Friday, September 4, 2009

A First Generation American with Ancestors in Utah?

One of the things I have learned since starting my research is that being stumped is always fun. I don't know if it is all the Nancy Drew mysteries I read as a child, or the scientist in me, but I love the research, and the hunt for clues, and finally solving the mystery. When it pays off, there is nothing more exciting. I have had many days like this since I started this journey into the past. I wish I had started this blog at the beginning so I could have shared the experience. Of course, I will touch upon my many discoveries over time. But for now, I will write about the current mystery I ran into on Friday and mostly solved by today!

I decided to give Oestfold, Norway a break for a while and move over to Lommedalen, Baerum (Akershus), which means I am researching my grandmother Gyda Kristiansen's line. I remember one summer in '94 or '96 when I went to visit my grandmother that she had a Slektbok, or a Baerums Verk family history book. Baerums Verk is an old iron mining town, and her ancestors go back to the beginning of its birth. The Slektbok is the easy way to do your tree if they include your family, but it still isn't complete, and there are errors. However, at the time it was fascinating to see names going back to the 1600's, and a good portion of my line! I mostly remember being fascinated by the ones that had the sentence, "reist til Amerika" meaning "went to America." My grandmother told me that at one point in Norway's history nearly half the population, left for opportunity, and as I have come to find out, religious freedom.

On Friday, I decided to look at my gg-grandmother Jonette Kristoffersdatter (see pedigree above). I looked up her parents, filled in the names of her husband and children, and then started listing her siblings. I realized that once again I was facing the three who had gone to America -- Martin, Hans, and Haakine. I didn't have any birth dates, so I went through the records on the Norwegian Digital Archive site until I found them.
So now what?

I couldn't place them or their mother Ellen in 1875 or after, and although there was no evidence that my ggg-grandmother Ellen had gone with her children, I grew suspicious of this as I hit a wall everywhere I looked for her in Norway. As for her husband, I figured out that he had died in 1862, so there was the reason for not finding him in the later census.

With a bit of trepidation, I started to look at American records. Norwegian records now feel like a broken-in pair of shoes, but not so for American records. And since I haven't had to look for American records, I wasn't sure what to expect. Well, I renewed my Ancestry membership so I could look at the record hits. I put in the first brother, my great-great uncle Martin Christophersen, and his birth date. The first record I found that made any sense was one of a man returning from Norway in 1927 at age 77. I saw that his home was in Salt Lake City. So I went back to the search function and added the location of Salt Lake City. Suddenly there were trees belonging to other members to click on. I was able to look at them, and sure enough there were my ggg-grandparents and Martin Christophersen with plenty of source records on someone else's tree.

Martin Christophersen had emigrated to Salt Lake City in 1871 and started a family. I was able to go through several records and load them on my tree... his marriage, about nine children, death and burial records... Sadly, he died about a month after he returned from Norway on what must have been one last trip to the home country. Amazing! I also found some records of brother Hans... and the biggest surprise of all was that their mother, my ggg-grandmother died in Salt Lake City! This means that although I am a first-generation born American (or so I thought), my ggg-grandmother lived here and died here in the U.S. It means that her other 4 children remained behind in Norway and continued their lines there, as in my case, until my father decided to come to the States.

Now one thing I didn't count on was that my ggg-grandparents were Mormon converts. This just seemed so strange to me because, as I far as I knew, my line had always been Lutheran. I think that my gg-grandmother Jonette continued in the Lutheran tradition as she was confirmed in the Lutheran church at the time her parents had already converted to Mormonism. But then again, she was raised by her aunt and uncle and not her parents. I believe this was due to poverty, and because her father died by the time she was 9 years old. With too many mouths to feed, I'm sure her mother decided to have her kids, or some of them, raised by relatives. But then she left with 2-3 of her other children for the new world and Salt Lake City.

Another thing I have since learned is that Mormon missionaries came to Norway around, or shortly after, 1850. They were successful in converting many Norwegians, but their religion was not easily accepted as other denominations were. Many Norwegian converts were encouraged to go to Salt Lake City or "Zion" to whorship freely. It seems that this exodus peaked around 1870, which is about when Martin Christophersen left Norway, as well as the others. So by some weird twist of fate, I have some ancestral connection to the LDS church. How interesting! I also found records showing that my ancestors are designated as Pioneer Sons of Utah.

Well, there you have it -- my exciting find the last few days. I hope I can find some graves. It looks like they may exist, but I'd have to go to Salt Lake City. I have made contact with one of the tree owners I found, and he has told me he may have some access to LDS books about the Utah pioneers where there may be more information and possibly pictures!
I will keep you posted on any new finds! Here is a link explaining about the LDS church in Norway in the 1800's.

No comments:

Post a Comment