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.

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