This week I had a chance to read a book of Norwegian heritage stories. I must admit that my knowledge of Norwegian heritage is limited. However, I found the book to be enjoyable as well as educational.
Deb Nelson Gourley was raised on her family's 150-year-old Norwegian ancestral home in southeastern Minnesota. The first of her twenty-seven Norwegian ancestors arrived in Wisconsin in 1845. They and later arrivals came from Hallingdal, Numedal, Telemark, Voss, Sognefjord, Valdres, and Selbu near Trondheim. They settled in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. She also was the first descendant of these people to return to Norway, 125 years after the first Norwegian's departure for a better life in North America.
The stories in this book evolve from Deb Gourley's search for her ancestors and her heritage. Most are told from a first person view. Each story recounts a discovery about an ancestor or about Norway's national costume or about the way of life of Norwegian families in both the old and new countries.
The opening paragraphs of the first story will quickly catch the eye of any experienced genealogist:
The wagon was fully loaded for the burn pile when I spotted amongst the scrap lumber the old painted trunk. I was an eight year old at the time and yelled above the tractor noise, "Where did it come from? Why does it have 1812 on it?" and "Can I keep it?"
The story goes on to tell how eight-year-old Deb Gourley saved her great-great-great-grandmother's trunk from destruction. After taking a garden hose to the trunk to wash away 100 years of accumulated dirt from its being stored in a barn, the following became clear on the trunk's painted side: Astri Her Brans Datter 1812.
Of course, the name on the trunk was not familiar to Deb at the time. After years of searching in the United States, she was able to determine who owned the trunk in the past 125 years, but not the connection with the woman's name and the date painted on its side. The final discovery was uncovered during a trip to the Statsarkivet (National Archives) in Oslo.
Fifteen other stories in this book also deal with discoveries made during the author's research of her family tree. There are stories about the Sioux Indian Uprising of 1862, life above the Arctic Circle in a 1972 trip back to a village from which some of the author's ancestors emigrated, a primer on searching genealogy records of Fillmore County, Minnesota, and the story of Snowshoe Thompson, the Norwegian-American who delivered the U.S. mail on skis to hundreds of miners in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
This book is somewhat unique in that each story is printed twice: once in English and again in Norwegian. In fact, the author reports selling a number of copies to people in Norway.
Astri, My Astri: Norwegian Heritage Stories is an excellent book for anyone interested in the stories of immigrants and how they adapted to the American lifestyle. It will be of special interest to anyone with Norwegian ancestry, as their forebears undoubtedly went through similar experiences. The book will also appeal to anyone planning to make a trip to Norway to uncover more information about ancestors.
Astri, My Astri: Norwegian Heritage Stories sells for $19.95 plus shipping. This 244-page hardcover book is available directly from the author.
For more information about Astri, My Astri: Norwegian Heritage Stories, go to http://www.astrimyastri.com.