Thursday, August 7, 2014

August is for Norwegians

In August we celebrate a number of birthdays of our Norwegian ancestors. Lars Olsen Baashus is the first. In Norway, children took their father's name as their surname. The farm name was added to show where they resided. When they came to America, some of them retained their father's name as their surname, and some used the farm name.

Lars Olsen Baashus (pronounced Baa-soo-s) was born 7 August 1855 in Ringsaker, Hedmark, Norway. Ringsaker, named for an old farm, is a farming area, containing the largest and oldest farms in Norway.It is situated on the east side of the lake Mjøsa, which is Norway's largest lake, and one of the deepest lakes in Europe. Ringsaker was first mentioned in written records in about 882 and has an interesting history.

Lars' father was Ole Guldbransen Riser, and his mother was Pernille Olsdatter Prastqvarn. We don't know about his childhood or his family because it has not been researched. We do know that he married Gina Matiasen on 7 November 1879 in Ringsaker. They were the parents of eleven children. Our ancestor, Gunda, was the sixth in the family and the only one of her siblings who made the trip to America. The family corresponded with her through letters and Gunda made at least one visit back to Norway.

Ringsaker Kirke was constructed before 1150, and was dedicated to St. Olav (king of Norway from 1015-1028). It was enlarged in the mid-1200's to its present size. There are several local churches, so we cannot know whether this was the church used by this family, but it is the oldest in the area.

Lars died on 20 August 1931 at Hamar, Hedmark, Norway, which is just south of Ringsaker, also on the shores of lake Mjøsa. The distance between Ringsaker and Hamar is 29 miles. It's always interesting to see just how far people travel in their lives.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Randi "Rose" Ottem


Randi Ottem was born Randi Halvorsdatter at Sunndal, Møre og Romsdal, Norway. Sunndal stretches all the way from the fjord into the Dovre Mountains. Its beautiful scenery includes Innerdal, Norway's loveliest mountain valley, and Åmoten, a gorge where several waterfalls meet. Mountain valleys are the home to wild reindeer and musk oxen. The Old Norse form of the name was Sunndalr. The first element is sunnr which means "southern" and the last element is dalr which means "valley" or "dale". Before 1870, the name was written Sunddalen; during the period from 1870-1917, it was spelled Sundalen; and since 1918, it has been spelled Sunndal.

Randi's father was Halvor Thoreson, and her mother's name was Randi Knudsdatter. Randi was born at the Ottem farm, from which the family surname of Ottem was derived when the family came to America. She was born on 26 July 1869, and christened on 22 August 1869. Randi was the fifth child in a very large family of twelve. Many of them left Norway to make homes in the United States. Her youngest daughter, Dolores, said,

She just talked about life. It was hard because they didn’t have anything. In the spring she went out into the mountains in Norway with the cattle and spent her summer there. They made cheese. I don’t know how they did it. Her oldest brother came to this country and settled in Grand Forks, North Dakota. And when he saved enough money, he sent for her. She was nineteen. She came for a better life, like they all did. She came to Grand Forks. She was three weeks crossing the ocean, and seasick all the way. She crossed the North Sea, and her parents were with her until she got on the boat, because her mother said, “I’d rather follow you to your grave.” That was an awful send off. She never went back to Norway. When she died in 1953, there weren’t too many people who were flying back and forth. She didn’t know anyone on the ship. They came into Ellis Island and then took the train to Grand Forks. And she had those old Norwegian clothes. She said her brother took her down all the railroad tracks and back alleys until he could get her some decent clothes. They told her oranges were supposed to be healthful, so she had a big bag of oranges on the ship. As long as she lived, she wouldn’t taste an orange on a bet. Then, I don’t know what she did. She went to work in a hotel as a maid of some kind. Then she got a job at the University of North Dakota. She was a dining room gal. I suppose she had friends. Then she met Dad. She came in 1888 and Clarence was born in 1892, so somewhere along the line, she must have been here a couple year years before she met Dad.

On 10 December 1891, Randi married Ole Christenson at Grand Forks, Grand Forks, North Dakota. At that point, her life was entwined with his as they raised their large family of ten children, and made their home in Minnesota at Holt. More can be learned about Randi by reading "From Norway to Minnesota" which was posted just before her own post, on 11 August. Her wedding picture is posted there.

Of her life after Ole died, her youngest daughter, Dolores said,
We moved to the little house at Johnson’s place in about 1937. I finished attending school when I was 13. I would have had to board and room somewhere, and there wasn’t any money in those days. So, I left the farm when I was twenty, when the boys got married and Mom and I moved into our new little house. It was a little north of Holt. When Lawrence and Rudy got married, we had to do something. Mabel insisted that they were going to build a house for Mom on their farm and she was going to take care of Mom. She was very adamant about that. We built a little house and I went to work in town. Mom kept house and cooked; and of course, we were right by Carl and Mabel. But Mabel died when Jim was five days old.
Jim, Dolores' son, was born in 1941. I remember Dolores saying that Grandma Randi turned her grief over daughter Mabel's death toward Jim, who she rocked and held for the first months of his life. Jim always told a story about pouring buttermilk on his breakfast cereal by mistake and not wanting to eat it. Grandma ate that cereal rather than see it be wasted.

Dolores also remembered when Grandma Randi came to live with them.
She came to live with us in 1950 and lived with use for three years. She had continued living in that small house. The girls, Mabel’s girls, were all married and gone and it was just Carl and Forest, and they were out in the fields all the time, and she was so alone there. She was about 82. Actually, the house was mine. It was my money that I got from the sale of the cattle when we left the farm that bought the house, so we sold the house and she moved in with us. It was fun having her live with us. It was fun. She and George (Dolores' husband) got along so well. I think he thought more of her than he did his own Mom. And of course, the kids enjoyed her. She liked Jim and Gale, so it wasn’t a problem. It was a happy time. She was a very Christian lady, quiet, and she didn’t interfere with anybody else, and did her own thing. She liked to have flowers. She used to work in the yard, even at our place. She helped with all the work, even at our place, because she was well until the last few months she lived.

Randi died on 13 May 1953 at Thief River Falls, Pennington, Minnesota. She was loved and cherished by her family, which is a tribute to her gentle, sweet nature.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tore Olsen of Ranum and Dovre



Thore or Tore was christened on 18 July 1790 at Nord Aurdal, Oppland, Norway. His parents were Ole Olsen Ranum and Ane Toresdatter. He was their third child. On 16 November 1817 he married Siri Knudsdatter Gigstad, the widow of Knut Gulbrandson, who farmed the Dovre farm. Along with the farm, Siri brought a year old son to the marriage.

Archives reports state that Tore fought in the war against Sweden in 1814. It also notes that Siri died sometime between 1850-1851, leaving Tore with nine children. The oldest son, Ole, who is our ancestor, had by that time, taken over the gaard. The other five boys and two of the girls went to America to secure a better future. At least one of them took the surname Thorson in the United States.

Friday, July 11, 2014

From Norway to Minnesota

Mo i Rana is located at the head of Ranifjord, just south of the Arctic circle on the southern side of the Saltfjellet mountains with the Svartisen glacier, Norway's second largest glacier. The river Ranelva meets the Ranifjord in Mo i Rana. Mo is so close to the Arctic circle that parts of the sun can be seen on the horizon from early June to early July, and there is no darkness from mid-May to the beginning of August. The climate is moderated by the Gulf Stream, which follows the coast of Norway north. The name Mo comes from an old farm and is taken from the Norse Móar which means sand or grass lowland. Rana is probably also Norse, meaning quick or fast, and refers to the fast water flow in the fjord nearby. The town was an old trade center in Helgeland and farmers have lived in the area since the Iron Age.


Ole Andreas Christenson was the eleventh child of twelve in his family. He was born 11 July 1857 at his father's farm, Reginaardsli, Mo i Rana, Nordland, Norway. His parents were Christen Nilsen and Hendricha Eliasdatter.

Ole was christened on 27 September 1857. This little kirke is the oldest building in Mo. It was built in 1734. Like many younger sons of large families, Ole immigrated to America to make his fortune. His declaration of intention to become a citizen of the United States was dated 2 November 1886.


Ole married Randi Ottem on 10 December 1891 at Grand Forks, Grand Forks, North Dakota. They both listed Grand Forks as their place of residence. She listed her name as Rosie Ottem. Witnesses were Asa Erickson and Angus Jakobson. Clarence, their first child, was born at Grand Forks.

Sometime after that, the family moved to Marshall County, Minnesota. Family information says they lived at Holt, where all of the children were born. He listed Newfolden as his residence on his Naturalization papers. The two places are very near to one another. Their second child, Reuben, was born 16 January 1894 and died 27 October 1895. He died just after his sister Reubena was born on 22 October 1895. She lived until 7 September 1896. Seven other children were born to them, making a total of ten.

On the 1900 census, the family was living in Holt. Ole and Rose had been married for nine years and had three children, with two deceased. Clarence was eight, Nora two, and Mabel was eight months old. Ole's occupation was a carpenter and he was employed the entire census year. Both Ole and Randi could read, write and speak English. They owned their own home and it was free of a mortgage at the time. It would appear that Ole was successful in bettering his lot in life by coming to America.

Ole's Petition for Naturalization was filed in Marshall County, Minnesota on 1 February 1910, 26 years after his original declaration. It said, "My full name is Ole Andreas Christenson. My place of residence is Newfolden, Marshall, Minnesota. My occupation is carpenter. I was born on the 11th day of July 1858 at Moe, Norway. I emigrated to the United States from Chrstiania, Norway, on or about the 25th day of May 1881 and arrived at the port of Baltimore, in the United States on the vessel not known. I declared my intention to become a citizen of the United States on the 22nd day of November 1886 in Crookston, Minnesota, Polk County. I am married. My wife's name is Randine Christenson (ne Ottem). She was born in Sundal, Norway, and now resides at Newfolden, Marshall, Minnesota. I have seven children, as follows- Clarence Helmer, May 11, 1892, Grand Forks, North Dakota; Nora Adelia, July 7, 1897, Marshall, Minnesota; Mabel Ruth, September 30, 1899, Marshall, Minnesota; Oscar Arthur, October 27, 1901, Marshall, Minnesota; Rudi Melvin, October 22, 1903, Marshall, Minnesota; Mortel Gea, April 20, 1908, Marshall, Minnesota. All reside with parents at Newfolden, Marshall, Minnesota." Ole neglected to list another child, Lawrence Palmer, who was born 20 January 1906. Dolores Irene, the youngest, was not born until 4 December 1916. Ole took his Oath of Allegiance on 28 June 1910 and the family became citizens of the United States of America.

Ole's daughter Dolores said of his death, "I remember it very vividly because he died at home. He had asthma and heart trouble. That was back in 1929. It was way out in the country and you didn’t see the doctor very often. He was very ill one whole winter and then when summer came he was able to get out of bed and he was up for the summer. And then when fall came, of course, it took over again. I remember, and I think about it now, sitting on his bed in the evening. He always wanted me to sing, “Nearer My God to Thee.” And I did it. I remember well, the afternoon he died. It was such a blizzard. It was the 11th of January, and they couldn’t come and get him until the next day, so we kept him in the bedroom overnight. I have a lot of good memories of my father because we were very, very close. I was probably closer to my Dad because my Mom worked outside on the farm so much, and Dad was not well so he was with me. I remember all the little old Norwegian songs he taught me. He never really talked about his childhood, not like Mom did. They spoke broken English, and we always talked Norwegian at home. I sing those crazy songs to myself every once in a while. He called me Tula. "

Ole died on 11 January 1929. He did not have a Social Security number. His parents' names were not known to his informant. His death certificate lists his place of death as East Valley Township, and his usual residence as Holt.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Siri Knutsdatter Gigstad


Siri Knutsdatter was christened on 5 July 1795 at Nord-Aurdal, Oppland, Norway which is a part of the traditional district of Valdres in central, southern Norway. Oppland is one of two fylke that does not border the sea. It is an area of mountains with two valleys, one of them being Valdres. Nord-Aurdal is in the western part of Oppland county. Their primary occupation is raising cattle and sheep.

Siri's parents were Knut Knutsen and Anne Bendixdatter. She was born on the Gigstad farm, as was her father. On 28 October 1815, she married her husband, Knut, who died a year later, leaving her a widow at the young age of 21, and with a young son, also named Knut. She married again on 16 Nov 1817, to Tore Olsen and they took over the Dovre property. There they raised a large family of nine children. Siri died in about 1850.

William Bolt, Father and Son


William Bolt, the father, was baptized on 5 July 1772, and William Bolt, the son, was baptized on 28 July 1799, when his father was 27 years old. Both were born at Powderham, Devonshire, England. The most notable characteristic of Powderham is a castle, appropriately called Powderham Castle. It was built between 1390 and 1420 by Sir Philip Courtenay. The site of the castle is an ancient deer park beside Exe Estuary (photo compliments of Exe Estuary Management Partnership). It is one of those places a person must see if visiting Devonshire, and is part of the greater Exeter area. Exeter is the capitol of Devon, has its own cathedral, and is historically ancient, predating the Romans.

As for the William Bolts, we don't know a lot about them. The father was the son of Anne Bolt. His baptism record notes, "William Bolt, base son of Ann Bolt, baptized." In other words, his mother was unmarried. Anne married Edward West on 30 Jan 1775, when William was two and a half years old and provided him with a large family of ten brothers and sisters. He married Mary Northam Potbury on 4 October 1797 at Powderham. They had four known children named William, Thomas, Ann, and Martha.

William, the son, married Sarah Sealy in about 1825. Since Sarah was from Chudleigh, they were probably married there. Their known children are John Sealy, Mary Jane, and William. They were all born at Chudleigh. Chudleigh is a staggering 9.5 miles inland from Powderham.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Short Life of John S. Duffy


John S. Duffy was born in Luzerne, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, in July of 1843, the son of Peter F. and Bridget Duffy, who were from Ireland. He had a brother named Andrew who was born in 1841. Since Andrew was born in Ireland, and John was born in Pensylvania, it appears that the family left Ireland for the United States sometime between 1841 and 1843.

The Duffy family was enumerated on the 1850-1860 census for Luzerne County, which is located in NE Pennsylvania. Then sometime between the 1860 census and 1862, they moved to Minnesota, where John's father gave permission for his marriage to Alice Louise Madden since John was not 21. They were married on 17 March 1862 at Lakeville, Dakota, Minnesota. He listed his place of residence as Rosemount and hers was Burnsville. They were married by James Peet, a Minister of the Gospel.

There is a map of the area where they lived in the May posting, "From Ireland to Minnesota" which is about John's wife's family. Lakeville Township was organized in 1858 and named for its proximity to Prairie Lake (now Lake Marion), one of the largest lakes in Dakota County. These small communities were within ten miles of each other, and were relatively new at the time.

John was a soldier in Company G, Second Regiment of the Minnesota Calvary during the Civil War. His pension papers state that he was 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a fair complexion, gray eyes and black hair. He enlisted on 2 November 1863 and was discharged on 29 December 1865. He held the rank of sergeant. Since there is no picture of John, it's nice to have this brief description of him.

John and Alice had three children- Mittie Alice was born 19 February 1864 at Fort Snelling, Hennepin, Minnesota. Horace J. was born in 1868. And the youngest, Gertrude Susan was born on 12 November 1870 at Hastings, Dakota, Minnesota.


John was killed while working on a train run between Hastings and St. Paul, Minnesota on 22 March 1872. An obituary was published on 30 January 1873 in the Farmington Press. It said, "HORRIBLE ACCIDENT.--The Gazette says that J. S. Duffy, of Hastings, who has been for some time employed as a brakeman on the Lake Superior R. R., fell from the train near St. Paul on Thursday and was cut to pieces in the most horrible manner, the remains being strewed along the track for nearly half a mile. He was a steady, industrious man, about thirty years of age, and leaves a wife and three children in needy circumstances." Did they have to be so graphic? What a tragedy for Alice and their children. To find out more, visit the 14 May posting, "From Ireland to Minnesota."

Visit the Lake Superior Railroad Museum here--
http://www.lsrm.org/Home/Home.asp