Sunday, August 22, 2010

Norway, Day 10

Painting by Christian Krohg at the Maritime museum in
Oslo.  Krohg liked to paint marine scenes in action. 
Here, we see a seaman handling heavy sails high up
in the rig.  My ggg-grandfather Samuel Andreassen
was probably doing exactly this when he fell to his
death on the 3rd of June, 1875.
On Day 10 in Norway, the plan was to visit the Statsarkivene in Oslo (same building as the National Archives) because I really wanted to find my ggg-grandfather's sailor record.  This is the same ggg-grandfather who emigrated to Norway from Sweden in 1869.  He had already been a sailor since 1859 in Sweden.  My gg-grandfather Emil had told my father, who had been working on a school book report on Norway's maritime history, that he had lost his father Samuel when he was only 4 years old (in 1875).  He explained to my father how his father had climbed the mast of his ship and fallen to his death, and that this had happened off the coast of South America. 

On one of my earlier posts from Norway, I told you about my visit to the Methodist church, in Fredrikstad, where I met with an historian who showed me the church's death records (most online records are from the Lutheran church and a few dissenter congregations).  For the first time I saw that my ggg-grandfather Samuel Andreasen had died on the 3rd of June, 1875, by "drowning at sea."  I thought perhaps this meant he was buried at sea.  I was hoping a visit to the Statsarkivene would give me more detail.  Unfortunately, seaman and military records are not available online, and you have to go in person, or try requesting the information by mail or email. 

The "Sjøfartshovedrulle" is the most valuable record to look for, as the personal history and career of the sailors were recorded on this register. You will find the name, residence, date of birth (and death), date of sailors patent issue, and the dates of advancement in rank. The records will also tell you what ship your ancestor was on, his destinations etc...  For good information on the seaman registers, click here.

Microfilm readers at the Statsarkivene in Oslo
Well, all this is good and great, right?  Here is where I will actually make a complaint -- my first for the whole trip in Norway.  Although Norway is phenomenal for having a wonderful online archive site with FREE records of all kinds, and I could go on and on lauding them for being a genealogist's dream come true in practically all things genealogy -- records and bygdeboks and so on... I was quite disappointed with the service at the Statsarkivene.  Who would have guessed!  The people I happened to encounter on this particular day did not seem to know what they had on hand, whether I asked about the seaman records or soldier records (I also wanted to find the soldier record for a gggg-grandfather from Halden, Norway).  I was even told I could find my records online (completely untrue) and given the hint I should go home.  Like I said, this may have just been my bad luck on this particular day, and on another day I would have found some better help.  Nonetheless, I was not taking no for an answer, and with my father's help I explained that the records existed on their site and that they were not available online.  Luckily, I was also meeting a blogging friend -- Laila.  She was the president of the Oslo area genealogy society for several years (find her blog here), and we had planned to meet in person.  I went into the reading area, and she was there with Liv, who also worked for DIS-Norge (genealogy society). After greeting Laila and Liv in the reading room, Laila came out and basically told the front-desk person what records they have available regarding seamen.  I was able to get a print-out of their microfilm catalogue for seaman records, and then we went to the room with the microfilms, found what I needed, and set up the first reel on the reader.  What a relief!  I have to say that by now I wasn't feeling too hopeful of finding anything.  Somehow I'd lost my faith in what I was searching for, but I was so wrong. 

His name was spelled in Swedish -- Samuel Andreasson.  Unfortunately,
the micorfilm printer was not available, and I had to take a picture of the
screen with my camera.
After about an hour and thirty minutes, or so, of reading through the records, I saw his beautiful name: Samuel Andreasson.  It was written with the Swedish spelling, and I wondered if he signed the register himself.  It did seem to me that the names on the register did not always match the handwriting of the other entries or that of all the individual names.  It also seemed odd that a Norwegian official would have written his name with the Swedish spelling "Andreasson" rather than "Andreasen." 

The list of ships sailed are on the left (and the year).  The center colums tell
us where the ship left from and where it was headed.  The last ship listed is
Frithjoff, which was headed to Bristol, England.  Next to the destination is the
death date of 3 June 1875 and the explanation that he had died at sea after a
fall from the top. 
I literally could have screamed, I was so excited.  I ran to get Laila in the reading room because I needed another pair of eyes to tell me I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.  Laila came back with me, and we both looked at Samuel's records.  He had signed up in December of 1869, the same month he married Oleane Jakobsdatter, and there was a list of ships and tours he had been on with destinations such as England, Holland, and France -- among others.  And then there was the last ship where he had served: the Fristhjoff (not sure about the spelling).  Next to the ship's name came the information I had been looking for:  3 June 1875, dead at sea after a fall from the top (literal translation).  He had most definitely died after climbing the mast, probably to fix a sail.  The only thing that my gg-grandfather did not tell correctly was the location of the ship.  Samuel had not died off the coast of South America but off the coast of England, as the ship had been headed to Bristol, England.

Laila, me, and Liv at the Statsarkivene in Oslo
 What a relief!  I felt so happy and so sad at the same time.  I felt that I had brought Samuel back to life.  Here were the voyages he had made toward the end of his life.  These were voyages he took, leaving his wife and small son back at home, and on one voyage he never returned to them.  How sad.  And to think that only two years ago I didn't even know his name.  His descendants had forgotten him and his life's story, but he had come back and he was there on the microfilm screen telling me what had happened to him.  He mattered on this day to me, his descendant, and he was not forgotten.  So, here I tell you that Samuel Andreasen, husband to Oleane Jakobsdatter and father to Emil Georg Samuelsen, was born in Sweden to a soldier and his wife.  I have seen the cottage in Sweden where he was born in 1841.  I have followed his path of emigration to Norway from Sweden.  I have seen the Methodist church where he was baptized as a convert and where he had his son baptized.  I found his voyages on the seas as a sailor and learned of his unfortunate accident and early death.  This ancestor's life truly went full circle for me this summer.

Later that day, my uncle invited us to sail on his sailboat.  Strange, but this seemed rather fitting on this day.  So my son, me, and my father set out to meet my uncle and his significant other at their boat.  It was a surprisingly gorgeous evening after a bit of rain in the afternoon.  The water was beautiful; the view was extraordinary.  What a wonderful way to spend the evening.  We found a spot to anchor for a while and have some coffee and dessert.  On this evening, being out at sea was in my blood.  My ancestors had taken to the seas and at least one had died there... who knows how many there are I will never know about, because I'm guessing some of those pesky Vikings who traveled the world were related to me.

My son and uncle's dog sailing.  Scenes on the fjord below.

Thanks for tuning in.  My last few days in Norway will be posted in the next couple of days.


  1. Again, another great story wonderfully told. You've really got to put all this into a novel one day.

    Also, love the dog with the life jacket! :-)

  2. Astrid, - great blog. Looking forward to the final ones.


  3. Astrid, I am so happy I was there to help you that day! Actually the people working there are really knowledgeable, but some of them are so busy, or they don't usually work out in the public area! What ever, I am happy I could help you, and I know the feeling, you just HAVE TO share your findings, to show someone!!!

    I did not want to blog our meeting, I wanted you to have it for your norwegian adventure. So nice to meet you and your lovely family, give them a hug!


  4. I am sure it was just a bad day at the archives, and on another day it would have been different:-). My main message is that sometimes you can't take no for an answer when you really want to break through a brick wall:-). I loved meeting you Laila!! Thanks again so much.