Genealogist Betty Rockswold (1922-2009)
Excerpts from the article by Aaron Hanson
Published in the Budstikken, May 2008
Betty was a member of the Samband for 29 years, and served as its genealogist for 22 years. In her over two decades of service, she was instrumental in building the Samband's substantial collection of genealogical resources. Among her accomplishments as genealogist were indexing Tore Ey's book, Vang og Slider. She also wrote articles about Nroway and Norwegian customs for the Budstikken, made contributions to the Genealogical Helper, and wrote 26 genealogical family books.
Although Betty's accomplishments as a researcher and collector are impressive, even astounding, I think she will be remembered even more for the manner in which she interacted with people. When people approached her in the genealogy room at the stevne, her face would light up and she would eagerly help them find the information they sought. When people wrote to her at home requesting ancestral information, she would spend hours looking up names and dates and then mail the information to them. She loved to surprise people with the amount of information she collected. And she didn't ask for financial payment for herself - only for charts, photocopying and postage. In her letters, she included a note sating that if people wanted to make a contribution they could make a donation to the Valdres Samband Genealogy Fund.
Betty Lou Thoen was born on August 12, 1922 in Minneapolis, to parents Virgil Newton Thoen and Olivia Ida (Swanson) Thoen. Her mother was Swedish, but her father was of Norwegian descent. She could trace her Valdres roots to her great-great-great-grandmother GJertrud Gulliksdatter, who was born in Vang, Valdres in 1817. Her parents were Gullik Knudsen Helle and Sigri Tomasdatter Torstad.
Betty married Joel Green during World War II, who was a flight instructor in the Air Force in Georgia. They had two children: Joel, Jr. and Jann Lee Green. This marriage ended in divorce, and in 1975 Betty married Richard Thistlethwaite, who died suddenly in 1979. In 1982, Betty met Palmer Rockswold at the Seven Lag Stevne held that year in Decorah, Iowa. Betty was selling banquet tickets and Palmer was autographing his book, Per. On February 11, 1984, they were married. They lived in Eagan MN until 2007, when they both moved to a care unit in Edina.Her husband of nearly 24 years, E. Palmer Rockswold, noted that Betty was "The nicest person I ever met." He added, "Everyone that really knew Betty loved her."
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Last updated: February 24, 2018
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