It has been a good many months since cousin Myrna (tusen takk, fetter) retrieved for me a certain court document from the Oslo regional archive, namely the sentence of the Stiftsoverret (something like a mid-level appeals court) against our great-great-grandmother, Anne Larsdatter Skurdalshaugen, dated 17 August, 1840. It was an extremely tough nut to crack. Here is a typical example of the handwriting:To view the complete document, click here.
I finally asked a professional genealogist in Sweden to transcribe the handwriting into typewritten characters. At first she accepted the job; then when she looked more closely at it, changed her mind, saying it was too difficult. But I twisted her arm, promising to accept whatever partial transcription she could render. The result was very incomplete, but with the help of my friend Berit to translate, and by hours of comparing with the Høyesterret (Supreme Court) document I already had, we were able to make some sense out of most of it. I will not be posting it in much detail, as it mostly reiterates (or I should say “pre-iterates”) the general outline of the other sentence. You can view that complete document in its printed form, with a good translation, here.
Both of these courts simply affirmed the sentence originally imposed on Anne by the magistrate (Sorenskriver) of southern Gudbrandsdal, which document I have not yet located, if it even survives.
The Stiftsoverret does provide a clue as to why Anne’s case came to the higher courts, while those of her accomplices, Kari Olsdatter and Ole Engebretsen, did not. It says that Anne was sentenced to eight months in prison, while Kari got six months, and Ole only three. Apparently, that is why Anne appealed her sentence.
There is a more complete list of the items taken by the three thieves in their two (possibly three) nights of burglary; all measurements are approximate. Dollar amounts are in Specie dollar, roughly equivalent to U.S. dollars of the period:
>Some wool and/or woolen garments, value about $2, recovered.
>A dress, value $0.50, recovered.
>”small things,” value $0.08, recovered.
>Butter, value $0.30, “other food;” compensation waived.
>”Some foodstuffs,” old shirts, 7 yards of burlap, and some yarn, value $1.50, recovered.
>1/2 measure(?) of herring, 1 bucketful of potatoes, 5 turnips (or cabbages), and one piece of pork (bacon or ham?), value altogether $0.50, compensation waived.
Total value of all items stolen by the three thieves: around $5. Of course this was 1840; in today’s dollars, maybe $100. Still, not a great fortune, and all of it food or clothing for hungry and impoverished families. Mind you, this came on the heels of four consecutive years of crop failures. According to historian Einar Hovdhaugen, people were grinding up birch bark and moss to make bread. The question comes to mind: were Anne’s deeds “crimes” in the sense of anti-social behavior, or were they desperate, instinctual efforts toward her family’s survival?
But as to the question simmering in my mind all these months, one of genealogy, neither of these two court documents offer any clue whatsoever.
Next: Who’s your daddy?