25 October 2019

Viking Trivia

Did you know that the Vikings had a god of skiing, and that they tended to be well-groomed and not mesasy and dirty as commonly portrayed?  Yes, truly!  Read about these tidbits and more in Life in Norway's article, Fun Facts about The Vikings.

30 January 2019

To Beer or Not to Beer in Norway

The Nearby Norwegians have never been accused of "living in the past."  But, like all good historians, we surely do to some degree.  It is in our nature to be curious about the past.  We are also very curious about the places our ancestors came from.  That is why I found it refreshing when I came across this website:  Life in Norway.  Offering regular e-mail postings from Norway Weekly, podcasts and more, the site asserts that "whether you're living in Norway, planning a trip, or just fascinated by Scandinavian culture, this is [...] for you.  Well, count me in, at least on the third point.

Moskenes, Norway

The website contains information on moving to Norway, as well as addressing various concerns once you get there:  work, jobs, learning Norwegian, personal finance, housing, education, and driving.  Are you interested in getting a credit card after your move to Norway?  This site has helpful facts and even comparisons between various cards.  What about life there in general?  Sources listed include ideas on food and drink, businesses, daily life, expat blogs, and how to satisfy your daily news cravings once in Norway. 

Perhaps you're all set to travel through the country, train ticket in hand.  You can click on the "Explore Norway" link, which will take you to various options, including the fjords to the cities of Stavanger, Tronhdeim, Lofoten, and more.  And, let's not forget culture.  Most people's common knowledge of Norway from around the world stems from the country's old mythology (trolls, Viking tales, and more Norse gods than Thor can shake a stick at!)  You can read all about these topics and also consult the website for ideas on Norwegian books, music, sports, television, and even the history and people of Norway.

Although I will never live in Norway, I can still dream.  I find it fascinating how the culture of my Norwegian-American ancestors meshes with today's tendencies.  One of the articles entitled "The Cost of Living in Norway" expounds on just how expensive it might be to live or travel in modern Norway ("Does a beer really cost $12"?)  Many foods and amenities that current day Scandinavians have become accustomed to must be imported, leading to increased cost.  The price of fresh fish and salmon is less than in many other countries, however.  I doubt that my ancestors worried about the price of a beer, since they did not drink it.  They also caught salmon and fish straight from the river that flowed alongside their farms, while vegetables and fruits were either gathered or grown, then preserved.  Today's prices do not equate to the lives of Norwegians in past centuries, even though they do result in some pretty pronounced sticker shock for current visitors and new immigrants.

According to Life in Norway, the country does an excellent job of handling the transition to an aging population.  By 2020, experts predict that 20% of Earth's population (about two billion), will be elderly.  Norway places at the top of the Ageing Society Index.  If you are a senior, Norway probably seems like a pretty friendly place.  How does the United States fare in this category?  (Hint:  not nearly as well.)  But, perhaps the Ageing Society Index does not take into account the effect of those cold and dark Nordic winters, which take their toll even on young people.  In particular, icy walking paths and elderly bones do not mix!

Instead of thinking about packing up my suitcase and heading to Norway for a rewarding retirement, even if I could, I will continue to take pleasure in studying the culture, albeit from afar.  It is no different from what I have been doing for many years as a family historian.  I love Norway... even more so, I love the idea of Norway.  But, I will stick with my familiar gray, soggy but safe Pacific Northwest winters, and enjoy researching Norway from the comfort of my own home, while enjoying my (what feels like) $12 Starbucks.

Chery Kinnick

29 April 2018

It all started with a virtual flower

This image is borrowed from www.militarymuseum.org
and is just a sample of the kind of flag Ole's unit carried.
It all started with a 'virtual flower' placed on a Find-a-Grave memorial page for a man named OLE HANSON. There was very little information about the man: just a death date of Nov 30, 1896 and the fact that he was buried in the Lewis and Clark County Poor Farm Cemetery in Helena, Montana. That’s it – just that tiny bit of information.

However, there was also a flower left by a woman named Charleen Spalding on July 25, 2017. She left the ‘flower’ with this simple statement: Ole was born 10/9/1837 and died 11/20/1896.” Basically seven words.

This is the image taken from the 'virtual
flower' left by Ms. Spalding.
This got me to thinking, ‘I wonder what else she might know about Ole?” I clicked on the link with her name and read her brief bio, which stated “…I live in Helena, Montana and research cemeteries in Lewis and Clark, Broadwater, and Jefferson counties. I may have more information than what is posted on Find A Grave and will be glad to share that information…” So, what did I have to lose? 

I sent her a ‘cold email’ that outlined what I knew about Ole and asked if she might be able to share any additional insight.

Two days later she sent a response telling me she was under the weather, but would respond when her health improved. I immediately acknowledged her reply, thanked her, and said I looked forward to hearing back from her when she could. That's the end of most stories that begin this way, but not this one. Two days later I got a second email, and this time she confirmed and agreed with me that this is ‘my Ole’. She shared the records she had, and the additional information that he was buried in section 4, row 10 of the cemetery. She also noted that there are “NO tombstones or markers in the Poor Farm burying grounds.” She then explained that she had attempted to get the ‘owner’ of the online Find A Grave memorial to transfer the ‘maintenance’ of the memorial, but had had no luck so far. I told her I would make the appeal, and perhaps because I’m a relative, the owner would make the transfer. The appeal has been made, but no response to date.

In my email back to Charleen I also included a P.S. stating that I was ”working on an article for the Ringerike-Drammen District Lag newsletter (the BREV) about Ole and his older brother Gustav; both of whom fought in the Civil War and survived. They immigrated with the rest of their family from Lier, Norway in the summer of 1853.” End of discussion, I thought.

Nope! Today, less than a week after all of this began, I received another email from my new friend Charleen. The email contained MORE details for un-puzzling Ole’s story. The email came with two attachments of newspaper articles SHE had found in the Library of Congress newspaper collection: one from the Helena Weekly Herald dated June 1874, and the other from the Anaconda Standard dated September 22, 1896 (3 months before Ole’s death). PLUS, she sent a nine-page typed annotated chronological history of the Lewis and Clark County Poor Farm/County Hospital that she had written, which was last updated in October 2015.

I'm just GOBSMACKED!  

I can hardly believe that all this took place in less than a week, AND it has launched a whole new chapter in my ‘family history’ storytelling. I have a ways to go, but this is most certainly a huge step in my research on Ole Christian Hansen, a six year veteran of the 2nd California Cavalry, Company K & M (September 27, 1861 – July 12, 1866), who mustered out at Camp Douglas, Utah Territory and lived the remainder of his life in and around Helena, Montana. 

Ole was 58 when he died and was buried, hundreds of miles from any family, in a poor farm cemetery with no headstone for his grave.


This just shows that anything is possible – you just need tenacity, perseverance, thinking outside of the box, and a little bit of luck and you too could find a new friend – by leaving a virtual flower. 

If you are curious and want to see the memorial page for Ole, go to www.findagrave.com and search for Memorial ID #39251462. You can also find him in (my) Norwegians in the Civil War virtual cemetery: 

I'll share more on this project in another blog post.

20 February 2018

"If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Writing this blog can sometimes feel like exactly this statement. I can put a great deal of thought and consideration into writing a post, BUT if I don’t find an appropriate venue to get this post to spread across the internet, then does it have value? Is blogging about writing what one feels and/or experiences, or is it about the desire to be heard, and possibly understood? 

I don’t have the answer to this philosophical thought experiment (question). I do, however, have anecdotal experiences that demonstrate the dilemma of ‘writing for the sake of writing’, posting the entry on a Norwegian genealogy Facebook Group and being told, by an Administrator, that ‘it’s not an appropriate post’ or simply deleting the post with no explanation. It’s both frustrating and humiliating / humbling.

Genealogy vs. Family History

I read a blog post titled What is the difference between Genealogy and Family History. Nathan Murphy (a blogger on FamilySearch.org) posted it in August 2013, yet I find it relevant today. He spoke of an action that took place on June 2013, in which Wikipedia merged two Wikipedia articles (“Genealogy” and “Family History”) into a single article titled Genealogy. But truthfully, are they the same? I think not.

This is my opinion (belief, conviction, sentiment, etc.): Genealogy is the building of a family tree or pedigree, using printed records/sources (vital records, census entries, city directories, passenger lists, newspaper articles, etc.), that shows how one generation is connected to the next. Some have referred to this as building the skeleton.

Family History , on the other hand, is the study of the genealogically proven family AND their FAN Club (friends, associates, and neighbors). Family history is ‘putting meat on the bones of the ‘skeleton’. It aims to understand the lives our ancestors lived, beyond just who their kin were. Family history is, in essence, the social history of our ancestors. Family history incorporates genealogy, but genealogy is not the end game.

The End Game

I’ve been engaged in both genealogy and family history for the past two decades, both personally and as a volunteer at a number of libraries, archives and similar institutions. With the advent of Facebook (started in September 2006) and my discovery of various Norwegian Genealogy ‘Groups’ found on Facebook, I’ve noticed that there appears to be a disconnect between ‘doing genealogy’ and ‘developing a sense of one’s family history.’ It has been my experience that people often begin with what I call ‘bagging the ancestors.’ That is, building a family tree ‘as far back as possible,’ resulting in statements like “I have over 10,000 people in my family tree,” or “I can trace my family back to Moses,” or something similar. I get that they are proud of this achievement, but for me it seems to be a fairly shallow result. I see that approach to research as ‘a mile wide, an inch deep.’

It’s not my intent to put these researchers down, but that is not the way I choose to reflect on my family’s ancestry. I want to put ‘meat on the bones’ of my ancestors. I want to understand who they were as individuals, how they interacted with their surroundings. What they thought, experienced, witnessed, observed, and even dreamed about. Why did they take the actions they did: immigrating, moving across the country, choosing one neighborhood over another, building their chosen craft / occupation? How did they happen to fall in love and marry (or not marry) their partner in life? What did they teach their children, or even the neighborhood children? Who did they interact with: their grocer, their doctor, their minister, their friends, their bosses, their enemies, etc.? What made them tick? These are the stories that I desire to ‘tease out’ of the materials that I explore.

This goes far beyond just transcribing a document in a foreign language or interpreting a vital record. It’s digging deeper to understand these people’s lives. This involves researching and reading contemporary records: journals, diaries, books, and newspapers, for example. It’s building an arsenal of information that helps to understand these individuals within their social history.

To this end, I’m launching a new Facebook Group about Norwegian genealogy and family history, which allows and even encourages the discussion and sharing of resources (finds, discoveries, etc.) that help to build one’s ‘family history.’ This group is not exclusively about Norwegian genealogy, but instead about Norwegian-American Family History. I will continue to be a member of the various Norwegian Genealogy Groups (see list below), but I am encouraging others to join this new Group as well.

It’s not my intent to be ‘mean spirited’ or in anyway to denigrate the existing groups, but I can see how this may be viewed. I’m hoping that if you see the advantage of this ‘new group,’ you will join it and encourage others to do so as well. I hope you will find the posts and discussions to be meaningful and useful in building your family history story. I see it as a place free to discuss books, articles, journal pieces, diaries, etc. To suggest, to hypothesize, to inquire about the life of our Norwegian-American ancestors – beyond just the facts.

To learn more about the group, or to join this new Facebook Group check us out at NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN FAMILY HISTORY. 

I look forward to making your acquaintance and/or friendship.

08 February 2018

Sámi Jienat - Voices of Sápmi (Music documentary)

Sámi flag
Sámi Jienat – Voices of Sápmi is a music/documentary (58 min) which follows the adventures of a Sámi choir as they practice and perform yoik – the traditional Sámi way of singing – and in doing so rediscover their unique heritage. It was released in 2013 and  premiered at the 2014 Tromsø International Film Festival in Norway in the ‘Films from the North’ category. It was also shown at the 2014 Skábmagovat Indigenous Peoples’ Film Festival in Inari, Finland.

I recently watched the film, on Vimeo, and was inspired by both the yoiking and the stories told behind when, why and how people yoik. In particular I found these two quotes to be thought provoking.

"In the old days people usually yoiked together in weddings and suchlike." 
"It was said that everybody yoiks with their own voice. In the same way as the bird sings with its own voice."  
The film provides the novice or non-Sami a sense of the history of yoiking, the importance and personal nature of yoiking, and the sentiments that are ignited by the one who yoiks. 

Sit back, pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and experience a culture that is not often discussed or shared. 

04 February 2018

Poulsbo AYPE Viking #10: Tenander Iversen

Tenander Iversen, of Poulsbo, Washington, was part of the "Viking" contingent to represent his community in the Norway Day parade at the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYPE) in Seattle. See the explanatory blog entry for this series: Poulsbo Vikings at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, 1909.

Tenander Iversen was born in December 1864 to Iver Torkolson and Karen Knutson in Tysfjord, Norway.  He arrived in America in about 1887, and became a naturalized citizen about ten years later.  In Astoria, Oregon, he worked as a day laborer, and married Karen Hansen there on August 14, 1897.  The couple relocated to the Kitsap Peninsula of Washington in about 1901.  They had four children:  Gudrun (Nelson), Clifford, Rudolph ("Rudie"), and Arthur ("Art").  Rudie and Art continued to live in Poulsbo to help with the family livelihood.

Iversen ran a butcher shop on Front Street in Poulsbo.  Part of the shop extended out over the bay so that meat and fish scraps could be dumped at will.  No doubt, the local marine life was quite content with that arrangement.

The specialty of the Iversen butcher shop was lutefisk, which is brined and reconstituted dried fish.  It is a traditional Norwegian food that has been known to separate real Vikings from the wannabes.  Each fall when schooners returned to Poulsbo from the Bering Sea, Iversen piled salt-dried cod--the main ingredient for lutefisk--in front of his shop.  Rumor has it that the practice ended after a few local dogs were seen marking their territory there.

Lutefisk produced by the Iversens was said to be "light, tender, and melted in your mouth."  It was a popular addition to community dinners around the Puget Sound for many decades.  So, it seems a bit strange that Mr. and Mrs. Tenander Iversen once donated a large bologna to a Poulsbo Orphans Home Thanksgiving dinner.  Perhaps the discerning children did not welcome lutefisk as much as their elders from the old country?

After a long life as a Poulsbo businessman, Tenander Iversen passed away at the age of eighty-three on August 19, 1948.  He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Bremerton, Washington.


--Ancestry.com.  Oregon, County Marriage Records, 1851-1975 [database on-line].
--Ancestry.com.  U.S., 1940 Federal Census, Poulsbo, Kitsap, Washington [database on-line].
--Driscoll, Judy. "Stories of Early Poulsbo Thanksgivings," Kitsap Sun, November 18, 2008, http://archive.kitsapsun.com/news/stories-of-early-poulsbo-thanksgivings-ep-421472528-358366411.html/.
--Driscoll, Judy. "The Iversen Brothers Were Local Lutefisk Pioneers," North Kitsap Herald, October 18, 2013, p.A11, https://issuu.com/pnwmarketplace/docs/i20131017134556883.
--Find-a-Grave (Tenander Iversen), https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/157908077.
--Poulsbo Centennial Book Committee.  Poulsbo:  Its First Hundred Years (The Committee:  Silverdale, Washington), 1986.
--U.S. Federal Census, Poulsbo, Washington, 1910-1940.
--Washington Death Index, 1940-2014.
Chery Kinnick

02 February 2018

Scandinavian Inspired Craft

It's never to early to get a head start on your holiday crafts.  Shown here are some Scandinavian-style wall hangings, made by one of our very own Nearby Norwegians.  Inspiration was provided by the rosmale-like border and other quilting fabrics from American Jane Fabric, "Lorraine" pattern group.

Chery Kinnick