My Norwegian Cousin, Oddleif

I love my Norwegian relatives. I’ve now met two in person, Siri and Oddleif. (Five if I count Oddleif’s children, who are my cousins, too!)

I met both Siri and Oddleif, (who are unrelated as far as I know, but Norway is a small country…) online, either on a Norwegian Facebook group or through My Heritage. I love that the interwebs can make this huge world a little smaller.

I met Siri, who is an American with Norwegian roots, last summer, when she was in town for a conference. She is also a frequent flier on the airline I work for, so I’m really hoping that I run into her again in the friendly skies.

Oddleif lives in Stavenger, a bit north from where our common ancestors once lived in Flekkefjord. He and his family are in the United States, enjoying their enviable four weeks of paid vacation. They began with six days in New York, flew to Los Angeles, spent a few days in both Las Vegas and San Diego, and stopped in Orange County before finishing up their grand tour in the San Francisco Bay area.

We met up for ice cream in Seal Beach. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and breezy. We walked out on the pier, where we could watch the wind surfers and see all the way from San Pedro to Huntington Beach.


(Yes, I do know that my hair is wild and crazy. My cousin, Sue, thinks that I can rock a mohawk.)

They very kindly brought us a calendar with gorgeous pictures of Norway. We are definitely going to visit!

I kinda think we look a bit alike…

Oddleif, pronounced “Ot-leaf”, and I are related (on his mother’s side of the family) through our third great grandparents, making us fourth cousins.

My great-great grandfather, Hans Tobias Oleson, and Oddleif’s great-great grandmother, Johanna Olsdatter, were siblings. Their parents, Ole Johannes Håkonson and Inger Torgeirsdotter, are our common ancestors, our 3x great grandparents.

But, wait! There’s more! As I already mentioned, Norway is a small country. So, it turns out that we also have common ancestors through Oddleif’s father. We share the same 7x great grandparents, too! Steiner Sivertson Reppen and Anna Eivindsdatter.

And, frankly, who knows if there are more! I will keep on digging.

See you soon in Norway, Oddleif!


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.