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Michele Bachmann Lies About Her Own Family History To Sound More Iowan

By       Message Chris Rodda     Permalink
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But it's not just where these events occurred that Bachmann is lying about in her revisionist version of her "Iwegian" family history. According to Bachmann, her ancestors "kept going, and they persevered, and they were people of faith." But did her faithful ancestors really persevere and keep going? Well, no. They were among the settlers written about in the History of southeastern Dakota who "abandoned the Territory for the purpose of making homes elsewhere." That's how Melchior and Martha Munson ended up in Iowa -- seven years after they came to America. By the time the Munsons abandoned the Dakota Territory in 1864, there was a well established Norwegian community in Chickasaw County, Iowa, so that's where they stopped and resettled. Clearly, Iowa was never the intended destination of Bachmann's great-great-great grandfather and grandmother when they left Norway in 1857, as she claims.

Bachmann's revisionist version of her family history also makes it sound not only like her ancestors' original destination was Iowa, but that they were among the first Norwegians to venture there, and that the impetus for their decision to go there was a letter referred to as the "Muskego manifesto." This is a load of bull. First of all, the Muskego manifesto came from Wisconsin, not Iowa. Second, there were a hell of a lot more than "about eighty Norwegians that went ahead of" Bachmann's great-great-great grandparents. The eighty who signed this letter that, according to Bachmann, inspired her ancestors to follow were just eighty out of thousands of Norwegian immigrants who were already in Wisconsin. Norwegians began arriving in Wisconsin in 1836. By 1850, seven years before Bachmann's ancestors arrived, there were over 8,000 Norwegians in the state, and by 1860 there were about 44,000. And finally, the Muskego manifesto was written in 1845, twelve years before the Munsons decided to leave Norway. It was one of many letters written by Norwegian immigrants in the mid-1840s that were published in the newspapers in Norway. What was going on was a battle of pro-emigration and anti-emigration letters in the press. There were letters complaining about everything from taxes to rattlesnakes to Mormons, and imploring friends and relatives to forget about coming to America, and other letters, like the Muskego manifesto, disputing the claims in the anti-emigration letters and encouraging Norwegians to emigrate.(7) Besides the fact that these letters came from Wisconsin, and not from Iowa, are we seriously supposed to believe that this letter that Melchior and Martha Munson might have seen printed in a newspaper in 1845 is what made them suddenly decide to pick up and leave Norway twelve years later in 1857? This ludicrous connection is undoubtedly just something that Bachmann concocted after stumbling across the Muskego manifesto in her "research."

Now, getting back to that 7th generation claim that made me suspicious of Bachmann's whole story in the first place.

The Munsons were Bachmann's paternal grandmother's branch of the family. Bachmann's father, David John Amble, born in Minnesota in 1929,(8) was the son of Anna T. Munson.

Anna T. Munson, born in Kansas in 1903, was the daughter of Thomas Wilhelm Munson. (Anna T. Munson lived in Iowa from 1905 until she married Bachmann's grandfather, Jesse Alvin Amble, in 1927, and moved to Minnesota, where he was born and raised.)(9)

Thomas Wilhelm Munson, born in 1880 in Chickasaw County, Iowa, was the son of Halvor Munson.(10) (Thomas Wilhelm Munson moved to Kansas shortly after getting married in 1902, but moved back to Iowa in 1905, which is why Bachmann's grandmother, Anna, was born in Kansas.)

Halvor Munson, born in Norway in 1846, was the son of Melchior and Martha Munson, and was one of their five children who immigrated to Wisconsin with them in 1857.(11) (Halvor Munson was fifteen years old when the family moved from Wisconsin to the Dakota Territory in 1861. He shortly thereafter joined the Union Army, and served for three years, after which he worked for the government for another three years. He did not move with his parents to Iowa in 1864, but moved there three years later in 1867.)

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So, no matter how you count it, Bachmann is not 7th generation. If you consider the first generation to be the first ancestor who was born in America, as most people do, Bachman would be 4th generation. If you allow for the ambiguity of the term "first generation" to include the immigrant ancestor, and count her great-great grandfather Halvor Munson, who came from Norway as a child, she's 5th generation. And if you count Melchior and Martha, she's 6th generation. Still one short of seven.

In addition to lying about her family history In her speech in Iowa, Bachmann, who actually was born in Iowa, but moved to Minnesota as a child, also made it clear that she herself was an Iowan, saying, "I was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and grew up in Waterloo. I grew up in Cedar Falls." But during her 2008 campaign for reelection in Minnesota, when it was more advantageous for her to be a Minnesotan, her campaign website emphasized her Minnesota roots with a section on its "About" page titled "Rooted in Minnesota," which began, "Michele grew up in Anoka."

If Bachmann's presidential aspirations don't work out and she has settle for running for reelection to Congress, I wonder how her constituents in Minnesota will feel about her denouncing her Minnesota roots in favor of being an Iowan.

1. 1860 Federal Census; Census Place: Utica, Crawford, Wisconsin; Roll: M653_1402; Page: 914; Image: 188; Family History Library Film: 805402. (Click here to view census page image.)
2. Account of Martha Munson Steensland, daughter of Muns Munson, in Melchior and Martha Munson Family History, 1812-1989. Muns Munson was one of two children born to Melchior and Martha Munson after they arrived in Wisconsin. According to his daughter's account, Muns, who was born in 1858, was three years old when the family left Wisconsin for the Dakota Territory, and seven years old when they left the Dakota Territory and resettled in Iowa, making their years in the Dakota Territory 1861-1864, dates which correspond with several other sources.
3. James S. Foster, Outlines of History of the Territory of Dakota and Emigrant's Guide to the Free Lands of the Northwest, (Yankton, Dakota Territory, 1870), 11.
4. ibid., 19.
5. History of Southeastern Dakota: Its Settlement and Growth, (Sioux City, Iowa: Western Publishing Company, 1881), 21.
6. ibid., 24.
7. A selection of these letters, including the Muskego manifesto, can be found in Land of Their Choice: The Immigrants Write Home, (Minneapolis, MN: The University of Minnesota Press, 1955).
8. 1930 Federal Census; Census Place: Adams, Mower, Minnesota; Roll: 1108; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 1; Image: 578.0. (Click here to view census page image.)
9. 1910 Federal Census; Census Place: Jacksonville, Chickasaw, Iowa; Roll: T624_396; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0045; Image: 1136; FHL Number: 1374409. (Click here to view census page image.)
10. ibid.
11. 1860 Federal Census; Census Place: Utica, Crawford, Wisconsin; Roll: M653_1402; Page: 914; Image: 188; Family History Library Film: 805402. (Click here to view census page image - the handwriting is hard to read, but Halvor is the 14 year old son listed.)

*I had originally said here that Bachmann being 7th generation would be mathematically impossible unless her ancestors were all having children when they were still children. This statement  has been contested on another blog, so, to avoid any harping on this point that would detract from the larger point of my article, I've changed "impossible" to "improbable." To clarify my original statement, knowing that Bachmann's parents weren't teenagers when they spawned her, and counting the first American-born generation as the first generation, all of Bachmann's ancestors preceding her father would have had to have had children as teenagers, the chances of which are infinitesimally small.

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Chris Rodda is the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), and the author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History.

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