The Old Geezer: Our country of immigrants


Walt Trandum

For all the years I have been writing these columns I have tried to keep them from being political other than a few remarks now and then. Right now the big controversy seems to be tied to immigration matters.   There are those who want it to slow down or go away and others who are not that worried. All this brings me to some observations that I have made over the years.

Every one of us has some immigration in our a family histories. That would be with the exception of the Native Americans who got here first. Every story has a different twist and for some it has not been possible to trace the action back to the beginning.   There are sources you can go to and maybe get some information, but I think what has a come from my own family is pretty fascinating .

My mother’s last name was Nellis and I have in my possession a hand

written document that her oldest sister probably copied from some place. It goes back to the 1700’s when three Nellis boys came to America. They were part of a contingent of Germans who were brought here to build ships and it didn’t work out. One of them stayed in the area of the Hudson river and one went to Canada. The other one went to Pennsylvania. My mother always claimed she was part Pennsylvania Dutch along with English and Irish. Her parents however, came down from Canada when her eldest sister was born shortly after they crossed the border There were eventually ten children all of them US Citizens. Mom was number nine. I told her the large family was because they didn’t have television and she said I was naughty!

My Father’s side came from Norway. His dad was one of three Jenson boys who came to America and added the Trandum to their names. That was the name of the place in Norway where they were born. An older brother inherited the family farm the other boys had to find work. Grandpa was a Millwright and eventually built and operated several saw mills in the Issaquah area east of Seattle. His brothers worked elsewhere and one of them was killed in an accident while working on the digging of the ship canal connecting Lake Washington with Puget Sound.

With all what I have related I want to add that we along with all other relatives were very proud of our heritage and the fact we were US Citizens. I remember the wonderful food at Grandma Trandums’s home at Christmas time even with a recipe book of Norwegian foods I have never been able to replicate what I remember when I was a wee lad.

I find it interesting that my dad told me nobody in his family was allowed to converse in Norwegian, since they were in America, that was their language in this country where they had been accepted. My dad could speak like a Norwegian but said he learned most of it while working in various mills and other places where the workers didn’t know much English.

On Mother’s side of the family the holiday gatherings were large and the sisters all vied to out do one another with holiday treats. Singing Christmas carols and remembering old jokes and sayings kept everyone happy. My cousins all served in the service with one of them spending the whole war hiding in the jungles of the Philippines. He was listed as MIA and then came home to marry his college sweetheart who had waited for him all that time.

A sad note is that I am the oldest survivor of my generation of the Trandum family and one of only two still living in the Nellis family. I believe I am the patriarch of the Trandum family on both sides of the world. I have written histories of both families and distributed them to cousins and my personal family with the hope the history will be preserved and they will all continue to serve our country in every way that we can. It all happened because this was a place where immigrants could come and prosper while leaving their marks on our proud history.