Need help with American sources.

+8 votes

My great grandfather moved to America a month before his daughter/my grandmother was born, never to be heard from again. I've been trying to find out about his destiny getting only snippets of information here and there.

He sailed from Bergen, Norway 13 Dec 1916 arriving at Ellis Island 24 Dec 1916 with destination West Duluth, Minnesota.

Next I find someone who could be the same person in the 1929 census of Alaska.

The death certificate, if it turns out to be the same person, is raising lots of questions:

1. Is this a homeless person with all the unknowns starting with the social security number?

2. The address 1700 6th south ave in Seattle takes me to what today is an industrial area. Could there have been some sort of residence there in 1940?

3. Cause of death "ingested poison, type unknown". Could this be some sort of dangerous alcohol?

WikiTree profile: Rakel Elisabeth Niskakoski
in Genealogy Help by Juha Soini G2G6 Mach 9 (96.8k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

4 Answers

+9 votes
Best answer

I've been trying to locate the Sanborn's Fire Insurance Maps for Seattle, Washington to answer what structured were located in the industrial areas of 6th Ave. South.  As you know, 6th Ave. changes to 6th Ave. South once it goes past Yesler.  In the area just west of the "International District" and before 1942 Nihonmachi or the Japanese district, there was a large "Hooverville" or extemporized migrant encampment in the area of the railroads near the Kingdome, since torn down.

That is too far north for 6th Ave. S. unfortunately.  The Library of Congress does not seem to have the maps digitized, but perhaps one of the Universities like UW has them at one of the libraries?

You also might see if there was some kind of King County inquest?  Sometimes when a deceased person was found, particularly in this case, a man who may have ingested some type of poison/poisonous alcohol, etc.? The King County Clerk might have information about how to locate inquests from that time period.


Midori Okazaki


Puget Sound Regional Archives

3000 Landerholm Circle SE

Bellevue, WA 98007



Good luck!  Historically there was a "skid row" along Yesler.

I hope you can find more details about your missing ancestor, and whether or not this unfortunate decedent is your ancestor.

by Dave Carlson G2G2 (2.1k points)
selected by Betty Tindle
History Professor James Gregory has several ethnic and labor history projects with a lot of informative historical maps of Seattle.


Within those, there may be some details of interest to your assemblage of the life and labor and times of your ancestor back when Seattle was the "southern-most city of Alaska."

Ballard for a very long time was an ethnic enclave of Germans and Scandinavians--mostly Norwegians and Swedes.  These days, the ethnic character is mostly subsumed under more recent, rapid demographic changes, but there were still a lot of people from western Norway there in the 1980s and 1990s.

This map from 1930 also might give some context.  It does look like the area was industrial at that point too.  A lot of steel companies in that area. 

The U.S. Immigrant Station and Assay Office was fairly close to there -- just a couple blocks north.

+8 votes
Juha, this is a terribly sad profile.  I think you have done a remarkable job finding sources for Alex Walenius, or Alexis Mathias Valenius (as in the Emigration record).  In looking at the death certificate, I think the fact that the county cremated him definitely suggests that he was homeless at the time of his death.  A county would cremate him only if they could find no family to be responsible for the costs of his burial or cremation.  Also, the fact that the death certificate cites an address instead of the name of a hospital or other institution also suggests that he was found there at the time of his death and was not under medical supervision.  There also appears to have been an autopsy, which would have happened only if he was not under medical supervision at the time or the death was suspicious.

I am not familiar with Seattle, so hopefully another WikiTreer will have some information about whether or not that area was industrial at the time of his death.
by Edie Kohutek G2G6 Mach 7 (74.6k points)
+6 votes
It does appear that the man in the death certificate was unknown to anyone, which is not quite the same thing as homeless, but he certainly could have been. If he was a fisherman he might have lodged at some seaman's hostel.  

I would think if he died of alcohol poisoning the coroner would have been able to determine that as the cause of death. Perhaps he did swallow some type of poison, maybe a suicide?

I don't think that there is anything that would 'prove' that this was your great grandfather. It might be, but then again it might not be. If you were to apply the GPS to this it would not pass.
by Jeanie Roberts G2G6 Pilot (126k points)
When I was thinking alcohol, I had the wide spectrum of alcohols, like methanol, in mind as something that a poor alcoholic would ingest as a substitute for alcoholic bewerages.
True,  I didn't think of that.
+5 votes
Does anyone have a subscription to MyHeritage?  There are two profiles on there for this profile.  It says the names of parents are listed.  One of the profiles has the same picture on the profile as the picture here on Wikitree.

I also wondered if Aleksi would have changed his name to Alex or Alec?

I cannot afford to pay for a subscription.  I had to buy a new car and my sales tax are due next week. ;(
by Betty Tindle G2G6 Mach 7 (70.8k points)
Those profiles are mine and my cousins. :)

I was mostly interested in the life he had in America. If there is a way to tie these snippets of information together.
I was hoping that if your great grandfather was on the tree it might lead somewhere in the U.S.. I guess they can't help Juha! :(  I looked on Ancestry, can't even find the passenger list you have.
Please use the links I provided above in my original question.

I meant that I thought there would be more information on the two profiles I saw without realizing they belonged to you and your cousin, the name comment was because I didn't think to add it to my comment about the two profiles.  (I should have edited it)
Sorry, we are talking about two different things. I thought you wanted to see the documents already found. :)
No, it is ok Juha.  I work at night and had been up all night at this point.  In trying to help I was in too much of a hurry. ;)

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