Neil Hofland was born in Estelline, South Dakota on in 1934. This year is generally regarded as the beginning of the end of the Great Depression. Neil was the first child born to Carl Hofland and Joyce Danielson Hofland. Since they achieved obvious perfection on the first try, they had no more children.
Neil's father was a superintendent of schools and the family lived in Argonne, Pierpont, Onida, and DeSmet in South Dakota, and Chisago City and Esko in Minnesota. Neil graduated from Chisago City High School and the University of Minnesota. He had the extreme good fortune to marry Lorraine Blom just following graduation from the university. She is reportedly the only woman alive at that time that could put up with Neil for an extended period of time, holding the 2003 world record of 47 years. Neil was doubly blessed because Lorraine was also a world class mother. She produced and reared 3 daughters and 1 son that approached Neil's level of perfection. Lorraine also performs at truly superior levels as Grandmother to her 10 grandchildren. She is revered by one and all.
For 1 year Neil taught English and was the track and cross country
coach at a Minneapolis high school. During this period he heard reports
that there was a land in the west called California where it was always
summer, teachers were paid high salaries, and unbounded opportunities existed.
Neil, Lorraine, and their 6 week old daughter, Karin, emigrated during
the next summer and secured a position teaching English in Santa Barbara.
After 1 1/2 years, during which his son, Chris, was born, he managed to
get a job in a new industry called computers or data processing. He became
a consultant in air defense for the System Development Corporation (SDC)
in Santa Monica for the next 11 years, spending 3 years in Anchorage, Alaska,
where a daughter, Keri, was born. Then he worked 2 years with the Norwegian
Air Force in Olso, Norway. Following his return from Norway, another daughter,
Kiristi, was born.
The last 19 years of Neil's career was with Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) where he traveled extensively. He retired in 1989 and spends much of his time on genealogy and things Norwegian. Also, since 1983 he has led a charitable trust devoted to raising money and supporting the excellent instrumental and vocal music program of the Santa Monica school district. So far over $3,000,000 has been provided.
[Kneel here. I have to stop writing this biography. I can't do it
with a straight face. I feel like I am back at work writing a resume tailored
for a government contract proposal. The next thing I'll be telling you
about being able to walk on water with out informing you it has to be frozen
Before I retired my colleagues asked my what I was going to do. I told them I was going to become a CPA (Couch Potato of America), that I wasn't going to do anything, and I wouldn't start before noon. It didn't work out that way. First of all, I became a Computer Potato of America and second, I always seem to have something to do, especially since I got on the Norway List. I definitely start doing things before noon.
On a normal day I get up whenever I happen to wake up, usually between 7:00 a. m. and 8:00 a.m.. After scratching my stomach for a few moments I make my way to the bathroom for my minimal ablutions, including shaving every 2nd or 3rd day. Next, I select my wardrobe for the day. If my pants are so dirty they are starting to get stiff, I select the oldest and most worn clean pair. I have 4 pairs. My favorites are the 2 that tie around my waist with a rope, sort of like sweat pants. I also have a pair of jeans and 1 of khaki. As these are less than 5 years old and the newest clothes I have, I generally save them for special occasions, like going someplace with my wife when she wants me to look more presentable than normal. I grab a pair of socks of any color from the sock drawer and put them on with a pair of black athletic shoes. Then I select the oldest and most frayed clean T-shirt to complete my ensemble. Some of these are collector's items with ages well in excess of 10 years. I put very little value on appearances.
Thus attired I proceed through downstairs and through the kitchen to my library and turn on the computer. While it is booting up I go back into the kitchen and pour from a liter thermos bottle a cup of tea that I made the day before. I put the cup into the microwave for a minute and return to sign on to AOL. While it is booting up I go back and get my cup of tea, which is now too hot to drink. I return to my computer and start processing whatever is waiting for me in email. When I am done with AOL, I sign on to Juno and go for another cup of tea while it boots up. I process the Juno email, do bookkeeping and other duties for my charity, scan books, write stuff, generally mess around, and continue drinking tea.
My life away from the computer consists of grocery shopping, some cooking, and various errands around town. We don't eat out, belong to clubs, go to the movies, plays, concerts, or much of anything. We are stay-at-homes. The only parties we attend are generally just family affairs. We don't travel much. If we leave town it is to visit my son and 2 daughters that live in Grass Valley or to go to Minnesota to visit parents and relatives.
I suppose my philosophy of life is to live and let live, or "Do unto
others as you would have them do unto you," as it is written somewhere.
You do your thing and I'll do mine. I'll try not to do anything that causes
you a real problem that can't be solved by merely ignoring me.
I am overweight and I don't get any exercise. I belong to is AA (Aging Athletes). Whenever I feel like exercising I call an AA member who comes over and talks me out of it. I am a reasonably happy man. I hope you are happy too.
My email address is NHofland@juno.com. If you are online, email me to ask any further questions. It's all free to anyone who cares enough to be looking for their ancestors. I hope it is of some use and interest to you.
Welcome to the NORWAY LIST!
You are among over 1200 of the friendliest and most patient and helpful people on the Internet, at least dealing with things Norwegian. The experience level in Norwegian genealogy and various aspects of computing on the List ranges from absolute beginner to professionals. Most people are looking for ancestors and want to help others. Some are here only because they enjoy helping others, especially our wonderful members who live in Norway. If you post a question or request for help and don't get an answer, you are not being ignored. It just means that for some reason your question could not be answered by anybody. It is usually because it is too general or vague and lacks specific content that someone can help with. Read the Guidelines of our list owner Karla, they help the List function smoothly. Probably the most important guideline is Number 4, don't correct others. This is not your normal mailing list with really strict rules, but one thing we all try to avoid is picking on each other. There is no such thing as a dumb question, bad spelling or grammar, or incorrect opinions. If you don't like something, just delete it and move on to the next message; there are plenty of them. If something is really bothering you, contact Karla off the List and don't engage others with your complaint
As a new person on the List you may see references to things or comments you don't understand. Ask about them. Many of us have been on the List a long time and therefore make references to past List activities, events, postings, or even running gags. The NORWAY List is a happy place where we all have a good time, learn a lot about things Norwegian, and find lots of ancestors. We hope you have a happy time too.
Neil, or Kneel on the List, because there used to be another Neil on the List, I started using Kneel, and I have grown to like it. You will see commentary from me starting "Kneel here". It is not necessary to really kneel.
When I find someone just starting out in Norwegian genealogy I recommend three things. Read the write up that follows, go to John Follesdal's web site at http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~norway/index.html and the Norway GenWeb site at http://www.rootsweb.com/~wgnorway/ and read and study what you find at these 2 excellent sites, and finally I recommend they join the NORWAY List. You were smart enough to find the NORWAY List without me, but if you want to know some basic information, read on. This is my attempt to pass on some basic facts about old Norway and genealogy. I am prepared it to try and help you with your quest for ancestors. If you already know all this, I'm sorry for bothering you. It was done with the best of intentions. If you want more information, feel free to contact me. I am an amateur expert on only one area of Norway and that is Årdal at the head of the Sognefjord, but most of what follows applies to all of Norway, although there will certainly be local variations. I may not be able to answer any questions you have, but I'll try. I'm a grandfather and retired and this is what I do rather than feed pigeons in the park.
The following information is copied from a letter I send to new contacts
from Årdal and therefore contains information about Årdal.
In order to understand some of what follows it is necessary to use some
Norwegian area as a reference point, so there may be more about Årdal
than you want to know, but it's as good an area as any, and it's the only
one I really know.
Hang on, here we go.
How Many Emigrated And Where
Did They Go?
From 1825 to 1925 approximately 825,000 Norwegians emigrated to America. Only Ireland sent a higher percentage of its population. Emigration was not evenly distributed over all the districts of Norway. The first boatload of 52 emigrants left from Stavanger in 1825 in a small boat. They are known as the "Sloopers". They settled in upper New York state on the shores of Lake Ontario. The next 2 boats left from Stavanger in 1836 and most of these people settled just west of Chicago in the Fox River Settlement. Some of the Sloopers had moved there as well. Soon ships were leaving from many places in Norway as the flow of emigration increased. From Fox River the main Norwegian settlements moved north into Wisconsin and then west to Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. There are many Norwegian settlements in other midwestern and western states as well.
How Did They Get Here?
Our ancestors generally traveled by one of the four main routes below. They relied mainly on water transportation such as boats and ferrys. Railroads were later built and used more and more, so the steam boats were eventally phased out.
The first route was by sailing or steamship to Quebec, down the river in a riverboat to Lake Ontario, and then either by boat or railroad to Buffalo. From Buffalo ships could go all the way to Milwaukee and Chicago on the Great Lakes. Some people went as far as Detroit and then took a train to Chicago. From Chicago and Milwaukee it was trains or wagons depending on the time period and how far west you went. The second route was by sailboat or steamship to New York, up the Hudson River in a riverboat, on to Buffalo via the Erie Canal in a canalboat or by train. From Buffalo on it was the same as described above. The third route was by sailboat or steamship to New York and then by train to Chicago. The fourth route was by sailboat or steamship to New Orleans and then by riverboat up the Mississippi as far as St. Paul, with some people going by river and overland to the Texas settlement area. There were other ports of entry but Quebec, New York, and New Orleans were the main ones used.
What Is A Typical Kommune Or
Only 4% of Norway is arable land and Årdal, and many other districts don't meet that percentage. About 97% of Årdal is either water or land above 3000 feet, mountainous, and essentially unusable except for some small summer pastures sæters, or 'støler' as they are called in Årdal. Approximately 6000 people live in Årdal mostly in 2 towns. Årdalstangen is at the head of the fjord and has about 1800 people and Årdal at the end of a narrow 6-mile lake behind Årdalstangen has about 3800. Another 400 or so are scattered in Seimdalen, Vikadalen, and a few other places flat enough to build on. In the old days Årdal, like many districts of Norway, was extremely remote and even today it isn't exactly on the Interstate. You get there by a 6-hour bus ride from Oslo and if you want to go further west you have to start taking ferries. There wasn't even a road into Årdal until around World War II. It is now possible to drive from Oslo all the way into Årdal. This includes a spectacular stretch where the road drops 3500 feet into Årdal in a one and one-quarter mile series of switch back turns. It is an experience not soon forgotten, especially if a bus is met. The fainthearted should come by way of the Sognefjord or wear a blindfold and not peek. You can also get there from Bergen by taking a hydrofoil north to the mouth of the Sognefjord and then cruising east for about 125 miles. The Norwegians recently completed building the longest tunnel in the world from Lærdal to Aurland, so you can also drive from Bergen. Up until well into the 20th century if you wanted to go to Årdal it took considerable effort and time. This was also true of many other remote districts of Norway, especially in fjords of Western Norway and the mountainous districts all over the country.
What Are The Parts Of Norway?
Årdal is a kommune that is about 25 miles by 25 miles, about 1/2 the size of an average county in southern Minnesota. Norwegian political divisions don't really match up with American ones, but Årdal is kind of like a county except the 2 towns within Årdal don't have separate governments. It's as if an American county didn't contain any incorporated municipalities.
Although Norwegian political divisions are different than American ones, they are quite similar. Norway is made up of 19 fylkes, which are analogous to American states. Each fylke is divided into a number of smaller administrative units called kommunes. Norwegian dictionaries translate kommune as municipality or even township if you look up a specific one, but they are really more like an American county. The cities and towns don't have a separate governmental entity, they are just part of the kommune they are in. Therefore, we have the country, Norway, divided into 19 fylkes, one of which is Sogn and Fjordane. Sogn and Fjordane is divided into 26 kommunes, one of which is Årdal and it contains 2 towns, Årdalstangen and Årdal, which have no separate governmental entities.
Both fylkes and kommunes can have names for parts of them that do
not denote governmental entities. Sogn and Fjordane is broken into Sogn
containing the 12 kommunes bordering on the Sognefjord, Nordfjord containing
the 7 kommunes bordering on the Nordfjord, and Sunnfjord containing the
7 kommunes between Sogn and Nordfjord. These divisions are analogous to
Southern California, the Gold Rush Country, the Arrowhead Country, the
Iron Range, etc.
Kommunes like Årdal also contain named areas like Vikadalen, Seimsdalen, and Utladalen that define local geographical areas containing more that one gard, but they are not governmental entities.
What is a Gard?
Each kommune is divided into gards, and then possibly into bruks on a gard, and finally into husmen's places. We translate gard into farm but that isn't really correct. Estate would be a better word except it is far too grand. A gard was a piece of land somebody owned. It could contain anywhere from an acre or 2 up to 30 or so acres of what might generously be referred to as field land. The gard could also include fairly large tracts of mountainous land and a stol (sæter). At the time a gard acquired its name, hundreds of years ago it was all owned by a single individual and the name usually never changed throughout history.
The gard names tended to be descriptive, such as Hæreid = high ground, Lægreid – low ground, Midtun = middle farm, Øvsttun = upper farm, Prestegarden = the pastor's or church farm, Natvik = low place cove, etc. Once it was named Hæreid or Natvik, it was always Hæreid or Natvik. The Norwegians who emigrated to the Midwest did the same sort of thing. A farm homesteaded by a Peterson was called the "Peterson place" for years and years after the last Peterson lived there.
If during history part of a gard was sold to another individual, there would be two owners and their holdings would be referred to as Bruk 1 and Bruk 2, but the gard was still called Hæreid. Bruk means a small farm that was once a part of a big farm. There actually were 4 bruks on Hæreid, while Natvik was never subdivided, even though it is a large gard in Årdal.
What Is A Husman?
If the amount of land owned by an individual was big enough to require more workers to maximize production than available in the land owner's family, a husman, or cotter, was allowed to have the use of a small piece of land the size of a city lot to maybe 1/4 acre. He could build there and use the land for his own benefit. He paid his rent by working a specified number of days for the landowner. The larger the gard, or bruk, the more husmen lived on it with their families. Some gards weren't big enough for any husmen and some large gards like Hovland and Natvik had a dozen or more. In the 1801 census Hovland, which has about 30 acres of field land, had about 75 people living on it including the husmen and their families.
Almost all our ancestors who emigrated were husmen and their families. Their lives were extremely difficult in Norway. There were many reasons people left and books to be read on the subject, but mostly the biggest reason was to try to get a better life for the family and especially to secure more opportunity for their children. Almost all of the early emigration from Norway was composed of entire family groups. Single people who came were generally sisters or brothers or other relatives of parents of the family.
How Does The Church Fit In?
Norway was and still is a church state. The State Church has its own governmental or administrative entities. The highest entity is called bispedome (with a bishop in charge), approximately covering a fylke. Each fylke is divided into parishes and these again into sokns. Årdal is a parish with 2 sokns, accordingly having 2 churches. The Luster kommune which borders on Årdal has 3 parishes with a total of 9 sokns and accordingly 9 churches. There are actually 2 more churches in Luster but they are not churches and are kept more or less as museums, like Urnes Stavkyrkje. Some larger sokns, like Haflso sokn in Luster, may even have smaller chapels. Each parish can administrate church matters but are not directly involved in what we in America consider as government matters.
What About Spellings?
One of the first things to learn about Norwegian genealogy and things Norwegian is to never expect exact or consistent spellings of anything. Spellings changed over time, were different at the same time, were Americanized after emigration, and just plain mistakes were made. Don't rule out any name or place if the spelling is close or even reasonable to what you are looking for. The key is the data around the name or place. Look at the parents, siblings, dates, and places. If they look like a match you have probably found the right person or place. There weren't that many people around.
What About Names?
And now for something about names in Norway and whatever family name and spelling you wound up with in America. Up until this century they didn't have last names in Norway. They had a patronymic naming system as they still do in Iceland. When Kristoffer Oleson and Jørgina Tomasdatter had a boy and named him Ole, he was called Ole Kristoffersson. Their daughter Mari would be Mari Kristoffersdatter (Kristoffer's daughter). If Kristoffer and Jorgina lived on the gard Hovland they would be referred to as Kristoffer Oleson Hovland and Jorgina Tomasdatter Hovland. If Kristoffer and Jorgina moved across the river to Natvik they would be referred to as Kristoffer Oleson Natvik and Jørgina Tomasdatter Natvik and their children would also become Natviks if they moved with their parents. If there was already a Kristoffer Oleson living on Natvik they would put in the name of the husman's place he lived on He would be Kristoffer Oleson Geithus (that's goat house) Natvik. What we think of as a last name was really their address.
So all of you with a "son" or "sen" at the end of your surname have a patronymic name. Those of you with some other ending generally have a gard name, unless you are descended from the upper class who did have surnames like Klingenberg, Nagel, Orbech, Lem, and von Krogh. Not very many from the upper classes emigrated to America. In any case there is a good chance that your surname is misspelled from its Norwegian origin. The Americans, or Yankees, were generally in charge of filling out employment forms and legal documents. The Norwegian alphabet has three vowels we don't have in English, æ; ø; and å. Norwegians also like to stick the occasional "j"; in the middle of a name somewhere and some names were almost impossible for English speakers to pronounce. All this confused the Yankees so they just spelled things they way they liked and the Norwegians went along because they didn't care much about a last name anyway. So Bjarne Hovland becomes Barney or Bennie Hofland, or Hoffland, or Hoveland, or whatever.
Actually they did care about their names. They generally wanted them to be Americanized, so Mari became Maria, Marta and Marita became Martha, Håvard became Hoover or Howard, Øyvind became Irving, and so on.
People changed their last names as well. My great grandfather figured out sometime after the first census in which the family was listed that there were a lot of Ole Olsons around and by the next census the family was named Hofland, not Hovland mind you, and I don't know why. I have run into families where up to 4 brothers each have a different surname and none match the father.
The first names given to children were assigned according to naming conventions that were largely followed. Children were named to honor other close family members, so first names repeat a lot within families and within districts of Norway.
The first son Kristoffer and Kari had would be named after Kristoffer's father and the first girl after Kristoffer's mother, unless Kari's parents were more important for some reason like the place Kristoffer and Kari lived on was inherited from Kari's line. Normally the oldest son inherited. The next boy and girl would be named after Kari's parents, or vice versa depending on importance. After the grandparents were honored, additional family member names would be used, such as great grandparents, or especially close family members, such as aunts, uncles, and cousins who had died. If a spouse died and the remaining spouse remarried, the first new child of the same sex would be named for the departed spouse.
Children in a family who died would have the next child of the same sex named after them. This honored not only the person the dead child was named after, but the dead child as well. Sometimes after 2 or 3 children in a family with the same name died, the parent's would select another name, but families with 2 or 3 dead children with the same name were certainly not uncommon.
These conventions lead to instances where 2 or more living children in the same family could have the same first name. For example, if both Kristoffer and Kari had fathers named Ole, it was likely that they would have 2 children named Ole. There is one instance in Årdal with 4 living Oles in the same family. In the 1801 census over 20% of the male population over the age of 16 in Årdal were named Ole, and there were lots of little Oles as well.
Illegitimacy was not at all unusual in Årdal and other remote districts in Norway and carried little stigma as long as the parents planned to marry. Bundling was an accepted method of courtship. Good intentions at the moment were what counted, but you could always change your mind later, unless, of course, one of the parents was already married. This was definitely frowned upon. There was no church in Årdal until 1863, so in order to get the nearest church in Lærdal you had to row or sail a boat about 30 miles or so. That was a long way to go just to get married, so people tended to wait until they had a couple of births or so to report as well in order to make the trip worthwhile. In the church records there was a column to mark legitimate or illegitimate and 2 witnesses were required for each parent, whether they ever got married or not.
How Do I Find My Great Grand
Now for a few tips about tracing your ancestors. If your name ends in son or sen and that's all you know, you are in real trouble. First, the beginning of your name may have been Americanized. This is usually pretty easy to spot if you know anything about Norwegian first names because it involves the 3 vowels we don't have, but in some cases some rather creative things were done. Just don't expect the spelling to be exactly the same as it was in Norway.
Even if you have figured out the correct spelling of your patronymic name, it is very difficult to locate ancestors without knowing the name of the gard they lived on. You must find all the Norwegian looking names you can find associated with person you are looking for and put them into all your inquires.
Don't worry about how mangled the spelling may be or look to you. Anything is better than nothing. People familiar with the gard and place names in a district can recognize some pretty dreadful misspellings, especially Americanized ones.
Include in your inquires all the names you have of fathers, mothers, brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, or even friends and enemies.
Norwegian naming conventions make names useful not only to identify people, but sometimes the kommune they lived in, or maybe the kommune they didn't live in. If you're looking for a Brunhilda and/or Humperdink and these names were or were not used in the kommune, they are good clues.
Dates are also very important. Include every date you can find for any event in the ancestor's life in your inquires. Approximate dates are better than none. A date will provide clues and in most cases the positive identification of your ancestor.
Even if you have the correct gard or place name and lots of dates, you may still have trouble. Remember, these names tended to be descriptive. There are a lot of Pastor's farms and middle farms in Norway. If we named all the farms in America think how many long views and lakesides there would be. Most of the Norwegian gard names appear in several kommunes throughout the country. It is necessary to locate the correct kommune or area of your home gard because that is where the vital statistics were kept by the church.
If you are not sure of the correct kommune, enter as many place names as you can into your inquiries. There may be a lot of Midtuns around, but when you have both a Midtun and a Hovland in the same area you start to narrow things down quite a bit, possibly to a certainty. Some of the names you are looking for may look like your great grandmother's or great aunt's maiden names, but remember they didn't have maiden names, so include anything that doesn't look like a person's first name into your inquiry. Again, do not worry about spelling. It can look like alphabet soup to you, but it could be the correct spelling or at least close enough for someone to recognize.
I hope all this doesn't discourage those of you with little gard or place name data, but it is better to face reality. Inquires like, "My great grandfather was named Ole Olson and I think he came from Norway. Can anybody help me?" or something similar are doomed to certain failure. You need to know this so you can start digging around for more names and dates. Genealogy is not for the faint hearted.
When you construct your inquiries, if you have little data, include
it all. If you have lots of data, be selective. List some gard or place
names and a few ancestors with some dates. All you are trying to do with
your inquiry is provide enough information so that people like me can recognize
that you might be inquiring about ancestors in our kommune of interest
That will start the email traffic to determine if we have a hit or not. It really brightens my day when I can think, "Ah Ha! This one looks like they could be looking for Ardal and click on your email address to begin to find another Norwegian-American friend in the ether of the Internet.
What Is A Bygdebok?
A good source of data about both the districts of Norway and the people who lived in them are contained in the various bygdeboks (district books). These are kind of like a county history and geography book plus a listing of everyone who ever lived on any of the gards. They contain a wealth of information but, unfortunately for most of us, it's all written in Norwegian. Bygdeboks are available through inter-library loans, Mormon Family History Centers, and other places. If you don't read Norwegian I wouldn't get anything but the volume which contains all the genealogical information. If you get a Norwegian-English dictionary, are reasonably intelligent (as all Norwegian-Americans are), and are willing to spend some time (stubborn, as all Norwegian-Americans are), you can figure out most of the genealogical data because it is quite repetitive. (born, died, married, children, father, mother, etc.)
Copyright July 1998 - 2007
All Rights Reserved Karla Mattila & Neil Hofland