The Berg and Larson Families
From Telemark, Norway to America Volume I
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This genealogy of The Berg & Larson Families from Telemark, Norway to America was so large, it was split into two volumes. The first volume describes the Sigur Larson family on the Jonsaas farm about 1800 in Sauherad, Telemark, Norway. One of the daughters Anne married Halvor in 1814 and they lived on the Berg farm which was a small part of the Jonsaas farm. In 1851 the widow Anne Sigursdatter Berg age 68 and three of her five grown children, Kari, Halvor, and Peter Berg immigrated to Muskego, Wisconsin (near Milwaukee). Anne died of cholera shortly after arriving and the three children then moved to the Long Prairie Norwegian Settlement in Boone County, Illinois. They were joined by a fourth sibling, Sigur Berg, and his family in 1853. While in the Long Prairie Settlement the Bergs met Soren Larson from Seljord, Telemark, Norway and his two children, Margit and Halvor. Two of the Bergs married the two Larson children so all the Larson descendants in this book are also Bergs: Halvor Berg married Margit Larson in 1855 and Kari Berg married Halvor Larson in 1856. By 1863 the three brothers, Sigur, Halvor, & Peter Berg and their families had moved to Fillmore County, Minnesota and their sister, Kari, and her husband, Halvor Larson, had moved to Winnebago County, Iowa. The third generation of Norwegians migrated to western Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho and Washington. The second volume will describe the fourth and fifth generations.
The Sigur Larson Jonsaas Family
All of the descendants in this book can trace their ancestry to one family, the Sigur Larson family, who lived on the Jonsaas farm in Saude (now Sauherad) Parish, Telemark, Norway from the 1780s to 1801. Sigur Larson married Kari Hansdatter from Gripastad and they had six children–Bergit, Anne, Lars, Hans, Jon, and Tjostolv (sounds like Chestoff). Their daughter, Anne, emigrated to the United States in 1851 and became the progenitor of all the Bergs in this book. Their son, Lars, inherited the Jonsaas farm and his descendants have continued to use that surname in Norway. Their son, Tjøstolv, emigrated to the United States and was the progenitor of all the Chesters who will be included in a future book.
The Community of Sigur Larson Jonsaas
Before the mid 1800s, the nomenclature in Norway was very different than in America. Norwegians used their first name followed by their patronymic name or a name based on their relationship to their father. For example, Larson for the son of Lars or Larsdatter/Larsdotter for the daughter of Lars. This was followed by the name of the farm where they were living. However, this would change as the person moved to another farm. Thus, Sigur would be called Sigur Larson Hem at birth because his parents were living on the Hem farm and Sigur Larson Jonsaas when he died because he was living on the Jonsaas farm. Because the Norwegian names changed and therefore indicated where a person lived at a particular time, the exact name as recorded at the time of an event such as a birth, confirmation, marriage, or death is included and italicized. Furthermore, there were various spellings for many names and farms and so the spelling used on each record is also reproduced exactly as it appeared.
Sigur was part of a rural community where everyone was associated with a farm in order to make a living. Since Sigur owned the Jonsaas farm, he was not only a farmer but also a landlord for the tenants, cotters, and laborers who resided there. The farmer and those who lived on his farm would all use the same surname which was the name of the farm. Tenants would pay rent or exchange labor for their home and small plot of land. Cotters were obligated to work for the farmer, but they had lifetime rights to their place since most of the cotters were sisters or younger brothers of the farmer. Laborers were paid but had no rights to any land. Together the farmer, tenants, cotters, and laborers were bound closely together and were expected to help each other first before helping those on other farms. If the farmer needed a man to cut timber, he would first hire those on his farm. Cotters were expected to be loyal to the farmer. The people on a farm would expect to help if asked and in fact, would feel disgraced if not asked. They could also expect help if needed for such things as replacing a sod roof or moving a log home or if they were sick or disabled.
Neighboring farms were joined together into grends. The people of a grend were part of a community with certain customs and obligations. There were unwritten rules about herding, paths in the forest, cooperative labor, etc. which were particular to each grend.
There was usually no class distinction while working on the farm or during festivities, but that was not the case in love and marriage. The farmer’s first son was expected to marry the daughter of another farmer. “It was a matter of realism that the oldest son would reduce both his own and the family’s strength and prestige by marrying a cotter’s daughter.”
Jon Leirfall, Old Times in Norway, translated by C. A. Clausen, (Oslo: Det Norske Samlact, 1986)
Lierfall, Old Times in Norway, p. 28
Linda Berg Stafford was born in North Dakota and is the granddaughter of George “E” Berg, a full-blooded 4th generation Norwegian in America. She is the author of two previous genealogies. The Tangney & Day Families of Adams County, Wisconsin was published in 1993 and it won the Award of Merit in 1994 given by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society. The Stafford Family of Mahoning County, Ohio was published in 1997 and it won the William H. and Benjamin Harrison Award in 1998 given by the Ohio Genealogical Society.
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