Emigration from Norway to the USA

Two weeks ago I shared photos and observations of a short trip to Fusa, and mentioned my husband’s recent discovery of ancestors who come from this area.

Jan’s explorations into his family’s history have been fascinating for me, especially when he discovered family in the States and I thought about that reality from the perspective of *my* ancestors that emigrated to America from Scotland and Germany. So I asked him to share a little of his family’s story with you, set against the backdrop of Norwegian history.

Take it away, Jan!

EMIGRATION FROM NORWAY TO USA … AND MY FAMILY
by Jan Eek

In the span of less than a hundred years, from around 1825, almost 900,000 Norwegians emigrated to USA. To put it in perspective, the population in Norway in 1860 was 1,595,000. That means that around 10 to 12 million Americans are of Norwegian ancestry.

These are just numbers, so what do we know about the people, the human side of this emigration?

Emigrating from Norway to US

Norwegian settlers in 1898 North Dakota
in front of their homestead, a sod hut
Source

I can only relate to my own family, and as it turned out, I was in for several surprises.

The first one came as we moved from Bergen to a smaller place, Os, an hour’s drive from Bergen. So, what did I find out? Well, I have always known the name of my grandmother and connected it to Bergen, and the first thing I found was that my grandmother’s father was born on a farm very close to where we now live and that he belonged to a prominent family in this area. So, I was back at the cradle of my family!

Further inquiry led me to the most interesting person, my great-great grandfather, Wilhelm. He was a wild one in his youth. He became a father for the first time at the age of 16 and his first son is my direct ancestor. He then roamed Norway, Sweden and Denmark and fathered several children. His family, including a priest and a fairly rich farmer/shopkeeper, of course was embarrassed and tired of this unruly young man, so he was married to a sturdy woman, Thora, and promptly sent to America.

That was the second surprise for me. I had no idea! I have family in the US …

Here is a picture of Wilhelm and Thora in America.

Wilhelm and Thora in America

1896

Wilhelm and Thora had eight children and the first years in the US they lived in a cave in Minnesota. Then they managed to get some land and slowly they developed it into a proper farm and later on established an hotel in the nearest town.

So, I have family here where I live and a large number of cousins in America. I have been in contact with my local family and also connected with one of my American cousins. She came to visit me and I showed her the area and the old farm house which is the origin for both of us AND it is still owned by my family, which was another surprise.

For a while I was hung up in tracing my family, but I stopped when I got to the 16th century. I turned the focus, thinking of the next generations, so I am now writing everything I know and can find out about people in my family. I want my grandchildren and their children to be able to connect with the history of our family.

From my Archives: Hardanger

(I’ve lived in this amazing country for eight years. Buried in my blog’s Archives are many emotions and experiences from my first years as an expatriate. I’d like to let them see the light again! So, on occasional Fridays, I’ll share my favorites in a “Flashback Friday” type of reblog format.)

Spring. A time of renewal, rebirth, growth. The flowers have sent their tentative green shoots up from the earth. There are a few tiny buds on the trees. There’s a hint of warmth in the air (even with the mostly cloudy days). The birds’ songs have become a welcome musical symphony outside my home office window.

Spring has also brought a couple of new clients to my freelancing that have made blogging time — both posting mine and reading yours — very limited. (I love the work … but I miss you!)

With the growing energy from both outside my window and in front of my computer screen inspiring me, I thought I’d share a post that featured photos from a trip six years ago to one of the most beautiful places to welcome the energy of Spring in this part of the world: Hardanger.

Hardanger
May 2, 2009

Hardanger is about an hour from Bergen; it’s one of Norway’s main producers of fruit. Understandably, the spring visuals can be amazing with the blooming fruit trees – but planning when to drive to see them can be tricky, as the bloom times depend on the spring weather (similar to the Cherry Blossoms in D.C., which don’t always cooperate by blooming during the Cherry Blossom Festival!).

Jan had called and we knew we were about a week too early on this trip, but stopping to walk behind Steinsdalsfossen, driving along the Hardangerfjord, and finding a delightful stone shed more than made up for the lack of blooming fruit trees!

[Read more]

Norwegian culture: vacations and hytte

It’s Easter Sunday. Norway slows down the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Monday. Shops close. Businesses close. Many Norwegians take a trip to the mountains for days of winter skiing. Or they are on the coast, enjoying the hint and promise of spring. And many of them are at their hytte.

What the heck is a “hytte”? And what does it have to do with Norway, vacations, and especially culture?

Hytte is a difficult word to translate. From my American perspective it means vacation cabin. But it’s not just a physical building. The word represents generations of outdoor exploration and living, and the family hytte is at the center: it’s the place to return to after a day’s activities, and represents all that is cozy, warm, and relaxing with family. The more remote hyttes don’t have electricity or running water, require hours of hiking to reach, and then (in the winter) more hours of shoveling to get to the front door. There are also many hyttes closer to civilization; an hour or two of driving, and a family can have a relaxing weekend together.

At this stage of life, escaping to the mountains for days on end of hiking or skiing is something that is physically beyond my abilities. But I’m fascinated by this aspect of the culture, and enjoy listening to my husband’s stories of his experiences when he was a young boy and teenager, and father to young boys and teenagers. Experiencing “outside” was the backdrop for all their family activities, which is opposite mine as a girl, teenager, and Mom raising daughters.

In June of 2007, the first year I lived in Norway, a friend invited me out to her family’s hytte on the coast for an afternoon’s worth of girl time. Sotra, an island easily accessible from Bergen that has made several appearances in my blog before, is rocky and typical of the southern Norwegian coast. It reminds me of my trips to Monhegan Island, Maine.

My friend had fixed a lunch that we enjoyed on the deck overlooking the small harbor area looking out towards the Norwegian Sea. The sky was washed out and bright, and the landscape showed the effects of the strong winds that blow in off the ocean.

June 2007 - hytte on Sotra

June 2007 - hytte on Sotra

 

After lunch we took our dessert — a thermos of coffee and tin of sweet rolls — and went out in their small row boat, planning to get to one of the small outcroppings visible in those images above. My friend was rowing the boat, and I was supposed to offer steering guidance from my place at the bow. I was clueless; I’m sure it was a comical site, with strong winds pushing us in various directions and me offering useless suggestions. My friend wisely decided it wasn’t the safest activity! We returned to the dock and took our dessert to an area overlooking the ocean. Once there, we realized we’d forgotten coffee mugs … so used the aluminum containers that had held the sweets. More laughter for the two of us! The early June sun, approaching the longest day of the year, was glaring and hot. It was a peaceful time, all centered on my friend sharing her family hytte with me.

June 2007 - hytte on Sotra

June 2007 - hytte on Sotra

I asked my husband to share his experience both as a boy/teenager, and in the family hytte in northern Norway as his boys were growing up. It’s the typical Norwegian experience of his generation.

My whole life I have been roaming the mountains. Skiing in the winter and hiking the rest of the year. Every week-end, no matter what weather it was, we packed our rucksacks and went skiing or hiking. We never thought about the WHY; it was part of our culture.

As I grew older, we started getting bolder, walking and tenting in the mountains (the real high and dangerous ones) for days and even crossing glaciers. Properly equipped, if the weather got really bad, we dug ourselves a snow hole and waited for the weather to get better.

When my boys grew up, we had a hytte way up in the high mountains of the north. Summertime it was fairly easy living, despite no electricity, no tap water and no toilets. It was marvelous! Walking to the creek to get water, fire up the fireplace and fry dried reindeer meat, light the kerosene lamps, watching the field mice and squirrels hopping around in the fire wood. And long hikes in the deserted mountains, coffee making on a fire beside a lake or a creek, watching the reindeer, the occasional wolverine or even a brown bear and numerous birds. The boys learned very early to walk in the mountains, that is, keep a steady pace and get into a rhythm and make enough noise to alert any predators. It was a wonderful time…

Winter is very different. First of all, we had to get there. In foul weather, the road was closed. If we got there it was very cold, down to around minus 30 degrees centigrade ( and fantastic polar light!), a lot of snow, 5 to 7 yards, and we had to get to the hytte. It was quite a stretch to either ski or trample in the snow and the last hill was very steep, so I had to carry food and sometimes kids up a little at a time…

Once we were there, we could only see the top of the pipe of the hytte, so I actually had to dig a tunnel into the door, and once inside, fire up the stove and the fireplace and get some food and drink into our bodies. It took two days for the hytte to thaw, and in the meantime we had to stay winter clothed at all times, even when we slept.

If this sounds exhausting, we actually never thought about it. It was as it should be…

No photos to show of the family hytte, but his description does it justice, doesn’t it? Here’s one found online that’s in the same area … but missing the final steep hill to get there!

northern Norwegian hytte

Click the photo to see others similar to it, as well as photos of families enjoying summer and winter activities during their time at their hytte.

How about one more photo? This one from the 1960’s is my husband, 17 years old, out for a hike in Sogndal with his friends (referenced in his second paragraph up there). I say “hike” — but this trek was part of a fourteen hour day: hours up a steep ascent from a hytte to get there, hours exploring the area, hours back down. The glacier is one we took my oldest daughter to see when we visited Sogndal in 2010 … although we didn’t get as close as Jan is in this photo, and — to make it easier for this American — our “hytte” was a comfortable hotel . ;)

1960s - Jan at Jostedalsbreen

a short trip to Fusa

My husband has been researching his ancestry. He’s always known about his Bergen ancestors, and in his recent explorations he’s discovered relatives in the States … and met one! Their common ancestor comes not from Bergen, but from Fusa, very close to where we live now in Os.

Last week Jan and I drove out to Fusa for a couple hours’ visit. A short journey away — about thirty minutes, including the ferry — Fusa is a small community along the side of the Bjørnefjorden. I was entranced with the location and the views. It isn’t as expansive a view as where we live now, as it’s more level with the fjord on one side and a steeper mountain hill on the other. I felt an intimacy with the fjord waters that I can’t get from our view from 100 meters up.

Here are photos from the day, beginning with the short wait on the Osøyro side of the fjord for the ferry that runs about every thirty minutes (and doesn’t offer any view) …

 

… a quick shot over Bjørnefjorden from the Fusa side of the crossing …

March 25, 2015 - a short trip to Fusa

 

… and another quick shot over Bjørnefjorden from the area that Jan’s ancestors lived …

March 25, 2015 - a short trip to Fusa

 

… stopping to take few shots across the Bjørnefjord towards Solstrand and Osøyro

 

… driving down to stand next to the fjord, again looking towards Osøyro …

 

… laughing at MacKenzie, who couldn’t get enough of the dry winter grass that felt so good on her dry winter coat …

 

… standing transformed by the silence and calm of the fjord, watching the ferry as it made its way back and forth across the fjord …

 

… pausing for a moment to look behind me towards the mountain hill, notice a slide that emptied into the fjord, and mentally plan to get back in the summer to watch the kids and parents having fun …

 

… traveling towards the cemetery, and discovering a place of ancient and modern monuments representing history, love, and tranquility a few steps from the fjord (not visible in the photos is the small creek that ran beside the cemetery on its journey from mountain to fjord; its sound was soothing and comforting) …

 

… and finally, waiting at the pier for the return ferry, watching the gulls and fish eagles active on their own little island, their own little piece of Norway …

 

You’d think I’d stop being surprised at my delight in every newly discovered place in my part of the world. I hope I never am!

Here’s where we were on Wednesday …

March 25, 2015 - a short trip to Fusa

… and here’s where Fusa is in relation to the rest of Norway and the world.

paintings and photographs: waterfalls

For this comparison in my occasional “paintings and photographs” series, I’ve found a painting by William West featuring something that is frequently seen in a mountainous country: waterfalls. Paraphrasing from Bonhams’ page on the sale of this painting:

William West (1801-1861), a British painter, traveled to Norway often in the early part of his career and produced many landscapes. He became known as ‘Norway West’ or ‘Waterfall West’ in response to his fondness of the location and subject.

I remember seeing waterfalls the first time I visited Norway in 2006 and just staring at the power. If I’d known of Mr. West then, I would have felt a kinship with his emotions. Having not lived in the mountains before — or even traveled very often to a mountainous area — I was mesmerized.

Waterfall photos appear often throughout my blog, either shots of a grand and final cascade of water flying over a ledge, or a trickle closer to the source. I’ve also shared a video of a walk behind one of them.

Here are a few others of the hundreds of waterfall photos I’ve taken in the nine years since I’ve first visited and then moved to this dazzling country.


 

And here is William West’s painting that inspired me to revisit my waterfall images; it looks as if it’s sunset, doesn’t it?

William West - waterfalls

Ahhhh, waterfalls. I’m still mesmerized by you.

 

Solar eclipse

Hello from Northern Europe, where the skies have gotten darker and darker!

Since Bergen has given us the inevitable clouds and rain, I can’t actually see the eclipse … but dusk has fallen outside and it’s a little exciting to think about what’s happening above the clouds.

Solar eclipse

NOT MY PHOTOGRAPHY!
… or even a real photograph
Source

Erica, what’s it like up your way? :)

Bergen Maritime Museum: Oselvar

Last summer we visited The Bergen Maritime Museum. As you can tell from those linked posts, I was intrigued by the seafaring history of Norway in general and my specific area of this country particularly. For several reasons, I found the Oselvar exhibit especially fascinating.

A little background about this type of boat, courtesy of my husband’s Internet sleuthing skills and his discovery of information from the Oselvarklubben/Oselvar Club:

“The Oselvar is a clinker built wooden boat from Hordaland with traditions dating back several thousand years. Archeological findings show large similarity to the Oselvar of today … The term term Oselvar was introduced around 1750 and points to the place were two boatbuilders had their work shop at the mouth of the Os river, entering the Bjørnefjorden …”

In other words, a few minutes from where I live now. :) Continuing:

“From those two boatbuilders we can reconstruct and to a large degree document how the boatbuilders knowledge and skills was passed on from father to son during the following 250 years.”

Please do visit the webpage to read the complete information from the Oselvarklubben/Oselvar Club in English. It is a fascinating history, the details of making an Oselvar are given, and there are additional photos from perspectives I could never capture.

At the end of that page, there’s information about the Oselvarverkstaden, a workshop that opened at the mouth of the river in Osøryo to pass the historical knowledge of building these boats:

 
I occasionally see these boats sailing the fjord:

 
My “paintings and photographs: Mother and Child by the Sea” post shows this type of boat.

And, the Bergen Maritime Museum has an entire display, including models, drawings, sketches … and two actual boats from the 1800’s:

 
We were in Osøryo three weeks after visiting this display in July. I walked next to the river towards the Bjornafjorden to capture my seagulls photo. I was a short distance from Oselvarverkstaden/Oselva Workshop, pictured in the first gallery above. I felt as if I was walking through history. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know how I feel about that!