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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #26—Martha Hansdatter (1841-1900)

Martha Karoline Dorthea Hansdatter was born on 20 March 1841 on the Dungan farm in Øksnes, a municipality on the large island of Langøya in the county of Nordland, Norway. She was baptized in the Øksnes church in 1841 and confirmed there in 1858.

Her family included her father, the husmænd Hans Enok/Enoch Pedersen (1813-1898) and her mother, Maren Anna Serina Andersdatter (ca. 1812-1886). Martha had at least one sibling, her brother, Enok Andreas K. Hansen, born about 1850.

In 1861, twenty-year-old Martha gave birth to her first son, Johan Andreas Martinsen, son of Martin Grunbek Kaspersen. No record of a marriage to Martin has been found, but the baby’s patronymic Martinsen tells us that the father must have acknowledged the child.

Martha married Sivert Knudsen several years later on 11 September 1865 in Øksnes parish. The couple and young Johan settled on the Roten farm in Øksnes for a few years before moving on to nearby Valfjord. Only three of the eight children born over the next twelve years survived to adulthood:

  1. Kaspera Helmine Siversdatter (1866-?)
  2. Hans Edvard Sivertsen (1870-?)
  3. Sofie Marie Sivertsdatter (1878-1966)—my great-grandmother.

We know very little about Martha’s life outside of her role as a wife and mother. In 1885 she served as godparent for her granddaughter (Johan’s daughter) Olina Johansen.

Martha passed away on 21 October 1900 at the age of fifty-nine. She barely outlived her father Hans Pedersen who had died a couple of years before. Martha died from a lung problem, perhaps asthma or tuberculosis. Because the ground had already frozen at the time of her death, she was not buried until the next spring on 20 May 1901.

We cannot visit her grave today. In Norway, burial sites are rented for just 20 or 30 years. The rental contract can be renewed up to three times if the community has no immediate need for the grave. Once the family stops paying the rent or the contract expires, the headstone is removed, and the gravesite is reused. Today, we know Martha only through the Øksnes parish records. Her American grandchildren, all born after her death, knew next to nothing about her.


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