Stories from Norway…

Here is the first page of the bydebøk that starts the
journey into my Amundsen family line.

One day last fall I spent a few hours online trying to find a way to purchase the bygdebøker for Ullensvang in Norway. This is where Amund Amundson came from. I had looked at these books while in Salt Lake City, but I wanted my own set to mark up to my hearts content, and because I am unable to interlibrary loan them. (So started a crazy, and expensive, process that finally ended two weeks ago–but that’s not important now.)

Anyway, I found a museum in Norway that I could purchase the books from, and the two volumes arrived after Christmas. Added incentive for my purchasing the books from the museum was that they would also send me a .pdf file of the english translation of the books. No surprise to anyone that knows me, but I don’t speak, write, or understand Norwegian. In no time at all I was carefully going through the two volumes and entering data into my family tree.

It took a good week, but I have finally filled out the family tree on Amund’s side. Now, I didn’t willy-nilly accept the data from the books, because that would be foolish. Once I had all the information entered into my database I proceeded to find the original vital records to confirm and compare. I have to say that these particular volumes of bygdebøker, are very accurate when compared to the original source material. I found very few errors, and those found were minor date issues.

Not only do the bygdebøker give information on: who is living on the farm, who married who, when were folks were born or died etc.; they also share bits of history that are known about the families and the farms. So that is what I will am sharing today. In no particular order.

  • Around 1650 while celebrating at a christening feast in Jåstad, Samson Aslakson of Åse was stabbed to death by an easterling[?]. (I have no idea if the term is correct or just translated improperly). Possibly a little too much partying. He left a widow, Guro Oldsdatter, and three children of whom Ola Samsonson is our ancestor. 
  • Sjur Ivarson is believed to have said, when his future wife, Marita Olsdatter, was carried to her baptism, about 1763, “There they come with she who shall be my wife.” She was 20 years younger than him. But true to his word when she came of age, he came a-courting. But apparently he was taking a bit too long to come to the point so Marita gave him a little push. “And I have never regretted it.” she said later, “I have been as lucky as a person can be.” Sjur in his youth served at Captain Knagenhjelm’s at Helleland, where he became interested in the fruit cultivation industry and proceeded to become a pioneer in business. 
  • Helga Simonsdatter, born around 1658, was known as “beautiful Helga.” She was the last “light girl” where on St. Lucy’s Day, (in Scandinavia Lucy is called Lucia), she is represented as a woman in a white dress and red sash with a crown or wreath of candles on her head.
  • Erling Jonson, born in the mid to latter part of the 1500s, is believed to have made violins or fiddles. There was one in the Valdres Museum with the initials E.J.S., but it was destroyed in a fire.

Fiddles from Norway made in the 1600s, possibly like the one Erling is thought to have made.
  • Tore Olson, born 1695, was conscripted as a soldier in 1715. “Died in 1742. Killed by a rock.” (Sorry but this one makes me crack up every time I read it and I don’t know why. ‘Cause that ain’t really funny.) While reading through the little bits of history about Ullensvang it is apparent that rock slides and avalanches were, and maybe still, are a great hazard to the folks that lived in the area. 
Perhaps, in the spirit of romance, Tore or Sjur were part of a Norwegian ski-infantry during their military service.
(The Norwegian military has held skiing competitions since the 1670s. The sport of biathlon was developed from military skiing patrols.)
  • Anna Andersdatter is believed to have died giving birth to her 17th child. Only 3 lived to adulthood. 
  • Continuing Anna Andersdatter’s family, her son, Anders Pederson, was so big and strong he was known as “The Norwegian bear.” He is believed to have become a minister and died in the eastern counties of Norway at a young age. 
  • Brita Oddmundsdatter was born in the latter part of 1500s. According to family tradition, she was very strong and “manly,” she transported the lumber to Føynes herself when they started building there. 
  • Torkjell Person, born in 1638, was a real piece of work. He was summoned to court in 1664 for having mistreated his servant girl. First he whipped her, then he had her bound to a sled attached to a horse. He proceeded to jump on the horse and dragged the sled to the sea. In 1666 he was again in court for whipping Per Albrektson and kicking Per’s wife. Thankfully Torkjell died at the age of 30. One can only imagine how he treated his own family. 
  • And saving the best for last — Vigleik Oddson was “very foolish and simple-minded,” almost an idiot, as was his sister Begga Oddsdatter, both were born in the mid 1700s. They had a child together in 1773 and were brought to court for the crime of incest. The verdict was that they should be beheaded by sword. Thankfully, because the judge was aware that they were hardly fully compos mentis, the verdict was “referred to the King’s mercy.” The child was sent away and never heard from again. We do not know how things ended for Vigleik and Begga as they are never again mentioned in the local records.
Here is a lovely Norwegian embroidered bed carpet from the 1600s. Just ‘cuz.

A work in progress…

When I arrived in Salt Lake City on the 31st of last month, I still had about two hours of research time I could indulge in at the library before it closed at 5:00pm.

I decided to just look at the bygdebøk for Amund’s side of the family, as I can’t seem to get the book inter-library loaned at home. I spent the first half hour just trying to make heads or tails of the information and where I needed to start to find Amund himself.

Then, finally found him.

Now I could start working my way backwards, of course I also only had about an hour left to research. Here is his entry, [this digital image has been annotated by me for my own reference]:

Notice that his name in this publication is spelled Oddmund. I believe the church record of his birth has a similar spelling.

Unfortunately over the week that I was in SLC I only had short spurts of time I could spend looking through the book, so I never actually finished my research on Amund, but I was able to go back to the 1600s in several line’s as I could for Jorgina’s family.

Looks like I will have to go to the Madison Norwegian research center. I hear they are great.

Google maps has a ‘live’ view of the area of Norway that Amund lived so I am including two shots of each side of the road where Amunds’ family came from. After looking at these images I can imagine the appeal of living in Duluth for Amund, and working on the docks, he had water in his veins.

I have indicated ‘Here’ on the map to show the side of the fjord/inlet where Amund’s family came from, they lived up and down this waterway.

Amund Amundson

Ah yes, the second half of my Norwegian ancestral origins. Because official records can be wrong,  or memory can be elusive, Amund has proven to be a worthy opponent in this genealogical quest. You see some ancestors just don’t want to be found.

In the case of Amund, he was very closed mouthed and had an incredibly bad memory. He is first found in 1875 in the Minnesota State census with Jorgina, his wife and their eldest daughter Christine, who was just a few months old. In it his age is noted as 23, which means he was born in 1852 or 1853. In each successive censes after that he is born later and later until finally, the 1900 census. In this census one must provide month and year born, his entry has April 1852. Excellent. In 1905 he also continues to say born 1852. So now I am pretty sure of the year and I have a month.

Next I tried to find a naturalization record for him. The only Amund found close to the year born in the records for the State of Minnesota was an Amund born 1853 declaring his intent in Polk County. He had arrived at the port of Heuron in 1871.

I had issues with this record, birth year ‘wrong’. Year of immigration in the 1900 census indicated 1872, not 1871. And Polk County? Huh, what would my Amund be doing way up in Polk County. They lived in Goodhue County, Dodge County and then Carlton County, all way south and East in the State. Polk County is up north.

But, between 1880 and 1885 the Amundsons appear to have moved around a bit so maybe they headed up to Polk for work in that time period. In 1882 he applied for his intent.  So…possibly his, but so many dates off.

Thankfully, in 1902 Amund did apply for his final papers in Carlton County. They confirmed that the declaration I had previously obtained was the correct one for my Amund.  The 1900 census also confirms the naturalization papers as his because he indicated his papers were applied for and two years later he is a citizen. Census says he arrived in 1872, but final papers say June of 1871.

See my confusion.

Okay so now I have Amund Amundson arrived in US 1871, through Canada. Born in April of 1852 in Norway.

Ta da:

Parish register entry from Ullensvang, Hordaland, Norway

Here is a birth and baptismal record for an Ommund Ommundson, born April 20, 1852 baptized June 7. Parents Ommund Ommundson Maakestad and Kristi Larsdatter Aakre.

Well, sure you say, but there were probably lots of Amunds born in the country in the same year and month.  Ah yes, but this one’s father is Amund Amundson, which matches our Amund’s records. The mother is wrong according to our records, but I am not at all concerned about that, Jorgina’s mother was wrong in her US records too. So I would say this is a good match.

So the second thing I looked for was a ‘hey I am leaving Norway’ record. Yes they have those in Norway.

Ta da:

Here is the same Amund leaving Norway in April of 1871 for Quebec at the age of 19. Hmmm, quite a coincidence huh?

I have to say that I am fairly convinced by these records that our Amund hails from Hordaland, Norway, which is located right on top of Telemark.

With this information I have been able to go back only another generation or two for his line, the records in the parishes in Hordaland are not as thorough as those in Telemark.

It is not a done deal, but I am quite convinced that I have found the right Amund, and I will continue to pursue this line of questioning. An official church record of his marriage might clear the matter up. So anyway its back to the trenches.

Back in Norway again…

Well it has been a few weeks since I found out the origins of half of my Norwegian side. (The jury is still out on Amund Amundson.) So I thought I would give an update.

The Norwegian digitalarkkivet site has greatly improved since I visited it 10 or so years ago. I am not sure how much is not on their site, but they do have church book records, censuses and emigrant lists. I have found many actual digitized church records for Jorgina’s family and a few census records from 1801 and 1865. The church records for Drangedal go back to the late 1600s and if one has the patience to read them you can find loads of data.

Having been aware of a series of books called Bygebøker that are specific to Norwegian research, and the history of particular farms/areas of Norway, I checked to see if there is one for Aase or Drangedal. Thankfully there is, so I interlibrary loaned Drangedal med Tørdal Bygdebøk. I have spent the last 3 weeks going “googly-eyed” from using Google translate and my Bygdebøk, typing in paragraphs of Norwegian text trying to figure out who, what and where.

I am happy to say that I finished with the book this last weekend, and I am now more cognizant of Norwegian. Although not conversant. Now, the books themselves are notorious for having errors, I found many in the dates, by comparing with actual records, when I found them, but on the whole they are very informative resources for this type of research. I still plan on trying to find original source material to co-oberate the data I have found, but that is for the future. Right now I have a family tree for Jorgina that goes back, in a few cases, to the later part of the 1500s. In the case of one family we are directly descended from three siblings.

I am still waiting for an English version of the book so I can acquire the specifics, some of the information in the book contains a few very intriguing stories about some of our relatives that need a true translation to better understand.

So I am including a chart, for your amusement, of the family so far, although it is unreadable on this blog at least you can see the trees size. Jorgina and her siblings are the last line on the bottom. At least three came to the US in 1869, Gunlech, Anne Karine and Jorgina, along with their parents. I know that the eldest son Stian inherited the farm and stayed in Norway. He had several daughters all of whom stayed in Norway, so we could still have cousins there.


Norway I hardly know you

It all started with a gentleman from Australia, or I should say it all started with an email from a gentleman from Australia. He was contacting me regarding a mtDNA match with one of my mtDNA accounts at FamilyTreeDNA, and as I have many accounts with FamilyTreeDNA I first had to find out which one he was matching. So I responded. A day later he informed me the match was with Victor John’s maternal line, this would be Myrtle Hamm. The match is only in Region 1 which means our common ancestress would be very far back in time. His mother’s line is English so any connection would probably have to do with the Nordic folks invading England, because Myrtle’s maternal line is 100% Norwegian.

I have to confess I haven’t done as much Norwegian research as I should have because well, the records that are available are in Norwegian, the websites that have the records are in Norwegian, and having no experience with Norwegian in any way, shape, or form, I’m afraid I felt a bit intimidated by the research. But that’s ended now. I decided I needed to buckle down and try again. Maybe things have changed in last few years. 

From past experience I am familiar with two sources for Norwegian research. One is the FHL, the other is http://arkivverket.no/Digitalarkivet, a Norwegian website that I have tried in the past.  So I started with the FHL. They have very few online digital records for Norway, but the ones that they do have include births, christenings, marriages, deaths. So I started with births hoping to find Kari Jorgina Johnson’s birth record. 

From the many census records I have found for Kari I knew the month she was born and the year. I also know her parents names from her death record at the asylum. Although we couldn’t quite read the father’s surname. We came up with John Staneson.

I found a record for a Kari Jorgina Johnsdtr born May 31, 1838 and baptized June, 1838. Her parents names were John Stianson and Kari Gunlichsdtr.

Kari Jorgina Johnsdtr baptismal record. Click on images for larger size to see details.

Kari’s death information indicated her mother’s name was Kari Johnson. It is quite possible that information is incorrect. So if I have indeed found her baptismal record, further research on her parents has taken me in to the 1760s with her parents, parents births, marriages, etc. I have even found family in the 1801 and 1865 Norwegian census.

I am inclined to believe that the above baptismal record is true. Here’s why. In looking for all the siblings for Kari, I found a brother named Gunlech. He is said, by another researcher of this same family, to have emigrated to Minnesota in 1869, in fact I believe I found him in a census record in the same county Kari shows up in, in 1875, married to Amund, with their daughter Amelia Christine. In fact I think I even found her parents in 1875. There is also a cemetery index record for Gunlech that includes the information that he emigrated in 1869 from Aase, Tordal, Drangedal, Telemark, Norway. By the way, that is where the family is from.

John Stianson and Kari were using the farm name of Aase as their surname in the census record.

So you can see my hesitation in doing Norwegian research, all those name changes with each generation, using farm names, not using farm names. It can lead to much hair pulling and teeth nashing.

Here is a map found at Wikipedia of the area of Drangedal where Tordal, Aase is located in Telemark. Click on images for larger size to see details.

The evidence appears to be pretty convincing. I am hoping now to find a ship record for the members of the family. That might help to make the connection. I also need to look at church records in Goodhue County, Minnesota again, now that I have a better idea of what I am looking for.

This is all very exciting for me. Now I am getting all nostalgic for Norway. If only I could get the same break on Amund. Guess I will have to keep digging.

A picture in Tordal, to get a general idea of the landscape.