Today (May 30) was very special. Gary and I got to spend the day with my “cousin,” Hans.
Here’s Hans, standing in front of the home he was born in and still lives in today.
Hans’ ancestor Anne was a sister to my ancestor Anders, who left Norway in 1869 for Nebraska.
I come from the Anders branch; Hans from the Anne branch.
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.
We spent a lot of our time in Norway coming to or going from train stations!
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!
Skarnes is in Sor Odal, just south of where my ancestors lived. It’s a nice little town, right on the train line, which makes it perfect for commuting into 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:
This was Hans’ grandmother’s house, which was moved from its original site to the museum grounds.
Here’s a small house like the one that my ancestor Knudsons, who were tenant farmers, might have lived in.
Sometimes one room is all you have! Hans said that people slept sitting up in those tiny beds — and often shared them with two or three other folks.
These looms are used to make decorative cloth like the ones we bought in the handicraft shop in Skarnes. The threads were very fine. It was wonderful to be able to see both in-progress and finished work.
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.
Tablecloth? Real flowers? Hans treated us very well.
My view kept distracting me from my food …
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.
A small chapel on the church grounds. Hans told us it is used today for laying out the departed before the funeral.
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.
Low hills roll down to the lake.
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.
That lake view, though. I would have missed this place on the dry, treeless plains 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.
This photo doesn’t even come close to capturing the charm of the summer farm. Think Heidi … her grandfather’s little house in the mountains. That’s about right.
We were absolutely smitten with the summer farm, which the museum folks had been restoring and will be opening to the public this summer.
We saw wildflowers, and bees, everywhere. Exactly the way it always looked in my mind when, as a little girl, I read about mountain meadows in old stories!
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.
Hans’ favorite bird, the wagtail. It’s ours now too! As he said, it’s such a friendly little bird, it makes you happy.
Finally, we ended our day with Hans with a quick visit to his home.
Hans’ house is built around a central woodburning fireplace, that heats the whole house. Hans, like many people in Norway, still chops his own wood. It keeps him fit, he says!
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.
The view from Hans’ living room — it’ll do!
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.
Cousins. Thank you, Hans, for a perfect day!