Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kongsberg, Update

As a genealogist, I have long enjoyed using findagrave.com for family history research. In my previous post about the abandoned Kongsberg Church cemetery in Trempeleau County, Wisconsin, I wrote about the diphtheria deaths among the children in the congregation. I was able to preserve their stones by uploading them onto findagrave. Someone had already uploaded the names and dates, so uploading the photos was simple enough. As I deciphered the engravings on my photographs and matched them with the online names and dates, I realized that a lone stone propped against a tree was left over.


In a close-up, it's only partially legible. Part of the name and the dates. The clearest etching in the stone are the parents names Iver and Emma.


The stone is puzzling, because all of the others are written in Norwegian while this one is in English. The parents' last name was also a puzzle. I could make out Johnson, but it looked as though the surname continued. Was it hyphenated? That's strange for a nineteenth century tombstone in rural Wisconsin. Was the surname a longer form of Johnson? That also didn't seem plausible.

I needed to find out more about Iver and Emma. I came across quite a bit about Iver Johnson. He immigrated to Wisconsin from Hafslo, Norway --- Hafslo no longer exists as a place name, but was in Sogn og Fjordane county in western Norway. Emma's name was actually Ingeborg, but she changed it to Emma when she arrived in America. 

Here's the interesting bit --- at least for me, a lover of language, family history, and hyphenated Americans. As Iver was from Scandinavia he had a patronymic --- a surname to show kinship to his father: ____-sen (for son) or ____-datter (for daughter). He was son of Jan, so his patronymic was Jansen. His father Jan's was Halvorson (Halvor would be Iver's grandfather). So Jansen is where the Americanized "Johnson" comes from. Patronymics are falling out of favor in Norway. Most now are either frozen in families, or taken from geographical landmarks. It seems Iver had an additional surname "Veum" --- in fact, there's an old Veum School near the abandoned cemetery. Both his Americanized patronymic Johnson and his surname Veum are recorded on the stone. It's a wonderful mixture of American and Norwegian culture.

Iver and Emma married in February 1885. In December of that year, their first child, a son, was born. I believe his name was John Herman. It's interesting that Iver didn't continue his Norwegian patronymic naming custom for his first born son in America. It must have been an poignant moment and new beginning for the couple --- a new birth in a new country. Sadly, the son died shortly thereafter and was buried in the Kongsberg Cemetery. They had three more children.

Emma died in 1893. Iver remarried to Theodora Chistopherson. She was a bit of local legend as her mother was pregnant while making the sea voyage to America. Theodora was actually born aboard the immigrant ship Mercator somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean in 1870. Iver and Theodora had four children.

I felt as if the young child of Iver and Emma has been saved from forgotten history. While his stone remains --- I'm certain with time the cemetery will be swallowed up by the surrounding woodland --- I hope that I've documented his existence and preserved a memory of the often painful pioneer experience on the Wisconsin frontier.

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