Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Breech-Birth Luck

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I found it excessively easy to find records on my female relatives, as well as whereabouts, husbands, and married names.  In fact, it is usually through a female ancestor that I discover bits and pieces of the puzzle regarding male ancestors and my family history.


This is, of course, quite backwards from the normal experience of genealogical research.  Let us say, that breech is the natural way my intuition works.  It is the natural way in which synchronicity plays a role in my research.


At the risk of sounding like a lunatic in desperate need of a fancy white jacket with extra long arms and walls with white padding, I firmly believe that certain of my ancestors - female ancestors - are assisting me in my research from beyond the grave and that their male counterparts are desperately ducking discovery.  Hmm... sounds like waking life!


But I digress.


The point is, my luck with research runs counter to the normal experience, which brings me to surprises.


In the same post, I mentioned my ancestors had a few surprises in store for me.  One such surprise involved Thorshaugen farm.  I had - quite wrongly, I might add - assumed that my immigrant ancestors had lived on Thorshaugen farm most, if not all, of their lives.  At least as long as Ingri Olsdatter Mælum av Lie and Ole Knudsen Fjeld had been married.  At the same time, I had assumed - quite wrongly again - that Ole Knudsen Fjeld had immigrated to the United States as well.  This assumption led to the further assumption that Ole Knudsen had died soon after his arrival, or during the journey to America itself, as he appeared nowhere in the American records from 1865 onwards.


Then I discovered the Norwegian immigration records of Ingri (Mælum av Lie) Fjeld and her children.  Nowhere did Ole Knudsen Fjeld appear in these records.  Perhaps, he had immigrated alone?


Really?  Then why were there no U.S. records, no U.S. census records, no property records, etc., involving Ole Knudsen Fjeld?  Ingri appears in all the censuses after the 1880 U.S. census and in not one of these does her husband make an appearance.  Ingri even appears in the 1885 Dakota Territory Census, living in Nelson County, North Dakota.  No Ole Knudsen Fjeld there either.


It was time to face the fact that Ole Knudsen Fjeld may have died on Norwegian soil before his wife immigrated to the United States.


At this time, the Digitalarkivet of Norway was in the process of uploading parish records to their web site.  This meant that some records were online, but others were not.  At the time of my research, most were not online.   This dearth of information held especially true for Bruflat parish records, which, I had read had been burned during WWII.  Or, at least, the records for the years that I needed had burned.


Therefore, over a long period, I returned to the parish records on a weekly or monthly basis, praying for records.  Finally, the Bruflat parish records for 1866-1893 were uploaded.  I spent months searching because I had never laid eyes on Gothic handwriting, which is very different from our own.  Many Gothic letters are unrecognizable to modern readers.  To make matters worse, some letters have multiple forms in the Gothic, which vaguely resemble some of our modern cursive letters, but which usually turn out to be different letters entirely in the Gothic.  Nor did i speak or read Norwegian.


I was illiterate.


Frustrated, I Googled away and taught myself to read Gothic handwriting.


Once I had learned how to read Gothic handwriting, I combed through every page in the deaths and burials section of the 1866-1893 Bruflat i Sør Aurdal klokkerbok.  I was looking for Ole Knudsen of Thorshaugen or Fjeld farm.  In previous searches through the Bruflat parish records, I had discovered births of some of Ole and Ingri's children and that their residence changed from Thorshaugen to Fjeld farm to midt Fjeld farm.  I had two theories:



  1. Thorshaugen, Fjeld and midt Fjeld were names for the same farm.

  2. Thorshaugen, Fjeld and midt Fjeld were names for different farms.


That is why I was searching for an Ole Knudsen who had died while residing at either Thorshaugen or Fjeld farm.  On page 198, I found what I had been looking for... and  it left me breathless because I had expected to come away from the klokkerbok empty-handed and blind. (Klokkerboks are not easy to read.)


The answer to why Ole Knudsen Fjeld did not appear in the American records with his wife, Ingri, stared back at me in all its starkness, as if to say, "Boo!"


Ole Knudsen, Farmer, Fjeld farm, died 17 December 1873, buried 11 January 1874.


A single line.


Mystery solved.


Next up:  Thorshaugen and Fjeld - One Farm or Two?


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