26 November 2017

Nordic Noir & Author, Vidar Sundstøl

I recently discovered Nordic Noir or Scandinavian Noir as a genre of Crime Fiction from the Nordic countries. Pop-Culture Wiki defines Nordic Noir as a genre that encoumpasses books and films that are often, but not always, a Police Procedural with the hero is often an anti-hero, typically a Defective Detective. Another web site [Nordic Noir and Beyond] describes the roots being in ground-breaking TV dramas, such as The Killing, Borgen, Wallander and The Bridge -- all of which I have watched and have become addicted to.

I enjoy a good TV series or film; however, I'm often drawn to published novels even more. Most recently I've discovered a Norwegian author named Vidar Sundstøl, who was interviewed [May 2015] by Barbara Fishter, a self described 'Librarian, Writer, and Friendly Curmudgeon', who writes a blog titled: Scandinavian Crime Fiction • in English Translation

Scandinavian readers who have never visited the United States have come to know northern Minnesota intimately through the inspired work of Norwegian crime novelist Vidar Sundstøl. He is best known, both in his native country and abroad, for the Minnesota Trilogy: The Land of Dreams, Only the Dead, and The Ravens.

Only the Dead (2015)
The Ravens (2016)

The series, translated into English by Tiina Nunnally, centers around a U.S. Forest Service officer whose happy, unassuming life on Lake Superior is turned upside down by the grisly murder of a Norwegian tourist. The Land of Dreams won Sundstøl the Riverton Prize for Best Norwegian Crime Story in 2008; popular newspaper Dagbladet recently praised it as one of the twenty-five best Norwegian mystery novels of all time.

The person who first introduced me to the series, however, was Norwegian blogger Martin Roe Eidhammer, whose blog 'Norwegian Genealogy and Then Some' has a weekly feature titled Books on Monday. He shares with his readers different books that may be of interest. I was intrigued to learn about the Minnesota Trilogy, which he wrote about in September 2016. I immediately went online and purchased the first book in the series, The Land of Dreams. I quickly devoured the 284 page book and went on to purchase the next two books in the series.
The series 'ticks-off' several 'boxes' of interest for me:
  • Norwegians
  • Norwegian-Americans
  • northern Minnesota (BWCA - Boundary Waters Canoe Area)
  • genealogy / family history
  • county archives
  • nature / adventure
  • Native Americans 
  • crime / mystery
  • social history
I was so intrigued with the author and his work, that I wanted to learn more, and thus discovered a 'book reading' by Mr. Sundstøl that took place on Monday, October 9, 2017 at 7 pm at the Highland Park Public Library (in St. Paul, Minnesota) -- my childhood 'stomping ground'. It was hosted by ClubBook.org

The audio recording is just over an hour long, but well worth the 64 minutes. At 7:12 -10:12 the author reads from pages 91-92. I highlighly recommend listening to the entire podcast. The author shares some fascinating insights about the trilogy, his writing process, and his most recent publication. 

This is a MUST READ trilogy.

21 October 2017

Bygdebøker and Arne G. Brekke, Citizen Advocate

On Thursday, October 19, 2017 
Arne Guttormsen Brekke celebrated his 90th birthday! 

In 1949 a young man (see college yearbook photo left <) traveled to America to study at Luther College in Decorah, IA. His plan was to spend a couple of years studying and then return to Norway where he would make his living teaching English in one of the Universities. In the Luther College Chips (student newspaper), February 11, 1949 it said "...in 1947 Arne passed a comprehensive exam that qualified him for a junior standing in American college work. He arrived in New York on January 18 [1949] and came directly to Decorah to enroll for a second semester. His interest in medicine was founded when he was a member of the Norwegian Medical corps during the last war. Arne's plans for the future are indefinite, but upon completion of his work here at Luther, he may go on to med school or else return to Norway as an English instructor."

However, the 'universe' had a different plan.  He met a woman, fell in love and decided to live in America, but would make frequent trips to Norway.  At 6' 2" and slightly over 200 lbs, Arne was a good looking man. He and his fiancee, Beverly Wade Boardman, a 1951 graduate of Wheelock College, were married February 7, 1953 in her hometown of Newton, Massachusetts. Beverly was just shy of 24 at the time of their marriage. Children came quickly: a son Kristian in November 1954, a daughter Karen in January 1957 - both born in Decorah - and then in June of 1960, while living in Chicago, they welcomed a second daughter, Karla. 

Arne was born October 19, 1927 in the village of Flåm, Sognefjorden Norway. [Note: you can read a current article about flåm in the Scandinavian Press • Summer 2016 issue, p. 42-45.] The village is located in the municipality of Aurland in Sogn og Fjordane. He became a U.S. citizen in January 1961 while living in Chicago. His love of travel extended throughout his life. He made a career of organizing travels to Norway (and beyond) with the company he established:  Brekke Tours & Travel.

In June of 2002 the Argus-Leader, published in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, published this article about Arne and his passion for connecting families to their Norwegian roots.

For me, the more impressive news article, appears in the SCANDINAVIAN PRESS • Summer 2014, pages 32-37 (see the photo at the top right of this post). It's actually two articles: one written by David Dodds about Arne's work as a travel guide (which first appeared in the University of North Dakota Discovery magazine • Autumn 2012) and a second article by Jo Ann Winistorfer about the Chester Fritz Library on the UND campus in Grand Forks. In Ms. Winstorfer's article, she refers to Arne as 'the Grand Forks guru of a Norwegian phenomenon known as bygdebøker." 

There's actually a photo of Arne hanging on one wall, with the heading "The Arne G. Brekke Bygdebok Collection". 
"Do you realize the magnitude of this collection? he tells us. "It's one of the largest accumulations of bygdøbker in the world, even bigger than those in Norway!"
"A bygdebok (pronounced big-da-book, plural bygdebøker) is a history of bygd (parish or municipality) in Norway. Unique among countries, Norway has compiled and published farm and family histories since the last century, a project that continues..." Pages 34-37 of this article go into great detail about the books themselves: what makes them unique, how they are compiled, how to locate the proper bygdebok for your ancestors, and how to maneuver through the UND website:

Speaking of bygdebøker, you may also want to read Norwegian blogger Martin Roe Eidhammer's posts on the subject:
What is a <<bygdebok>> • posted January 28, 2016
Bygdebøker Available Online • posted January 31, 2017
Bygdebøker are made Searchable on Familysearch.org • February 5, 2016 
Old Boundaries in Norway • posted October 6, 2016  
Alternative Spellings of Norwegian Names • posted on February 19, 2017
Wishing you the very best in identifying your ancestors in a bygdebok!

18 October 2017

A Recipe for Mutual Benefit: ‘FAN Club’, Crowdsourcing, Find-A-Grave & Bygdelag

For some time, I’ve been ruminating on the idea of crowdsourcing – as it pertains to genealogy. The concept is to divide work between family historians to achieve a mutual goal, and that goal being to establish a shared FAN Club.

To begin, let’s define the two concepts: FAN Club and Crowdsourcing.

FAN Club

Revered genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills coined a phrase that explains a genealogy methodology we should all be familiar with - "FAN Club." FAN stands for Friends • Associates • Neighbors. It refers to researching everyone in a cluster around your ancestors: friends/family, associates, and neighbors. This is also called cluster or collateral genealogy.

Sometimes your direct ancestor is elusive. Research the group(s) surrounding your ancestor. Look at the siblings, cousins, neighbors, church members, or other community members. Many times following them and their migrations or settlement patterns will lead you back to your own ancestor.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines this as ‘the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community...’ In essence, it is a group of people teaming up to reach a specific goal. 

If we marry these two ideas and add to them the information that can be found in Find-A-Grave, the result could be an excellent resource for researchers. Michael Cassara defines the concept of ‘Cemetery Crowdsourcing’ as 'to obtain information or input to a particular task by enlisting the services of a number of people, either paid or unpaid.' Find-A-Grave, to some extent, is just that. It helps you locate a cemetery and view profiles of people who are buried within the boundaries of that particular cemetery.

But what if, you have ‘like people’ (ancestors), from around the world, who are buried in different cemeteries – all in one place. Could that not also be a valuable resource? So: let's add one more element to this mixture - the bygdelag.

A bygdelag, as defined the Bokmål Dictionary, is ‘an association (in a foreign place) by people from the same village or region.’ The oldest, and largest, bygdelag in America is the Valdres Samband. In Andrew Veblen’s 1925 publication “The Valdris Book”, he writes ‘… those Americans who are in any degree of Valdris strain or descent, doubtless outnumber their kinsmen in the old home valley two or three times over.’ So one could conclude that there are ancestors with origins in the Valdres Valley buried all over the world.

So, I’ve outlined an initiative to get family historians who have ancestors born in a particular community (say the Valdres Valley, Norway) to work together to build a ‘virtual cemetery’ on the Find-A-Grave website. The website describes a virtual cemetery as 'a collection of names found on Find-A-Grave grouped by any specification a member wishes.' Memorials listed in Virtual Cemeteries can be buried in multiple different cemeteries.

I’ll keep you posted on the development of a ‘virtual cemetery’. 
I'm it will be a successful venture. 

08 October 2017

Facebook Groups, a new way to ask for help.

As we come close to the end of 2017, it's safe to assume that everyone is familiar with Facebook. That is, they know the premise behind the ... "a social networking site that makes it easy for you to connect and share with your family and friends online."

Originally designed for college students, Facebook was created in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg while he was enrolled at Harvard University. On September 26, 2006, anyone who claims to be at least 13 years old has been allowed to become a registered user of Facebook. By 2007 Facebook users wanted more exclusivity with whom they shared 'posts'; thus the development of PAGES and ultimately GROUPS. The distinction between the two has been a never ending conversation: see FB Page or Group.

In today's social circles ... amongst friends, at church functions, in the workplace, etc. you will hear:
  • ... look on my Facebook page
  • ... I uploaded the pictures to Facebook
  • ... have you looked at their Facebook Page? 
  • Find US on Facebook
There are many people who have joined and have NEVER look back. Many who create a profile and then forget about it - or forget their password. There are even those that have been 'hacked' and close their Facebook account - never to return. I have a few friends in the latter category. And finally others who have NEVER 'joined' the Facebook community for their own personal reasons. In fact, neither of my two brothers nor several of my college friends are 'on Facebook'. 

THAT SAID, there are some of us that do venture into the world of Facebook. I joined on May 26, 2008. That same day, my youngest step-daughter wrote on my 'feed' "Hi Luci!!! wow! when did you get facebook??"  Since that time I've initiated Facebook profiles for my [then] employer; for civic groups I belong to, and most recently established I've created one specifically focused on genealogy. 

What I'd like to share with you all today, is the concept of
Facebook (closed) Groups.
A FaceBook (FB) Group is created by one individual (or a team of persons), called an Administrator. A group has a intended purpose, generally to exchange information on a particular subject. A 'closed' group is one where users must get approval, from the Administrator (Admin) to join. The Admin manages the group, approves applicants or invites others to join. Because of these privacy settings, Facebook's groups are analogous to clubs in the offline world. 
The challenge, sometimes, is to discover that there is a Group which piques your interest. You can do a search for groups on Facebook, but I thought I'd share a few here, with you, that are 'honed in' on Norwegian and/or Norwegian-American genealogy, history, reading, etc. At the end of this post you will find a list of 'things I've learned' while participating in these (or similar) FB Groups. 
The oldest one was started in April 2007 and the most recent one is one I established this past month. All of them are 'closed' groups. I've put a live-link to each of the groups; stated when they were launched / how many members; the stated purpose; the names of the Administrators; and a reference to various files that I've found useful (from a given FB Group). You will have to be a member of the group to access the file(s). Finally, when appropriate, I've loaded an image of the header. 
Norwegian Genealogy

  • Launched April 27, 2007 and currently has 9,100 members
  • Purpose: "to help one another learn how to research our Norwegian heritage and to find Norwegian ancestors as well as relatives using only printed sources."
  • Administrators: Vickie Hart, Missy Hammell, Robert N. Barbara Anderson, and Terry D. Romstad
  • Files: Bygdebøker (posted July 4, 2012 by Darin Flansburg); The oldest Church Registers in Norwegian parishes (posed by C.S. Schilbred); Former Norwegian Towns that are gone today (posted Feb 2017, by Nancy Stensland); Old Scan Script Syllabus 2016 version (posted December 2016 by Missy Hammell); Norwegian Census Abbreviations (posted by Terry D. Romstad)

Minnesota Norwegians – genealogy

  • Launched June 25, 2013 and currently has 3,506 members
  • Purpose: "This is a group for those researching Norwegian ancestors who settled in the great state of Minnesota!! Ask a question, share a story, post a picture, start a genealogy-related discussion, etc."
  • Administrators: Tom Standal and Vickie Hart
  • Files: A Handbook of Norwegian-American ancestry (posted April 2016 by Inger Gorgan)

  • Launched January 24, 2014 and currently has 2,242 members
  • Purpose: "For anyone with an interest in North and South Dakota Norwegian Genealogy. If you have family that came to North or South Dakota from Norway and are searching for information, this is the place to be. If you need help in Norway you can ask away, there are many who love to help!"
  • Administrators: Tj Sutherland, Margit Nystvold Bakke, Becky Olson Wood
  • Files: Norwegian naming Practices by Olaf Kringhaug (posed January 2014 by Margit Nystvold Bakke); Nasjoalbibitoket Galleri NOR (posed May 2, 2017 by Tj Sutherland); Research Helps (compiled and posted by Margit Nysetvold Bakke); Scandinavian ND Map - Scandinavian Population in 1965 (posted December 2016 by Margit Nystvold Bakke); County Biographical Books and Norwegian Bygdeboker on File for Lookups (posted January 2014 by Margit Nystvold Bakke); and Research Helps for North and South Dakota Norwegian Genealogy (posted by Margit Nystvold Bakke)

  • Launched March 13, 2010 by Glen Olson and currently has 509 members
  • Purpose: "The Valdres Samband is the oldest and largest bygdelag in America, founded in 1899 - to become a member, check out our website: www.valdressamband.org."
  • Administrators: Tom Standal, Anne Sladky and Bruce Weaver II

  • Launched May 18, 2014 by Vickie Hart and currently has 503 members
  • Purpose: "Many Norwegian immigrants settled in Iowa (although they may have first lived in another state.) Join this group to share your Norwegian-Iowa connection, stories, photos, etc. Or post questions/brick walls about your Norwegian ancestors! I'm rounding up the "best of the best" Norwegian genealogy researchers to join this group!"
  • Administrators: Tom Standal and Vickie Hart

  • Launched April 4, 2009 by Karla Mattila and currently has 489 members
  • Purpose: "For members in good standing, past and present, of Norwaylist@rootsweb.com to share."
  • Administrators: Karla Mattila

  • Launched May 24, 2015 and currently has 489 members
  • Purpose "Have a favorite book about Norway? Read a good book about Norway or by a Norwegian recently? Looking for a book on Norway to borrow or buy? Have one to sell?"
  • Administrator: Roberta Morrow

  • Launched August 24, 2014 by Margit Nystevold Bakke and currently has 3,232 members
  • Purpose: Norwegian-American lags Facebook group has been started to help get information out about all the lags that can be joined from the various areas of Norway. There is a website online that can be checked for information: www.fellesraad.com.
  • Administrators: Tom Standal, Becky Olson Wood, and Margit Nystvold Bakke

  • Launched September 21, 2017 by Luci Baker Johnson and currently has 51 members
  • Purpose "Please keep posts related to the history of Norwegians in or from St. Paul, or at least Ramsey County. Leeway will be given for references to other Scandinavian groups and even Minneapolis, but the focus is really on St. Paul Norwegian-Americans. Include pictures whenever possible, and make sure to credit the source of all photos if they are not from your own personal collection."
  • Administrator: Luci Baker Johnson

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • 
Final Thoughts
I'm a member of each of these Facebook Groups, and several other groups. The last one was launched, partly,  because of personal experiences that I've had as a group member. I've also learned a few lessons along the way and want to share them with you. So, here they are, in no particular order.
  1. Look for and read carefully the notes from the Administrators. There are NO TWO FB Groups that are alike. Each group has it's own personality as well as what is allowed and what is prohibited. 
  2. Before you post something, use the search engine on the top left side of the page. Search to see if the topic has already been addressed. Once you've searched, you can filter the search by "posted by, tagged location, and date posted". 
  3. An overlooked feature is the tab on the left titled FILES. This is where Administrators and Group members have uploaded Word documents and PDF's. Some people have done a great job in 'naming' these files -- others, not so much. (There is no 'standard' way to post these, some are kind of funky.) The nice thing, is that you can find these easily. 
  4. The people in the Groups are often, very very helpful. Some live in the US, others in Norway and other places. Realize that they are helping because they enjoy doing so, don't take advantage of them. AND thank them. I've even seen some who have 'uploaded' scanned pages from bygdeboker
  5. I recommend that you copy and past discussions that you want to be able to refer back to. Same them as either a Word document or a PDF -- on your computer. I say this, because, I've gone back to look for something that posted and it's gone or been removed by the Admin. 

Good luck!  Share your thoughts, please.
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06 October 2017

Where do I begin, my Norwegian Genealogy Research

When I initially thought about researching my Norwegian ancestors, in 1999, 'over the ocean', I froze. That is, my internal dialogue was "What in the world are you thinking? You can't read Norwegian and all of the records will be IN NORWEGIAN!"  True enough.

But, over time and bit by bit I began to tackle this insurmountable challenge. It was all self-taught and took massive hours of patience, study and tenacity. I still have a long way to go, but I feel much more confident these days.

Today, however, it's a much easier journey. That is with the introduction of the internet and the fact that several Norwegian entities have worked hard to make materials more accessible to those of us 'overseas'. Many have even taken the extra step to publish materials in ENGLISH.

Last evening I came across a brochure that will be beneficial to anyone who wants to 'cross the ocean' virtually. The brochure was a collaboration between

the National Library of Norway

the National Archives of Norway, and

DIS-Norge, the largest genealogy association in Norway

A Handbook of Norwegian-American Ancestry

You may find it helpful to click on the link and download the PDF to your computer. It walks you through the vital records available in Norway, addresses the question of 'old Norwegian naming customs', and explains how bygdebøker can be useful in doing lineage research. It also clearly explains the three repositories that can be accessed (virtually) to find those gold nuggets of family history. It also provides links to these organizations, and in the case of DIS-Norway, talks about a particular database called Gravminner (the Norwegian name of the DIS Headstone database).

Final note. It's a journey, not a race. Enjoy the time you spend on researching your family history, but be sure to record and document where you gleaned your information.

01 October 2017

What Separates Norwegian Lutherans in America?

I’ve found that among the most eye-opening dialogues are those between early Norwegian-Americans. Two such men in particular come to mind: Rev. U. V. Koren and Martin Ulvestad. Their debate focused on the question of “Why is There No Church Unity Among Norwegian Lutherans in America?”

Source: Luther Seminary • ELCA Region 3 Archives

Martin Ulvestad (1865-1942) was born in Volda, Møre og Romsdal, Norway, and immigrated at age 20 in 1888 from Trondheim. His ‘claim to fame’ was as an author, publisher, and historian. He lived in Minneapolis, Tacoma, and Seattle (1917-1942). The 1930 Federal Census lists his occupation as "Publisher, Norwegian Genealogy." You can read more about him at Great Norwegian Lexicon and The Promise of America. His final resting spot is listed on Find-A-Grave Memorial #84290423. He is best known for his two volume Norwegian language history "Nordmændene i Amerika" (Norwegians in America) was published in 1907. It was translated and republished in this century by Astri My Astri Publishing.

Rev Ulrik Vilhelm Koren (1826-1910) was a Norwegian-American author, theologian and church leader, as well as a pioneer Lutheran minister who served at Little Iowa Congregation (later called Washington Prairie Lutheran) in Winneshiek County, Iowa. He was the first Lutheran minister from Norway to settle west of the Mississippi.  You can read about him on the Great Norwegian Lexicon, and find his final resting spot on Find-A-Grave Memorial #133783360.  On a personal note, he was the minister of the church my mother’s paternal family attended, and was also the mentor and role model for my grandfather, Rev. Gustav Hegg.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Mr. Ulvestad made several public statements in various publications, asking the question, What separates Norwegian Lutherans in America? He followed this with the following challenge: “What is needed is a straightforward explanation and comparison of the doctrinal differences that are said to exist.”

Mr. Ulvestad continued, saying, “…[I’ve] come to the conclusion, that it is [Norwegian Lutheran] Christianity, and not our doctrinal concepts, that has suffered the most.” He wrote, “If this were the main issue about which there was disagreement, namely, the way to life in God and the way to salvation, then there would be no talk of uniting. One cannot compromise the Word of God. The way which God has prescribed seems, however, to be clear enough, if only we would follow it.”

Reverend Koren, an octogenarian, took up the challenge and wrote a public response to Mr. Ulvestad's question, which was then printed in the Clergy Bulletin in 1905. The piece was lengthy – 15,400 words – and covered a vast amount of history and theology.

Today we have the opportunity to read and study the famous article in English translation You can read it online here:

If you are up to the challenge, please read the piece and share some of your thoughts about it.

30 September 2017

Norwegian Naming Patterns, Expertly explained in a YouTube Video

Brad Imsdahl is a descendant of Norwegian immigrants who came to Minnesota. He's done a wonderful job of telling his family immigrant story, via a 25 minute mini-documentary, from Oppland Co., Norway to Brooten, Stearns and Pope Co. Minnesota. Brad’s great-grandparents, Peder and Marit Imsdal came from the Imsdalen, a remote valley located north of Lillehammer in Oppland County Norway. Peder immigrated in May 1884, worked on a farm, and later sent money to Norway for his wife and son to immigrate. 

The YouTube video explores the reasons why so many Norwegians immigrated to Minnesota, about the Homestead Act, and why people changed their name, after immigrating.  Of note, is Brad's explanation of the naming patterns, of Norwegians, (4 minutes) at 9:48. It should also be noted that these patterns varied through time and from area to area.

I learned of Brad, and his video, from a Norwegian Blogger named Martin Eidhammer. His picture and brief bio are below, as well as a link to his blog:  Norwegian Genealogy and then some: Genealogy, history and culture from Norway.

Martin Roe Eidhammer is a Norwegian Blogger, living in Norway. He’s married,
has three children and is, by profession, a psychiatric nurse. He grew up in Vestnes in Romsdal
 (Møre og Romsdal county) and we are now living in Skjevik, east of the town Molde (M&R county)