Grave obsessions

In memory of James W. Christopherson
People in our lives have the ability to impact us in big ways we cannot anticipate. For me, James W. Christopherson was one of those people.

Jim embraced technology. He was a giving genealogist, sharing his research freely. And in the early 1990s, he submitted a public post to the Family History Library seeking to collaborate with others researching the Bursley line. As I recall, only his mailing address was listed, and thus began a series of correspondence between us.


Note from Jim in 1992 talking about my 2x great grandmother, Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, who was the younger sister of his great grandmother, Susan (Bursley) Smallen.

I was in my mid-20s at the time, and so Jim, born nearly three decades before me, was far ahead of me in his family history research. Yet, he freely shared what he knew about our shared Bursley family line. My mother’s third cousin, we were both descended from Benjamin Bursley and his wife Cynthia.

It was Jim who shared with me Cynthia’s maiden name (Day), and provided me with her death record and probate records. He sent me descendancy reports from his genealogy database, which was quite a novel thing in the early ‘90s when home computers weren’t yet prolific and software for hobbies was just in its infancy!

When Jim and his wife, Sharon, drove cross country touring the United States, he left his home in Connecticut and made a stop to see me in Southern California where I lived at that time. We had a nice visit and would periodically touch bases with each other throughout the years.

I didn’t meet Jim again for nearly two decades.  John Bursley (another of our cousins), Jim and I had been collaborating on our Bursley family. Heading to New England on a research trip, I had planned to stop in Farmington, Maine, where our Bursleys lived. Jim and Sharon met my husband and I there at the Farmington Historical Society where we spent several hours looking at old daybooks, ledgers, newspapers and other manuscripts. We were in a genealogist’s heaven!  After a quick lunch at a nearby restaurant, we went across the street to the Franklin County Registry of Deeds and found records of land transactions made by our Bursley relatives.


Obituary of our ancestor, Lemuel Bursley.  This was one of many awesome items Jim and I found at the Farmington (Maine) Historical Society that June day in 2011

Jim and I occasionally corresponded over the next few years, but curiously, in the last couple of years, he stopped replying to my emails. Recently when I saw his old, archived messages, I began to worry that perhaps he was now sleeping with our ancestors. I was right.

What follows is his obituary, published in the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant 22 November 2020, p. B4:

James W. Christopherson, 83, of West Hartford, beloved husband to Sharon M. (Sackrison) Christopherson, is now standing before the throne of God, adding his beautiful tenor voice to the voices of the saints and the angels in the heavenly choir, praising his Lord and Savior. He passed away on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. James was born in Minneapolis, MN on September 3, 1937, son to the late Wesley A. and Myrna P. (Smallen) Christopherson.

Jim was employed by Hamilton Standard immediately after graduating from the University of Minnesota, first as a mechanical engineer and then as senior system analyst, until the time of his retirement. In his free time, Jim loved the outdoors, especially his frequent camping trips to Maine with his family. He also enjoyed traveling and always referred back to his genealogy discoveries and findings in Norway. The information he found out about his past and family lead him to many interactions with distant relatives. Jim was an outstanding husband, father and grandfather, always providing for them and encouraging them to the best of his abilities. Jim also had a beautiful tenor voice, and at one time sang in the Hartford Opera Company chorus. More recently he enjoyed singing with the Around Town Singers & Orchestra in Suffield. He also was a member of the Windsor Locks Congregational Church and sung in their choir for many years. In addition to his wife, Jim is survived by three children, Elizabeth Huber and her husband Tom of Monmouth, ME, John Christopherson and his wife Elyse of Windsor and Dianna Aprea and her husband Mark of Newington; a daughter-in-law Maxine Christopherson of Windsor; 13 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; two brothers, Joel and Jeffrey Christopherson, both of Minnesota, and a sister Roberta Taylor of Michigan. Jim was predeceased by both parents; his son, Robert Christopherson and two brothers, John and Jerald Christopherson.

Rest in peace, Jim!  You will be missed!