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«HISTORY OF EMIGRATION FROM NORDMØRE - Stangvik and Surnadal parishes»
* For disclaimer, please see end of text.
«FLESH AND BLOOD»
After the emigration lists for Stangvik and Surnadal were completed, it was clear that one would have to try to discover what lay between the lines and behind the dates. The lists are the bare "bones". Would one be able to find, today, the "flesh and blood"? Would one be able to sense the heartbeats of the lives behind the names and years?
There were two ways to go about this: Either settle down in Salt Lake City, in the enormous archives the Mormons have built up, or to interview people at home and in America. Properly, one should carry out both parts.
Analysis of the archives would demand 10 years - at least, and considerable amounts of money. This would also be true if one were to find once more all the "king's hares" across of America.
As a first step, letters were sent to all the homes in the district. Some people produced pictures, bits of information, and addresses. A form letter was written and sent to all the addresses in America. Nearly all responded.
Following a USA tour with the Nordmøre Chamber Choir in 1983 and meeting some of the descendants of our people, it was clear that personal contact furnished a quite different quantity and quality of information than was obtained through correspondence.
The scope and terms for collecting information in America were: 6 months leave from my position as secretary for local culture in Surnadal without pay plus 4 weeks vacation, 30000 Kr from the Kleiva Fund given for local historical purposes by Hans Hyldbakk, 10000 from the Surnadal Savings Bank, 5000 from the Stangvik Savings Bank, 20000 inherited from an "American uncle", Anders of Gyl - and a personal loan from the Surnadal Savings Bank, which would grow to 50000 by the time the book was ready for printing. The town of Surnadal had previously contributed a week's leave with salary and 5000 Kr for preparatory work.
These were the conditions and one had to make the best of the situation. It must be added, Americans are the most hospitable and helpful people I have encountered. Without all the ready-made beds and good meals in American homes, things would not have gone so well! I want especially to mention the great-granddaughter of Ingri Garthe Blacken in Northport and her husband: Martha and Carlyle Roberts. In addition, Martha's sister Carol and her husband Frank Hagen (Brøskehagen) who visited Surnadal in the summer of 1984 and provided us with this contact. We lived with the Roberts for 3 months as members of the family, paying only actual expenses.
I also especially want to mention the chairman of the Sons of Norway in Leelanau County: Norman Stenveig and his wife Ellen. On the spur of the moment, they loaned 20000 Kr to a foreigner so we could purchase an automobile, something we were completely dependent upon.
Thanks also to the school in Northport for giving free tuition to Magne for 3 months.
Before Christmas of 1984, Magne left school in Norway for a semester and we celebrated Christmas and the New Year with family and friends in Michigan. With great respect for the mid-American winter, we left for San Diego, California on the 5th of January and spent a month and a half on the West Coast, getting around by plane, train, and bus. It is there that one finds the most recent emigration. Unfortunately, communications were interrupted in the Seattle area when several inches of snow arrived, so many interviews there had to be given up.
After two days in Milwaukee, where we copied the diaries of Ingeborg Øye (Telstad) Bergheim, our three months in Northport, Michigan began.
Following two rounds of extended correspondence, we set out on a trip through Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, South and North Dakota on May 25. The trip lasted 7 weeks. We drove 8000 km. Packing, cleaning up, sale of the car, in addition to a sprained ankle, together with the final interviews and pictures in the area, took the last two weeks. With 40 kg of notes, papers and photos, we arrived back at Værnes July 28.
All our plans had been carried out. Solid planning and determined execution, the fundamental theme, along with constant improvisation, had yielded a mass of material.
During the trip to America, my thoughts were only occupied by the emigration and the past - what a shock now also having impressions of today's America constantly racing like a torrential river through my head.
To the best of my ability, I have tried to convey the fascination I personally experienced during this work. This was not an easy task. The book was written during evenings and weekends alongside a full-time job and life's daily responsibilities.
This book deals with the life of the emigrants from the time they left inner Nordmøre until their death in the USA. As for the "waves" of descendants in America, this book goes no further than to list the names of the children, mostly to show how quickly Americanization affected traditional names. If this book were to concern itself with their descendants, it would take a generation and become at least ten volumes.
What is presented in the book is determined by restrictions of time and money and what it has been possible to gather within these limitations. This book is thus an excerpt of a larger picture.
Perhaps many who have provided material may have thought their material presented differently. Some is emphasized in major chapters; some is included with background material and generalizations. I would like to emphasize that all items, large or small - irrespective of placement or emphasis, have been just as important. Many different judgments underlie how this information was finally put together.
The photographs may seem numerous, but it has been with considerable regret that I have been compelled to close many albums with a photographic treasury of the other world. It was not possible to borrow the originals and it was very difficult to obtain decent copies in the USA. Individual albums ought to be presented as books in their own right. Particularly in the area of Michigan there were fantastic pictures to be seen. There must have been a great photographic artist in Traverse City, who seems to have photographed everyone in the region during the period 1910-1920/30. It is the children of the emigrants when in their teens or 20's that one finds in these photos. The thematic composition and lighting, printed in sepia tones, are a grand artistic work! ("The Sisters of Satter Hill" is one of these photos. See the chapter on Empire.)
The author took all the pictures without identified owners on trips in the past and present.
A big thank-you goes to Hans Hyldbakk and the town of Surnadal for financial assistance and leaves of absence. Thanks also to the Stangvik, Sunndal and Surnadal Savings Banks and to the town of Sunndal and the board of the Møre and Romsdal Cultural Center. The Surnadal Savings Bank, in particular, has provided the economic foundation for this work.
Thanks for inspiring and guiding words from Professor Ingrid Semmingsen, Professor Odd S. Lovoll and Professor Gerhard B. Naeseth, who also furnished the passenger list for the "Johan", Isaac's Garthe's letter to "Norden" and Holand's article.
I recommend reading the more thorough books and writings that these three have authored about the Norwegian emigration. The motivation for writing this book has been the conviction that emigration is a very important part of Norway's history, and furthermore an important part of local history. The story of local emigration lets people see this great historical drama through life and at a personal level that is intriguing in a different way. Local emigration history opens the way to a greater understanding of the more comprehensive books of professional historians.
Unfortunately, universities believe that the history of emigration has been fully written. No professor was nominated after Ingrid Semmingsen’s departure.
In the story of the world's greatest experiment, Norway is the land that gave second-most of its people to America. It is important that we ought not consider ourselves finished with this chapter, either in our
national or local history.
I have seen a new interest both here and in America, especially among family members in their 30-40's. In this country the media are preoccupied by it in connection with diverse reviews and exhibitions. What is happening today is that the story of emigration in the media is being presented more and more stereotypically: There is always a tenant farmer from Hedemarken who goes to Minnesota or Dakota. Then this happens and that happens (and it is always the same for everyone).
History, however, is often very different. It is important to gather nuances while they remain accessible. For example, it was often the sons who would not inherit farms who journeyed hence. There were also owners of the best farms who sold out and left. Because of the nuances in different parts of the country, it is therefore very important that each community write its own emigration story before it is too late. And it is terribly late now. But because it is late, interest is substantial on both sides of the ocean.
Oral history is the basis for much of this book. A lesson learned in this work is that oral history is very dangerous. But even so, it still seemed important during the work on this book to seek out direct verbal sources in order to find documentation about the life emigrants faced on a daily basis. To be sure, historic details can be tarnished by the passage of time in family lore. Items of information not been possible to crosscheck are confirmed only by personal judgment.
Thanks to all the contributors who have given of their time and knowledge. Without you - no book!
None of the descendants of our people, who I met in the USA and who could read Norwegian, are familiar with Nynorsk. Therefore this choice of language. Translations from English are made to present-day Norwegian, while the texts written in older Riksmål are originals from America.
And did we discover and discover! And here it is, even if but the top of an iceberg!
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* Copyright Dordi Glærum Skuggevik 1986 - ISBN 02-991394-0-6. Please note: The original text and photo captions in Norwegian – and any digitisation and translation thereof - contain information from public, private and personal sources and may contain unintended errors, inaccuracies or omissions. The author - and as applicable: the digitiser and translator - accepts no liability for any such errors, inaccuracies or omissions. To continue, the reader must accept all limitations of liability and the text ‘as is’ - or should refrain from further reading.
The above content is from the book "Utvandringshistorie fra Nordmøre - Stangvik og Surnadal Prestegjeld" (History of emigration from Nordmøre – Stangvik and Surnadal Parish (Norway)) - published in 1986 by Dordi Glærum Skuggevik - and is used by the author's kind permission. All photos are used by the owners' kind permission.
The English text - except for part VII and photo captions - is a private translation from Norwegian by Sjur Sivertson, used with his kind permission (copyright Sjur Sivertson).