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Tonseths in S. Dakota - 1935

While researching my great-grandmother Edna (Sandven) Tonseth, I came across the 1935 South Dakota state census. It is not indexed, but was searchable in Each person in the census had a card filled out by the enumerator, and the information was priceless. My great-grandma Edna was living in Canton, with her 3 sons and without my great-grandfather, Karsten. At that time, he was living in Long Beach, California and the couple were separated. The image of her card is here so you can see the kind of information that it includes.

"South Dakota State Census, 1935," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 18 February 2021), Robert Tonseth, ward 1, Lincoln, South Dakota; citing p. 712, State Historical Society, Pierre; FHL microfilm 2,339,664.

Since I was browsing the collection by name, I noticed that besides my 4 family members, Edna, Waldemar, Richard and Robert Tonseth, there were 11 other people in a different county with the last name of Tonseth! I couldn't resist pulling down all their cards and doing a bit of digging on them.

The names of the other people with the last name of Tonseth, and some of their details on the 1935 Census are:

This group of Tonseths lived in a different county, Minnehaha, so I am pretty sure my Tonseth family didn't know about them. I wanted to find out who they were because it is an unusual last name with a good chance that I am related to them. I built a family tree for this group starting with Albert Tonseth(58), Minnie's husband, who was living with Julius (47M) and Alma (30F). Julius is the younger brother of Albert, and Alma is the daughter of Albert and Minnie. After a bit of work, I was able to see that the whole clan is related through one couple who were born in Roros, Norway and emigrated to the USA in 1868.

  • Peder (Peter) Cornelius Tonseth (1841-1933) and his wife

  • Marie Dakbaken (1848-1926)

They were married in 1873 in the USA and had 8 children, of which 6 survived to adulthood. Here is a picture of Peter and 3 of his sons, and isn't his beard amazing?

Olaf, Albert, Peter and Julius Tonseth

(Photo shared by Daniel Price,, 25 Sep 2015

All of the people on the chart, except for my family, are descendants of this couple from Roros. Their family tree is below.

After building out their family tree, here is the same census chart with the relationships to the common couple, Peter and Marie Tonseth as well as to each other.

Now for the question that started this quest, is my Tonseth family related to this family? It is possible that we share a common ancestor since my family originated from Roros too. The name Peder Cornelius, and Cornelius Peder, is common in my tree, indicating a potential common male ancestor. But I didn't find enough evidence in the time I gave myself to do this research, to prove or disprove a relationship, so for now, it is undecided. Genealogy doesn't always resolve your mysteries in neat packages with bows on it, which is why we keep digging!

You may be wondering about the two brothers, Albert and Olaf that married two sisters, Mina and Josie and what the relationship of their children (Alma & Palmer) would be. They would share more DNA than regular first cousins, and the term for their relationship is "double first cousins." (Not very original I know!) In their generation, two daughters of John & Bertine Tonseth also married two brothers. Demonstrating that this is a common occurrence in small, rural communities. The grandchildren of Peter & Marie were the last generation to be taught school in Norwegian, attend a Norwegian language church and most likely spoke Norwegian at home. The use of Norwegian died out after that generation, which future generations only speaking English, which is unfortunate. There is evidence that my grandfather and his brothers spoke Norwegian, but it wasn't taught to any of their children.

This has been a fun adventure into an adjacent Tonseth family! Contact me if you are interested in researching your own family tree.

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