Finding Norwegian ancestors in Eiker, Buskerud,
was the other half of my summer adventure in Norway.
(The first half of my ancestral trip was to my
great-grandmother’s farm in Ringebu, Norway.)
My paternal great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Jens Nielsen, was baptized on 20 Jul 1690, at the Haug Kirke (above) in Eiker. So many of my father’s father’s father’s ancestors (and more to find) were baptized, married, or buried from this imposing church.
When I married, I kept my maiden name of Loe. It’s not very old, but it’s unusual. Just three letters that most people in the United States try to make into four, or five, or six. When I’ve tried surname DNA matches, I find people from England named Low or Lowe who emigrated from England to the Carolinas in colonial times.
So I’m a Loe from Loesmoen, the name of the farm where my great-grandfather, Hans Christensen Loe, was born in almost exactly one hundred years before me (and my cousin Wanda) in 1854. The joy I experienced several years ago, finding Hans in a baptism record and discovering the real origin of my surname, was great.
And I experienced equal joy going to Norway for the first time in July, fulfilling a dream of mine for ancestry travel to the first of five of my ancestors’ European countries.
My husband and I started in Saint Petersburg, Russia, then traveled the length of Finland, and boarded a Hurtigruten (Fast Route) ship that sailed the coast of Norway. We experienced peaceful and prosperous Norwegian cities and farms, lefse, midnight sun, reindeer (in fields and at dinner time), fresh salmon, fjords, polite drivers, Viking ships, stavkirke, and herring for breakfast. (OK, it’s true, I didn’t experience herring for breakfast, but my husband loved it. And my father would have been delighted.)
But my greatest delight was making connections in Eiker. We met for a great dinner with a cousin discovered via matching MyHeritage trees. (If you’re looking for Scandinavian and/or European cousins, consider uploading a tree there. Really.) Svein has helped me avoid mistakes for years on my tree. (Frex, Eiker and Eger are the same place, but Eiker and Eker are different places.) Small thanks on our part to take him to dinner and learn more about him, life in Norway, and our family. (Update: Svein later came to visit us in California in January. Needless to say, he thinks we are soft about our winters.)
Just days before I left, I heard from someone who matched my DNA and who lived in the area. Martin and his friend Anne Marie are accomplished genealogists. Anne Marie found an emigration record for my great-grandfather Hans I’d been searching for for years. She also showed me her book-length work on emigrants who left Nedre Eiker for America. Then it was off in her car for a guided tour of my ancestors’ farms. Loesmoen is now a mix: farms, a condo development, and an industrial business called Loe.
Just as in Ringebu, we were overwhelmed by the generosity of Svein, Martin, and Anne Marie: doing research, tramping through rainy churchyards, and always always politely ignoring the ways in which I murdered the Norwegian language. Thank you, all.
Haug Kirke in Øvre Eiker
As if this were not enough, Anne Marie also arranged with the Haug caretaker to open the church for us, turn on the beautiful chandeliers, and give us a tour. One of Anne Marie’s ancestors saved the church from burning and I think they are still very grateful!
The Haug church in Øvre Eiker is a long church, originally built 1152. The original church from the Middle Ages was partly demolished and rebuilt in 1861-62. The long church architectural style features an elongated nave to symbolize the sacred path (“via sacra”) from the west toward the sunrise in the east.
So this was my summer genealogy adventure, attempting my first international ancestor quest, discovering Norwegian ancestors, meeting new friends, and experiencing a sense of rootedness, of walking where my ancestors had walked.
I was so excited I managed to forget to take pictures of Martin and Anne Marie, and then I dropped my camera in the Eiker parking lot. The resourceful Anne Marie tracked it down and saved the day (and my pictures from the trip).
I highly recommend everything in Norway, except losing your head and your camera.