Thursday, 16 April 2015

Østen Haraldsen Sørum Strømmen (1601-1712) (52 Ancestors #16) Theme: "Live Long"

Scandinavians are often considered to be particularly healthy and long-living. Having numerous Scandinavian ancestors gives me several centenarians to choose from as having "Lived Long".  I have already written about my paternal grandmother Louise Nelson who lived to 103. Although she was born in the United States, Louise's roots were deep in Ringerike, Buskerud, Norway and her Norwegian line from Oppland and Buskerud contains several others who also lived long.

Life expectancy in the 1600's was probably in the 35-40 year range. The average length of life of all the people in my entire family tree (which admittedly includes marriage partners, previous and later spouses and siblings who died in childhood) over several centuries is about 60 years. For Louise's ancestors, the average is significantly higher at just over 78 years.

One ancestor named Østen Haraldsen Sørum Strømmen (1601-1712)  lived in Aurdal, Oppland, Norway to the age of 111. Because the church book records for this area do not go back as early as 1601, I have so far been unable to confirm his year of birth as being that year, but his death record in 1712 gives his age as 111. Østen's wife Ingebjorg Olsdatter herself lived to 102 years of age. Østen Haraldsen and Ingebjorg Olsdatter are both my 8th and 9th great grandparents and Louise Nelson's 6th and 7th. (We actually descend from them twice, making for a nice potential doubling of those longevity genes! We descend from daughter Gudbjørg who was the subject of last week's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" story as well as from another daughter Guri.)

Church burial record for Østen Haraldsen at age 111 in  1712

Aside from finding records for their 4 children (sons Peder and Anders as well as the two daughters mentioned above) no other details of their lives have been found.  17th century Norwegian history gives us some clues about the important events that would have had an impact on their lives which spanned that entire century and more:
  • Most Norwegians stayed close to home; travel was mostly by water from fjord to fjord or across lakes and down streams. Roads were few and far between in mountainous Norway and it wasn't until the postal service started in 1647 that some improvements started being made to some of the roads and trails.
  • Norway was under Danish rule during this time.
  • King Christian III had established the Evangelical Lutheran Church as the official religion of Norway in 1537.
  • King Christian IV decided in 1628 to re-establish a Norwegian army; by the 1650's there were two general war commissioners in Norway.
  • Wars, in large part among the Scandinavians themselves, seemed to be the norm in the 17th century: the Kalmar War, the Hannibal Feud, the Krabbe War and Bjelke Feud, the Gyldenløve Feud and the Eleven-Year War all occurred during Østen's lifetime. 
  • In 1660 the Peace of Copenhagen established the boundaries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway
  • In 1661 the Danish monarch became the absolute and hereditary ruler and Norway was divided into counties
  • In 1668 record keeping by the state church became the law - and genealogists today are very grateful for the excellent record-keeping that was done (such as Østen's death record, above)
  • Although the Black Plague had killed off between half and two-thirds of the Norwegian population in the 1300's, by 1500 the population was 150,000 and by 1800 it was 900,000. Probably during Østen's lifetime the population of Norway would have neared the half million mark.
We don't know whether Østen took part in any of the wars, nor have we been able to learn what he did for a living but most Norwegian men at that time were farmers and fishermen. Whether through avoidance of participation in war or through healthy living coupled with good genes (and definitely a certain amount of luck), this couple together lived well beyond the normal life expectancy of their times.


  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Family History Library, "Research Outline" for Norway, 1992
  • Wikipedia articles on "Longevity" and "History of Norway" accessed April 2015
  • Norwegian digital archive church records for Aurdal, Oppland, Norway

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