Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wordless Wednesday -- Ludvig Hansen and Nikoline Andersdatter

Great-great grandparents from Vesten in Oestfold, Norway.  Nikoline Andersdatter (1865-1950) and Ludvig Hansen (1858-1929).  They were married 3 June 1883 and had eleven children.  One of them was my great-grandmother Joergine who married Thomas Alexius Haugen, son of Emil Georg Samuelsen and Hannah Marie Andreasdatter.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Heritage Food Friday

I have decided to start a new series -- recipes from Norway and Sicily! 

Pasta Alla Norma

Maria Callas plays Norma. 
Picture from
I figure I might as well start with something from Catania, the city at the foot of Mt. Etna.  Most Sicilian cookbooks in the U.S. tend to focus on Western Sicilian cooking and don't pay too much attention to the East.  The truth is that while a lot is the same, there are also differences.

My Aunt Eva in Catania is by far the best cook EVER, and I don't think I could begin to create anything to compare; but when I think of Sicilian cooking, I always think of her.  Here's an attempt at Pasta alla Norma, Zia, that could never be yours!

By the way, Pasta alla Norma is named after the Opera "Norma," which was written by Catania's most famous composer, Vincenzo Bellini. 

4 - 6 servings

1 box Penne (rigate is preferred); spaghetti is okay, too.
1 can diced tomatoes.  You may also take 6-8 medium tomatoes and boil them for about 1 minute.  Cool in cold water and peel the skin, then dice.
1 Eggplant
Ricotta Salata
1 Onion
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper

Dice the garlic and onion and saute in a thin coat of olive oil at the bottom of the pan.  When the onion and garlic attains some color, add the diced tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and let simmer.  The eggplant can be cut in squares (half-inch cubes) or sliced and then fried.  Drain the eggplant on absorbent paper.  The eggplant should be crispy but not burned.  Cook the penne in boiling salted water until al dente -- firm and not overcooked.  Drain the pasta and pour half of the sauce over it.  Mix.  Place the pasta on a plate to serve and add some remaining sauce on top.  Arrange the eggplant on top of the sauce and penne.  Garnish with a few sprigs of basil.  Now -- the most important part -- grate the ricotta salata over the entire creation.  Repeat for each serving.

Now, let me be clear that parmesan cheese does not make this Pasta alla Norma, so try to find Ricotta Salata.  It has a distinctive flavor on the pasta.  Most stores in the U.S. carry the cheese.  If not, a Fresh Market or Whole Foods should have it.  In Catania, aged ricotta salata is the best and is what my aunt uses, but in the U.S. you will probably have to go with a less aged version.

Serve and enjoy!

Picture from

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter and his Family Tree

Call me "Potteridiot" because I don't get the recent craze over "Pottermore," a.k.a the latest marketing ploy feeding Pottermania.  Wow, I almost created a tongue-twister there.  LOL.  Nonetheless, Potter-fans are deadly serious right now about following a trail of clues in the hope of uncovering the latest news of "something big" about to happen in the wizarding world.  The "trail of clues" was announced a few days ago, and countless people have been literally losing sleep over this.  As for me, I've been losing sleep over finding that picture or document of the dead guy I'm currently researching -- I have Geneamania rather than Pottermania. 

Potter-fans will not like to hear this, I'm sure, but I really tried to read The Sorcerer's Stone (a.k.a. The Philosopher's Stone), but it lost me somewhere in the middle, magic wands and all.  The best I can do is give into the crazy idea that I might find a family tree for Harry Potter.  In fact, a few minutes ago, I googled "genealogy" and "Harry Potter" all the while smugly telling myself how ridiculous I am to even consider the existence of such a thing and, lo and behold, there it was... several google links to pages on Harry Potter's genealogy.  There is even a tree I can download or visualize on-site, and it has 180 people in it and 31 families.  Wow!

So, being that I don't get it, why the sudden interest to blog about Harry Potter, you may ask.  Well, I have a best friend.  We have been best friends since 1984 when we met our Freshman year in college and were dorm mates.  Just like a married couple, a bit of feigned interest into the hobbies of your best friend is required -- just the ones a friend does not "get," of course.  After all, she listens to me drone on about dead people she can't possibly care about, and it would only be fair that I listen to her talk about Muggles and Quidditch and so forth.  That's what friends do. 

We have been through a lot together over the years, and for a time, we even wrote books together.  The technique we used was tandem writing.  I'd write 25 pages and she'd follow up with 25 more and I'd add to hers until we actually had a pretty good story.  We had a lot of fun!  But at some point we decided to go our own ways and write our own stories.  I wrote a few novels in the genre of contemporary women's fiction, and she wrote fantasy, mainstream Da Vinci Code type of stuff, young adult... you name it.  She even took her beloved Harry Potter series and created a wonderful workshop that analyzed J.K. Rowling's writing in order to help any writer improve his/her own work.

Recently, she started selling her workshop in book format and then Pottermania broke loose again -- good timing!  She has had thousands of blog hits on her blog site, and she was also asked to post a blog piece regarding "Pottermore" on the International Business Times site -- an online global business newspaper with 5.4 million global users.  And guess what... People going on her blog site have been riding their brooms over to my site because I am listed as a blog she follows -- thanks S.P. Sipal!  I have had around 400 hits on my blog since yesterday.  I have to chuckle, though, when I think that people expecting more Harry Potter end up reading about ancestors and Norwegian and Italian heritage.  But perhaps I should post a tree of Harry Potter and that will satisfy them?  Maybe they'll get curious about their ancestry, too, and hire me to research their own Muggle family history! Hmmm.

Okay, Potter-fans, here is a screenshot of the tree you can look at on this site -- GenoPro.  This is just Harry Potter's tree -- knock yourselves out.  Other characters from the series have trees, too.  Note, I did not find the tree that intuitive to view.

Click on the picture to enlarge it for better viewing...
Obtained from
 This one's for you S.P. Sipal.  You are awesome!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Biography Series -- Akoline Oleane Jakobsdatter Part V

I have previously written about my ggg-grandmother Akoline Oleane Jakobsdatter here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Also, if you go to the bottom of this article and click on the label, all the posts will come up at once and you can read them all together.

I thought that I would add an update to Akoline's story.  Last summer when I went to Norway, I visited the Methodist Church in Fredrikstad where Akoline/Oleane and her husband Samuel became Methodists.  It is also the church where my gg-grandfather Emil Georg Samuelsen Haugen was baptized.  When I visited, I met with an historian affiliated to the church, and he showed me not only the original book of records, but also a picture of the minister who would have baptized them all.  The book of records also recorded the unfortunate death of my ggg-grandfather Samuel Andreasen.  The record said he had died on 3 June, 1875 by drowning at sea.  Of course, I have previously posted what actually happened to him, which is a little different.  My gg-grandfather had told my father (my father was a boy at the time) that his father, Samuel, had fallen to his death from the ship's mast after going up to make a repair.  In fact, at the archives in Norway last summer, I had discovered the record that said exactly this.  The accident occurred somewhere on their way to Bristol, England.  I'm sure he was buried at sea, which is what the church record means by saying he "drowned."  Here is a link to Samuel's story.

Last summer I posted very briefly about what I found in the Methodist Church.  Here are some more pictures with further comments.

Fredrikstad Methodist Church.  Below is the inside of the church; the historian I met said it had to be redone due to a fire.

The minister who baptized Akoline/Oleane, Samuel, and Emil was Bernt Johannessen.  Below are the pictures of all the ministers who have served the Methodist Church in Fredrikstad.

The first part of the baptismal records for my ggg-grandparents Samuel and Akoline/Oleane.  Here
my ggg-grandmother is Johansdatter rather than Jakobsdatter (her father, whom I found out was not her biological father, was named Johan Jakob, and she used these names interchangeably for her surname.  Also, "Akoline" seems to have appeared from nowhere just about during this time.  Her birth and previous records only use the name Oleane.  Moreover, she also sometimes used 9 February as her birth date when it was actually 17 February.  She seems to know her birth date is 17 February in previous records, yet sometimes she used 9 February later.  I believe she had some reasons for doing these things, and that they were not mistakes.  Earlier records show she is born in Sweden, but in at least two records later in life she is shown as being from Sarpsborg, Norway, which is actually where she emigrated to from Sweden.  These were census records, and she must have given this incorrect information.  I think that she wished to forget some of her early past.  Both marriage records (she was married twice) and other earlier records show her with her accurate name, birth date, and birth location -- all of which I have verified in the Swedish records.

This records says my ggg-grandfather, Samuel Andreasen died on June 3rd, 1875.  Below it says that he drowned at sea.

The book of records from the Methodist church containing the baptismal records for my ggg-grandparents
and of their son, Emil Georg Samuelsen Haugen.  It also contained the death record for my gg-grandfather, Samuel Andreasen.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Amanuensis Monday -- Nonno Enzo's Diary -- December 2, 1915

Continuation of the translation of my grandfather's diary, which was written at age 15 while he lived in a boarding school in San Gregorio, Catania, Sicily. He was born in Palagonia, Sicily, on November 15, 1900.  For previous posts, follow the trail here and keep going back.

                                               Thursday, December 2 (1915)

Here we are in December, the most beautiful month there is, which reminisces over the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The Novena of the Immaculate Conception has already begun -- also a beautiful feast.

Today we went for a walk.

We were led by Don Rasa, our new professor in place of Don Traina. He is a very intelligent young man -- a baby face with a fine and smooth nose, as well as a short person with a happy look about him.  In other words, you could mistake him for a boy.

He came out of the parlor and said: Come on, guys; if you want to go far, you will have to pick up your feet and walk ahead of me.

Arriving at the road, we took a few paces and then deviated onto a rocky road that began to roll beneath our feet.  We headed to Aci Castello, a village on the shores of the sea where the railway passes and the tram that goes from Catania to Acireale. The village is noted for the castle -- well known in history as impregnable; but now its beauty cannot be seen unless it is from one side of the castle. 
Picture of the castle in beautiful
Aci Castello

For a few minutes, we were allowed to contemplate the sea and breathe in a bit of fresh air. The waves formed into breakers, crashing against the rocks of the shore and producing a delightful roar.  In the distance below us, in the middle of the sea, several boats rocked cheerfully.

My classmates and I grabbed some stones and hurled them against a boulder where two letters were cut into it - CG - and I was among the lucky ones to hit the target several times. But the fun was short-lived. We had to return.  We were forced to walk in a single line during the crossing of the small town, so we decided to spread out, some of us going one way and others another way.

The return was very cheerful with singing and talking. In Ficarazzi, we saw a turkey with little ones around her. They were the size of chicks, and I was easily deceived into believing this is what they were (he may mean they did not look to him like turkey chicks but more like chickens). But, finally, we arrived at the boarding school -- weary, yet always rejoicing.

Original diary pages below:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Nonna and Dad

My nonna, Giuseppa Napoli, born in Catania, Sicily, June 11, 1914; below, Dad, same day of birth, different year

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday -- Tanum Kirke and Cemetery

Beautiful Tanum Kirke in Baerum, Norway.  Nearly 1000 years of ancestors were baptized,
confirmed, married, and buried here.