I just found a wonderful site devoted to old photos and articles about the husmenn (tenant farmers) of the “old country,” i.e. Norway. These were the poorest folk, and were the vast majority of those who emigrated to America. Nearly all of our ancestors came from this peasant class. They did not own their farm land. By custom, their limited rights were granted for life, but even this was not supported by law until 1851. For his “rent,” the husmann worked long and hard for the benefit of the farm owner. Upon the husmann’s death, his lease was not inherited by his offspring, but reverted to the owner to do with as he wished.
The website is called Arkivnett Oppland. Here is just one of the images.
This link will take you to the photo gallery. The text is all in Norwegian, but I also found a very much improved translation engine at Google Translate. It is still far from adequate, but you can make some sense out of most of it. Gallery with Translate
The translation of husmann is variously “crofter” or “cotter.” There is lots of good background in the articles too. I found them worth trying to read, even in Google’s very partial translation. One more image:
Keep in mind that these dwellings are probably not the worst, but the best that this class of people had to live in. And they are surely dressed in their finest clothes for the rare opportunity of being photographed. The clothes may have looked even poorer a generation or so earlier, before factory-woven textiles were widely available. I hope you enjoy this excellent collection at Arkivnett Oppland.
Next: Amundsons, part III.
3 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Lois Larson Hall
Dec 9, 2009
Wow. What great pictures, and perfect examples of what it was like for our families in the old country. I try to imagine it as I sit here at a computer in a warm, well-lit home with running water and a pantry stocked with food, a car in the driveway to take me anywhere I want to go to buy anything I want to buy at a mega-store having everything I could ever want or need. We take for granted living in absolute luxury in comparison to the peasant class of Norway and/or any other of the early ethnic societies. I’m reading a fascinating book (The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett), set in England during the cathedral building era of 1100’s, but with a little imagination easily translateable to what daily life would have been like in Norway then and even into the 1800’s for the peasant class.
Jan 3, 2010
I just finished reading Pillars of the Earth (mom bought it for me for xmas) and yes, it’s amazing how things stayed unchanged for quite a long time, hence the ‘dark ages’ term I suppose – although it’s hard to imagine it was much different than these pictures show.
Jan 5, 2010
I have not read that book, sounds very good. I can imagine, though, that things were much worse for most people in the 13th century, than in the late 19th, when these were taken.