Just when I thought I had hit a dead end, I found a website via Rootsweb to a state-by-state death index. I clicked on Minnesota, put in Johanna's maiden name, and clicked the search button. Surprise! The first hit was for Johanna, naming the newspaper holding her death notice, along with the newspaper date, page, and column. Her death notice gave enough information for me to learn who her parents were, as well as a little about her life.
Her story is this. Johanna and Charles lived with her father for awhile after her mother's death in 1918, then they moved on to St. Paul. While they were living in St. Paul, Charles went to a wilderness area near Deer River and got a home ready for his family. Soon after, Johanna and the children joined Charles at their new home. She was there less than two weeks when she got diphtheria and died.
I know from Grandpa's stories that the years following his mother's death were difficult. Our family history has been well documented with Grandpa's accounts of losing his mother, growing up with a cruel foster father, and lessons learned from life circumstances that had had no control over. My grandfather often said the adversity he experienced while growing up taught him how not to treat people.
Researching my past has helped me to find a new connection with my family, especially with those who are long gone. My goal is to write some short stories on family members as I uncover details of their lives. Often times the best characters are based on real people and real situations.
I am preparing to send out some more query letters and also working on my second novel.
Happy writing to all.