Today (May 30) was very special. Gary and I got to spend the day with my “cousin,” Hans.
Hans’ ancestor Anne was a sister to my ancestor Anders, who left Norway in 1869 for Nebraska.
Hans attended our biennial Knudson family reunion in Wahoo, Nebraska in 2008. A couple of our U.S. family members have been lucky enough to get to visit Hans in Norway since then, and this time, it was my turn.
It turns out that my ancestral land, Nord-Odal, is only a short train ride from Oslo. Gary and I took the train to Oslo from Ås, and then transferred to the train to Skarnes, the closest station to Nord-Odal.
Hans was a fantastic and gracious host. He had planned a whole day for us, beginning with a stop at the perfect place to buy souvenirs: a superb handicraft store run by some local retired folks. We bought hand-knitted socks and mittens and hand-woven decorative cloths, which we much preferred to what we could have found in Oslo!
Then we crossed into Nord Odal to visit a living history museum called Odalstunet. Because Hans helped create the museum and still volunteers there, we got a personal tour! Some of the buildings were especially special to me:
Afterwards, Hans drove us to a nearby lakeside restaurant in the tiny town of Sand and treated us to lunch. Milepelen is also owned and operated by local retired people, women in this case, who have made into a local highlight.
Of course, I was too busy eating and looking out over the water to remember to take a picture of my lunch! Surprisingly to us, the menu offered lots of beef and chicken. I was pleased to able to read “hamburger” — but Hans thought that meant I planned to order one and he objected: “No, no, get something nice!” I had chicken with a mushroom sauce and it was perfect.
After lunch we continued around the lakeshore to a local church to visit more family.
The resting place of Anne Hoiby, Hans’ great grandmother and the sister of Anders, my great great great grandfather. In 2008 Hans visited Anders’ grave near Ceresco, Nebraska. Isn’t life strange?
One thing that Hans, Gary and I talked about was a key difference between Norway and the U.S.: Norway’s state church. This Lutheran Christian church was established way back in the 1530s, and is still state-funded and controlled, even though Norway’s people tend to be very non-religious. Hans prefers the U.S.’s separation between church and state, and we could only agree.
Our next stop was a big one: the land where Anders Knudson and his brothers lived and worked before emigrating to America.
As tenant farmers, the Knudsons were at a distinct disadvantage from landowners. Land meant wealth, and even though the family owned horses, a sign that they did well financially, they were always working for someone else. The prospect of owning land is what persuaded the four Knudson brothers (Anders, Asplund, Gulbrand and Knudt) to leave their home for the unknown wilds of Nebraska.
The brothers brought their mother, Marit Gulbrandsdatter, with them on their voyage over sea and land, and tragically, she died only months after they arrived in the U.S. She is buried along the trail in Iowa. How sad for her, for her sons, and for the daughters she had left in Norway! But the brothers settled in Lancaster County, Nebraska, and bought land, just as they had hoped they would.
After this amazing visit Hans, a retired forester, suggested we go for a drive in his forest. Yes, *his* forest: where he hunts moose and tramps around as much as he likes, and where he pays a special yearly fee so he can drive through its roads and tracks. I told you the Norwegians loved their forests.
I guess Gary and I responded properly to the forest views from the car, because Hans then decided to show us a hidden gem: a traditional “summer farm” tucked into the woods, now owned by the Odalstunet museum.
We were absolutely smitten with the summer farm, which the museum folks had been restoring and will be opening to the public this summer.
A summer farm is a place up in the mountains where the cows or goats are brought in the summer to graze, protecting the lower pastures for later grazing and mowing. Typically one or two men would accompany the animals, living rough in the summer hut. This summer, cows will return to this beautiful place, and the resulting dairy products will be offered to the public along with tours and interpretation of the area’s history.
Finally, we ended our day with Hans with a quick visit to his home.
This is the house Hans grew up in. When his parents died, they left him the house, and the surrounding land, which is farmed by a neighbor. It’s a very pleasant place.
It was a packed day, and this has been a packed post! I’ll end with a pic of Hans and me on the land our ancestors farmed on the shore of lake Storsjøen.