52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 20: Another Language

Well, this has been a long time coming, hasn’t it? Turns out, life gets busy in the summer. At the Big Airline, things are a’changin’. The powers that be are moving to a more seasonal approach to flight planning, meaning heavy schedules in the summer months and lighter ones in the winter. Following the market demand, which is turning out to be profitable. Who knew???

All that to say that it’s been tricky finding time to blog, or frankly even to research. I’m actually on a layover now, trying a new approach to keeping up. I’m using the Word Press app on my iPad, and I loaded some photos and records into Dropbox that I thought I might use. (That was my biggest sticking point: not having access to my pictures and documents.)

So, let’s take this baby out for a spin and see how she does!

For the majority of my ancestors, English has been their first language. But, I have two lines in my family tree that involve other languages. My father’s mother was born in Massachusetts, but all her family were French Canadian and spoke French. My mom’s father’s mother was Norwegian, having immigrated as a young girl.

My French-Canadian great-grandparents, parents to my paternal grandmother, Perpetue (or Ducky or Pearl or Nana)
My Norwegian great-grandmother, Theoline, as an infant, with her parents, Hans and Tori, in Norway

I have no experience speaking or learning Norwegian. I did, however, spend about a week in French class in high school. It about broke my brain, trying to wrap my head around all those letters that you don’t pronounce. All taught by a French teacher with one of the strongest New York accents I have ever, even to this day, heard.

So, dropped that class like a hot potato and enrolled in the German class instead. Whew! Now, there’s a logical language.

But, alas, none of my ancestors came from Germany. At least, none that I have found.

And, being intimidated by Norwegian’s strange characters and French’s seemingly random pronunciation of various letters, I have concentrated on the low-hanging fruit of English records. But, I know that eventually I will have to man up and tackle them both, if I want to find those rich, historical stories that I desire.

So, I am going to try to dissect a record today, in Norwegian, and see how far I can get.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am now home again, and wow, writing this is So. Much. Easier. on my computer.)

Below is an example of a record in Norwegian. It’s the 1866 marriage record of my great-great grandparents, Hans Tobias Olson and Tori Jacobsdatter. As you can see, these historical records have additional challenges, in addition to the language barrier. The handwriting and font can sometimes be very hard to decipher, and the scan might not be very clear.

Hans and Tori are entry number 6:

olsen soland-1866-marriage

I can figure out some of the information from prior knowledge.

The first column is obviously the date: 20 April.

The second column is their names: Hans Tobias Olsen and Tori Jacobsdatter. The words right before each of their names are repeated for each couple on the page, so I’m going to surmise that they simply mean groom and bride.

The third column is their farm names: Soland and Glenrange. Farm names were used along with the patronymic system to help distinguish one Hans Olsen from another.

The fourth column is their ages: 28 1/2 and 24 1/2.

The fifth and sixth columns appear to be the groom’s and the bride’s fathers’ names: Ole Johannes Håkonsen and Jakob Tobias Tonnessen.

The first column after the page break stumps me. Perhaps witnesses? Frankly, the rest of the columns are a bit of a mystery, too.

I’m going to see if the Family Search Wiki for Norway can help me.

And, why yes, it has! I’ve found a great article in the Norway “How to” Guides: Digitalarkivet: Church Records. (You might need to sign into Family Search for some of these links to work.)

(And, now I’m off on a rabbit trail on inserting those special Norwegian alphabetic characters. There are several ways to do this, but I’ve just used this website for the special character “å” in Johannes’ name above. Painless! I’m going to bookmark this one.)

So, back to the How To Guide. It instructs me to head over to the  National Archives of Norway site. But, the link is incorrect. I correct it by removing anything after the forward slash. That’s better. And, I select “English” on the top of the page.

And, this is where the Family Search article breaks down, or hasn’t been updated. Clicking around, I find Parish Registers under the menu icon. And, now I feel like I am off-roading on my own!

I found the church books, and the site is still in English, so I insert the year and type of record I’m searching. I also need to know the county, which is Vest-Agder, and the parish, which is Flekkefjord. Thankfully, both are in drop-down menus, which makes it easier.

That search turned up zero results, so I remove “marriage” from the search and get quite a few results.


I don’t know what the letters dp, kf, etc., mean, but I can see that they are hyperlinked. Hovering my mouse over each one, I discover that “vi” means marriage records 1850-1869. That looks promising. Nope. I search the next book.

And, there they are! It’s the same image I have above, but with the source information attached.


But, still no translation of the information columns. Hummm… Where to now?

I need a snack. Be right back.

OK. That’s better. And, armed with some brain fuel, I had the bright idea of just posting on the Norwegian Genealogy Facebook group and asking what the columns are for. But, then I thought that would be cheating and would defeat the purpose of this post, which is to learn how to figure this out on my own.

Back to the “How To Guide” at Family Search. And, I think I’ve found the mother lode: Norwegian Parish Record Headings! Now, isn’t that handy?

And, here it is, the key to all the information on the second page of the record:


So, armed with the list above, I now know that the names in the first column (on the right hand side of the page) are the bondsmen. The next column lists the dates the bans were read in church: April 2, April 8, and April 15. Next is the person requesting the the bans: the bridegroom. Nothing in the column for why the bans weren’t read. Next is the date of smallpox or certificate of vaccination. Hans was vaccinated June 9, 1838, and Tori was vaccinated July 13, 1844. Nothing in the next column with information about the bridegrooms salary or pension. And, nothing in the last column with information about any prior marriages.

Well, if you have stuck with me through all of this, then I commend you. It’s been a valuable exercise for me. I’ve discovered that blogging on my iPad just won’t work for me. I have navigated the National Archives of Norway for the first time, and I’ve found out just how helpful a wiki can be.

Now, I still need to figure out French-language sites. But, that’s another day.

‘Til next time.





52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 14: The Maiden Aunt(s)

I knew right away who I wanted to write about for this week’s prompt. My great-great aunts, Ida and Johanna, are the subjects of this post. They came to America from Norway with their parents and siblings, including my great-great grandmother, Theoline.

In 1879 when they arrived, Theoline was 12, Ida was eight, and Johanna was a wee six year-old.

Soland Line

Theoline grew up and married Willis C. Wells, my great-great grandfather in 1896.

willis and theoline wells wedding picture, april 18, 1886.jpg
Wedding picture of Theoline Soland and Willis C. Wells, my great-grandparents

But, that’s enough about Theoline for this blog post; we’re here to talk about her younger sisters. So, let’s begin, shall we?

In the 1880 census, the first US census after their 1879 arrival, Ida and Jo, nine and seven, were living in Preston, Trempealeau, Wisconsin with their parents and siblings.

Ida and Jo Soland

Let’s first follow older sister Ida through the years.

Ida Soland

She was confirmed November 22, 1885 in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Blair, Wisconsin, at age 14.

I don’t have a federal census record of Ida for 1890, as the census, for the most part, was destroyed in a fire.

She is listed in the 1900 census as still living with her parents in Blair, working as a teacher at age 29.

In 1905, she is still in Blair with her parents and two brothers, still working as a teacher.

In 1908, at 37, Ida was in Chicago, Illinois, where she graduated from nursing school.


Aunt Ida’s photo is one row from the bottom, one picture to the right of the center. She has curly hair and is wearing glasses. It’s notable that she’s older than many of her classmates.

I couldn’t find her in the 1910 census, but there may be a good reason for that which I will explain in a bit.*

In the 1920 census, Ida, 49, is in Wisconsin, living with her widowed mother, Tori. She is working as a community nurse.

In 1930, at age 59, she is listed in a city directory in Los Angeles, with no occupation noted. She is also in the 1930 Federal census in Los Angeles as living with her mother, Tori, 88, and her sister, Jo, 57. In the census, however, her occupation is recorded as “Reg. Nurse.”

In 1940, aged 69, she is living in Los Angeles with Johanna; she might be retired at this time, as there is no occupation listed for her. The sisters’ mother, Tori, passed away in 1938.

Ida passed away June 1960, a month before I turned two.

Jo and Ida Soland

Now, let’s see where life leads younger sister Jo.

Johanna Soland

May 20, 1888, at age 15, Johanna was confirmed in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Blair, Wisconsin.

The 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, so there’s no record for the family in this year.

I couldn’t find her in the 1900 census.

City directories were very helpful in my search for Johanna. 1904 finds Jo in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, working as a teacher. In 1907, Jo was living in Kalispell, Montana. She was the principal of the Central School. In 1911, Jo was back in Wisconsin, getting her BA at the University of Wisconsin while teaching school. In 1913, Jo had moved back to Kalispell, where she was a teacher of sewing and domestic science at the West Side School. She also apparently earned her MA in this year.

In 1920, Jo was a lodger in Ward Co., North Dakota, working as a teacher.  The census records that she was naturalized in 1884.

In 1921, with both her BA and MA, Jo was back in North Dakota, working as a teacher in the Minot State Normal School. (Teachers’ colleges were formally called Normal Schools.)

In the 1930 census, Ida, 59, and Jo, 57, were living together in Los Angeles with their mother, Tori, 88. Ida was a nurse in a hospital; Jo was a teacher at a junior college.

In 1937, Jo was living in El Centro, California and was a teacher at Brawley Union High School.

In 1940, Jo, 67, and Ida, 69, were both in Los Angeles, still living together, but with a lodger. They apparently were both retired, as there are no occupations listed for either.

6-1960, aunt jo
Aunt Jo, 1960. I think I recognize this as Rose Hills Cemetery in Whittier, CA. Perhaps this was Aunt Ida’s funeral.
johanna g soland
Aunt Jo in 1965

Jo passed away in October 1968, when I was ten. I do vaguely remember her.

As I was growing up, Jo and Ida were always spoken as of as “Aunt Jo and Aunt Ida”, one unit. Today it would be a hashtag: #JoAndIda. Or #TheAunts. But, it wasn’t always so, as we have seen. Their paths diverged, Jo became an educator and Ida a nurse, and then they came back together later in life.

I’m pretty sure that Jo must have missed Ida those last years without her.

“Til next time.

*According to my mother, at one point, Ida was married. Apparently, Jo didn’t approve, and broke up the marriage not too long after it occurred by insisting that Ida leave her husband. It was as if that silliness had never happened. I haven’t found records to prove or disprove this story, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I found a hint that Ida and her husband might have been living in Kalispell, Montana in 1910. If she were using a married name, that could explain why I didn’t find her in the 1910 census.



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.