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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #25—Sivert Knudsen (1843-1907)

In Norway’s Nordland County, on the Vesterålen archipelago, the Øksnes municipality covers part of the large island of Langøya as well as many smaller islands north of there. Bø and Sortland municipalities share Langøya with Øksnes.

The Øksnes Church, built in 1703, stands on one of the small islands, Skogsøya. The actual parish grounds have been maintained since the 1400’s, and parts of the present church building date to the 1600’s.

Sivert Knudsen was born in this parish at Roten farm, probably on 23 July 1843, to Knud Sjursen and Brita Kristoffersdatter. The date is questionable because his baptism record does not provide a birth date, and subsequent records give conflicting information. Sivert’s confirmation record, arguably the most reliable record, (because the information likely would have been provided by his parents) gives the 23 July 1843 date. Sivert’s youngest daughter Sofie’s baptism registration offers an earlier birth year of 1842. His death record gives a third birth date of 3 June 1843. The July date is probably correct given that he was then baptized a month later on 27 August of that year. Norwegian babies were usually baptized shortly after birth.

When Sivert was a small boy, his family moved on to Hadsel parish. Sivert was confirmed there at age 17 on 9 June 1861. Of course, like most Norwegians, he had already received his smallpox vaccination several years earlier in 1856.

Until 1865, Sivert worked to help his father who was a tenant on the Bjørndal farm in Hadsel. That autumn on 11 September he returned to Øksnes and married 24-year-old Martha Karoline Dorthea Hansdatter. They wed in the same Øksnes church where his parents had been married. When Sivert married Martha, he acquired a step-son, Johan.

After Sivert and Martha married, they and her son settled on the Roten farm in Øksnes where Sivert had been born. Sivert made a living as a farmer and fisherman.

The couple lived at Øksnes for three years and began adding to their family. According to family records, they had twelve children in all, including:

  • Johan Martinsen (Martha’s son and Sivert’s stepson, 1861- ca. 1889) eventually became a fisherman and married Jakobina Bergite Antonsdatter in 1884. His stepfather Sivert served as his best man. Johan and Jakobina had a daughter, Olina, and two sons, Helmer and Johan. The boys emigrated to America and married sisters, Alfreda and Marie Susag, in North Dakota. Helmer remained in that state where he farmed and raised a large family. Young Johan, who became known as Johnnie Johnsen, moved on to Bremerton, Washington. He, too, had a large family. Tragically, he died in 1947 while fishing in the Gulf of Alaska when he was washed overboard during a storm.
  • Kaspera Helmine Sivertsdatter (1866- ), born at Øksnes. She was known as “Mina” by the family, and she married Petter Jentoft Nilsen, a shoemaker, in 1885 at Eidsfjord. They had 8 children and never left Norway.
  • Anna Marie Birgitte Sivertsdatter (1868-1869) born at Øksnes, buried at Hadsel.
  • Hans Edvard Sivertsen (1870-?), born at Valfjord. He was a fisherman and married Ingeborg Karoline Reinholdtsen in 1894. They had one son, Sydolf Sigvard Hansen in 1894. Hans and Ingeborg never left Norway.
  • Karl Nordal Sivertsen (16-25 July 1872) born at Valfjord.
  • Unnamed Sivertsdatter, stillborn 11 May 1874.
  • Unnamed Sivertsen, stillborn 27 April 1876.
  • Sofie Marie Sivertsdatter (1878-1966) born at Valfjord. Sofie married Ole Jørgen Bentsen in 1904 and emigrated to America the next year.
  • Unnamed Sivertsdatter, stillborn 21 September 1882.


No record of the remaining reported children has been found.


Valfjord Wildflowers


Eventually the family left Øksnes and relocated to the settlement at Valfjord. By 1900, Sivert was a leaseholder in a fishing operation there. Over the years, he served as a baptism sponsor for several of the grandchildren:

  • Johan’s daughter Olina Andrea Johansen baptized at home on Oshaug on 21 June 1885,
  • Mina’s daughter Karoline Berntine Pettersdatter baptized 15 July 1888 at Eidsfjord parish, and
  • Hans’ son Sydolf Sigvard Hansen baptized at home on 25 November 1894.


Martha passed away in 1900 leaving Sivert a widower. He died at Øksnes a few years later on 10 Dec 1907 at age 64. The ground was frozen so he was buried the next spring on 2 May 1908 at Eidsfjord i Hadsel parish, where his wife had been buried. No cause of death was recorded in the parish records.



One Response to “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #25—Sivert Knudsen (1843-1907)”

  • Teri,
    My father is Walter Edwin Johnson. He will be 99 in October. His father is the Helmer mentioned in this article. Johan and Jakobina would be my great grandparents.
    I found your website quite some time ago when I was searching for Aunt Sophie. His parents spoke fondly of her and that’s probably why he did. I sent some of your stories to my Dad.
    I have a website Would it be okay to copy some of your stories that pertain to my relatives like this one about Sivet Knudsen? I would give you the credit to the story and a link to your website.

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