MyHeritage: From notebooks to an online tree

Marcia Hanson in Zermatt, Switzerland, June 2011
Marcia Hanson in Zermatt, Switzerland, June 2011

Thirty years ago, MyHeritage member Marcia K. Hanson, now 64, began gathering family information:

I talked to all the old family I could find (I began this when I was in my late 30s) and wrote down their stories. The stories were priceless, many were funny. It gave me an appreciation of who they were and the sacrifices they made to give their family a better life.

Marcia describes herself as a retired introvert who likes history, loves puzzles and is good with details. She enjoys having family stay in touch and loves to share family stories gathered during her research. Also an active volunteer, an avid reader and an average golfer, Marcia is certainly a busy woman.

Wyoming-born, the retired retailer lives in Minnesota with her husband, two married step-sons and two granddaughters. She has a BS (Marketing) from Drake University.

She’s always been interested in her family, family stories and history, but when she attended a genealogy conference with her mother-in-law, she got “hooked.”

I started researching all 16 lines of my husband’s and my families. From there we put together two big family reunions and have shared the genealogy with our families. I originally did all this by hand and snail mail, without the internet! I’ve had the information sitting in three-ring binders for years.

Parts of my family line will end with me, so it is gratifying to have family history “published” online.

Before joining MyHeritage in 2011, all the family information – history, stories and pictures – was kept in notebooks on Marcia’s bookshelf.

I’ve felt guilty that I have all this knowledge and information and haven’t been able to share it.  Now I can!  I love having this place where the extended family can share in the history we’ve uncovered, can see the family photos, particularly the really old ones. It’s great to see others in the family use the site and respond to each other’s calendar alerts.

Along the way, she’s learned much about her family’s history, and history, in general.

I learned about the migration of Germans who populated the steppes of Russia during Napolean’s campaigns and the reign of Catherine the Great, and how those migrants immigrated to the US, following the railroad and free land. I discovered that one small farming community in Mecklenburg Schwerin, Germany became one small farming community in central Minnesota.

She also found that it was common for soldiers – during the American Revolution – to desert the army to help harvest the crops, and would then return to their unit.

The Hanson family in Palm Springs, CA, January 2009. From left: Marcia, Harlan (husband), Scott (son), Jen (Scott's wife), Mark (son), Kate (
The Hanson family in Palm Springs, CA, January 2009. From left: Marcia, husband Harlan, son Scott (son) and his wife Jen, son Mark and his wife Kate.

As for surprises, Marcia discovered that one of her mother’s ancestors was a sheriff at the Tower of London (“probably not a nice guy”). She learned that 100 years – on the exact day and month – after her husband’s grandfather arrived in the US, his great-grandson graduated from high school.

Her family has always supported and encouraged her research into the family history, but while they really enjoy the results, they don’t enjoy the process that much.

My mother-in-law, Lorraine Rose Block Hanson, worked on the family history; my uncle, Harry Kline, helped on my paternal line. My maternal grandmother, Lora Norwood Christie Larsen, did some work very early, to prove her status as a Daughter of the American Revolution.

Several family members are using the site to send greetings on special days. I have started communicating with people I don’t know who are researching the same lines. Some are in the US, one in Canada and some in Norway.

Currently, the family tree has more than 8,300 individuals. Relatives live in the US, Canada, England  and Norway.

Marcia has been in e-mail contact with several related people that she has never met, but expects that soon she will begin to meet some in person. She is also now in closer contact with cousins.

I know that leaving this information will give future generations a sense of the people who came before them and who sacrificed to give them opportunities.

Marcia says that they had a family reunion for her Klein-Kline Family in Bismarck, North Dakota, in 1991. More than 700 people, on her father’s side, attended the event. The attendee who came the farthest was from Japan, and the youngest was only one week old. Many didn’t know how they were related, and some didn’t know they had any relatives.

We used handwritten charts to show them how they fit into the family tree.  People are still talking about that reunion 20 years later!

She told MyHeritage that her father-in-law, Alvin Raymond Hanson, had lost track of one of his older brothers – one of 11 siblings – and deeply regretted it.

When he was dying, he made me promise that we would find his descendants and welcome them into the family. We found them, they knew nothing about their father’s family and they didn’t know they were of Norwegian descent. They came to the Hanson family reunion we held in 2002 and were thrilled to meet family. The Hanson family came from Mo-I-Rana, Norway, and settled in Hawick, Minnesota. The new-found relatives visited several times and were grateful for the family history book we compiled.

This is a legacy that I am proud to leave for the family. Now that it is online, I can!


Thanksgiving 2011 with our 2 month old granddaughters; Marcia holding her granddaughter Solveig and Kate (daughter-in-law) holding Zelie.
Marcia's 2-month-old grandaughters at their first Thanksgiving: Marcia (left) holds Solveig, while daughter-in-law Kate holds Zelie.

Marcia shared some tips for those beginning their research:

Start soon!  Talk to all the older relatives you can find; ask them about their stories. Keep working at it, tell everyone in the family you’re working on it, ask for their help and ask them to send family announcements. Save your family Christmas cards, particularly the ones with photos!

What a great story, Marcia. Thank you for sharing it with MyHeritage and our readers.

What’s your family history story? We’d like to learn about your experiences. Do let us know in the comments below.

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  • Karen Wright

    February 15, 2014

    My maternal grandmother, Josephine Norwood, may have been Lora Norwood Christie Larsen’s cousin, but I am not sure how far removed. I can trace a direct line to Francis Norwood Jr. and Francis Norwood Sr. Can you tell me more about Lora Norwood Christie Larsen?