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.