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On the website of the Regional State Archive of Hamar, Norway, is a remarkable story, written in English, about a woman who was imprisoned in Oslo (Christiania) at the same time as Anne Larsdatter Skurdal, and whose story parallels Anne’s in many ways. Let’s begin at the end … the top photo shows Peace Lutheran Church and Northwest Rush Cemetery in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. It is the final resting place of one Ragnild Christiansdatter, the subject of this study. Her gravestone is shown below, alongside that of Anne Larsdatter at Brush Creek, 150 miles away.

Ragnhild-Anne gravestone compo

The story was researched and written by Hans Petter Schjønsby, a retired physician and historian in the community of Ringsaker, the place where Ragnild was born and raised. Ringsaker is about 100 miles north of Oslo, and about 50 miles south of Sør-Fron parish, where Anne Larsdatter was born and lived for 65 years, at a tenant plot under the farm named Skurdal.

Ringsaker map

Dr. Schjønsby has kindly given permission to re-post his essay here, where it appeared four installments, now recombined.

The story of Ragnild Christiansdatter (1812-1894) from Ringsaker, Norway.

By Hans Petter Schjønsby

[Hans Petter Schjønsby (b. 1936) is a retired physician and medical historian in Ringsaker, Norway. In addition to serving as Medical Officer for Hedmark County (1986-1997), he has lectured, published scholarly articles, and advocated for the preservation of medical history in the region. In 2011, he received the annual Honors Award from the Hedmark Medical Association. In praise of Dr. Schjønsby’s work, the announcement of his award quoted Simone Weil: “If one does not know the past, one does not understand the present and is not suitable to shape the future.” Throughout this series, I (George) have added editorial comments, in small type and enclosed in square brackets like this.]

Part 1

husmann fam
A husmann’s family in central Norway, c. 1914

November 6th 1836 the lensmann (sheriff) in the parish of Ringsaker in Norway, Elias Heltberg, wrote to his superior, fogd (bailiff – see note 1) Hansen in the district of Hedemarken:

arrest letter

Tuesday the 2nd this Month, a newborn dead Child has been found in a Pond close by the Farm of Store Kindlie.  At the Investigation, the Maid servant Ragnild Christiansdatter Store-Kindlie, confessed to be the Mother of the Child, which was the Reason why I sent her to the District Jail of Olsrud today.

Sougstad the 6th of Novbr: 1836        [signed]           Heltberg

Already the following day, the Sorenskriver or District judge Muus ordered the County medical officer Albert Blehr to perform a post-mortem examination of the child.  This was carried out on the 8th and 11th of November.  In his report, Blehr confirmed that the child was dead by drowning.

The child was born in concealment, and that implied a criminal offense.  According to the law at that time – which was the country law of Norway of 1687 – the mother was automatically presumed guilty and was to be punished severely: “Women of easy Virtue who kill their Child, should lose their Neck, and their Head [be] put upon a Stake.”

[Ouch! You may recall that this is what actually happened to our ancestor Marte Østensdatter Forbrigd (alt. Bø) in 1695, after her conviction for murder. Luckily, Ragnild was eventually pardoned (as were most such offenders by the 1830s), and “only” spent four years in prison.]

In a following section of the law, women who gave birth in concealment received the same punishment when the child “is born dead, or in other ways dead, then she shall be regarded as if she had killed her Child on Purpose.”  It is to be noted that the burden of proof lied with the accused. So in such cases legal protection was not very prominent at that time, to put it mildly.

By contrast, the oldest Norwegian criminal law was meant to create agreement between the accused and the offended and his family.   That is the reason why homicide cases as a rule were settled with fines for the bereaved. Outlawry [?] was also practiced.  Imprisonment was not common at that time. The reformation in 1537 created a new basis for criminal law which was radically changed.  It was now Lutheranism in its most literal form that left its mark.  In other words, the new criminal law was strongly based on the Old Testament. The starting point of this law became deeds that could displease God, and that meant also that cases involving licentiousness and immorality were considered more serious than crimes of violence.  For example intercourse without being married became penalized.  Men were mostly able to escape prosecution.  As a rule it was the woman who was left with shame and punishment and what hurt most, she became a victim of the ostracism of the local community.  They were often merciless, so it is not surprising that births in concealment were not unusual.

The time of Enlightenment and the humanizing of society led to a considerably milder practice of the criminal law from the middle of the 18th century.  It became usual that women who gave birth in concealment [and their baby died or was stillborn] were pardoned and instead sentenced to imprisonment.  In Norway a new criminal law – based on modern judicial principles – took over in 1842.  This meant that the death penalty from 1687 was repealed, and the sentence became around 3-4 years imprisonment.

Those of you who have read Knut Hamsun’s “Growth of the Soil” will remember Inger, who had to serve her sentence in the prison of Trondheim. This Nobel Prize awarded book (1920) probably took place around 1850-60.  So this sort of criminality did not disappear when the new law was introduced.  One of the country`s leading historians on this subject, N.R. Langeland, reflected on this in 2005:

A time limit of 24 hours constituted the original connection between birth in concealment and to bereave the child of its life.  If the child did not appear before that time it was reason to believe that the woman had given life in concealment because she wanted to take the child’s life.

This underlines the size of this problem in the 19th century socially and legally, also after the introduction of modern criminal law. Today, this is a marginal phenomenon, we now prefer to believe that mothers who kill their newborn baby, must be mentally ill. That was not the case 150 years ago.”

The situation in Hedemarken

There is no reason to believe that the parish of Ringsaker, where Ragnild lived, and the county of Hedemarken differed from the general situation in Norway.  Between 1813 and 1853 the Regional archives in Hamar registered a total of 40 such forensic cases.  In 24 of these cases the court ordered an inquest and post-mortem examination as it suspected that homicide might be involved.

The child’s mother was almost without exception unmarried.  She was around 20 years old, and belonged to the lowest economic sector of the population, that of the cotters* and the farmhands, those without any property.  She had minimal, if any education and many of them could not read.   She had to leave her home early, normally after confirmation, usually to work as a house maid on a farm.  The father of the child belonged mostly to the same social stratum. He lived in the same area and it was not uncommon that he was married.

At this time, the local society kept a close eye on its young women.  The one who officially executed this function was the community parson (præst).  He was a civil servant as well, and also responsible for the population register of the parish (after 1837 the municipality), and all births were to be reported to him. The neighbors also had a duty to report such cases to the parson.


(1)  A “fogd” was the head of the police in a district (fogderi). A district consisted of several parishes or municipalities. The local policeman (lensmann) or sheriff reported to the “fogd” (bailiff). The “fogd” was subordinate to the commisissioner of the province (county).

The province or county of Hedemarken was traditionally divided into 5 regions, where Hedemarken (the province was named after this region) was the most populous.  Ringsaker parish, from 1837 municipality, where Ragnild lived was the largest in the region of Hedemarken.

 Part 2

Ringsaker church, anonymous illustration c. 1850

The interrogation

Ragnild was immediately suspected and she soon admitted that the child found in the pond was hers.  She was then arrested by lensmann Heltberg who placed her in confinement in the district jail at the farm of Olsrud in the neighboring parish of Vang.

On Thursday 10th of November 1836 Ragnild was interrogated. The minutes give a fair picture of Ragnild and her background.  Below is an extract:


The Witness Ragnild Christiansdatter  Stor-Kindlie, said she was 23 years old, born in a Cotter`s Place (husmannsplass) under the Farm of Samsahl by Parents Christian Olsen and Anne Olsdatter who both are alive and live in a Cotter`s Place called Nilsstuen in Ringsager Aasmark. Ragnild stayed home until she was 12 years old, from that time she has served as Maid Servant in different Places, namely on Dæhlie, Samsahl, Hersoug, Lehne and last on Kindlie.

She has never been prosecuted or punished for any Offence. As to the Object of the Interrogation she openheartedly confessed: Since 1835 she had several times Intercourse with a married Man, Hans Gulbrandsen Lille Koldstad – Eie (2), and in the begin of this Year she felt pregnant.  However, when the Father of the Child at this Time became ill and died (of typhoid fever) before the Birth, she had no Opportunity to communicate about the Situation.

Ragnild`s course of life so far, corresponded with what was usual for her rank in the community, as she was supposed to stay in the social class she was born.  Most paths out of that rigid system were practically closed, although the modernization of the country with greater privileges and increased social mobility had recently begun.  She lived an unnoticed life, and did not differ from the majority.

Ragnild was born on the 2nd of March 1812 and christened in Ringsaker church on the 18th of March the same year. In 1826 she was confirmed in the same church. Her marks for knowledge and behaviour were average, the same result as for most of the other confirmands.

Alterpiece of Ringsaker church, created c. 1550
Alterpiece of Ringsaker church, created in Antwerp c. 1550

Ragnild was described as “60 Inches high (5 feet), has blue Eyes, blond Eyebrows, a somewhat narrow Face and brown Hair” so she did not differ in this respect either.

The trial

Ragnild’s case was handled in the local court of justice and the sentence was pronounced on the 18th of January 1837.  She was sentenced to “lose her Neck and the Head to be put on a Stake.”

She appealed, and the appeal to the Court of Appeal in Christiania was sent on the 28th of January.  On the 28th of May this court rejected the appeal.  The High Court was the next address.  However, the law was clear and the High Court ratified the decision taken.  The next step was to send a petition of mercy to the King. On the 9th of December 1837 the King’s commissioner in Hedemarken sent the following message to fogd Hansen:

the letter of mercy
the letter of mercy

The Royal Department of Justice & Police has on the 1st of this Month written as follows to the Kings Commisioner in the County: that Ragnild Christiansdatter Store Kindlie of North Hedemarken Court District, is graciously freed from the Verdict of the High Court of 28th of September having her Life lost and her Head Put on a Stake, by being left to the Grace of the King.

The fogd was also ordered to send Ragnild as soon as possible to the prison in Christiania.  The departure to the capital took place the 17th of December, and 4 days later the prison authorities signed for the receipt of Ragnild in a letter to fogd Hansen.


(2) The namegiving at that time was patronymic.  For example Ragnilds surname was“Christiansdatter” after her father. Crofters and servants connected to a farm, added the name of the farm, often with an “eie” at the end.  This signified connection to the farm and the place where they lived.  Accordingly Ragnilds name when she worked at the farm Store (great) Kindlie, was “Ragnild Christiansdatter Store Kindlie”.

[So Ragnild entered Oslo (Christiania) prison in December 1837. She was still there in April 1841, when Anne Larsdatter arrived.]

 Part 3

Christiania tukthus (Oslo prison), built 1741
Christiania tukthus (Oslo prison), built 1741

The Prison

This prison of Christiania – which also served as a correctional facility – was built in 1741 as a consequence of the reorganization of the poor relief in Norway.  The institution originally had many functions.  An important task was isolation of all who were “unworthy poor” (worthy were for instance the ill and parentless) such as vagrants and beggars. This category was often perceived as a problem of law and order.

The next group was women with a so called immoral conduct, such as intercourse outside marriage.  Many were also imprisoned because of theft [as was Anne Larsdatter].  In addition, in the institution there were also a few cubicles for mentally ill.

Under their stay the inmates had to work hard for a small payment.  This included of course also Ragnild.  Such work was considered a combination of punishment and education. Ragnild worked later as a spinner, and it likely that she learned this skill in prison.

Protocol of Christiania prison. Ragnild Christiansdatter 3rd from above
Protocol of Christiania prison. Ragnild Christiansdatter 3rd from above

Opinions differed about this institution.  One of the inspectors at the end of the 18th century remarked that it gave rise to more criminals than it improved the character of the prisoners.

[Conditions in the prison were appalling. Overcrowding, deadly epidemics, bad food, and frequent beatings were among the miseries that prisoners endured.]

The prison of Christiania was a beautiful baroque building [at least at its façade. The walled compound included many buildings over several large city blocks.]  Its address was later Storgaten  (Main street) 33, and was demolished in 1938.

prison facade
prison facade

The release

On the 28th of February 1842 Ragnild was released after four years in prison.  She received a passport (Passports were compulsory at that time, even when travelling domestically. This was abolished in 1860) issued by the Commissioner of Christiania and ordered to report to the authorities in the municipality of Ringsaker when she came home.  See photo of Ragnild`s passport below.

[Anne Larsdatter’s release from prison was also in February 1842. Not only did the two women undoubtedly know each other in prison, it is even possible that they traveled north together after their release. Their homes were both along the “King’s Road,” the overland route linking Oslo with Trondheim.]

Ragnild also had to report the removal from Christiania to the parson in Ringsaker. She was included in the parson`s population register 11th of June 1843. It is here noted that she was 30 years old, that she was a former prisoner, and that the purpose of her removal back to Ringsaker “was in her Place of Birth to earn her Bread”, and her address and place of work was the farm of Smedstad (situated in the northern part of Ringsaker, not far from the present town of Moelv and the lake Mjøsa).

Ragnilds further fate and life in Ringsaker

Ragnild reported her removal to Ringsaker about 13 months after being released from prison. This was not unusual, because many wanted to establish themselves in the community before they reported to the parson.  Her past was of course well known and she was a marked person.  It is reasonable that she needed time, and we understand that she wanted to act and behave correctly.

Ragnild soon found herself a man and on the 29th of December 1842 she married “Andreas Arnesen, Widower and Farm hand.”  Andreas was 2 years younger than Ragnild.  He lived in a cotters house, a place under the farm of Ødemo, neighbour of the farm Smedstad.  Ragnild and Andreas had a daughter, Christiane, in 1843.  Andreas died only 2 years later, and Ragnild was alone again.  However, Andreas had a brother, Mons Arnesen.  Mons and Ragnild had a son, Andreas in 1846 and he was probably named after his uncle.

In 1850 Mons and Ragnild were married.  In the parish register it is stated that “Marriage with deceased man’s Brother is permitted according to Royal Commission of 12th of October 1850” (This prohibition against marriage between people related by marriage was formally repealed as late as 1993, when a new law of marriage was approved in Norway).

According to the church book, Mons was “Inderst” (lodger, usually a farm hand) and born in the same year as Ragnild.  Ragnild was named widow and “Inderst.” (3)

In February 1851 Ragnilds third child was born and the boy was given the name of Bernt.   Bernt was confirmed in 1865. He had good marks and was placed as number 6 on the church floor as the custom was at that time.  This was quite an accomplishment from someone of such humble origins.  We like to believe that Ragnild was very proud of Bernt.


(3) The “Inderst” was a farmworker who hired rooms, mostly at a cotters place, or at the farm. He had his own housekeeping.

part 4

Rush River
A farm in Rush River township, Wisconsin


From around 1850 the economy of the country went from fair to worse.  Norway was overpopulated in relation to the production of the land and the gap between poor and rich grew wider.  Beggary and social distress was one of the most important consequences.  The unskilled workers were the main victims because unemployment was most widespread in that part of the population.  And never has the country had so many cotters (peasants) as in this period.  The country was ripe for emigration.

The young and the strong ones, those who wanted to make a future elsewhere moved, either domestically, to the growing cities or northwards, but especially to U.S.A.  The emigration from Hedemarken was considerable already at the middle of the century and it exploded after the civil war.  In 1866 there moved around 250 able-bodied persons from Ringsaker, almost 90% of them to America.  Among them were Ragnild Christiansdatter and her son Bernt. [They sailed on the bark “Anna Delius,”  from Christiania to Quebec, Canada, spending 40 days at sea. Pictured below is a similar ship, the bark “Agnes M Lovett.” A decade later, immigrants were crossing by steamship in two weeks or less.]



The 20th of April 1866 the church register noted that “Ragnild Christiansdatter Ødemoeie,” with “Søn Bernt” born 24th of February 1851, reported that they were to emigrate to America. This was surely well considered.  Bernt was confirmed some months before, while Mons and 15 year old Andreas had already left in 1861 to prepare for the arrival of the rest of the family.  The departure of Ragnild and Bernt was probably postponed because of the Civil War.

In the period between 1861 and 1866 Ragnild and her son had rooms at a farm called “Slottet” situated in the same neighborhood as before.  She was now mentioned as spinner, and this was probably the way she subsisted in this period. The daughter Christiane married in Ringsaker in 1868, and left with her husband farmworker Ludvig Larsen and their small Daughter Gunda for America in 1869.

The family ended up in the Middle West.  In the census for 1870 we find them in the northwest of Wisconsin, in the township of Rush River in St. Croix county.   In the census Mons is referred to as “Farmer”, and Ragnild or Rachel as she is called here as “Farmers wife,” Andreas or Andrew, Bernt or Benjamin and Ludvig or Lodewick as “Farm laborers”. And they have changed their surname to Anderson.  Christiane is now Christina, and is “at home”.  The value of the property is estimated at 1500 dollars and the movables at 300 dolllars.

End of Ragnild`s story

Ragnild grew up in poor circumstances in the inland of Norway, the family was at the bottom of the social ladder, she had a criminal record and was probably stigmatized in the local society, she was a victim of customs and circumstances belonging to the past, and with poor prospects for the rest of her life.

She ended up as a respected farmer’s wife in the USA.  And last but not least, they had become freeholders [that is, they owned their own land, a status they could never have dreamed of in the old country]. Before she died at 82 years old in 1894, she even lived to see her son Bernt as an attorney.  Ragnild must have been strong-willed and brave to have gone through this impressive transformation.

Ragnild’s children were all married and their descendants are spread over the United States, most of them in the Middle West. They have good reason to be proud of their ancestress. [These same observations apply to us, the descendants of Anne Larsdatter, a poor woman who overcame very similar obstacles, and who lived out her later life in America, in what must have seemed like  the lap of luxury.]

Ragnild’s story may for some seem remote and irrelevant.  However, we must not forget that it is not so very long ago that Ragnild was imprisoned in Christiania. The great-grandfathers of the older of us were born or grew up at that time. They experienced the attitudes and views of the 19th century, but they also took part in the modernization of the country.  A period of growing standard of living, better possibilities for work and education, a humanized criminal law and not to forget female emancipation and equal rights.  In this way, they witnessed the development of a more just society.  Ragnild Christiansdatter would have liked that.


Important sources

Fylkesmannsarkivet (The Archive of the Commissioner in Hedmark).  The Region Archives in Hamar.

Tukthusarkivet (The Prison Archive). The National Archives of Norway, Oslo.

History of the High Court . Vol.1.  Oslo 2005.

The History of Ringsaker, vol 3 & 4.  Ringsaker historical society 1993, 1998.

The Church Registers of the parish of Ringsaker.  Digitalarkivet.no

The Court Protocols. The Region Archives in Hamar

The Fogd Protocols. The Region Archives in Hamar

A profound thanks to ms Torill Steivang at the Regional Archives of Hamar for her kind support and for organizing the contact between Hedemarken and the good people in the Middle West.


[And from “Ole Larson’s Folks,” heartfelt thanks to Dr. Hans Petter Schønsby for his permission to present his article here on the website. We hope you have enjoyed the journey.]

Another Nesseth connection

Top photo: Anton Hogstad Junior and Senior – Below, Anton Jr. and Ebba Nesseth. They were married in 1920; it is unknown whether the two snapshots were taken on that occasion.1920c Anton jr Ebba

In early 2016, I met with Tom Hogstad (not pictured), a third cousin who happens to live in my town. His grandmother, Ebba Nesseth (1888-1952), is our biological connection; Ebba is my second cousin, once removed. Click on Ebba’s name to explore her line back to our common  ancestors, Lars Paulsen and Anne Larsdatter Skurdal.

The family’s church and census records are found in the Norway Digital Archives. Like so many future immigrants, Anton entered this world in deep poverty.1867 Anton bapt

He was born on 15 May 1867 at the farm Hogstad, and baptized 23 June in the ancient Sakshaug church (c. 1150 AD!), about 15 km across the fjord from the city of Trondheim.

photo by Morten Dreier

The child was named Anthon Jørginius, his parents were “Ungkarl” (single man) Anders … Bruraak (ellipse original) of Strinden (parish), and “Pige” (single woman) Cecilie Arentsdatter of the place Hogstadspl(ads). The child’s last name or “patronym” is not noted. This is usual, as it is obvious from the father’s name that the child will be known throughout his life as “Anton Andersen.” This custom was beginning to change, however. The father’s patronym is also missing, which is unusual (but customs were changing), and made tracing the father more difficult (see below).

Strike one: The parents are unmarried. While so-called illegitimate children are not uncommon in these records, they were surely at a huge social and economic disadvantage. Even worse, the father’s patronym (Larsen, Johnsen, or something-sen) is not given, only the farm name of Bruråk, in the nearby parish of Strinda. [That is not enough information to clearly identify the man from other documents, nor even to reliably find him at a later date. It indicated only where he lived, or was thought to have lived, at the current time. At least, that was the old custom. While some couples are married after the birth of one or more children to them, I found no evidence in this case that the father ever lived with or even met his son.

Strike two: in the place-name “Hogstadsplads,” the suffix “plads” suggests a tenant plot or husmannsplads, the poorest echelon of rural family life.  This is verified in the census of 1865 (two years before Anton’s birth), where his mother’s parents were indeed husmenn, something akin to “peasants.” While linguistically and politically imperfect, that translation does not overstate their poverty. The census of 1875 finds Anton Jørginius Andersen, now eight years old, living with his maternal grandparents. His mother is absent.

To put his emigration into perspective: over a quarter of Norway’s population embarked for the “promised land” of America between 1865 and 1895. As with other migrations, those who left were predominantly those with the least to lose. They traveled using funds sent from abroad, and even Norwegian government assistance in some cases, in an effort to relieve the country’s crushing overpopulation and terrifying, recurring famines.

Anton made the journey in 1880 or 1881, according to US census records. Information on his immigration, and that of his mother at a separate time, is sketchy (see below), but the emerging picture is vivid: a 14-year-old boy, dirt-poor, probably illiterate and speaking no English, arriving alone and virtually penniless in a foreign country. But like so many others, this young immigrant achieved a life of more success and prosperity than he could ever have imagined in his homeland.

Unlike my Norwegian ancestors, Anton Hogstad (the surname he chose for himself in his new country), did not take up farming. Instead, he became a master mechanic and millwright, working in industrial areas of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. His son, Anton Jr, earned a PhD and was a widely published professor of pharmacy.

In the News

Here is an article from an Oshkosh, Wisconsin newspaper. In 1904 Anton Hogstad, Senior, was not only a master mechanic and millwright, he was a political activist in the Social Democrat party. Besides being elected secretary of the local central committee, Anton’s name was offered as a potential candidate for mayor, so he must have been held in high regard.

anton-hogstad paper

The name “Social Democratic Party of Neenah” reflects a party label that had been abandoned at the national level. In 1901, the national Social Democrat party merged with a faction split from the “Socialist Labor Party,” and became the “Socialist Party of America.”. Apparently, some local chapters were still using the former party name. The party’s five-time presidential candidate, Eugene Debs, received over 400,000 votes in 1904, when Anton Hogstad was helping to further his campaign in eastern Wisconsin. Debs went on to tally more than 900,000 votes in 1912 and again in 1920.

It is challenging to reconcile Anton’s political activism at this early date, with the fact that his naturalization as a US citizen was not completed until 1933 (over 50 years after his immigration). Despite that long delay, it appears that he had become an engaged (future) citizen much earlier. Another remarkable accomplishment, given his very humble beginnings.

Anton’s Parents


The late Dick Hogstad located the graves of Anton’s mother and stepfather, John and Cecilia Olson, in Neenah, Wisconsin. At first, I was skeptical about the relationship, but some further research assuaged my doubts. When I finally found Cecilia in the 1875 Norway census, she was indeed married to Johannes Olsen of Verdal parish. I also found their marriage record (1872) in the churchbooks.

As often happens, this raised a whole new barrage of questions. I had already found that Anton was living with his grandparents in 1875, and his mother was absent from the household. Cecelia and Johann were living in a place named “Værkarbid” which Google translates as “works work(!)” There were no children with that couple, but the other family in the home had several. So, why was Anton not with his mother and her husband?

Based on current research, Cecilia, Johann, and Anton apparently traveled to America separately, in 1881 and 1882. This may be disproved later.

Johann and Cecilia appear on the list of persons leaving Inderøy parish, with a “attested” date of 30 March 1881. It is not clear whether that was the date they announced their intentions, their planned date of departure, or the actual departure from the parish.

1881 Hogstad utflyt

I found no such record, as yet, for Cecilia’s son Anton.

The Trondheim police emigration protocols are frustratingly sketchy; not nearly as detailed as those in Oslo. There is a Cecilia Arntsdtr. age 35 of Inderøy parish, emigrating in August 1881. She sailed for England, with John not on the same list, nor any other record located so far. Both Cecilia and Arnt (alt. Arent) are quite uncommon names; it is unlikely there would be another Cecilia Arntsdatter of the same age, from the same parish. However, she is listed as pige (unmarried), apparently falsely.

Anton I Andreassen of Inderøy parish, age 15, emigrated in 1882, also via Hull, England. Again a fairly uncommon name, and “I” vs. “J” as in Jorginius were interchangeable in some old scripts. This also seems a 80-90% chance to be our man.

A brother of John’s, Anders Olsen, immigrated about the same time, according to US census records. As for Johan Olsen himself, the name is so common, I expected to find more than one candidate in the emigration rolls, but instead found none, so his migration is still a mystery, after registering his departure (or planned departure?) from Inderøy in March 1881, along with Cecilia.

It is established in family lore and in documentary evidence that the father of Anton Hogstad (not married to his mother) was named Anders Brurok of Strinda parish. The form of his name, as found in Anton’s baptism record, at first seemed problematic, but enough evidence has emerged to nail him down with some confidence.

1839 Anders Brurok bapt

This book is from Bratsberg church (top photo), part of Strinda parish. Born 29 April, baptized 23 June 1839, Andreas (alt. spelling), son of Christian Olsen and Kirsten E. Brurok.  Anders Christiansen Brurok (this time, his name is spelled in the more familiar way) received his confirmation in 1854, aged 15.

I was unable to find Anders in the 1865 Norway census. There is some evidence he may have been in the far north of Norway at that time; perhaps he was in such a remote area that he was missed at census time, or the record was lost.

Now, a bit more scandal creeps in. In 1874 and 1881, two children were baptized in Trondheim cathedral to Anders Christiansen Brurok and his wife Juliana. Moreover, the census of 1875 lists Anders and Juliane with four children. The customs regarding surnames were now changing; instead of his patronym, Christiensen, Anders is using the farm name where he was born.

P.no. H.no. Name born Place of birth Family posn. Marital Occup.
013 04 Anders Brurok 1839 Bratsberg Sogn Familiefader g Snedker
014 04 Julianne Marie Brurok 1841 Domsognet Kone g
015 04 Karl Markus Brurok 1869 Hamerfest s ug
016 04 Paula Julianna Brurok 1866 Hammerfest d ug
017 04 Alfred Julius Brurok 1872 Hammerfest s ug
018 04 Anna Kristine Oline Brurok 1875 Bakke Sogn d ug

The three eldest children have not been successfully traced (they could possibly be Anders’ stepchildren). Their “place of birth” is given as Hammerfest, a small island parish in Norway’s far north. However, no records of them was found in that parish’s books. As for Anders, it is clear that all the records named above refer to the same person. With no contradicting evidence, it seems safe to assume that the baptism record of Anton Hogstad also refers to the same Anders Brurok, and that he may have been married to someone else at the time of Anton’s conception and birth.

Here is a link to a PowerPoint presentation I gave Jan. 19 at Bend Genealogical Society. Just click on the image below. You may then view or download all the slides and notes in PDF format. This serves as the “handout” for the talk, and may also be of interest to some Erickson relatives. It illustrates my two-step search approach, using the indexes of FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com to find key details, then locating the corresponding records in the online archives of Norway and Sweden.

The talk was a case study of a “shirttail” ancestor named Olof Erickson, who came to Vernon County, Wisconsin, from Gudbrandsdal, Norway (as did my great-grandparents, and practically all other settlers in the small community of “Norwegian Valley”). Olof, however, was born and raised in Sweden, living in Gudbrandsdal only briefly before immigrating. In the study, we trace his roots and ancestry in Sweden, using the online resource “ArkivDigital,” and also touch on use of the Digital Archive of Norway.

We explored the Erickson-Larson connection in a series of blog posts. Read more …

Olof’s page in the family tree can be reached at this link. The new ancestors discovered in this study have been added to his pedigree.

Below are some of the websites we used and talked about in the show.


Digital Archive of Norway:

ArkivDigital Sweden ($):

Denmark National Archive

Finland HisKi Project:

First 3 were used in this study; I have not explored the sites for Denmark and Finland.

Cyndi’s List
(categories: Norway, Sweden, etc. Many links to word lists, handwriting guides, sources)



Map sites (to locate farm names)

Translation sites still improving.

All three map sites have different place name coverage.

I used at least 2 for map slides.

Coming soon: the Drayer family.

There is now a “help” page that I hope lives up to its name. “About the Site” contains a description of the two-part site, and tips for navigating around. Please check it out by clicking here, or access the page under “Info” in the top menu, or in the sidebar with other featured pages.

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