As I observed when discussing the arithmetic, most or all people are likely some degree of cousins, however distant; ergo, most or all married couples must be each other’s cousins. So, it is not surprising that I have already found the “cousin-hood” of my own parents, and one set of great-grandparents. In both cases, the common ancestor I identified was way back in ancient history, i.e. before 1100 CE.
Now, upon closer study of my ancestors in Norway, I find that my paternal grandparents, Isaac Larson and Anna Moen, may also have been cousins; in fact, not nearly such distant ones. The common ancestor is John Nilsen Nordgard Bryn, who appears in the “farm and family book,” or bygdebok for Fron parish. He was the father of Nils Johnsen, the earliest farmer the book names for the Skurdalshaugen farm, in 1723. Birth and death dates for the two are not given. The key here is the farm name: Skurdalshaugen. Although I do not have positive documentation yet, I believe that the same Jon Nilsen was possibly also the father of David Jonsen, also of Skurdalshaugen. According to the Ragnhild Letter, David Jonsen was born in 1737, which is a bit problematic, as I will show later.
Starting with the common ancestor, here are the two lines:
John Nilsen Nordgard Bryn
Nils Jonsen Skurdalshaugen b. ? (was adult by 1723)
John Nilsen Skurdalshaugen, b. 1742(?)
Nils Jonsen Maurhaugen b. 1758 (? improbable – only 16 years after father)
Mads Nielsen Maurhaugen b. 1796
Anne Madsdatter Maurhaugen b. 1829
Marie Amundsdatter Volden b. 1858
Anna Moen b. 1888
John Nilsen Nordgard Bryn
David Jonsen Skurdalshaugen b. 1737(?)
Lars Davidsen Skurdalshaugen b. 1763
Anne Larsdatter Skurdalshaugen b. 1801
Ole Larson b. 1841
Isaac Larson b. 1884
If correct, this makes Isaac and Anna fourth cousins, twice removed. The separation by two generations between husband and wife seems counter-intuitive at first, but is really quite plausible. Note that only two generations back, the grandmothers are already 28 years apart.
The necessary leap of faith is to assume that David Jonsen’s birth date is incorrect. To be proprietor of a farm in 1723, David’s (possible) brother Nils must have been born before about 1700. It is unlikely he would have a brother more than 37 years younger than himself. Not impossible, though, at least for a half-brother; Ole Larson’s thirteen children (by two wives) spanned a period of 29 years. But if David’s correct birth date were around 10-15 years earlier, say 1722-1727, all the numbers would work quite well. Keep in mind that the churchbooks (kirkeboker) for Fron parish prior to 1799 were destroyed by fire, so no vital records are extant for the period in question. I did not find David Jonsen in the bygdebok, and do not know how Ragnhild came up with the date.
Of course, I have been proven wrong on assumptions that seemed a lot safer than this one. Another puzzle to take along to Norway in August.