Friday, September 30, 2011

Starting work on The Family Tree

I have started making a Family Tree. It is just in its beginning stages. It takes me a long time to format all the files so that they can be downloaded properly and viewed by everybody.

Take a Look:
The Vangsness Family Tree - A Beginning

If you have trouble with any photos or files, let me know.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Early 1800's - More about the Times

I have often wondered why so many people left Norway at this time. My brother even said after looking at the beautiful photos of their farms, Why would people leave such a beautiful place? Why, indeed?

Wikipedia says:
...Between 1396 and 1536 Norway was a part of the Kalmar Union, and from 1536 to 1814 Norway was effectually a tributary to Denmark, and was called Denmark-Norway. Denmark–Norway entered into an alliance with Napoleon, with the war leading to dire conditions and mass starvation in 1812....
In the Vik area --
On December 2nd 1811 there was a landslide in Arnafjorden in Nese which devastated the area. Forty-five people were killed. The farm buildings in Nese were all gathered together in one place, just where the landslide happened. Then, in 1812, crops were very bad. People had to work very hard just to get by. They needed help, but it was hard to get help. Even by around 1830 or so, people had still not fully recovered from the hard times. 

In 1839, the first people left Vik for America. They were Per Ivarson Undi and his wife and children. They were the first emigrants from the Sogn og Fjordane County and they were the start of a flood of people leaving the area. Looking at the villages in and around Vik, more than 4,000 people left Vik. Now, there are only about 2,700 people in Vik, but there are thousands of Americans with roots in Vik i Sogn.

And then there were hard social conditions. They did not exactly have serfdom in Norway, but something similar.

Norwegian serfdom can be a way of defining the position of the Norwegian lower class farmers, though they were not actually in serfdom by European standards. The evolution of this social system began about 1750.

The system of Norwegian inheritance was based on a paternal line. Usually the younger sons got a share of the original farm, thus splitting it up in smaller homesteads. In the eastern parts of the country, and to some extent the mountain municipalities, the smaller homesteads still belonged to the main farm, and the lesser farmers were obliged to work the fields on the main farm as well as their own, in exchange for living there. This could lay heavy burdens on the smaller homesteads.

Vik Coat of Arms*
Sogn og Fjordane
As time passed, the smaller homesteads passed from farmer to farmer, and the actual bonds between the families could be broken. In Hedmark, a main farm could govern up to ten smaller homesteads, spread around in the forests and fields connected to the farm. Social exploitation could often be a result of this policy, and also a strict social order, not to be broken (described in some of the novels of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, and later Ingeborg Refling Hagen and Alf Prøysen). The difference from serfs elsewhere was that the farmer did not directly own the life and property of the homesteader (Husmann), but in most cases, he practically did. In Hallingdal this was most common in the lower parts of the valley, and, at some point, all the serfs were evicted, and the homesteads torn down. Many of the Norwegian migrants to America came from this social class. So did also the main stock of Norwegian workers, as the land got crowded and the shifting of land came to an end about 1860.

Vik within Sogn og Fjordane
Could the landslide and subsequent bad economic times along with Ivar's parents deaths in 1850 have pushed him into going to America to better himself? Since 1839, people had started to leave. He must have heard the stories of abundant land to be had to any hard working family.  And in his position of being the 4th son in a large family, he would have expected to get little after his parents deaths. And with their deaths in 1850, it must have been very clear to him what he could expect.

*The coat of arms, granted on March 15, 1991 shows 3 knives for cutting leaves used for fodder.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Iver E's Family in Norway

The first members of the Vangness Family to come to the US were Iver E. and his wife, Unni. I do not have much information right now on Unni, but I would like to start working on Iver's family.

Iver's parents
Father:  Endre Hansen, Lee, Nissestad Born 1783 - Died 1850 at age 67
Mother: Kari Wikingsdatter, Morkve Born 1780 - Died 1850 at age 64

I would be very interested to find out why both parents died in 1850.

They had 8 children:
  1. John Endreson Born 1804 - Died ?, Married Ragnhild Hohannesdatter, Lee & later Ingeborg Torteindotter Hauglum
  2. Hans Endreson, Nistad, Dale Born 1806 - Died 1878 at age 72, Married Ingeborg Vilhelmdotter, Dale
  3. Synneve Endresdatter Born 1808 - Died 1861, Died at age 55
  4. Wiking Endreson I  Born 1812 - Died 1812, Died as a baby
  5. Wiking Endreson Born 1813 - Died ?*, Married Kari Olsdotter, Hopperstad
  6. Ole Endreson I Born 1817 - Died 1817, Died as a baby
  7. Iver Endreson, Nisstad Born 1819 - Died 1905 in US**at age 86, this is our Iver!Married Unni Andersdatter
  8. Ole Endreson Born 1823 - Died 1905* at age 82
*Often, if a child died in child birth or as a little baby, the parents would often name the next baby of the same sex with the same name.
**Click on the Iver E. Vangsness  under Topic to see other entries about Iver.

Of the 8 children,
  • 2 died at birth or as little babies. 
  • 3 lived to advanced old age: 72, 82 and 86!
  • 1 to age 55
  • 2 death unknown at this time, but as John Endreson had two wives, he most likely lived a long time and Wiking lived to marry, so she no doubt lived to adulthood.
It is also interesting to note that Wiking Endreson (#5 in the list above) is the main male sponsor in 1853 at the baptism of Iver and Unni's child, John, our Great grandfather. He is listed as Viking Endresen Nissestad in that document. See John E. Vangsness' Birth Records.

I do not have any information about other family members coming to the US. John G. Vangnsess, who did the original research on the family tree does not mention any other family members coming to the US, so I assume that they did not immigrate.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Iver Endreson & Unni Andersdattor Marriage

Wilda Obey searched the Balestrand bygdebok, read the Norwegian and found the following:

Sogn og Fjordane county, Balestrand, Parish register (official) nr. 
A 2 (1844-1866), Marriage records 1854, page 159.

Background information
Vangsnes is now in the Vik administration unit and it is part of the Vik mainland. In the past Vansnes was considered part of Balestrand Parish which is across the Sognefjord. In the days before roads were built, it was easier for government and church officials to go across the fjord by boat than to hike over the mountains. Thus, the Vangsness farm is in the Balestrand bygdebok.

On Find a Grave, we have photos of John E's grave stone listing his birth as July 13th, but the Balestrand church book (1844-1866) lists his birth as July 12th, 1852. (see my blog entry John E. Vangsness' Birth Records.) His parents were not married at the time but they did marry in December 1853. They went to America in 1854, most likely in April. We are a little puzzled about the two birth dates being different. One would think that John E. would know his own birthday! But we have been told that mistakes do happen on gravestones....

John was born at the Vangsnes farm. His father was Iver Endreson Nissestad and his mother was Unni Andersdatter Vangsnes. At their marriage, Iver is 35 and Unni is 30 years 6 months.

Marriage Records
See Item No. 24
  • No: 24
  • Date: either December 1st or 17 (hard to read), 1853
  • Brudgommen's Nave (Bridegroom's Name) Ungkari = bachelor Iver Endreson, Oppholdssted (Residence) next possibly that he was born in Nissestad in Vig (Vik) and possibly saying he is now residing in Vangsnæs. Age 35. Brudgommens Far: His father is Endre Hansen Lie; 
  • Bruden’s Navn (Bride's name) Pige = unmarried woman or girl Unni Andersdtr, Oppholdssted (Residence) from Dale, Age 30 1/2. Bruden’s Far: Her father is Anders Erikson Vangsnæs.
  • Forlovernes (witnesses or best men or Sponsors) are Niels Monsen Vangsnæs and Anders Eriksen Vangsnæs. (Anders is most likely her father, so Niels would be a friend or relative of the groom.)
  • Tillysningsdagen (date of the wedding announcement): The next column could be the dates for the 3 banns dates where the marriage has to be announced in advance. The dates are hard to read.
  • Naar Havt De Naturlig Koppar, Eller Vaccineret? Attest Derom (Have they had smallpox naturally, or if not, have they been vaccinated? Attest thereto): Answer: yes. * Iver's is hard to read, ???, 1827 and Unni's is 5/4 25, meaning most likely 5 April 1825.
*I will write about this later, but small pox etc. was a big problem. In the early 1800s everyone had to be vaccinated before marriage.

Click here to see an enlargeable version of the page.

A reminder of where the farms are:
Unni's home farm is not shown on any of the maps I have put on the blog:: New Map of Vik and Area. But look at the map with Vik at the south edge with Balestrand across the fjord. You can see Vangsnes and the ferry routes. The Berge farm in Balestrand is further north. Follow the ferry route north along the bit of the fjord called Fjaerlandsfjord. Wilda Obey says that the farm is close to Mundal where US Vice President and ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale had ancestors.

The second map shows the southern part of Vik. There you can find the Le or Lee farm and the Nissestad farms.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

John E. Vangsness' Birth Records

Sogn og Fjordane county, Balestrand, Parish register (official) nr. 
A 2 (1844-1866), Birth and baptism records 1852, page 21.
The actual Parish register, p 21, Arkivverket Risksarkivet Og Statsarkivene


Our ancestor, John E. Vangsness' birth record in Norway.
Click on the image to see a larger version. Most browsers will allow you to zoom in at least one level or enlargement. Use the back arrow in your browser to get back here.
He is No. 39.
--Or click here for a PDF version which can be enlarged.

  1. Birth date: 13 July
  2. Baptism date: 18 July
  3. Name: John
  4. Whether Legitimate or not: He is not. But, underneath it mentions that his parents married in 1853.
  5. Parent's names: Ungkari / bachelor- Iver Endreson, Pige / unmarried woman or girl - Unni Andersd. Vangsneas
  6. Sponsors:  Viking Endresen Nissestad (obviously his father's brother listed as Wiking on John G.'s family tree records) and his other 4 sponsors all live at Vangsnes.
  7. Note about being illegitimate: It has Erik (something like Pe) derson Vangsneaes. It could be that Erik Anderson Vangsnaes could be the babies grandfather. He may be vouching for the couple. (The ae in that name looks like an o.)

About Baptismal Records
-For baptismal records the year usually will be written at the top of the page.
-The left hand column is the chronological number of that baptism for that year, starting with #1. 
-Usually the next column will be the birth date, and the next column is the baptism date, then the child's name, next whether it is a legitimate birth, next the parents' names and residence. 
-Next, usually on the second page, are the baptism sponsors, often 5 in number, with the oldest or most important man listed first, then the other men, and then the women. 
-There may be a column for stating if there was a home baptism and by whom. 
-There may be a last column for remarks, such as explaining why the parents aren't married. 
-Some baptism records separate the boys from the girls, either with the boys on the left page and the girls on the right, or with the boys at the top of the page and girls at the bottom.

If you can't tell by the name the sex of the child; a boy usually has 3 male sponsors and 2 female, while a girl has 3 female sponsors and 2 males. Almost always the male sponsors are listed first, oldest or more important first, and then the youngest, often the last is newly confirmed = circa age 16.)

Thank you to Wilda Obey for finding this material and sharing it with us AND translating the Norwegian. AND for her detailed instructions on how to find the correct page in the Parish Records so that I could download it.

Norwegian Parish Records and Censuses Online

To see Norwegian Parish Records online go to Arkivverket Online Records
Wilda Obey has provided detailed instructions how to use the site. 

How to Use the Site
Arkivverket Online Records

This takes you to digitized parish registers. If you cannot get to the site from the address above, try typing in Norwegian digital arkiv, or Norwegian archives at a search engine to get there.

At digitised parish registers select from the scroll of 20 counties and cities. When you select a county it will automatically go to the list of all of its parishes with years of the registers. Select a parish at the date that you wish. That will automatically go to the contents page, which often lists baptisms, marriages, burials, vaccinations, confirmations, and emigration by year. Select one category.

This will automatically go to the category you chose. There one of the top lines is a light purple and has the title user options. There you can choose to view the page in one of 5 sizes, from reduced to larger than the original. Viewing at 60% works best for my printer, to get the whole two pages on one 11 by 8 inch paper. 150% will make it easier to read. Just below the purple line is the line with forward arrow, or forward 5 or 20, and also the backward arrows. This line is repeated at the bottom of the church register page. You can click the forward arrow until you find the entry you want to see.

When you finish looking at those pages, if you click contents it will go back to that church register first page. If you click my selection it will go back to the county you chose. If you click new selection it will go back to the original digitised parish registers page.

The parish registers are the actual photograph of the original page. They are written in Norwegian with some Latin words. The later registers have preprinted columns and titles.

For baptismal records the year usually will be written at the top of the page. The left hand column is the chronological number of that baptism for that year, starting with #1. Usually the next column will be the birth date, and the next column is the baptism date, then the child's name, next whether it is a legitimate birth, next the parents' names and residence. Next, usually on the second page, are the baptism sponsors, often 5 in number, with the oldest or most important man listed first, then the other men, and then the women. There may be a column for stating if there was a home baptism and by whom. There may be a last column for remarks, such as explaining why the parents aren't married. Some baptism records separate the boys from the girls, either with the boys on the left page and the girls on the right, or with the boys at the top of the page and girls at the bottom.

Marriage records list the year, and the chronological number of that marriage for that year, then the groom's name, then the bride's. Most give their ages or birth dates, birthplaces and/or residences, then fathers' names, then the two male sponsors. Often there will be a listing of the three dates of the banns (when the forthcoming marriage was announced in church). The last column is the vaccinations dates, and sometimes there are remarks, such as when the first spouse died. Usually the marriage records list the man as a bachelor = ungkarl, or its abbreviation ungk, and the woman as pige = unmarried woman. Or it will list if either is a widower or widow, sometimes abbreviated enk or e.

For burials, listed by year, chronological number, person's name, age or birth date, residence, and sometimes cause of death is given. The first date is the date of death, and the second is the burial date. If there is a third date it is when the pastor was there and entered the data in the register (which might be weeks after the burial). If there is a - in the burial column, the body was not buried in the church yard. Some were lost at sea. Sometimes male and female burial listings are separated. In some it may give the father's name for a child, or the husband's name for a woman.

Censuses. To get to censuses from the first page you came to, click The Digital Archives (or by selecting new selection from the church registers). Select a year - 1801, 1865, 1875, 1900, and then select a county. It will automatically go to the county and its subdivisions. Choose one. The censuses are transcribed and not the actual census page. The instructions and some of the data is in English, and most of the censuses have a page of explanation of abbreviations, and translations. You can search by farm name, or a person's first or last name, or birth year, etc. It is best to list only the first letter, or the first few letters, as spelling varies. The census page usually lists the farm name, its parish and county at the top line. It will give the number of cattle, bee hives, etc. Then it lists the household members, usually starting with the male head of household, his age or birth date, if married or unmarried or a widower, his occupation, and birthplace. Then it lists his wife, children, and other members of the household, such as servants, parents or siblings.

Other online sites for Norway can be found from any search engine, wikipedia, CyndisList, Google Earth and many other sites. 
 Ancestors from Norway by John Follesdal, has how to do Norwegian genealogy, history, explanation of and where to find bygdeboks, vocabulary lists, etc., and links. 
 Norway genealogy by Linda Schwartz, has a variety of subjects and links. is a question and answer format on a variety of topics, such as What did Vikings eat? is mostly on emigration. our Pine County Genealogical Society, has links to mostly U.S. sources. Click on research, then click on other genealogy sites. There the Minnesota Historical Society has their catalog, birth and death certificate indexes, photograph collection, etc. The Iron Range Research Center is a good source for naturalization records which one may photocopy while at their center or at the MN Historical Society. Dalby database has many pages on Norwegians listed in cemeteries, obituaries, newspaper articles, etc. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vangsnes, Le, Nistad

Vangsness, Le, Nistad

These are the 3 farms associated with our family.

Wilda Obey continues,
All 3 farms you mention are in Vik. Vangsnes is a peninsula near the main part of Vik, which is called Vik, Vik. Vangsnes is now the main ferry terminal to cross the Sognefjord from Vik to Balestrand and Leikanger. It is a very large farm with many sub farms = many different families living there. Le and Nistad are in the Arnafjord part of Vik. This is a remote, mountainous, beautiful area with small farms with only one or a few families living at each farm.

Go to for more complete listing of all farms, history, and other interesting material.

The Le Farm
Lie/Lee is a very common name, meaning meadow or pasture, and possibly the Lee in question is a sub farm of a larger farm.

 © Torstein Hønsi

To quote from the site:
Le (ON *Liðin from lið 'field gate' and vin 'meadow, pasture') is one of the oldest farms in Arnafjorden, and before machines became common in agriculture, the steep fields at Le were considered very good farmlands. The Le farms have got their mountain farms at Bjergane.

 © Torstein Hønsi

The Nistad Farm

© Torstein Hønsi.

To quote from the site:
Nistad (not interpreted) must be populated about viking age, according to the 'stad'-ending. Nistad's summer farm is Skoddesete and the spring farm is Dragsbotnen.

The Vangsnes Farm

 © Torstein Hønsi.

 © Torstein Hønsi.
To quote from the site:
Vangsnes has probably got it's name fromVangsen 'the ploughshare', a sunken rock in the fjord off Vangsnes. Nes is 'point'. In the older days there were three distinct house clusters at Vangsnes: Indreneset, Midtun and Ytreneset. The summer farms belonging to the Vangsnes farms are Kallbakk, Kleivadalen, Endresete, Godstøl and Gjelet.


What are Bygdaboks
We are receiving help in looking for our relatives from Wilda Obey, a member of the Genealogical Society in her part of Minnesota. She has 3 bygdeboks for the Sognefjord area of Norway; Leikanger Vik and Balestrand. She was first in contact with Dave Vangsness and I was able to contact her with Dave's help. She has copies of several other important resources from the Vik area.

Thank you so much, Wilda!!

Wilda Obey says:

Bygdbok is bok = book and bygd = a rural community.

These books list all of the farms in one area of Norway, by farm. They usually start at about 1600 and mention the name of the farmers there then. They mention his wife and children and usually give some dates, by year only. They tell where the children went or who they married if they left the farm. It continues on with who lived at the farm down to the early 1900s.

Arkivvet is the Norwegian spelling of archive. (That is v v not w) This is online and has actual church pages and these are of baptisms, marriages, burials and also vaccination, confirmation, and those coming into and leaving the parish. It also has some censuses, not the actual page, but a transcription, and emigration information.

Our first ancestor to come to America is named Iver Endreson, Nistad, his wife is Unni Andersdattor.

Wilda always tell everyone not to worry about spelling. There are several different ways to spell almost every personal name and the farm names. In Norway a child was usually named for a grandparent, sibling of the parents or first spouse who had died of either parent.

The patronym, Endreson, means he is the son of Endre. Endre's daughters would be Endresdatter, and they kept this name for life, as even after marriage, they are still Endre's daughter. The last name, Vangsnes, Lie, Nistad is the farm name. This should be thought of more as an address than as a permanent name. 

Iver/Ivar Endreson may have been born at Nistad, married and lived at Lie/Lee/Le (which is the Le in Arnafjord, Vik) and then moved to Vangsnes and taken that name. 

In the U.S. they could use the farm name, or the patronym, usually choosing a name that Yanks could pronounce and not make fun of. Or they might take a more Anglicized name, often starting with the same first letter as the original name.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fridtjof the Bold

The Frithjof's Saga

File:Statue av Fridtjov den frøkne oppført av Vilhelm II.jpg
Fridtjof the Bold              Photo By: Ssolbergj
In Vik, Vangsnes, there is a small peninsula or point where this statue is located. This is Fridtjof, the Bold from The Frithjof Saga.

Friðþjófs saga hins frœkna (Frithiof's Saga) is a legendary saga from Iceland which in its present form is from ca 1300. It is a continuation from The Saga of Thorstein Víkingsson (Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar). It takes place principally in the Vik area of Norway during the 8th century.

Shelly Sylvester summarized the story something like this:

This big fellow is a local viking hero. He wanted to marry Ingebjørg, the daughter of King Bele from the other side of the fjord where Fridtjof lived (Vangsnes).

Fridtjof and Ingebjørg grew up together on the farm Hilding (one of the largest farms in Sogn at the time, situated further in the fjord). But when Fridtjof wanted to marry Ingebjørn her brothers tried to put a stop to it, because they wanted her to marry the powerful King Ring of Ringerike (east Norway), to avoid a big war with him. To make this happen the brothers sent Fridtjof on a trip to the Orkney islands telling him to collect taxes and hoping to be rid of him for good. Then they made Ingebjørg marry King Ring and robbed and burned Fridtjof's home farm on Vangsnes.

When Fridjof came back and saw what had happened to his home farm and Ingebjørg he burned the Grand farm that Ingebjørgs brothers lived on in Balestrand, and stole back the ring he had given to Ingebjørg before he left on the mission her brothers cooked up. Now he was lawless and left to raid foreign countries for treasures - that is to say, he went on Viking Raids!! After 3 years on the run he returned to Ringerike making himself out to be an old man that wanted to see his old girlfriend Ingebjørg. The old King liked Fridtjof and promised that he could have Ingebjørg as his own wife when the old king passed away to stop him going on another raid. Soon after the old King died.

Fridtjof took Ingebjørg as his wife and controlled the kingdom until the old king's sons where of age. They didn't like Fridtjof so they went to war against him. In one battle Fridtjof killed one of the sons while the other begged for his life and Fridtjof let him live. After this Fridtjof became King of all of Sogn and made Hordaland part of his kingdom too.
What is a SAGA

According to Wikipedia:
The setting is primarily Scandinavia, but occasionally it moves temporarily to more distant and exotic locations. There are also very often mythological elements, such as dwarfs, elves, giants and magic. In centuries past, they were considered to be reliable historic sources by Scandinavian scholars, but since the 19th century, they have been considered to contain very little historic material. The present consensus is that, although some of the sagas contain a small core which is not fiction, or are based on historical characters, the primary function of the legendary sagas was entertainment, and the aim of the sagas has not been to present a historically accurate tale. Recently, however, it has been emphasized that the sagas are useful sources for the culture of 13th and 14th century Iceland, "in terms of the light that they can shed on the culture in which they were composed" i.e. Iceland in the later Middle Ages.

The statue in the picture was given to the county of Vik in 1913 by the German Emperor Wilhelm II. The statue of Fridtjof the Bold stands 22.5 m tall and it located on Vangsnes Point.

New Map of Vik and Area

If you click on the maps, I believe they will open in your browser and one more click will enlarge it. These two maps show all the farms in the Vik - Sognafjord area.

Wilda Obey says:
The Map #1 with Vik at the south edge and Balestrand across - shows Vangsnes and its ferry routes. The Berge farm in Balestrand is further north and not on this map page. It is on the Fjaerlandsfjord and is fairly close to Mundal where U. S. VP and ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale had ancestors.

The Map #2 is of the southern part of Vik and shows the Lee (here spelled Lee but it must be your Le) and Nissestad farms.

Map #1
Kartbok for Vest Landet Copyright Bergens Tidende, 1985
Click here for PDF version of Map #1 that can be enlarged to see farms more clearly.

Map #2
Kartbok for Vest Landet Copyright Bergens Tidende, 1985
Click here for a PDF version of Map #2 that can be enlarged to see farms more clearly.

A Little Bit About Vangsness

The Ploughshare
Vangsnes is a village in the parish of Vik, Sogn go Fjordane County.

The Vikjavev Home Page says:
Vangsnes most likely got it name from Vangsen, "The Ploughshare", a sunken rock in the fjord off Vangsnes. "Nes" means "point".

This home page is really beautiful, with lots of photos and daily weather-of-the-day photos of Vik, listings and photos of the farms and much interesting information.

If you jump to the Vikjavey Home Page, they have a photo updated daily showing Vangsness. There is also a clickable map with photos of farms.

History link. Go to Vik i Sogn though the centuries to read a short history of Vik

Long ago, there were 3 distinct areas where people lived in Vangsnes:
  • Indreneset,
  • Midtun,
  • Ytreneset.
It seems in Norway at the time, there were summer farms and winter farms.
Norway farms.jpg
The summer farms that were part of Vangsness district are:
  • Kallbakk,
  • Kleivadalen,
  • Endresete,
  • Godstol and
  • Gjelet

Notice one of the farms is called Endresete, which is close of some of the names found among our ancestors: Endre...

Originally, up to 1837, Vangsnes was in Leikanger parish.
In 1850, Balestrand was established and Vangsness was transferred there.
The last and most recent governmental change came in 1964, when Vangsnes was transferred to Vik parish.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Borgund Stave Church

My sister, Nella Synneve Parrish, and her husband, Mike, visited Norway and Vik a couple of years ago. This church is considered one of the best and most complete examples of its kind.

Nella in front of Borgund Stave Church

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Map of Norway - Sognafjord, Arnafjord

Please take a look at this map provided by Dave Vangsness.
It is a scan of an old atlas that he has.

I added the red arrows showing 4 interesting sites:

  • Sognafjord - the name of fjord where they lived.
  • Vangsnes Farm - which is now a ferry landing.
  • Arnafjord - where the Lee/Le/Lie Farm could be.
  • Borgund Stave Church

Below, where it says Location, I had also added a Google Map, so you can zoom in and out to see more of the country.

Lydia Vangsness as a young woman

Lydia was raised as a daughter of John E. Vangness, but she is actually the daughter of Ida, who died in 1903 in child birth. Lydia was, of course, that child.
Here are some photos of Lydia as a young girl and woman.

Could this be Lydia's Confirmation Photo?

Lydia & Unni, who raised the Vangsness children
Lydia as a grown woman.
Lydia loved those round eye glasses!

Formal photo of Lydia
My mother told me that Lydia did not know about the circumstances of her birth or what happened to her real mother. She must have thought it odd, that everyone else's mother, Synneve Berge, John E.'s wife, had died in 1891. My mother said she was told some time before her wedding to Reuben Sjoquist. Lydia immediately told Reuben. Reuben is reported to have said something like this: "Oh that! I have known that for years. It makes no difference to me! Everyone knows."

Here is the Sjoquist Farm in Goodhue, Minnesota, where Lydia and Reuben lived. Phyllis, Robert and Don were raised here.

Sjoquist Farm

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A 1954 Visit to see Aunts and Uncles

My uncle, Paul John Sylvester, son of Nellie, went to Goodhue MN with his wife and son to visit some of the older aunts and uncles: Alfred, Adolph, Unni and Nellie.
Here are some of those album photos.

Trip  to Minnesota to Visit Aunts and Uncles in 1954
Unni, Alfred, Nellie, Adolph
You can see the young Dean Sylvester on the bottom

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Belle Creek Pioneer Passes Away ..... 1938

John E. Vangsness, born 1852 in Norway, came to the United States with his parents when he was two and died 1938 on the farm his father worked first and then he worked for 76 years.

John E and wife, Sennova Berge's head stones
John E.'s head stone, born 1852, died 1938
Synneve's head stone, born 1855, died 1891
John E.'s wife, Synneve, had passed away in 1891, some 47 years before him.
The above photos from Dave Vangsness's Find a Grave entry.

John E. Vangsness's Obituary

In the second to last paragraph at the very bottom, it says that "Three brothers have preceded him in death, Anders, Carl and one having died in infancy." If this is true, his mother and father must have had 6 children, one which died in infancy, his name unknown to us, his birth and death dates unknown to us. It would be interesting to try and investigate this.

It seems that John E. was fairly healthy until just nine days before his death when he caught a cold. Read his obituary....

Friday, September 2, 2011

John E. & Synneve's Life in Belle Creek

According to several sources, a newspaper obituary and David Vangsness's article on Find a Grave, John E. Vangsness was born July 12th, 1852 in Sogngo Fjordane County, Norway. He was the oldest son of Iver E. Vangsness and wife Unni Andersdatter.

John E. Vangsness

Read the entry, Where they came From, with a photo showing their home in Norway, which, I believe is still standing.

They all immigrated to the United States in 1854.  As far as I know now, we DO NOT know why Iver and his wife decided to move to America except perhaps the classic reasons of bettering yourself, having your own land, that sort of thing. The whole family ended up in Madison, Dane county, Wisconsin on July 4th, 1854 for the start of their new life. Iver worked as a laborer, I guess saving money to buy some land.

After eight years in Wisconsin, the family moved to Belle Creek, Goodhue county, Minnesota in 1862. The Civil War was still in its early stages. In a letter to Paul John Sylvester in 1996, John G. Vangsness says that John Vangsness II remember his grandfather telling him stories about that trip. They traveled in an ox-drawn wagon. And they saw Union soldiers in stage coaches, I suppose heading off to the front lines.

In Belle Creek, Iver purchased 130 acres of land in section 31. In about 1866, their first log cabin house was build. Read the entry, Where they Ended Up, which has photos of the log cabin and barn.

John E.'s mother, Unni Andersdatter, died in 1868, when John E. was 16 years old. John G. Vangsness remembers that his father and grandfather, Alfred, talked about Unni being killed by a sheep ram - which shows she was a hard working farmer's wife. She died 47 years before her husband having lived in America just 14 years. His father died in 1905, at the age of 86. I suppose that John E. helped with the care of his four younger brothers: Anders, Carl, Andrew & Cornelius after his mother died. There is mention of a sixth brother that died in infancy, we have no name or dates for this child.

In 1876, John E., 24, married Synneve Berge, 22, from Norway. John G. remembers that her family lived just north of John E.'s farm, now Goodhue County Road 8. So she possibly came from Norway shortly before meeting John E. Perhaps for a few years, they lived somewhere else, because the newspaper obituary notes that in 1885 they moved back to the Belle Creek log house and stayed there till his death in 1938. The couple had ten  children, three dying in infancy and two as young adults. The surviving children were: Unni, Adolph, Olga, Alfred & Nellie. (Ida died as a young adult.) Lydia was raised as John E.'s daughter.

The Family Tree shows Ten Children.... 
....the last child dying the same year as Synneve. I think this period of time must have been very hard on mothers.

Synneve was married in 1876 at the age of 22.
  1. First child, Unni was born in 1877
  2. Second child, Severine born 1879* See 1895 Census
  3. Third child, Ida born 1880
  4. Fourth child, Adolph born 1882 & died 1884
  5. Fifth child, Olga, born 1885
  6. Sixth child, Alfred, born 1886
  7. Seventh child, Nellie, born 1888
  8. Eighth child, Adolph, born 1890 See Christening Doc. 1890
  9. Ninth child, (baby) Vangsness, born & died 1890
  10. Tenth child, Synneve, born & died 1891 See Christening Doc. 1891
Synneve died 1891, at the age of 35.
    In 15 short years, Synneve had 10 babies and then died.
    At her death in 1891, her surviving children's ages were:
    Unni - 14, Severine - 12, Ida - 11, Olga - 6, Alfred - 5, Nellie - 3, Adolph - 1

    I can only assume that from 1889, Synneve was caring for 3 children of tender years, no doubt getting help from her three older daughters, Unni, Severine and Ida, who were 14, 12 and 11 at the time. But, then from 1890 to her death in 1891 (month unknown), she was pregnant 3 times! Only Adolph, born first of the last 3 in 1890,  survived. She lost her last two babies, and I feel certain, she died with the last baby.
    * We have conflicting information about Severina. We have found 1895 Census Report, showing Severina to be alive and 16 years old in 1895. Subsequently, we have also found that she most likely died at the age of 29 in 1908 as the wife of Andrew Anderson.
    My mother, Virginia (daughter of Nellie) tells me that Unni raised the last surviving baby, Adolph. In fact, he called her mother and always felt that she was his mother. Unni was instrumental in raising all of the younger children. She felt a real obligation towards her younger siblings, John G. recalls. Unni evidently had a chance to marry, but she let it pass by because she felt strongly that she had to take care of the children left by her mother. She stayed with the family helping to raise all of the children.

    John G. remembers Unni and Adolph very well. They came to the farm often to visit. They all played dominos with great enthusiasm and loud conversation in Norwegian. In fact, he grew up on farm homesteaded by our great grandfather. His father rented the farm from Alfred, his father from 1855 to 1967.

    Photo of Synneve
    I have not been able to find a photo of Synneve Berge, but I would love to have one of this hard working mother and Great grandmother of us all. My mother tells me that she thinks there was a photo of John and Synneve on the wall of their living room when she visited them. Perhaps some other relatives have a photo of Synneve.

    Iver Endreson Vangsness's & Unni Andersdattor's Passing

    Iver was born November 1819 and his wife was born in 1823 in Norway.

    He had married Unni Andersdatter in Norway and they had a son, John E. who was born on a farm in Sogn, Norway on July 12th, 1852.

    They came to America in 1854 and located in Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin on July 4th. He engaged in general labor until 1862. After that they moved again, this time to Belle Creek township in Goodhue County, Minnesota. Iver purchased 130 acres of wild land on Section 31, which he broke and cleared. He improved the land and built a home and other buildings necessary to carry on successful farming. Here he died on May 2, 1905, Unni having passed away in 1868.

    Unni Andersdatter passed away in 1868, just six years after moving to Belle Creek. She would have been about 45 years of age. She had had 5 children. (There was possibly a 6th child, that child having passed away in infancy.)
    The children's ages at her death were:

    • John - 16, 
    • Anders - 10, 
    • Carl - 8, 
    • Andrew - 5, 
    • Cornelius - 4. 

    It is believed that Unni was killed by a sheep ram in 1868. Iver lived much longer and died May 2nd, 1905 in Goodhue County, Minnesota.

    We have not been able to find any photos of Iver or his wife. I wonder if someone has some photos and just does not realize who the people are....

    Iver's Grave Site

    Minneola Lutheran Church, Hader, Goodhue County, MN

    Iver E. Vangsness' headstone

    These photos come from the Find a Grave site that Dave Vangsness took and uploaded.
    Map:  Minneola Lutheran Church in Hader.