My Norwegians


This photo is of my great-great-grandparents, Hans Tobias Olson and Tori Jakobsdatter,  and my great-grandmother, Theoline. It was taken in Norway, before they immigrated to the United States in 1879.

Finding out more information about this branch of my family had stumped me, as I’d always heard their last name was “Soland.” But, internet searches came up empty.

But, then a breakthrough! I was on Family Search and doing a search of Hans and Tori Soland, when I pulled up a marriage document with Hans and Tori as the first names, but they had quite different last names, Olson and Jakobsdatter. I had the wrong people, I was sure.

And, then I had an “Ah-ha!” moment.

Norwegians, until the 20th century, used patronymics. This is a naming system that uses a form of the father’s first name as the child’s last name.

So, Hans Olson is the son of Ole (Ole’s son).  Tori Jakobsdatter is the daughter of Jakob (Jakob’s daughter). This is actually a boon for me as a family historian, as I don’t have to go searching for the first names of the fathers of my Norwegian ancestors. They are right there, easy to see.

But, it’s not always that easy, is it?

Because of the ubiquitous nature of Ole Olsons, for example, in Norway (there could literally be thousands), there had to be another way to distinguish one Ole Olson from another. And, that’s where farm names come into play.

My Norwegian family adopted the last name of Soland once in America. Soland had been the name of the farm of Hans, his father Ole, and his father Haaken, a farm in the family for decades prior to that.

In Norway, the farm names became an important way to distinguish one Ole from another. So, my great-great-grandfather became known Hans Tobias Olson Soland. He married Tori Jakobsdatter Glenrange (pronounced glen-ran-geh) (approximately). Tori, though, became Soland and dropped the Glenrange when she married Hans and moved from the Glanrange farm to the Soland farm.

And, while this could be as confusing as those patronymics, it is also an unexpected benefit to the family historian. Now, when I see the name  of Tori Helene Hansdatter Glenrange (my 3x great-grandmother), I know her father’s name was Hans and that she lived on the Glenrange farm or area. That’s a lot of helpful information!

And, somewhere back in that twisted branch of my family tree, I share an ancestor with a cousin, Siri. And, we met up this summer. I don’t think I doubt my Norwegian roots any longer after seeing this photo of the two of us together.



I look forward to finding more of my Norwegians and one day, visiting the Soland farm.

‘Til next time.