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.

Ingeborg Johnsdatter Einertson

Ingeborg was Jorgina (Johnsdatter) Amundson’s elder sister, and the first of the family to emigrate to America, which her, her husband and children did sometime around 1852. We know this because of census records.

First they settled in Dane County, Wisconsin1. This is not surprising as many Norwegians from Telemark were making their way to this part of the country at this time. Which is why today you find a large community of Norwegian descendants there, and in many other towns in Dane County.

But, Wisconsin didn’t suit them very well and in June of 1855 they headed out to Minnesota. Goodhue County being their final destination, Holden Township to be exact. Ingeborg and her husband settled on section 27, and Thorjborn Einertson, probably a brother of Halvor, settled on section 35. Others soon followed.

…Some of these pioneers erected cabins and roofed them over, others erected walls but did not take time to finish the roofs, some lived in their covered immigrant wagons, others had even less shelter, the main object being to raise a crop during the summer months, leaving the question of permanent and comfortable abode until the autumn time, when the harvest would be garnered in and there would be more time for home building. 

The supply of provisions which the settlers had brought with them was soon gone, and from time to time one of the colony was delegated to go to Red Wing or Hastings to procure the necessities of life. This journey of over thirty miles was long and tedious, and even dangerous, especially in winter, and even after trading points were reached the prices were so high as to be almost prohibitive. 

During the summer of 1855 many new claims were staked out. The first settlers of the township were Norwegians, and their sturdy character has since remained the predominating influence in the township. It is believed that Thorjborn and his wife had the first white child born in Holden, although there is some dispute about this.2

This image was taken at Mt. Horeb in Wisconsin another Norwegian community. Just a nice old image to set the mood.
It wasn’t until the early 1870s that the rest of the family started heading over to join the Einertsons in America. Probably because the patriarch of the Johnson family had handed over the Aase farm to his eldest son; maybe he and his wife wanted a little adventure before they passed on.
1 They are found in the 1855 census for Dane County, Wisconsin.
Taken from: History of Goodhue County; Chicago, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co.: 1909: p186-187 Holden 

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.