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Nordic Trip Preparations

As Easter approaches, I think it offers a good time to switch gears a bit. I have focused so far this year on extending my Norwegian lines as I prepare for a trip to Norway and the Baltic. My husband/tech advisor has been a tremendous help in this.

He and I traveled in Norway once before, in 2013. We thought at the time that my family originated in Nordland, just as his is from Hedmark. We identified my ancestral farms in Nordland and visited many of them. Unfortunately, we had not worked back in time nearly far enough.

Turns out, a few of my family members were not born in Nordland at all. Some migrated there in the first half of the 1800’s, probably to take advantage of the opportunity to make a better living in the fishing industry.

I had four great-great grandparents in Nordland. After these past four months of research, we know more about their roots than we did during our last trip:

  1. Lorents Nicolai Möller Andersen (1854-1919). Nick, as he was known, was born at Bø in Nordland to parents who had resettled there. Anders Bentsen (1823-1857) and Anne Larsdatter (1819-?) both came from the area northeast of Bergen, along the famous Sognefjord. Their families lived in this region for as far back as church records go.
  2. Karen Marie Johansdatter (1851-1916). Karen, Nick’s wife, was born at Dønnes, also in Nordland. Her family, unlike Nick’s, appears to have lived there a long time. Both her father Johan Larsen (1824-1876) and her mother Sara Andrina Möllersdatter (1816-1880) were baptized in Nordland’s Alstahaug parish.
  3. Sivert Knudsen (1843-1907). Sivert was born in the remote Øksnes municipality of northern Nordland. His parents, Knud Sjursen (1816-1885) and Brita Kristoffersdatter (1816-1887) eloped there in 1842. They were originally from the Voss municipality of Hordaland, east of the city of Bergen.
  4. Martha Karoline Dorothea Hansdatter (1841-1900). Sivert’s wife Martha also was born at Øksnes, as were her father, Hans Enok Pedersen (1813-1898) and grandfather, Peder Andersen (c1768-1828). Her mother, Maren Anna Serina Andersdatter (c1812-1886) came from nearby Bø. This family had long lived in Nordland, at least for several generations.

I can see then that two of my ancestors, Karen and Martha, had Nordland roots, but their husbands did not. Suddenly, I have two more areas to visit the next time I go to Norway.

Luckily, the itinerary for my upcoming trip by chance includes both these places. My train route from Oslo to Bergen will go through Voss where Sivert’s family lived. Once I reach Bergen, I will take a ferry tour of the Sognefjord, the home of Nick’s family.

With these discoveries and plans in place, I will take the opportunity now to work on my Finnish lines a bit. I plan to meet a third cousin or two while I am in Helsinki. They have been hard at work on our shared Lampinen family tree, and I want to do my part. Until we leave, I will assemble what information I can to share with them.

I Take My Turn Offering a Norwegian Genealogy Class

Last weekend I led a discussion for our Sons of Norway genealogy study group. Earlier this year, we had a planning meeting to schedule topics for the months ahead, and I drew April. This approach frees up our leader, my own husband/tech advisor, to work on other things. No one must do too much if we each take responsibility for an occasional program.

My topic was organizing genealogical research. I am no expert at this, as you would see if you peeked into my office. I thought about it awhile, and I realized I could not do a formal presentation on this subject. I have no expertise to offer.

Instead, I decided to lead a discussion where all participants could share what they know. We could learn from one another and take away any good tips offered.

I did some background research and located a couple of books on organizing your genealogy research. From these, I prepared an outline to guide the discussion. I made copies to distribute to everyone who attended.

I was pleasantly surprised when ten people gathered for our meeting. This is more than we have had in a long time. We even had a couple of visitors.

We had a lively discussion with most people confessing that their records could use better organization. We were all reassured to learn that no best way to organize exists. Systems used by the group members included paper systems in file folders and notebooks, spreadsheets, and digitized records. Most everyone uses a genealogy software program to keep track of family groups. We talked about the pros and cons of each system for filing documents and maintaining research calendars.

I circulated the reference books and copies of some paper organizational helps like family group sheets and research logs. I also showed the notebook I keep on my Norwegian ancestors and explained how I have it organized.

The best tip I gleaned from this meeting was that I do not have to take the time to reorganize everything I have collected. If I want a new system, say a digital one, I can begin with materials I am using for my research today. Once I identify a consistent file-naming system, I can then go back and scan older items as I refer to them. Eventually, it will all get done without me trying to do it all at once.

I think we had a very successful genealogy session. Several people in the group had requested this topic, and the discussion format seemed well-received. A wise genealogist told me once that if you offer a good program, they will come.

In case anyone is interested, we looked at these books on genealogy organization, both available at my local library:

  1. Smith, Drew. Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher
  2. Scott, Kerry. How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Organize your Research and Boost your Genealogy Productivity

Living on the Land the Vikings Trod

My amazing husband/tech advisor remains diligent in searching for my Norwegian ancestors before we embark on our trip to Norway this year. He continues to seek information on my third great-grandparents, Anders Bentsen (1823-1857) and Anne Larsdatter. They lived in Nordland, the cod fishing area of Norway that lies north of the Arctic Circle. They married there, but independently they had each moved there from someplace else.

Earlier this year, my researcher tracked Anders’ birthplace to the Sognefjord north of Bergen. He suspected Anne may have come from there, too.

Recently, he learned that she did, but from much closer to the mouth of the fjord than Anders’ family lived. Her family resided in the Gulen municipality of Nordre Bergenhus which lies around the Gulafjord, a southern offshoot of the Sognefjord.

In the online Norwegian national archives, he located the church records for young Anne Larsdatter who lived on the Floli farm near the village of Eivindvik.

Eivindvik? Wow!

The western Vikings used to meet there for their Gulating, an annual assembly to discuss political matters and taxation. They also used these gatherings to resolve civil and criminal complaints.

Two ancient stone crosses found near the village of Eivindvik are believed to be about 1000 years old, erected there after the Vikings who met at the Gulating gathering embraced Christianity. The worshippers probably gathered around these crosses until they could build a church.

We now know that Anne Larsdatter came from this historic place. She was born at Floli in 1819 and was baptized in the old Gulen church in Eivindvik, one of the oldest church sites in Norway. Floli, just east of Eivindvik, is now a national historic area.

Anne was confirmed there, too, in 1835. The pastor noted that her religious knowledge was mediocre, but her behavior was immaculate.

Why would Anders and Anne leave their families and this well-settled area to move far north? They needed to make a living. The Norwegian population grew rapidly in the 19th century, and existing farms could not accommodate everyone. Many people moved to northern Norway where the fishing industry prospered.

Anders and Anne followed the crowd. They met, married, and started a family. Sadly, Anders contracted a fever when he was just 34 years old, and Anne was widowed with two small children in 1857.

The hunt for her fate after Anders’ death continues.

 

Adventures in DNA

Every week I log in to a couple of DNA testing websites to see whether I have any new matches. Recently, a few relatives on my dad’s side of the family have tested at these sites as well. Comparing their match lists with mine allows me to speculate on how my unfamiliar matches might be related to me.

I find this particularly interesting because several of my closest matches were adopted. I would like to know how we are related. Three people come to mind:

  1. A man in Florida matches my dad at the second cousin level. This man’s mother was adopted. As far as I know, no one in previous generations of Dad’s family lived in Florida, so I have no idea where this match fits into my family tree. He does not seem too interested in helping me puzzle this out.
  2. The same goes for a match in Montana. Again, this adopted woman does not want to correspond much although I have more to offer here. My dad had several family members who settled in Montana. Perhaps this woman is related through them. But without more information from her to go on, I cannot fit her into my tree, either.
  3. The final match, the closest one, is to a woman who was adopted from a foundling home near Lincoln, Nebraska in 1930. The third match and I have corresponded several times hoping to discover her parentage and how she is related to us.

She and I have made a little progress. When my second cousin on my father’s paternal side did a DNA test, she did not match my third match. This means the Nebraska baby does not belong to the Reed side of my dad’s family. Instead, she belongs to my grandmother’s family.

The third match’s family lived in the same area around McCook that my grandmother’s family did from 1885-1954. Only problem in placing the adopted baby into my family is that we do not know who Grandma’s father was. Without this information we do not know whether the baby is related through our known Riddle line or through my unknown great-grandfather’s line.

The match’s birth certificate provides the clue of a surname, probably her mother’s. I do not recognize this name as anyone related to me.

Two possibilities, then, come to mind. One of the baby’s parents may have been related to my unknown Nebraska great-grandfather. In that case, of course I do not recognize the surname on the baby’s birth record. Or perhaps the baby’s father was one of my known Riddle relatives.

Without more DNA testing, I think I will not find an answer. It would help to locate a Riddle descendant to see whether my third match also matches them. Doing this will be difficult because so many of us are double cousins, and their DNA would not help in sorting this out. We need a Riddle cousin whose family did not intermarry with the Reeds.

In the meantime, I will stay in touch with my DNA cousin in Nebraska. She would really like to identify her birth family, and I am her best evidence.

A Nordic Vacation Draws Closer

This weekend our traveling companions will visit us to put the final touches on our plans for a trip to Scandinavia and the Baltic. My husband/tech advisor’s brother and his wife will join us later this year to see the lands of our roots. We have scheduled time in several spots of significance to us:

  1. After landing in Oslo, Norway, we will take the train north to Hamar. The guys’ Norwegian family, before their immigration to America in the 1880’s, lived on various farms around Lake Mjøsa in the Ringsaker district of Hedmark. We have been there before, so we will rent a car and drive the other couple around to see all the sites we discovered in 2013.
  2. Back in Oslo, we will catch another train. As we cross the country toward Bergen, we will travel through the Voss municipality of Hordaland. My great-grandmother’s grandparents lived in this region before they moved north to the cod fishing grounds of Nordland in the 1840’s. One local history claims the couple left Voss because their families disapproved of their marriage between members of different social classes.
  3. From Bergen, we will take a ferry tour along Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, the Sognefjord. My great-father’s grandparents lived along the fjord. This couple, too, left their birthplaces for the fishing grounds of Nordland. A possible reason for their move is the lack of opportunity in Voss for an illegitimate son.
  4. We will fly to Copenhagen, Denmark from Bergen. There, my husband/tech advisor’s ancestor Jorgen/Georg Rasch once served as court musician to the King of Denmark-Norway. A well-regarded lutenist, his likeness is painted on the ceiling of a building in Copenhagen. We plan to see it.
  5. A cruise ship from Copenhagen will take us around the Baltic Sea with a stop in Helsinki, Finland. I hope to meet some of my Lampinen relatives there.

With our visitors this weekend, we will finalize plans for our shore excursions from the cruise ship. In addition to Helsinki, we have stops in Estonia, Russia, Sweden, and Germany. This voyage means a lot to me. My Finnish family sailed on the Baltic when they left Finland for America in 1905, and now I get to sail on the same sea.

I hope my sister-in-law enjoys the trip, too. She has no Scandinavian or Baltic ancestors, but she looks forward to seeing Norway and taking the cruise. A visit to this part of the world has been on her bucket list. I am sure we will find many fun things to do that are not related to genealogy.

We are looking forward to seeing these family members and finishing up our trip plans this weekend. Anticipation is building up for all of us.

Bergen Roots

Before I travel to Norway later this year, I had hoped to discover the roots for one of my ancestral couples, Anders Bentsen (1823-1857) and Anne Larsdatter (ca. 1820-?), I had not even begun the search when my husband/tech advisor already was off and running to find answers.

He has had tremendous success in locating Anders’ family over the last six weeks.

As I suspected, Anders, like so many others, had migrated to Nordland from an area closer to Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city. Anne did, too, although her family is proving more difficult to trace. But for Anders’ paternal family, someone has already tracked it back to the early 1600’s and posted it on Family Search.

My husband/tech advisor was able to link Anders into this paternal family through his father, Bent Iversen, a name we knew from family papers. He located Anders’ baptism record in what was then the county of Nordre Bergenhus. Anders was named as the son of Bent Iversen and an unwed mother, Kari Pedersdatter. He probably was born on the Kjørnes farm in the Sogn municipality. Kari lived on the Kjørnes farm, and all of Anders’ baptism sponsors lived there, too. Bent Iversen lived some distance away on the Mestermandplatsen farm. He never married Kari, choosing someone else instead.

The Sogn area north of Bergen is now the fylke (county) of Sogn og Fjordane (Sogn and the fjords). The farms where Kari and Bent resided lie along the famous Sognefjord, the longest and deepest of western Norway’s fjords. I will be traveling on a ferry along this fjord during my trip. The excursion is completely serendipitous because we had no idea that I had family origins along the fjord when we booked passage on the boat.

Finding Anders’ baptism record solved another little mystery as well. It provides his birth date as December 24, yet previously-found sources claimed an October 16 birth date. The December date is more likely correct. A closer inspection of Anders’ death record revealed the source of the erroneous October 16 information. If one reads straight across the parish record line entry for Anders’s death, one comes to an October 16 birth date.

It turns out, these far-right columns on the form are for stillbirths. Anders certainly was not stillborn. The record is simply misleading. Instead of recording Anders’ September 11 death and an infant’s October 16 stillbirth on separate lines, the pastor put both records on one line. Without translating the column headings, it was so easy to assume the birth date was for Anders instead of the baby.

We have learned a lot about my third great-grandfather, Anders Bentsen so far this year. He died in Vesterålen, Norway after living there just a few years. He had migrated in the 1840’s from the Sognefjord north of Bergen where people have lived for over a thousand years. Perhaps my roots there go back that far. I would be exciting to come from Viking stock.

Now we have two women in Anders’ family who we are eager to learn more about—his wife, Anne Larsdatter, and his mother, Kari Pedersdatter. My husband/tech advisor is on the case. Stay tuned.

They Weren’t Wealthy

I continue working to learn about the lives of my third great-grandparents, Johan Larsen and Sara Andrina Möllersdatter, who lived in Nordland, Norway. Johan was a farmer who also fished during the cod season.

Did Johan own a farm? Probably not, because the family seems to have moved around some. Many people at the time migrated from farm to farm to follow work opportunities. Folks like Johan and Sara worked hard to make ends meet and provide for their family.

During their years together, they lived on farms in at least two municipalities in Nordland:

  1. Berfjorden, Herøy. Sara was born here in 1816.
  2. Slapøen, Herøy. Johan was born here in 1824. Daughters Johanna and Bergitta were also born here in 1845 and 1848, respectively.
  3. Titternes, Dønnes. Daughter Karen (my great-great grandmother) was born here in 1851.
  4. Skeim/Skei, Dønnes. Son Ludvig was born here in 1855. Daughters Anne and Mortine were born here in 1859 and 1863. Johan was working as a cottager on this farm when he died in a fishing accident in 1876. Sara still lived on this farm at the time of her death in 1880.

This family may not have had much wealth. Homes at the time consisted of small buildings with grass roofs. During the short growing season, residents in the area raised a few crops and perhaps some sheep.

The father, like many of his neighbors, would go north to earn some additional income during the fishing season. Eventually, his daughter Karen relocated there and married a man, Lorents Nikolai “Nick” Bentsen, who pursued the same means a making a living. When Karen and Nick’s son, Ole, set off for America in search of a better life, they followed him in 1905. The family ultimately ended up farming in Montana.

Johan and Sara did not live to see this happen. They spent their days scratching out a living in Norway the same way their parents had. They did not know that their daughter and son-in-law had achieved the American dream of owning land.

New Ancestor Discovered

These days it takes a lot of work before I can identify and add the name of another direct ancestor to my family tree. So many of my lines remain blocked with those pesky brick wall ancestors. Any time I can go back another generation offers an excuse for a small celebration.

I am happy to report that this week I found a new ancestor for the first time in ages. I did so by turning my attention to my mom’s Nordic roots. I had last examined these lines in 2013 and 2014, the years I visited Norway and Finland.

Because we plan some travel to those countries again later this year, I decided to take a fresh look at my Norwegian ancestral lines in hopes of extending them. One set of my third great-grandparents, Johan Larsen (1824-1876) and Sara Andrina Möllersdatter (1816-1880), lived in the Helgeland district of Nordland, Norway. It lies on the west coast, just south of the Arctic Circle. My records showed the names of their parents except for Sara’s mother.

When I left off the research on Sara back in 2013, I had collected only her marriage and baptism records. Neither document named her mother.

This week I looked for Sara’s Lutheran confirmation record. I located it in the Alstahaug parish church book found in the online repository, Norway’s Digitalarkivet (https://www.digitalarkivet.no/). There, in 1834, was an entry for 18-year-old Sara. There also was her mother’s name, Marit Nilsdatter.

Marit then is my newly-found fourth great-grandmother. She and Möller Zacariasen were Sara’s parents. I have no dates yet for their lives, but they likely were born in the 1700’s.

Tempting as it would be, I must finish the work on Sara’s life before I do more research on Marit and Möller. Genealogists always work backwards in time, and it would be premature to jump back another generation before collecting everything I can find on Sara. That means locating her on the Norwegian census records and completing my information on her children.

Although my focus must be on Sara and Johan, I am allowing myself to smile a bit at the discovery of Marit Nilsdatter’s name. Not often do I make a discovery like this.

Hunting for Johan’s Family

In preparation for our upcoming trip to Norway, I had planned to investigate the roots of my Bentsen line. Plans change. I am fortunate enough to have a husband/tech advisor who likes to do Norwegian research, and before I could even begin, he was off and running. I decided to leave him to it and turned to a different Norwegian ancestor family.

My second great-grandmother, wife of Lorenz Nicolai Bentsen, was Karen Marie Johansdatter (1851-1916). This week I refreshed my memory of her family, and I hope to fill in a little more information.

Karen was born to Johan Larsen (1824-1876) and Sara Andrine Möllersdatter (1814-1880) on Titternes farm in the Helgeland District of Nordland, Norway. I have a photo of myself standing beneath the Titternes sign. This beautiful area lies on a western coastal island just south of the Arctic Circle.

My ancestor had five siblings, but for most of them I do not know the names of their spouses or their death dates. Did any of them come to America?

Of the parents, I know a little. Johan died away from home, up north in the Lofoten fishing area. Several other men died there the same day. Was there an accident?

Sara died just a few years later, in the same municipality and parish where she had always lived. I do not think she had remarried.

I am planning to work my way through Norway’s digital archives to find whatever I can about this family. Perhaps I can locate a bygdebok, or Norwegian local history book, for the Titternes or Skei farms where the family resided.

We will not visit this area again on our upcoming trip. Our journey will take us on the train from Oslo to Bergen, far south of where my ancestors lived in the latter part of the nineteenth century. But did they always live there?

Some may have migrated northward from these southern valleys to take advantage of fishing opportunities in the cod fishing grounds. Only if we work backwards on all these family lines will we know which ancestors might have done that and where they may have originated. I am beginning with Johan and Sara and their children, Johana, Bergitta, Karen, Ludvig, Anne, and Mortine.

Genealogy and Databases Galore

Not that long ago, most genealogy work involved a boots-on-the-ground approach. Either the researcher visited repositories and cemeteries in person, or he located someone to do the searching on his behalf. When information began to become available electronically, we often speculated on how long it would take for resources to be digitized. We did not think that day, they day we could sit home in our pajamas doing our research, would come during our lifetimes.

Yet more and more often, we can do so much in just that way. We can use free databases like those at Family Search, the Library of Congress, the Government Land Office, or the Norwegian digital archives all from home at no charge. We can also subscribe to many others. These tools provide information for our ancestors ranging from vital records and newspaper accounts to land transactions.

If a genealogist does not have the means to subscribe to everything he needs to do a complete research project, help exists. Local libraries often subscribe to databases such as Ancestry.com for their patrons. Family History centers offer a lot of electronic genealogy resources, too.

This week our local Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society met once again at our Family History Center for a workshop. Last month we had gathered there to learn about their newspaper databases. This time, we looked at the Fold 3 database for military records. We will go there again next month to look at some international options.

The center encouraged all of us to come back and use their computers to do our research in all databases they have available. No need to spend the money for subscriptions to these sources unless you want to.

Of course, having the option to do unlimited research from home late at night remains the ideal. Paying for subscriptions offers us the option to do just that for so much of the information we need. I personally pay for a couple of databases that I use regularly. For the rest, I am glad to have the option to visit the Family History Center.

Even at that, not everything can be found online yet. Just last summer, I felt the urge to take one of those old-fashioned genealogy road trips. There, in a hot courthouse attic in McCook, I found Nebraska school records for my grandmother’s brother. These have not been digitized, and there are no plans to do so. Many other interesting records around the country are tucked away in a similar fashion.

Perhaps we were right when I was a young genealogist. Not everything will be digitized in my lifetime.