This is the Ringebu Stavkirke in Oppland, Norway, where my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Synnøve Eriksdatter Lunde, was buried on 9 May 1733. At least
48 76 of my ancestors (and more to find) were baptized, married, or buried from this church.
I know this, because I went there a few weeks ago, fulfilling a dream of mine for heritage travel. I didn’t expect to come home with 21 new generations –stretching back to 1220 and about the time the Ringebu church was finished – but thanks to the generosity of a local genealogist and other residents, that’s exactly what has happened.
The Ringebu Church
One of 29 surviving stave churches in Norway, the Ringebu example was built early in the 13th century. The stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building style, once common in northwestern Europe. The name comes from the posts (stafr in Old Norse; stav in modern Norwegian) used in the timber framing. The 12th century soapstone font I saw was used to baptize my ancestors.
My immigrant great-grandmother, Ahne Andersdatter Flatmoen, was baptized at this church on 23 Mar 1856. She was confirmed there 18 May 1871. After working as a tjenestepige (hired girl) at a nearby farm, Ahne left for Chicago in 1882, where she met my Norwegian great-grandfather. They were married the following year and had six sons, all baptized at a Chicago Norwegian-language Lutheran church.
The Ringebu Farms
A few weeks ago, my husband and I rented a car in Oslo and made our way about 3 hours north to Ringebu (rhymes with peek-a-booo), still a small town in the heart of the unbelievably beautiful Gudbrandsdal valley north of Lillehammer. When our B&B host learned I was there to see my great-grandmother’s birthplace, she decided we must meet her friend Knut. Unbelievably, Knut rearranged his schedule and appeared about 15 minutes later.
He brought the second volume of the Ringebu bygdebok (farm book), Ringebu – Home and People. Vol. 2 – Kjønås, compiled and published in 2005, and showed me where my great-grandmother and her family appeared in this book. Then he showed me Utvandringa til Amerika frå Ringebu, documenting Ringebu inhabitants who emigrated to America. I was able to buy both books at the local bookstore.
Then we followed Knut up into the farmlands on the steep hillsides surrounding the village. He found my great-grandmother’s farm, Flatmoen, and even called ahead to his friend who lives there. Mr. Forkalsrud had copied the bygdebok entry for Flatmoen and printed out a photo of the farm in the 1920s. He has two sons who live in Santa Barbara and we marveled at how small the world is. Knut took us two other farms nearby where my great-great-grandparents had lived.
After spending two hours with us looking at the gorgeous countryside at my ancestral farms, Knut showed me the most amazing database, Slekter fra Ringebu og Gudsbrandalen at www.onshus.no, compiled from baptism, confirmation, census, and land records for all of Ringebu. Before the trip, I had researched back to Ahne’s parents and grandparents, but the Onshus website is where I found 21 generations of my family at the three local parishes: Ringebu, Fåvang, and Venabygd.
It was all overwhelming in the best possible way, finally being in this place I’d looked at on the web so many times, meeting people with a shared obsession with the past and with family history. I learned about Norwegian culture, religion, language, food, and architecture, but mostly I learned about incredible generosity.
Finding Norwegian ancestors in Ringebu – that feeling of rootedness, of walking where my ancestors had walked – was even more satisfying than I ever dreamed.
Next up: my great-grandfather’s birthplace, Øvre Eiker, Buskerud.
Heritage travel completed:
- Ringebu, Oppland, Norway
- Øvre Eiker, Buskerud, Norway
- Dunnottar, Kincardinshire, Scotland
- Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland
- Ladis, Landeck, Tirol, Austria
- Rawitsch, Posen, Prussia, Part 1 and Part 2
- Freienwalde, Pomerania, Prussia
- Lindesberg, Örebro, Sweden (2019?)
[…] Ringebu, Norway […]
Hi Nancy. What a great find this post has been and I believe that we are related (hello cousin!). I descend from Else Gudbransdotter Bø too. Petra Svendsdtr Ødegårdsstuen is my maternal great grandmother, her daughter Anna Johanna Pedersen is my maternal grandmother. My mother is Anna’s daughter Marjorie. I’m planning a trip to the area in the next year or two and so appreciate your blog information and the http://www.onshus.no website is incredible for it’s farm names!!
How wonderful that you think we are related! I’ll be in touch with you directly.
Thanks for the links and pointers! We will definitely bring a few gifts for especially friendly people (great idea) and save room in our luggage for the books. Others I have spoken with have commented on how sincerely friendly the people of Norway are. Britt and Knut will hear from me soon.
Also, happy to hear that the drive is “a piece of cake”!
And of course, I will let you know how everything goes. Thanks again.
Nancy, Thank you so much for sharing that amazing database. A treasure trove for my family too as I also have ancestors from that exact area. My husband and I will be in the Ringebu area briefly in mid August to visit the churches and cemeteries and I hope to find the ancestral farms as well. I would appreciate a B&B recommendation and any other tidbits of information you think someone might want to know.
Kim, I’m happy to hear that this post helped your Ringebu research. And I’m happy to hear you’re going to Ringebu on ancestral travel – you will not be disappointed.
The Sletker far Ringebu og Gudbrandsdalen database is a real labor of love on the part of local genealogists. When I contributed my great-grandmother’s information, I was asked for sources and proof. And of course the genealogists have painstakingly read parish records and distilled them into this database.
This is the Air BnB place that we stayed at in Ringebu. It’s above a wonderful bakery and located in the center of Ringebu. (Eat as many different kinds of pastry and coffee as you can!) Britt Åse, the Air BnB owner, is the person who put us in touch with Knut, the local genealogist.
I suggest that if you stay at Britt’s place, you might ask if she can be in touch with Knut before you arrive to schedule an appointment. (We tried to pay Knut for his generosity in time and knowledge, but all he would accept was one cup of coffee. Next time we are there, I plan to bring some gifts instead.) Everyone, uniformly, that we met in Norway was so helpful. I think part of it is because Norwegians are so happy that descendants in North America will make the effort to come back to Norway. And the other part of it is that there is a palpable sense of community in Norway: what is good for one should be good for all.
Leave room in your suitcase for the farm books that you can buy at the local bookstore, about a block away from Britt’s place. Imagine going to any U.S. town and going to Barnes & Noble and finding an entire wall of local genealogy books! I bought one of three farm books and the emigration book for the area. And then I brought them home in our carryons so they would be sure to make it home! It’s the shipping that is expensive. I’m looking at buying the other two farm books for the area, and the shipping is by far the biggest cost.
Another book I bought (in a different town) is Norwegian Stave Churches: A guide to the 59 remaining stave churches. It may seem expensive, but I’ve used it both for happy memories and to plan a new trip to see more stave churches. You can try to time to have a tour or just walk through by yourself. Either are great.
We drove to Ringebu from the Oslo airport. Driving was a piece of cake – everyone obeys the rules of the road and the roads themselves are in excellent shape.
I think those are most of my hints. Otherwise, I should write a new blog post! Good luck on your trip and please update me using the Contacts tab on my site?
Fabulous find. My ancestry also traces back to the Stav Church in Ringebu. My Great-great grandfather, Peder Arnesen Bakke was born 5 May 1817 and baptisted at the Fåvang chuch near by. Later in life Peder was a bellringer, singer and teacher at the Ringebu Stave, in fact, he and family lived in a home by the Church. He was buried there on 2 Jun 1890 and I hope to visit soon.
I loved every minute in Ringebu, so go as soon as you can, Jen. I have ancestors at Fåvang, too, but not Bakkes, unfortunately.
How do you record Norwegian names in your genealogy software? The patronymic name is what is indexed on Ancestry and FamilySearch; a mix of patronymics and farm names is found at MyHeritage. I am about to start documenting my Norwegian ancestors in Reunion, and I would like to be consistent. Also, should I be consistent with -sen, -son, -dr, -dtr, datter? What do you recommend we do in our genealogy with these pesky Norwegians???
Pesky Norwegian patronymics is right! Before I went to Norway and met some newly discovered relations, I was putting the patronymic in the surname field of Reunion. I noticed on MyHeritage that Norwegians sharing trees used the farm name as the surname, so I asked my new friends and they confirmed that the farm name belongs in the surname field. So I changed the ones I knew about, moving the -datters and -sens to be middle names instead.
So my great-grandmother, Ahne Andersdatter, born in Flatmoen, is now Ahne Andersdatter FLATMOEN in my tree; her mother is now Mari Andersdatter SMESTADMOEN. It does help to keep better track of similarly named people, even if Ancestry barks at me every time that the child’s name should be the same as the father’s name.
I do keep my Norwegian -datters and -sens name endings, especially because I also have a Swedish line full of -dotters and -sons. One other rule I’ve made is to record the names of children as they appear in baptismal and census records. Some families used the father’s existing surname instead of changing to the forename patronymic, so I put it that way too when I find it.
[…] Previous […]
Neither. I do have a Norwegian-English dictionary. Gunnar is fluent in English and Google Translate helps.
I am glad your trip was so successful. I would suggest you send the names of both books to the LDS in Salt Lake so they get them on the shelves.
That’s a great idea. Will do!
How wonderful for you. Thank you so much for sharing your history. Can you speak or have an understanding of the language?
I can read a little Norwegian in parish records, but otherwise no, I don’t speak Norwegian. Everyone, and I mean everyone, speaks English in Norway. I did attempt thank you and please on a regular basis. Norwegians were very kind, but I could tell I was murdering their language!
She left Norway in 1867 or 1868, but I’ll check just in case that date is incorrect. Thanks.
What a nice surprise! My maternal great grandmother, Karen Marie Aaboe John, left Norway at age 11 after her parents died. A cousin in Norway and I connected. He has extensive family history from his ancestors and I found her in Kansas where she married James John, but we’re still trying to trace her journey in between.
Thanks, Susan. The passenger lists on the U.S./Canada side for Norwegian immigrants seem lacking to me. I’ve found exactly one ancestor in a Canadian passenger list. Sweden doesn’t seem to present the same problems. Have you tried Emigranter over Kristiania (Emigrants of Kristiania), 1871-1930 at the national archives? http://bit.ly/2aogb4M
Another thought, Susan: have you tried the moving out parish registers for her birthplace?