Sunday, 31 January 2010

Anne Marie Thorsdatter

Ole Thorsen had two sisters, Marit and Anne Marie. Anne Marie was the youngest of the 6 Thorsen siblings, born on the island of Langøy (in Skåtøy parish) outside Kragerø October 19th, 1867. She was christened in Skåtøy church on April 10th, 1868, and in the 1875 Census for Langøy she is noted as "staying with her sister and brother-in-law in Kragerø" - which is confirmed by the Kragerø Census for the home of her sister Marit and her swedish husband Johan Mikkelsen. As she is registred there as "foster daughter" in her sister's house, she presumably stayed with her sister while attending school in Kragerø. On October 16th, 1881 she celebrated her confirmation in Skåtøy church.

On February 2nd, 1883 she emigrated to the US accompanying her older sister Marit, Marit's two children and her brother Ole. They all left Norway from Kristiania (Oslo) by the ship Domino, probably by way of Liverpool, and arrived in New York with the ship Celtic on February 20th, 1883. In the passanger list on arrival, she is put down as "Anna Thorston, 15, spinster". The whole family travelled "steerage".

Apparently she stayed with her sister's family in New York for a while, and on July 7th, 1884 she stood godmother to Marit's son Harry at his christening in the Norwegian Church in New York, now with the name Hanna Marie Thorsen. This is the last information I have of Anne Marie; did she leave New York, did she marry and change her name..........
The photographs show Anne Marie and her brother Ole Thorsen photographed shortly before their departure for New York, and the "new" Anne Marie in the New World - a photo sent home to the family in Norway as proof that all was well!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Ole Thorsen

Having identified my great grandfather's brother Ole Thorsen in the family albums and found him in the emigration protocols, I have been able to "paste together" his history. He was born on the island of Langøy outside Kragerø on the southcoast of Norway on June 25th 1865 (I will write about his parents in a blog later on), number five in a family of six children. His father was a miner and the family means must have been restricted, so all children started work immediately after confirmation. The boys all went to sea, and so did Ole. 16 years old he started his career as deckshand on the sailing vessel Aurora of Kragerø (noted in the English census of King's Lynn, April 3rd, 1881).

Feb. 2nd 1883 he left Norway for New York together with his younger sister Anne Marie, his elder sister Marit Mikkelsen (who had already been once to the US), and her three childre Sofie, Johan and Victor. He apparently did not stay long in New York, but settled in Boston - in October 1891 he left Norway after a visit and is registered as "American" with destination Boston. He was still a sailor.

Shortly after this, however, he settled down, changed his name to Thompson and became a house painter in Cambridge, Mass. In 1895 he married a beautiful Irish immigrant named Julia, and in 1900 they lived in 1112 Washington street, Cambridge. Before 1910, however, he bought a house in 79 Norfolk Street, and ran his house painting business from there. The couple had four children, Theodore Palmer (born May 20th, 1903), Edna C. (born May 16th, 1905), Olive Elisabeth (born July 17th, 1908) and John (born 1914).

I have not been able to find out when he died, but it must have been after 1930 (he is listed in the 1930 Census). Perhaps some of the geneabloggers can help me?

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Photo Albums

My genealogical journey started when, clearing out my parents' old home, I found several ancient photo albums in a suitcase which had belonged to my father. The albums came from my grandparents and my great grandfather, and they were filled with photos of people I knew nothing about - no names. I suddenly realized I knew very little about my background, hardly even the first name of my great grandfather, certainly not his wife's name and nothing at all about their background. I knew that someone had come from Megrund in Espedalen, but which one? Also there was some connection with people in Risør, probably on my grandmother's side, and some relations which we had visited in the US in 1958, but that was all. Worst of all, I was the only one left in the family who had even a small chance of unravelling some of the stories, as I was the only one who had ever talked to my father about his family. Looking at the albums I decided I had better do something about this. Putting names to the photos became a real challenge!

Luckily in Norway we have free access to an excellent internet service with digitized achive material, such as the 1900, 1865 and 1801 census, emigrant protocols and a wealth of other documents, as well as scanned church records. Once I discovered this site, I became completely hooked on genealogy! Searching through the census I found my grandparents' backgrounds, and to my great surprise I learned that my great grandfather (the owner of one of the albums) had five siblings: two sisters and three brothers. The two girls and one of the brothers left for America in 1883. In the albums were photos taken by photographers in Boston, New York and El Paso, so I started to look through the Norwegian emigrant records and found all three. I also learned that the brother, Ole Thorsen (in the US he took the name Thompson) had been on a visit to Kragerø in 1890/91. One of the photos taken by a Kragerø photographer was that of a young man which I recognized as the same person, sitting with his family, on photos taken in Boston. In the Kragerø photographer's files I found that a photo of Ole Thorsen was taken 5th May, 1890 - I had found my first lead to my great grandfather's US family.

Monday, 4 January 2010


Many members of my family emigrated to the US - many more than I realised. On my paternal grandmother's side, her father's family was split: three out of six siblings left for the US in the 1880's, settled in various parts of the country and (as far as I have been able to ascertain) they had no contact with each other. The only connection was through letters and photos sent home to the family remaining in Norway. On her mother's side, the rate of emigration was even larger; her grandfather emigrated with his youngest son as early as in 1853, most of his siblings had already left for the US, and my great grandmother's eldest son and his wife also left for the "promised land" out west in 1887.

There were many others from my family background who left Norway for the new country, and it is quite a task to unravel all the stories and connect them up with the nameless photos I find in the family albums I have inherited. Some I have been able to identify, but so many remain. I hope to share my findings in this blog as the work progresses.