Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Thor Knudsen Løftingsbakken

Thor Knudsen Løftingsbakken
 My great great grandfather Thor Knudsen Løftingsbakken was born 23rd August 1823 on the small farm Løftingsbakken (or Lyftingsbakken) in Lesja, Oppland, Norway and was christened in Lesja church on 21st September.  He was 5th in line of the eight children of Knud Olsen Løftingsbakken and Anne Amundsdatter Ommundstad.  Løftingsbakken was a small mountain farm with only enough outcome to feed one family, and the children had to seek work elsewhere soon after confirmation. The oldest son, Ole, died young and the second son, Amund, took over the farm. Thor, the third son, was confirmed 21st October 1838 in Lesja church, and shortly after this, he left Lesja.

The nickel works in Espedalen attracted workers from a large part of the mountain regions of inland Norway, and Thor Knudsen was one of the many men from Lesja to seek work in the quarries. He was also one of the many young men who found a wife in Espedalen. 6th September 1851 he married Ingeborg Pedersdatter Megrund, one of the daughters of Peder Olsen Børde (see my former blog) - they had a son Knut born 10th June 1851, and later a daughter Marith and two sons, Anton and Peder, all born on Megrund farm. The Espedalen quarries were, however, badly hit by the falling price on nickel, and closed officially in September 1855 - although the work went on for a few more years. One of the founders of the quarries, David Forbes, went on to direct new quarries in Bamble, in southern Telemark, and many of the miners followed him to seek work there. Among them were Thor Knudsen. He must have left Espedalen between 1862 and 1865: his son Anton was born in Espedalen in May 1862 while the family was well established on Langøy near Kragerø durng the 1865 census, and the youngest son Ole was born there in June 1865. Officially, however, the family is registered as inhabitants of Langøy 3rd September 1867.

They settled on the farm "Himmyr" (later named "Skogen"), a farm that apparently belonged to the quarries and which Thor Knudsen rented. His neighbours on all sides were miners from Espedalen. He worked in the iron quarries on Langøy for the rest of his life, and died on 4th August 1886. He was buried in the small graveyard on Langøy.

The photograph above is as far as I can ascertain, probably of Thor Knudsen. It must have been taken around 1880, and my guess is that the photo was one given to Marith Thorsdatter when leaving for the US; a copy of the photo was sent to me by one of my US relations, and to my surprise I found the same photo in one of my old photo albums.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Ingeborg Pedersdatter Megrund

Ingeborg Pedersdatter, Peder Thorsen's mother, was born on Megrund in Espedalen 14 March 1829. Her parents were Peder Olsen Børde and Marit Olsdatter Espedalen, and she was the youngest of 8 children (four girls and four boys). Megrund was (and still is) a small farm in Espedalen, a valley in the county of Oppland, Norway. Ingeborg was christened in Gausdal church on 19 April 1829, and confirmed 15 June 1844. At this time, nickel quarrying was an important industry in the valley and the prospect of work in the the quarries brought many young men from other parts of the country to Espedalen. Four of these were quartered on the Megrund farm. The inevitable happened: all four Megrund-sisters were married to young quarry-workers. Ingeborg, the youngest, fell for a young man from Lesja, Thor Knudsen Løftingsbakken, and they were married 6 September 1851, shortly after the birth of their eldest son Knut (see my previous blog on Knut Thorsen).

Ingeborg and Thor lived on Megrund while Thor worked in the quarries, and their children Knut, Marith, Peder and Anton were all born there. The quarries closed down in 1857 and Thor had to find other work. The quarry owners were also involved with the inron quarries on Langøy near Kragerø on the south coast and could provide work there. In the early 1860's (probably in 1864) the whole family left for a new life on an island in the south of Norway. They were not alone - many of the quarry workers in Espedalen also settled on Langøy (including another great great grandfather of mine - more about him later, perhaps!). The family settled on a tiny farm, Høymyr (or Himmyr), on Langøy and their last two children Ole and Anne Marie were born here.

Thor died in 1886, and Ingeborg lived on as a widow on Langøy until her death 20 December 1905. By that time, three of her children had settled in USA.

The photo of Ingeborg was sent to me by my relatives in the US, descendants of her daughter Marith. The family resemblance is quite remarkable.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

More about "my" Peder Thorsen

When I was a child, I was told about "Captain Thorsen" by both my parents. My mother remembered him well, and would always say: "He was a man of great style! Elegant and aristocratic." My father would talk of the time he was taught how to sail in a small rowboat his grandfather had adapted by affixing a keel and mast (and incidentally: with my grandmother watching anxiously from the upstairs window!), and of the story behind the large and dramatic painting in my grandparents' home: A vessel with torn sails in the middle of a storm. This was Peder Thorsen's ship Thorgny. He had brought her into harbour (Le Havre, I think it was) on November 10th, 1891, after a terrible storm in the Atlantic on the way home from South-America, when a painter came and asked to paint the ship in the state it was brought in. Peder bought the painting and brought it home (I have it today). My father also told me of how Peder as a young man had brought a vessel with all sails up through the narrow sound "Kreppa" outside Kragerø - a sound so narrow that the sailing vessels usually were dragged through by rope fastened to rings in the rocks. Peder sailed through just to impress a girl living next to the place!

I always had problems combining these two personalities: the elegant "aristocrat" and the daredevil captain. I had seen pictures of him in his old age, and he really was a fine man! But the daredevil? Then I found a photo in an old suitcase belonging to my father, and there he was! This was "my" Peder Thorsen, a man I could perfectly well imagine being fully at home on a sailingship in the middle of a storm in the Atlantic! The suitcase also contained several log books, copybooks with letters sent home to the ship owner, and some manuscript fragments. One was Peder Thorsen's own CV, listing his career as a sailor from 1873 when he started out as a deckshand till he left the sea in 1912. The second was a story of a journey across the North Sea in the 1870's and the third a fragment of a story from the West Indies - unfortunately only a small passage of this story remained. Here, suddenly, was Peder himself speaking to me, telling me about his life at sea, his negotiations with merchants in England and in South-America, his reports back to his employers on cargo and prices, weather and schedules. It was an amazing experience, reading about his life, and my respect for this greatgrandfather grew! Here was a man brought up on an island outside Kragerø, with barely any schooling at the outset, working his way up to captain and sailing "the seven seas" as representative of the ship owners, buying and selling cargo, negotiating prices and freights in foreign countries. He must have been quite a man!
And incidentally: he was shipwrecked no less than three times!
His story from the North Sea had obviously been intended for publication in a newspaper. I don't know whether he ever sent it, but thought it deserved to be read by more than me, so I copied it and sent it to the local history society. It was published in their yearbook in 2002 ("Turen til Cork" in "Historieglimt", Kragerø & Skåtøy Historielag Årbok 2002, pp.31-34).

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Peder Thorsen

It is finally time for the last of the Thorsen children, my great grandfather Peder Thorsen. He was the third of Thor and Ingeborg's children, born on Megrund in Espedalen, Oppland, April 11th, 1858 and christened in Svatsum, Gausdal, on May 30th of the same year. The family moved south to Telemark, to Langøy, in the mid 1860's and Peder was confirmed in Bamble church on October 13th 1872. The following year he went to sea, working as deckshand on the sailing vessel Alia (a barque), sailing on the Baltic and the North Sea. This was the first of a long line of ships which took him all over the world. He returned to Kragerø in January 1878 to sit his sailor's exam. He also got married on August 16th to a girl from the neighbouring town Risør, Ingeborg Torjesdatter. In 1878/79 he completed his education, obtaining official papers as a mate. He then went on to sail as 2nd and 1st mate, and later captain of several ships, handling cargo and trade both on England, Canada, the West Indies and South America.
Peder and Ingeborg had eight children, but only one child survived. The first two children were twin girls born in November 1878. The next six, three girls and three boys, lived only one day, and one of the twin girls, Klara Thorine, died two days before her fifth birthday. Thus the only child to survive childhood was Marie Josephine, my grandmother.
The photo of Peder and his wife Ingeborg is taken in Antwerp, probably in December 1891. At that time Peder was captain of the ship Thorgny and was able to bring Ingeborg along on one of his trips. The child Marie at that time stayed with her grandmother in Risør.
Ingeborg died quite early, probably in 1918, but Peder lived to be an old man. He died in Kragerø on March 21st, 1939.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Anton Thorsen

There are two more "Thorsens" to write about: Anton and Peder. Of one I have very little information, the other a lot - he was my great grandfather. Let me start with Anton.

Anton was the fourth child of the family, and the last of the kids to be born on Megrund May 7th, 1862. He was christened on June 29th that year in Gausdal church. Two years later, the family moved to the south coast of Norway, to Langøy near Kragerø (Telemark), where his father got work as a miner. He confirmation is recorded in the Skåtøy church records for October 22nd, 1876, where his knowledge of religion, his attentiveness and his behaviour is described as excellent.

And that is the last information I have of Anton. I have found him registered as available for military duty as a sailor in the records for the years 1868-1892, but found no more details. No record of any marriage, no record of his death - my guess is that he, like his brothers, went to sea as a sailor shortly after confirmation, and was lost at sea.

His fate remains a mystery and no picture of him has been identified as yet.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Knut Thorsen

Knut, Thor Knudsen and Ingeborg Pedersdatter's first child and the elder of the Thorsen siblings, was born on Megrund in Espedalen June 10th, 1851. He was christened in Gausdal church on July 6th, and spent his childhood in Espedalen. The family moved south to Langøy in the early 1860's, probably around 1864, and Knut was confirmed in Bamble church on April 8th, 1866. Shortly after that he went to sea, first as a deckshand, later on he became a ship's cook and steward.

On March 9th, 1879 he married a girl from Borre and (later) Bergen, Thorine (called Thora) Kathrine Torgersdatter Johnsen (1856-1937). They had five children together: Inga Katrine (1879-1958), Jørgine Marie (1883-1886), Karen Marie (1886-1900), Klara Johanne (1888-1966) and Thor (1893- ?). Knut also had one child, Katrine (born in 1874), by a girl in Kragerø, but the child died before she was a year old. In 1901 Knut and Thora divorced - in the late 1890's Thora and her children Inga, Klara, Karen (who died soon after) and Thor went back to live near her family in Bergen. Knut, now separated and apparently "fancy free", had two more daughters (in 1895 and 1904) by two different women in Kragerø...... Finally he was married again on Oct. 15th, 1904 to Maren Olsen (born 1864 on Langøy), a girl he must have known from his youth. She was now a widow with six young children. They settled on Langøy, near Knut's mother (more about her later), and had three children: Ingeborg Klara Marie (1904), Astrid (1907) and Anton Trygve (1909). Knut continued as a sailor, but made his last trip in 1911: he was steward on the barque Waaland returning from England to Norway with a cargo of coal in November that year, when the ship was caught in bad weather, capsized and sank. The whole crew was lost.

The photo (I think!) shows Knut and his first wife Thora late in 1882 or very early 1883. There were several photos of the Thorsens taken by the same photographer and with the same pose, so my guess is that the family had their photos taken before three of them left for the US in early February 1883.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Marith Thorsen

Marith Thorsen (or rather Thorsdatter - the daughter of Thor) was the elder of the two Thorsen girls, born on February 1st, 1854 on Megrund farm in Espedalen (a parallel valley to Gudbrandsdalen, Norway). She lived there for the first nine years of her life, while her father, a miner, worked in the Espedalen nickel quarries. In the early 1860s, probably around 1863, the family moved to the south coast of Norway, to the island Langøy outside the town of Kragerø, where large iron quarries provided more work after the Espedalen nickel works closed.

The Kragerø district with its quarries and ship building yards at this time attracted many settlers from other parts of Norway and particularly from Sweden (the two countries at this time had a common king). On November 23rd Marith married one of these, a Swedish carpenter named Johan Mikkelsen. In 1874 they moved from Langøy to Kragerø shortly after their daughter Johanna Mathilde Sophie was born, and while living there, had the two sons Johan Marentius and Anton Victor. Johan Mikkelsen sailed as a ship's carpenter, and on June 16th he left his ship "Grane" in New York to settle in the US. Marith and her three children joined him, leaving from Oslo by the ship Baldur on September 16th, 1880. They settled in Brooklyn (Garnet street). Anton Victor died a month later, but another son with the same name was born in September 1881. Shortly after this, Marith and her children returned to Norway for a visit, and when they left Oslo for New York on February 2nd, 1883, they were accompanied by her siblings Anne-Marie and Ole (see my former blogs). They arrived on the ship "Celtic" on February 20th.
Marith and Johan Mikkelsen stayed in Brooklyn, and went on to have 5 children more: Harry, Charles, Anna Erica, Edward Maximilian and a fifth whose name I have not been able to find. The second Anton Victor also died a year after arrival in New York - apparently the name Anton Victor was unlucky! Johan continued to work as a ship's carpenter, but as happened to so many Norwegian immigrants to the US: the names underwent som drastic changes which made the quest for information of the family's fate very difficult. The transformation of Johan and Marith to John and Mary was no surprise, but the last name Mikkelsen (also spelt Mikkelson or Michaelsen) ended up as McKalsen! It was certainly unexpected, but thanks to a name written by Marith on the back of one of the photographs (and afterwards, to some great help from other geneaologists) I was able to unravel their story in the US.
The photo shows Mary and John McKalsen photographed in Brooklyn probably around 1900.