluated by the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center on the basis of the following criteria:
 Bidder qualification, technical expertise, knowledge, and experience
 Quality of sample work
 Overall cost of proposal.
 Any other factor(s) that might aid in selecting the best candidate.
The deliverables for this project are listed in RFP Section I.

Delivery Schedule
Production schedule will be determined at the project startup, on a schedule mutually agreed to by the successful Bidder/s and the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center.  Ideally, we would like to complete this project by October 31, 2018, or sooner if possible.

The Kingdom of the Rings

Duane Lindberg, PhD, MTh
Duane Lindberg, PhD, MTh
The Kingdom of the Rings
The Kingdom of the Rings

Giants of the Earth Heritage Center is pleased to announce, for sale in our gift shop, Kingdom of the Rings by Duane Lindberg, PhD, American Studies, MTh. Lutheran Theology.

FOR THE READER – by Dr. Duane Lindberg

“The Kingdom of The Rings” is a historical novel which appeals to the reader’s interest on four different levels: the fictional story itself, the historical accounts, the religious/theological matters, and the ethnic/cultural level.

The story line traces the three interlocking golden Rings which were in the gift of gold which the Magi offered to the Christ Child. The saga begins in AD 1267 as the Rings are entrusted to a Coptic Christian in Alexandria, Egypt who carries them to the embattled city of Antioch, Syria, where a Muslim army is attacking the Crusader kingdom. Following the Muslim capture of Antioch, the story traces the journey of the Crusader who carries the Rings in his search for healing from leprosy. He gives the Rings as expressions of thanksgiving for help he receives along the “pilgrims’ way” to the grave of Norway’s “eternal king” at the Nideros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway. Through the vicissitudes of history, the Rings are separated and eventually come into the possession of two families from Norway and one from Egypt by way of Germany. The Rings are then carried by these believing immigrant families to the United States. Suspense builds as the Rings come close on two occasions, and the promise of a great blessing for the keepers, the nation, and the world (the Second Coming of Christ) looms very near.

Respecting the historical level, the novel attempts to uncover for the reader some of those critical
historical events which are part of our American and the Western World’s heritage. Also, the historical perspective underlines the centrality of the Christian Faith in the founding and building of our Nation. The reader is introduced to a nearly forgotten time of greatness in the Middle Ages and to the persistence of the conflict with Islam which spans the entire period. The reader who loves history will want to re-read the novel to savor the many insights into the actual history of both the “Old World” and the “New”.

With regard to the religious/theological level, the novel suggests the ubiquity of the Christian faith and its eschatological hope which characterized the majority of immigrants from Norway and from other European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries. The metaphor of the three interlocking rings is the historic symbol of the Holy Trinity and each of the Rings bears an ancient Persian name which is suggestive of one Person of the Godhead. The Name of the second Ring – “Ashem” – is translated “Truth” or “the Incarnation of Truth” and points the reader to Jesus the Christ. In the story, it is the name of this Ring which draws the Muslim general inexorably to his conversion to Christianity and his subsequent beheading by Egyptian Islamic authorities.

On the ethnic/cultural level the saga focuses on American immigrants from Norway as a microcosm of the more than 55 million Europeans who flooded our shores in the 18 and 19th centuries. The characters in the novel reveal the immigrants’ struggle to adapt to their new homeland and at the same time their attempts to retain their own identity. The novel challenges the popular “melting pot” explanation of the American experience and suggests a more adequate metaphor – The Field of Rings.

DR Lindberg Books 12/28/15


Conversational Norwegian 12 Week Class

JillSay it in Norwegian – 12 Weeks of Conversational Language for Travelers

Tuesdays, March 10-May 19 from 6:30-8:15 PM

(note: originally this was going to start on March 3 but was postponed to the 10th due to inclement weather)

 Graduation Fest on May 19

 Classes held at the Heritage Center in Spring Grove, 163 West Main Street

 Basic Beginning Bokmål Norwegian in an interactive atmosphere

Theme-based sessions facilitated by Jill Storlie, an annual traveler to the West Coast of Norway

 Humor and correct pronunciation of cities, store merchandise, food, etc.

Social media videos with sub-titles for review at home

Sightseeing tips and pronunciation specific to cities Luren will be visiting

Slang terms for reading Emails and Facebook postings

Making Connections with Norwegian and American families

Map reading, telling time, learning money

For answers to any questions, please contact Jill Storlie at  563.419.0986

You may also refer to this web site: www.sgheritage.org

$100 for one person

$175 for a couple

$300 family rate

Kaffe Stue at each session

Members of the Heritage Center receive a 10% discount



REGISTRATION SHEET for Say it in Norwegian




Cell Phone


E mail






My payment is enclosed for:


Please make check payable to Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, Inc. and mail to PO Box 223, Spring Grove  55974

A full refund will be issued if the class is cancelled due to low enrollment or if you withdraw from the class before the second session.

Human Spirituality and Neoteny

Skulls of 1. Gorilla 2. Australopithecine 3. Homo erectus 4. Neanderthal (La-Chapelle-aux-Saints) 5. Steinheim Skull 6. Modern human

Some of the latest genetic research on neoteny suggests that humans–and the very powerful institutions that govern them–have preferentially selected for the survival of more childlike humans over thousands of years. This is exhibited in the form of a loss of–or a delay in–the expression of important maturity genes found in primates and earlier hominids. This causes–what some have referred to as–“more evolved” humans to have the less threatening appearance of primate infants–just as domestic dogs tend to resemble wolf pups. Not only do domestic dogs resemble wolf pups in appearance, they also resemble them in behavior. While wolves focus on the meat that is in their trainer’s hands, young wolf pups and dogs look up at the eyes of their trainer to try to see what their trainer wants so that he will share his meat with them. Thus, it is no surprise that domestication has increased the time span in which a dog can learn new tricks. So it would seem that neoteny is a desirable thing.

Institutionalized Systems of Selection

As there has been selection for neoteny, or more youthful physical and behavioral traits in canines during their domestication, we can also expect that humans have undergone selection for more childlike behavioral traits. Although some positive aspects might be found in a possibly greater malleability, negative aspects would be that humans have become more “finger to the wind,” more heteronomous, and less autonomous. Increasing human plasticity could have both positive and negative repercussions for human culture. As more is learned about how cognitive and behavioral genes have been influenced, it will be interesting to deconstruct how our more child-like phenotype has influenced and continues to influence Homo sapiens’ evolving spirituality and our various religious practices.

Bootlickers for Justice (if it pleases the powers that be)

How has this childification influenced the percentage of people who enter the higher Piagetian cognitive levels and Kohlberg’s stages of post-conventional morality? It would seem that the more corrupt religious and political institutions would benefit from the continued neoteny or “childification” of humanity, as this might result in a greater conformist to nonconformist ratio among adults. Since the most insightful existential critics of institutions arise from the higher cognitive levels, the demise of the genes that gave people a propensity to attain a higher Piagetian level might be something that institutions would desire and hence we would expect their numbers to be decreasing. On the other hand, it might be possible for the postconventional to escape negative selection if they camouflaged themselves in irony or caved to hypocrisy. Thus, while their (Kohlbergian) conventional and preconventional morality allowed those of a lower Piagetian level to serve corrupt institutions in good faith, those of postconventional morality have a choice between hypocrisy or martyrdom. There are those who have understood universal principles that have not capitulated to corrupt institutions: they have been crushed for centuries–leaving fewer descendants than those who have capitulated. Thus, what courage is left in us to stand for justice? Hypocrisy is in the genes of we, the most clever psychophants, who mistakenly call ourselves the most sapien hominids.

Representatives of three human cultural niches.

Homo hypocrita, Homo intolerantissima, Homo sycophanta

The way we interpret any text might be influenced by the class to which we belong and the particular natural domestication that has occurred as a result of belonging to a certain class culture for centuries. Noah’s three sons illustrate the tripartite human self: our nature, spirit, and intellect: Different cultures have allowed each of these three parts to rule them and under the paradigms of each culture, different types of human domestication have occurred. Thus, it seems unlikely that merely by passing down the revered writings of sages past we can actualize new sages and champions for justice in each type, unless we somehow unite the best innate elements cultivated by selection within all three cultural niches while removing the worst. Would the original sages even recognize their thoughts in our summaries of their works? This is because our juvenilization has and will inevitably transfigure our interpretation of those texts.

Linguistic and genetic studies show much overlap with Biblical phylogeny and neoteny.
Linguistic and genetic studies show much overlap with Biblical phylogeny.


On the one hand, if there is selection against mature cognitive levels and for neoteny in some cultures, their people’s continued juvenilization  might, for example, cause their conception of G-d to take on ever more superhero like characteristics–a movement toward pagan Japhethic religions. Alternatively, even if there is selection in some cultures for genes enabling the acquisition of higher Piagetian levels, assuming a priori a positive selection for psychophancy rather than martyrdom, then it is doubtful whether those people’s inherited corrupt spirit would allow them to actually perform the just acts that their monotheism would dictate, as Paul writes.

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7: 15; 19, Revised Standard Version).

Considering that each class has its own fitness games and certain traits are adaptive in each, we would expect crucial elements of the three core human virtues: Courage, Honesty, Justice to be present in each class, but not the fully actualized virtues themselves. This is because strength, transparency, and cleverness are what is actually selected for among the archetypal subspecies descended from Noah: Ham, Japheth, and Shem. While Ham’s vigor is an important constituent of courage, when used for selfish ends or untempered by reason, we don’t call it a virtue. While the conditionability found among the descendants of Japheth is an important element for creating their honesty, their plasticity has led them over the centuries to adapt all sorts of strange idiosyncratic prideful practices. While cleverness exhibited by Shem is an essential factor in understanding justice, cleverness alone does not a just person make.

Proverbial Parsifal
Proverbial Parsifal

So, when individuals have arisen in civilization exhibiting the virtuous applications of: vigor, conditionability, and cleverness they have generally produced less offspring than their competition exhibiting the vicious applications of these. Those exhibiting the actual virtues: courage, honesty, and justice, have been the sung and unsung martyrs of the ages.

We all benefit from the more peaceful and more just society that has arisen from the sacrifices of heroes, saints, and prophets. Though these servants of humanity have been a unique hybrid of the best elements of Ham, Japheth, and Shem, within their own generations these heroes, saints, and prophets have always been existentially abused. Is their altruism a fossil fuel we will some day run out of? Ancient texts indicate we have gone out of our way for well over three thousands years to kill them. Why do we kill them? Well, they are different and, frequently, they have the audacity to ask with righteous indignation those in power to live by principles rather than the self-serving cleverness to flatter those in power and allow might to set the standards for what is right: Furthermore, they have the arrogance to ask those not in power to think about ultimate rather than proximate ends, making them easy for the servants of the powerful to turn the mob against. Just as chickens peck at the hen that is different, it seems to be in the nature of humans to criticize, demonize, burn, jail, or crucify those people who “march to the beat of a different drummer” perhaps because playing this dominance hierarchy game is what egotistic humans do best. Each of these actions results in the lowering of the inclusive fitness of the virtuous hybrid who is courageous, honest, and just. In turn, the persecution of those with such virtues results in the greater and greater passing down of genes that merely code for the lusty, the psychophantic, and the clever.

“Oh  Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37

In the above quote, Jesus was merely restating the observations of Daniel and Isaiah on the problem of neoteny. Both asked how we can set up a system to preserve and protect those people who exhibit a hybridization of the three variables that produce courage, honesty, and justice. They wondered how to warn these gems of humanity against throwing their pearls before swine who have little understanding or, alternatively, how to redirect the swine so as to keep them from martyring the just. What plan could save Daniel’s virtuous friends: Shadrach, Mischach, and Abednego from the figurative raging fire? What scheme would protect Daniel himself from the appetites and fury of the figurative lions? What spell could save the seed and winnow the chaff, asked Isaiah? The plan was spelled out by both Daniel and Isaiah in numerous ways, but veiled in allegory so that seeing, the swine “might not see, and hearing, they may not hear…” Isa 6:9 The veil, or seal, was a double seal, so that only those possessing a combination of the excellences might understand. The lusty would not be able to focus on scripture; the merely clever would become bored with the scriptures; while the dogmatic thinkers would pick out what verses agreed with their wishful thoughts and chant them like pagans, but not be clever enough to critically assess the material and read between the lines.

“For they are not a people of discernment, Therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them.” Isa 27:11

How well Daniel’s plan has worked for the last 2500 years in controlling the less desirable aspects of neoteny is best understood by whole genome comparison of what alleles have preferentially survived through the years within the peoples governed by the paradigms he envisioned in his dream, and its implementation by Isaiah and Jesus.

End of Year Deductible Donation Opportunity

Dear Friends of Giants of the Earth Heritage Center,

One of the best things about being part of our heritage center is that our research continually reminds us that we are part of a great extended family. Every day, we encounter a continuation of our ancestors’ good will in our members. This Christmas, as you looked into a child’s eyes as they were sparkling in front of the Christmas Tree, you didn’t just see their eyes, did you? You also saw your eyes. You beheld a chain of life bigger than yourself, but which you are and always will be a part of. While most older people can identify with feeling this connection, younger people can too, when they see the twinkle in their grandparents’ eyes as they tell stories of, for example, their childhood on the farm on Christmas eve.

We believe that this feeling is the foundation for the kind of stewardship that leaves a true heritage for future generations. Our “Circle of Life” mural at Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, painted by our dear friend, Sigmund Aarseth, who passed away on December 12, poignantly depicts the stages of sustainable life and the importance of family and community in each of them. Nurturing this multigenerational consciousness is a major part of our mission and we encourage you all to visit our website and learn how you can take advantage of our family history videos, our genealogical and genetic ancestry services, and our intergenerational classes and events.

From the immense popularity of our website, GiantsHeritageCenter Youtube Channel, Facebook pages, and services, it is obvious that many people feel our mission is important. Altogether, we have had more than a million online views this year, not even counting visits to our immense family trees. Our national and international popularity reminds us how special Norwegian Ridge really is. We are “a city on a hill.” Each of our area seniors who we interview are little lights unto the world, the best ambassadors for our country that could exist. Our videography team is working hard using the latest technology to make sure that the inspiring stories of our seniors’ won’t be covered up, but that they will continue to be a light to younger generations.

Our many activities would not be possible without your continued support. We want to thank those of you who have already made your generous end of the year contribution to our center (helping us to meet several crucial goals). Further, we want to remind you all that there is still an opportunity to make a tax deductible contribution for this year to our 501c3 organization. To learn more, just visit www.sgheritage.org and make a donation on the left sidebar.

Or to renew, upgrade your membership, or donate, with different payment options (including check), just click here: Become a Member or Renew Membership – Giants of the Earth Heritage Center

Tusen Takk og Godt Nytt År,

Your friends at

Giants of the Earth Heritage Center

“Cherishing memories, Championing dreams”

Spencer Wells on How DNA Reveals our History

Spencer Wells used just mtDNA and yDNA to trace the movements of peoples through time.
If you take all the DNA in one cell of your body it would stretch out to be over 2 meters long. This DNA in one cell contains over 6 billion nucleotides and the pattern of genetic variation allows us to construct a family tree for everyone who is alive today.

Giants sing Ja, vi elsker…

Ja, vi elsker dette landet,
som det stiger frem,
furet, værbitt over vannet,
med de tusen hjem, —
elsker, elsker det og tenker
på vår far og mor
og den saganatt som senker
drømmer på vår jord.
Og den saganatt som senker,
senker drømmer på vår jord.


(Audio only)

Honor Your Immigrant Ancestors

Want to honor your immigrant ancestors? Put their names prominently in gold on the beautiful walls in the Giants of the Earth Heritage Hall of Giants. The names will be placed on the walls of the side of Spring Grove in which your immigrants ancestors lived. For example, Ole Nerstad and Kjettle Garnaas lived west of Spring Grove, so their names appear on the west wall.

Giants of the Earth offers this special offer as a thank you to donors who have given over $2,500. For each $2,500 donation, one immigrant ancestor will be written in the Hall of Giants.

In addition, your immigrant will receive special attention as we complete our Giants of the Earth Heritage Center area Bygdebok, detailing the history and genealogy of the Houston, Winneshiek, Fillmore, Allamakee Co. area.

Please make your donation today by going to our right sidebar and choosing how you would like give. Giants will then contact you to learn more about the immigrant you would like to have honored in our Hall of Giants.

“He only deserves to be remembered by posterity who treasures up and preserves the history of his ancestors.” —Edmund Burke

Area Collaborative Online Bygdebok

Area Collaborative Online History Book / Online Bygdebok

Giants has a vision of creating a single family tree that includes a file for everyone who ever lived in or near Spring Grove, Minnesota. We are close to realizing that vision. That family tree will provide the organizational framework to file and index tens of thousands of community pictures, videos, and artifacts. Each ancestor associated with an image, audio file, or video will be cross-linked to that image. Since so many people are related in Houston, Winneshiek, Fillmore, & Allamakee Counties, you will find that much of your work is already done for you. Thanks to the power of computer technology, we hope that this Bygdebok will grow to well beyond our area. If you have a Mabel, Caledonia, Houston, Black Hammer, Decorah, or other area family tree that you would like us to add to our website, please send your gedcom file to support@springgrovemnheritagecenter.org. Currently, we actually have four trees on our site–one Spring Grove tree which is primarily Georgia Rosendahl’s work, one Storlie tree, one Grunhovd tree, and one Tweito tree. Our trees will be merged and periodically upgraded with a more complete and pruned tree as our ancestry.com tree improves. Currently the media and source links will take you to our ancestry.com tree. In the future, we will likely be at a point where we enter our data/sources/pictures/videos directly to this site. Your donations will help speed up this process and help us to promote this among the younger generations, who we feel can benefit the most from the lessons of genealogy, but who typically cannot afford the high costs associated with ancestry.com.

3d Heritage Center

Preliminary work on wall of Giants Hall of Heritage Center

First floor of Heritage Center with dinner tables


3d rendering of Hall with dinner tables


The 3d mockup of the 1st floor of the Heritage Center is nearly completed, although I will still have to change the wall decor and make some other changes. This 3d model will allow us to try out different arrangements of furniture, exhibits, studio equipment, etc. in silico prior to actually making the physical changes. Above you can see one possible way of arranging the tables for our now sold out Gourmet Dinner honoring Georgia Rosendahl and the completion of Giants Hall of the Heritage Center on Saturday, October 30.

$20,000 genomic sequencing–FREE

Dr. John Storlie recently received word that he was officially accepted into the Harvard Personal Genome Project, which means that their genomes will be completely sequenced, a $20,000 value, for free.

“This not only is an exciting opportunity for us, but it will increase the value of all those genetic results already received by individuals in the community who share genetic material with us as identified by our 1 million SNP chips, since we can infer from our sequencing the actual sequence of those sections of their chromosomes which are identical to ours as identified by the kits given out by Giants of the Earth,” said John Storlie. “Further, as of October 15, 2010, the Harvard Personal Genome Project began signing people up for the next round of sequencing, in which they will sequence 10,000 individuals. I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in this sign up for this opportunity. I recommend that you sign up now, because the wait time could be considerable and the interest will be great.

Sign up for Harvard’s Personal Genome Project–its FREE

Local residents have been amazed at Giants of the Earth Heritage Center’s recent genetic discoveries. Using advanced autosomal genetic analysis, which can identify long stretches of identical DNA segments, Giants of the Earth has been able to confirm not only that most residents of the town of Spring Grove are likely related within 6 generations, but how they are related, even in cases where there was no preexisting family tree to search. “The interrelatedness of the town opens up numerous possibilities and makes us a desirable location for genetic analysis, such as has been performed on the population of Iceland,” said Storlie.

Currently, residents who have joined Giants of the Earth Heritage Center at a Giant ($250) level receive a free comprehensive ancestry and health genetic test kit. The kit contains a small saliva collection tube. The member’s genome is extracted from the cells in the saliva and the genomic data is generated and compared to tens of thousands of others around the world who have taken the test. When a large amount of your genomic data is identical to another person, it can be inferred with a high degree of certainty that that person is your relative, and, based on the size and number of the identical regions on your chromosomes, the relationship can be estimated out to 10th cousin.

“This information is coming in fast and it is incredibly helpful. It is allowing me to merge family trees with scientific confidence. All too often, there have been cases where I have merged individuals within two family trees only to find out later that there were actually, for example, two Ole Olsons born in 1862 in Spring Grove, and those Ole Olsons were actually not even related. Genetics comes to the rescue and will save genealogists a lot of time and also improve the accuracy of the trees. Further, I use the genetic analysis to find the relatives in Norway, who then connect me with the numerous farms from which they come. People don’t realize how many ancestral farms they may have and how their written record, without the clues of genetic analysis, is usually only a small snippet of their actual ancestry. A lot of times people will come in and tell me, ‘I have all my ancestors traced back to the 1600s.’ They don’t realize actually how many ancestors they should have in their tree if they actually had done that.” For example, if we assume that each generation averages 30 years, which is actually pretty conservative, then about 13 generations would exist between a young person today and the 1600s. If someone had no ancestors who married their relatives, then a complete family tree going back to the 1600s would include the names of over 16,000 individuals. In fact, there was a lot of marriage between distant cousins, which decreases the overall size of the family trees, but increases their complexity. Further, it opens up an increased probability for finding organ and stem cell matches within our community and in Norway. This means that Spring Grove is an excellent community in which to begin studies using regenerative stem cell therapy.

“Initially, I was only hoping that we could get funding for 1,000,000 SNP genomic analysis of a large portion of the town. Now, in addition to that it is actually possible for a large number of individuals within the town to get completely sequenced for free. This opens up enormous possibilities, since we are genetically just different enough from the Icelandic population to have a few new genetic variables, but we don’t have so many new variables that analysis would get bogged down. Further, we are largely from the same stock of genetic material as those individuals who have contributed to the immense Norwegian Biobank, but our residents are exposed to different environmental variables. This variation in environment with a relatively constant genomic background might help us better understand the role of the environment in the creation of the phenome from the genome.”

“Spring Grove’s population is unusually talented and educated for a small town. We have an excellent communications infrastructure and would be a prime location for genomic studies and further analysis of existing databases. In addition, we could serve as a source for controlled studies by regional colleges and university professors and students who would be interested in serious scientific research using the latest high throughput genomic analysis. So, if you are interested in signing up for free sequencing, please do. And if you need help in understanding the process, I can help provide Giants members with resources that will help you to answer the questions involved in the application process.”

Envisioning the Heritage Center

Envisioning an Interactive, Personalized Heritage Center

About a year ago, Giants of the Earth Heritage Center purchased the Historic Ballard House for use as the Heritage Center. The renovation of the Ballard House into the Heritage Center took part in several phases. Phase 1 involved primarily preparing the main room for the visit of the internationally known painter, Sigmund Aarseth. The painter arrived on October 12, 2010. He painted numerous large murals on the walls of the main room. The community rallied behind the effort with large donations.

Recently, the Northwest room was turned into a gift shop extension of Vesterheim. A room for videotaping oral history stories has been set up in the room south of Giants Hall. Genealogy research, including advanced genetic genealogy reasearch is currently on Wednesdays from 10-3:15, followed by Hootenanny. The room itself is gorgeous, and is the perfect place for gatherings such as family reunions, where our genealogical services will be right there so people can find out how everyone is related. Further, groups of people at the family reunion can take 15 minutes to have their treasured family stories recorded by our video specialists, so that these stories can be preserved and shared for future generations of your family.

Mimickery is for unimaginative technicians–Artists are Entrepeneurs by definition

In the rush to set up our Heritage Center, there is a lot of inertia to mimick what has been done elsewhere. This seems to arise out of confusion about the difference between technicians and technology. Everyone likes to think of themselves as artists and not as technicians. If we are not aware of the etymological roots of artists and technicians, we may ourselves mistakenly refer to all people who works with technology as technicians. Because of this there is some resistance to using highly interactive technology that would put monitors and touch screens on the walls. But etymologically, an artist is one poetically creates something new, especially in new mediums. A technician, by contrast, is one who mimicks what has already been done, without ever utilizing his paradigm-smashing imagination. Thus, one who entrepeneurs is actually an artist, even if he or she uses technology to entrepeneur. One who imitates, even if he uses paint, clay, or some other medium that was once used by an artist, is a technician. Another objection might be that technology is intimidating. This need not be the case, if we are willing to work to make the visitor’s interface completely user friendly and if have someone ready at all time to assist older individuals who might not know how to use a mouse or a touchscreen. 

A crucial junction

History has proven that inertia is the stewardship principle of those who miss opportunities. We are at a crucial junction which requires that we set aside time from our frenzied activities for reflection. The extent to which we seize unique opportunities presented by the latest computer technology will make all the difference when people ask themselves 10 years from now whether or not our center kept “in touch” with people and empowered our local and online communities to be poets and create something truly new. Do we want our open community center to revert into another cluttered “musaleum”, complete with kitschy gift shop? Do we want to fill up our welcoming open space with items designed to advance a particular historicist narrative? Or do we want to make it an interactive center that puts each member in the driver’s seat? By putting people in the drivers seat rather than pretending to be some objective historical intercessor, we can facilitate their realization that although no one else will live their lives, love their families, or leave their legacies for them, what they do, or don’t do, profoundly effects the quality of life of others for generations.

We want to be true to our pioneering ancestors, whose principled inflexible committment to the future of their children moved them to break new ground and to continually ask themselves if they were spending the resources entrusted to them in the best way to accomplish their goals. They maintained an absolute committment to fundamental things and a relative committment to that which was relative. We have to ask ourselves–is our job to become what we believe grantgivers want? Is our job to jump through hoops on forms created to evaluate museums created 50-100 years ago to appeal to audiences using the latest technologies available back then? Or is our job to manifest the same principled inflexible committment to future generations in a pioneering way and let them change their forms to catch up with our lead? We have to ask ourselves, before we fill up our space with display cases and “representative” physical items, can we do better? For if we don’t ask this question, we will quickly supplant our unique opportunity to be pioneers in personalized history, because we can’t supply MOTS (more of the same) and still pioneer an interactive heritage center. Doesn’t the world have enough cookie cutter museums and gift shops? We have in our power the ability to make the Heritage Center a community resource and an online international center that pioneers a new type of experience for members and visitors.

The New Paradigm is Personalized Heritage which refuses to merely preach to the choir

What would our “personalized” history entail? Our personalized approach would begin by asking each visitor what they are interested in and allowing them to discover more about that by interacting and contributing to our enormous database. There is a simple rule, keep it fun and welcoming if you want it to grow. We want to welcome visitors by starting out with the premise that they had ancestors who were important. We want to learn with them about their ancestors’ activities and how they fit into our community tree. In a matter of half an hour, we can make a personal connection between them and historical events or people that they never realized they had a connection to.

With the advent of the internet and access to massive databases, we can make our’s both a collaborative and an inclusive historical narrative. Rather than melt everyone together into some generic Spring Grove or Midwest pioneer everyman, who never actually existed, or choose one “representative” or “prominent” person, we can capture every person’s story.  This type of historical preservation and presentation was not feasible prior to the development of contemporary technology. Using this technology we can upload, store, link, and retrieve instantly any of billions of pictures and even videos through the internet. With older technology that stored the actual physical documents or artifacts only, curators were forced to selectively choose what information could be presented and preserved and throw out the rest. This gave immense and inevitably revisionist winnowing power to museum curators to “cherry pick.” Curators at privately funded museums had to effectively say to most people, “Sorry, your grandparents weren’t important enough to merit a place in our museum. Instead of learning about your grandparents, you should come here and learn about so and so’s grandparents, who were important [because their grandchildren donated money to keep this museum running].” Even more dangerous, publicly funded museum curators, in contrast, were given license to create the “everyman” generalizations that were subject to the particular politics and interests of the curator. Fortunately, thanks to today’s technology, we can throw away both of these elitist and generationalist paradigms and preserve the pictures, stories, actual writings, and legacies of all the people who live or have lived in our community.

Personalized Heritage Technology will usher in new types of family reunions

The identity we have, principally with our surnames only, is somewhat outdated: Surprisingly, people who share a surname are frequently less related in Spring Grove than people who don’t share a surname. You might be a second cousin to someone with a different last name and a fourth cousin to someone with the same last name, yet many people don’t even know who their second cousins are if they don’t have the same last name as them. At the center and online, we can now, in an instant, pull up the nearly complete family tree of most of the members of our community, and we can then be reminded of all the relationships that each of us have from all of our maternal sides. Invitations to family reunions at our Heritage Center can be sent out by email or facebook to those who are related to the host or hostess within 3 or 4 degrees of separation, for example, or in many other creative ways designed to remind people how interconnected we all are, rather than grouping people as “Johnsons”, or “Hagens”, or some other last name.

Oral Histories

Many of us in Spring Grove treasure the stories we would hear from the elders in our family or the elders in our community. They would tell us about growing up in the early part of the century. These would include detailed stories, such as how one’s great grandfather would go out and hold the reindeer for Santa on Christmas Eve, so that Santa would come  into the house while “Pa” was outside “holding the reindeer.”  These great stories of our deceased loved ones we wished we had videotaped, because we will never be able to go back and do it again. We certainly could never tell those stories as well as they could. Collectively, we can capture these stories while they are still being told, if community members resolve to continue to support this project with their donations that help us preserve stories for their grandchildren that they will then be able sit down on the couch someday in their homes or at our center and watch with their grandchildren. We want our organization to stay ahead of the curve by reaffirming the worth of all of our members and their family’s stories. We have already videotaped 60 hours of histories of the town as provided by our elderly residents, but we need to do hundreds more in the next year. Especially pressing this year are the stories of our few remaining WWII veterans.

No two visits to our Heritage Center need be alike

We want to provide our visitors with the ability to start with their own family and use our resources to make connections to all sorts of historical events. No two visits to the center need to be alike. Rather than merely creating a museum and allowing some historian to choose exhibits that represent our history in a way that appeals to him or her and have the rest of us endure his or her idiosyncratic. monolithic narrative about the monumental progress that we are-or are not-going through, we can open up the narrative to the little guys. By making use of the digital archives, visitors can summon up immense catalogued resources of their choosing in seconds and present them on a screen. The new interactivity we wish to offer is based upon the realization that frequently the most universal truths are found in the lives of real individuals to which one has a personal connection. The mysterious “typical” or “representative” individuals, that we are led to believe existed at different historical times, could be simply straw-men created by some new revisionist historian who simply wishes to promote his agenda or glamorize his interests. By preserving the stories of real people, monumental historical myths and generalizations can be continuously evaluated in the light of actual evidence. Generalized facts that have been pedantically propagated in the heteronomous environment of educational institutions for the last century can be deconstructed and replaced by the light of parsimonious hypotheses made tenable by actual historical data generated during the multigenerational existence of a sustainable community.

Keeping it real

In making important life decisions, people often draw insight as they reflect on and interpret their own experiences and the stories that convey others’ experience. Thus, the vision that creates future history is made in the development of each person’s interpretation of stories they consider to represent reality. We want to democratize this interpretive, developmental process and remove the possibility that the essential feedback loops that keep the dialectical process healthy are not destroyed by excessive compliance with the demands of a single generation’s majority (which likes to call itself “the public”) or of particular private interests. We want to maintain a balance between public and private interests. When we receive funding–either public or private, we certainly should thank our sources sincerely. In that they contribute to our vision we should recognize  them and help them, but we must make sure that we aren’t backsliding on our inclusive and multigenerational vision in order to promote funding in the near future or out of fear.

Eternal vigilance is the price…

Although we must always we kind, we must also be eternally vigilant in our deliberation of what constitutes heritage, so that the books of wisdom in our libraries will be understood, and so that those who call the public to rational discourse will not be simply a voice crying out in the wilderness. Without real heritage, our children will not be able to discern the difference between the call to principled service of sustainable community and the rhetorical siren songs of post-modernity. 

History has many more facets than any one individual can understand, and there is no reason not to bring in the narratives of all those who have a stake in history, which is everyone. Most importantly, the Heritage Center can be an agora, in which historical narratives of all types can be heard, and people can continually synthesize the narrative that makes most sense to them as they reflect on how the lives of their ancestors affected their own lives, and how their own actions or inactions also limit or expand the freedoms that subsequent generations will have. Ultimately, allowing people to develop an understanding of what constituted good sustainable stewardship in the past may be one of the most effectual means of promoting sustainable stewardship, not just of one generation, or of one branch of humanity, but of the whole tree of human Being. The leaves on the tree of life are for the healing of the nations.

An Interactive and Dynamic Center

I hope we will incorporate interactive and dynamic elements such as work stations, touchscreen monitors, and child friendly interactive screens that allow visitors to interact with our online family tree, which will contain oral histories, genetic information, stories, pictures, videos and more.

What do we think about paternal and grandpaternal guidance in America? We think it would be a good thing.

Genealogical research teaches us how to make prudent life decisions within the small windows of opportunity provided by each human life. The great irony these days is that by the time we are old enough to appreciate the importance of heritage studies, most of our major decisions have already been made–with respect to marriage, children, vocation, etc.

This was not always the case. At one time children learned the stories of their ancestors’ experience as they sat around the fires at night. Therefore, the most important change that needs to happen to the genealogical community is to reconnect with the younger generations. If we fail to make our Heritage Center youth-friendly, we will only be providing more of the same type of museum that has preached to the choir but neglected the masses for a hundred years. There is a tragic irony in turning a Heritage Center into a non-child friendly environment, filled with items too valuable to interact with at a child’s level, so that children are unwelcome or constantly scolded within our center. Children are the future of existence and as such they will someday be the only people who had a personal connection to us, for we will have passed away, save for the legacies we have left. Each one of our children is more valuable than any material object in existence. “Let the little children come…” for they are the essence of the future in which the past can be preserved. We should not store up our riches in objects, which decay, but in preserving that which nurtures the development of each little miracle born into our community. Having said that we must make our center child friendly, it is also important to note that we do not wish to make it friendly to the point that we water down our message so much that there is none. If we simply provide the same type of youth activities that youths can get anywhere, then we have only made work for ourselves without accomplishing anything. Further, we never want to draw youth away from another organizations good event, but we want cooperate with all other community empowering organizations, to co-sponsor everything, endorse, and publicize others events, and to fill in where we see a heritage need. If we try to do everything, we will never accomplish our vision of creating a complete community family tree.

The Tree comes first, because it makes the personalized approach possible

Once that tree is complete, our museum can then be as specialized or generalized as members wish, since our extremely large and rapidly growing genealogical database provides the perfect framework for indexing and sharing digitized video, audio, pictures, and other documents related to any given family, event, or topic in our extended community. Why should we choose who are the prominent families in Spring Grove when technology allows us to preserve the pictures and legacies of all of our families? With limited resources, it is only fair to begin researching the stories of the ancesors of those who contribute to our heritage center. However, we ought never to forget that history was caused by the interaction of all people’s ancestors, and not just those who have donated to us. Secondly, we must always remember that heritage is is categorically different than any particular skill or item. It cannot be bought in a gift shop. It cannot be purchased like indulgences. It cannot be made in a craft class. Heritage is something that isn’t given to you in a perfect state. Each person inherits conditioning and momentum–but these are not stewardship heritage. Each person may choose to accept, to resist, or to yield to and then overcome that momentum through critical reflection, and conscious self-reconditioning.

Genealogy empowers modesty and service

Some people are turned off by genealogy because they think it is elitist. While at first, this might seem to be the case, experience shows that genealogy humbles the proud and inspires the poor in spirit. That is because, when anyone really studies it, they realize how interrelated everyone is. No one is so superior that they don’t have a horse thief or someone similar in their ancestry. No one is so base as to lack a royal ancestor if they go back far enough. Some of us might have lost the written trail, but genetic genealogy changes everything. Our genetic analysis is demonstrating the interconnectedness of the town as well as reaching out to distant cousins across the globe. Using genetic technology, we can help someone trace their ancestors back with incredible accuracy to any place in the world–right down to the villages in Europe, Asia, or Africa that they came from. That is truly an inclusive genealogical service. Stay tuned for the upcoming videos Giants is preparing, modeled after “Who do you think you are?” television series that will document the experiences of members of the Spring Grove community as our genetic analysis answers the question “Where’d you get your genes?”



Please, don’t throw away those old images in your attic. Even if you don’t know, right now, who they are, WE WILL HELP YOU IDENTIFY AND PRESERVE THEM, at some point.

Georgia Rosendahl shares her great knowledge of Spring Grove's family tree with others at Spring Grove's Uffda Fest.

Ideally, you have a scanner and you can scan the images and submit them to this site in the Blog. Alternatively, you can become a member of ancestry.com and preserve these photos on that site.

Eventually, we are working to create a physical place where you can bring your old images and scan them. We are hoping to have an individual there who will be of assistance to you in preserving and classifying those images which we hope to use in the creation of a Spring Grove Bygdebok, or book about our community and all the families and individuals who have ever been a part of our community.