Saturday, 27 June 2015

Ole Joensen (b. 1758-1760) (52 Ancestors Week 26) Theme: "Halfway"

The theme suggested for this week is "Halfway: This week marks the halfway point in the year - and the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge! What ancestor do you feel like you've only researched halfway?"

Halfway is such a difficult thing to judge in genealogy. Family historians are never really satisfied that they have finished researching any particular family member. It often seems that none of mine are even half researched. However, the one branch of the family story that seems not to have moved forward much at all in the past few years is my paternal line in Nordland, Norway, the ancestors of my Bardahl family. I know there is much more waiting to be discovered about them.

Google Earth image showing location of Bardal in Nordland, Norway

This week I will focus on my 3X great grandfather Ole Joensen. Ole is the maternal grandfather of my immigrant ancestor Hans Bardahl who was featured in another story in this series.

For my starting point on this the 7th day of June, I will list the facts I know about Ole and list the questions that remain unanswered. Perhaps more research will move things ahead by the time this story is completed during the last week of June. Or perhaps it won't. Will it still feel just halfway done?

What I know about Ole: Halfway at Most!

  • He lived in the Nesna area of Nordland, Norway.
  • He married Marith Arnstdatter on Sunday 5 October 1794 in Nesna.
  • The 1801 Norwegian census for Wasdahl farm gives his age as 41, making his birth date about 1760.
  • The same census indicates that he is in his second marriage while wife Marith Arnsdtr is in her first.
  • Ole and Marith have 4 children living with them in 1801, one son Anders Johan age 10 from his first marriage and three children of theirs: Arnt age 6, Kirstina Dorothea age 4 and Maren age 2.
  • Ole's son from his first marriage was baptised on 22 April 1791.
  • Son Arnt was baptised 20 September 1795 in Nesna.
  • Daughter Kirstina Dorothea was baptised 04 May 1797 in Nesna.
  • Ole and Marith had a daughter Olina Maria Olsdatter born in 1806, baptised at Nesna on 8 June 1806 (Olina Maria is my 2X great grandmother, the mother of Hans Bardahl)
Google Earth Map showing locations of Nesna and Hemnes in relation to Bardal

Questions that remain unanswered:

  • When and where was Ole born? When was he baptized? 
  • Who were Ole's parents? (We know his father's first name would be Joen since Ole's last name is Joensen.)
  • Did Ole have any siblings?
  • Was Ole confirmed and, if so, when?
  • Who was his first wife? When did they marry? When did she die?
  • The census record has Ole's occupation given as "Boxelbonde", presumably a type of farmer. What does this term specifically mean?
  • When/where/how did Ole die? What about Marith?
  • What else can be learned about their lives in their community?

Moving Beyond Halfway?

The wiki for Nesna describes Nesna as being just 24 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It indicates that the Nesna church records (kirkebøker) began in 1704 and  include those for "Bardal chapel". This raises yet another question: does that mean all the baptisms and the wedding of Ole and Marith occurred at Bardal Chapel? If so, that's another interesting connection to our family surname.

There is one possible birth record found on for an Ole Joensen baptised in Nesna on 03 November 1760; his father's name was Joen Nielsen. Frustratingly, baptism records at the time seemed to list the baby's father and the witnesses, but no mention is made of the mother! When I located this birth record in the Nesna  kirkebøker (church records), the farm name for Joen Nielsen appears to be "Horn" and a farm of that name does still exist in Nordland. The witnesses names are somewhat difficult to decipher and appear to be something like these: Aug Buformann, Anders Guillesen, Jacob Llo?, Karen Pedersdtr Hurn and Vendel Danuls.  None of these names sound familiar or give me any comfort that I am finding the right family.

Is this the baptism record for "our" Ole on 3 November 1760?

An Ole Joensen from Levang was confirmed at Nesna in 1776. If this is the same Ole, he would have been 16, the usual age for that time for being confirmed in the Lutheran Church. But the Levang farm name has not cropped up before and this is probably not the right Ole.

The marriage of Ole Joensen Jedgruben to Dordie Nielsdtr Fugermoe occurred at Hemnes on 16 August 1789. This might be the right Ole in his first marriage, but again the farm name is unfamiliar. Attempts to find a death record for Dordie prior to Ole's marriage to Marith have not succeeded.

The baptism of Ole's son Anders Johan was recorded for 1791 in the Hemnes, Nordland church book. This is most certainly the correct Ole. It appears that I should be focusing on nearby Hemnes rather than Nesna for Ole's early life. Lots more work to do!

Hemnes baptism record for Anders Johan Olsen 22 April 1791
As to Ole being listed in the census as "boxelbonde", I have confirmed that "bonde" is farmer, but have been unable to determine the relevance of "boxel".

The Wikipedia article for Bardalssjøen indicates that the village of Bardal is located along the south coast of the Ranfjorden and is about 10 kilometres west of Hemnesberget. It surrounds the Bardalselva river which flows into the fjord (as can be seen on the map below). It goes on to say that the Bardal area has historically been part of both Nesna and Hemnes.  Both parishes must therefore form part of any further research.

Unsatisfying as it is, halfway done is how Ole's story remains at the halfway point of 2015.

Google Earth image for Bardal area of Nordland, Norway


  • Norwegian census record (folketellinger) for 1801 and church book records (kirkebøker) for Nesna and Hemnes, Nordland, Norway available online at Digitalarkiveret
  • Family History Center microfilms 125211 and 125212

Friday, 19 June 2015

Jonathan Fairbanks (c1595-1668) (52 Ancestors Week 25) Theme: "The Old Homestead"

There are many "old homesteads" in my family history, but none in North America older than the Fairbanks Homestead of my 9X great grandparents Jonathan Fairbanks and his wife Grace Smith. Fairbanks House in Dedham, MA (just outside Boston) is an American National Historic Landmark and listed on the National List of Historic Places.  Built in about 1637-1641, it is thought to be the oldest standing timber structure in North America. Some say it is also one of the most haunted houses in America!

Fairbanks House, Dedham, MA - East Front
Photo taken 11 May 1999

Yorkshire Family Origins

Jonathan and Grace came from near Halifax, West Riding, Yorkshire. Jonathan was born about 1595 to George Fairbanks and his wife Mary Farrar. 

Jonathan and Grace were married at Halifax on 20 May 1617 and had a family of six children all born in England, including my 8X great grandfather Jonas Fairbanks born there 6 March 1624. Jonathan was a wool merchant and appears to have been an educated middle-class man.

The family name has been spelled a variety of ways: Fayerbanke, ffairbanke, Fairbanck, Fairbanke, Fairbank and Fairbanks (and probably numerous other variations). Most often in the early days in New England it was spelled Fayerbank or Fairbank.

Life in America

Jonathan and Grace packed up their children and headed to America some time between 1633 and 1636. There are differing views on the year of their arrival and ship's name. It is said that they arrived in the Boston area of New England with a ship's timber (for the main beam in his house), English oak, furniture, china and linens, tiles and windows. It was clear that Jonathan had plans and the wherewithal to build his family a comfortable home in the new world. Why they chose to make this trip after setting up their family in Yorkshire is more difficult to comprehend. Although the move may have been motivated by the desire for freedom of religious expression, it might have been a sense of adventure and a desire to start afresh in a challenging new land.

Fairbanks House in 1999

The town of Dedham was established in the summer of 1636 with the Dedham Covenant, essentially an agreement among the 22 subscribers as to future management of the town. (This was a new land and the immigrants were cognizant of the importance of establishing a basic framework for how their society would be run.) It appears that Jonathan arrived a bit later and was accepted and subscribed his name to the Dedham Covenant at the time of the First Assembly held there on 23 March 1637. (His sons would sign later when they came of age.)  Jonathan had been granted at least 12 acres of land including some swamp land upon his arrival and records over the years show additions to his land holdings.

As there were no roads when the Fairbanks family arrived, they undoubtedly came up the Charles River with all the supplies for their new home. The original house had four rooms: a kitchen, parlour and two bed chambers on the second story. There was a massive chimney with over 40,000 bricks (said to have come from England as ballast) held together with clay from the Charles River. Low ceilings helped keep the house warm; although we think of these ceilings as too low for comfort, the average height of men in those days was about 5 ft 1 inch - 5 ft 5 inches tall and women about five inches shorter. The roof was originally thatched in the English tradition. Many additions were made over the years and the number of rooms increased to 12.

One interesting record indicates that Jonathan (at least for awhile!) had a mind of his own when it came to religion. Plymouth Colony was an extremely religious settlement and settlers were expected to follow the accepted Puritan religion. The books of the Dedham First Church contain this record (quoted from page 12 of "The Fairbanks Family in America"):
"Jonathan Fairebanke notwithstanding he had long stood off from' ye church upon some scruples about publike p'fession of faith & ye covenant yet after divers loving conferences with him; he made such a declaration of his faith & conv'sion to god & p'fession of subjection to ye ordinances of Xt in this X yt he was readily & gladly received by ye whole church: 14d 6m 1646."
One can only assume that life in the community was more harmonious for Jonathan after this public conversion.
Fairbanks House in 1999

He executed his will on 4 June 1668 and died later that year, leaving his entire movable estate (personal property) to his wife Grace. Based on some of the items listed in his will, it is likely that Jonathan was a wood turner. Small bequests were made to several children and grandchildren with the house and lands being bequeathed to his eldest son John in accordance with the usual English practice of primogeniture.

Subsequent History of the Fairbanks Homestead

The house was continuously owned and occupied by members of the Fairbanks family for most of its existence. The last of the family tenants was Rebecca Fairbanks who was living in the house when it was struck by lightning and considerably damaged. (There are two different dates given for this occurrence - 1892 or 1902.) Rebecca escaped with a severe shock but her dog had been lying under her bed and was killed. Rebecca moved into Boston as a result and for the first time the house was occupied by someone else but a few months later Rebecca once more moved back in to the old family homestead. A fund for the preservation of the house was established in 1897 and at that time, an article in the local "Transcript" newspaper said that Rebecca had been forced to sell the house out of the family two years earlier. Once the funds were provided, she was permitted to live in the house again. Today the house is owned and operated by The Fairbanks Family in America, a non-profit member-based group to which I belonged for a period of time. The charming old house is probably in very safe hands with this huge and dedicated group of descendants of Jonathan and Grace who claim this as their ancestral homestead.


  • Dedham Historical Register, Volume 2 published by the Dedham Historical Society 1891, accessed at Google Books 4 June 2015
  • Fairbanks, Lorenzo Sayles, A.M. "Genealogy of the Fairbanks Family in America", Third Edition printed by Fairbanks Family in America, Incorporated 1991 based on edition printed for the author by the American Printing and Engraving Company, 1897 
  • "The Fairbanks House", Fairbanks Family in America, Inc., Dedham, Massachusetts, 1976 
  • Wikipedia article on Dedham, Massachusetts History

Friday, 12 June 2015

Margaret Vought (c. 1785-1860) (52 Ancestors Week 24) Theme: "Heirloom"

The suggested theme this week is "Heirloom: What heirloom do you treasure? Who gave it to you? What heirloom do you wish you had?"

Not having been blessed with a trunk full of actual family heirlooms, I do have a whole attic full of imaginary ones. A piece of colonial furniture made by one or other of my Plymouth Colony ancestors Kenelm Winslow or John Alden, the American Civil War discharge certificate for my 2X great grandfather George Garner Wescott or my great grandmother Mary-Jane Wescott's hand-made pale green silk wedding dress come to mind. But given the timing of this week's theme, the heirloom I really wish I had right now is one of the quilts made by my 4X great grandmother Margaret (sometimes called "Abba") Vought. To understand why this would be my wish, it might help to know that:
  • I  have been sewing since I was a preschooler and quilting/creating fibre art about as long as I've been doing genealogy - and am passionate about both.
  • Until my mother's DNA results were posted last month, I didn't know of Margaret's existence. Margaret is the daughter of Henry Christian Vought, the subject of another recent story on this blog. If you have read that story, you may recall my excitement at being able to open up this branch of the family tree via DNA.
  • It is only within the past couple of weeks that Liane Fenimore (my 4th cousin 1X removed) provided me with copies of Margaret's will and estate inventory making me aware of Margaret's quilts.

Margaret's Quilts

Margaret's estate inventory was taken after her death in 1860. It consists of 3 pages and most of the items seem to be clothing, linens and bedding. Included in the list are the following items that caught my attention:
  • Brown full moon pattern quilt
  • Brown goose tracks quilt
  • Kites and diamonds quilt
  • Irish chain quilt
  • Blue quilt
  • Album quilt
  • Churn dash quilt
  • Sawteeth quilt
I do believe that Margaret was a quilter like her 4X great-granddaughter. Oh, what I wouldn't give to see one of those quilts! Or even a picture of one of those quilts. Sigh.

Portion of Inventory of Margaret's Estate

Being a fabric-loving person, it struck me that the next-best thing I could do was to attempt to recreate, if not all 8 entire quilts, at least several of the blocks, a sort of do-it-yourself heirloom project. Trips to the local public library and online searches have enabled me to find patterns for most of these blocks and given me a crash course in quilt and fabric history.

Sample Goose Tracks Block
Sample Churn Dash Block

Although Margaret had two brown quilts listed, don't think for a moment that her quilts would have been dull. Fabric colours from the era were apparently quite intense and quilts would have used a lot of Prussian blues and pale blues, Turkey and brownish reds, brilliant yellows, deep yellow greens and forest greens. Prints would have included squiggles, teardrops and bubble shapes, plaids, ombres, leafy and floral designs.

My hand-pieced Saw Teeth Block

Most of the blocks in her quilts are geometric blocks, using squares, rectangles and triangles. Margaret would have measured and cut her pieces using a simple ruler and scissors - none of the fancy rotary cutters and special measuring grids available to today's quilters.

Although not included in the list of Margaret's quilts, the log cabin quilt was popular at the time. The basic block usually starts with a red square at the centre symbolizing the fire in the hearth of the home.
Log Cabin quilt by Mary-Jane Wescott 1919
The darker rectangular strips on one side of the block stand for the shady north side of the cabin and the lighter strips on the other side the sunny southern side. An example of the log cabin pattern is this quilt made by Margaret's great granddaughter Mary-Jane Wescott for her daughter's wedding in 1919. (No, sadly, I don't have this quilt either.)

I have been hand-piecing my sample blocks since that is undoubtedly what Margaret would have done; sewing machines were only beginning to come into common household use very late in her life and there is no sewing machine listed in her estate inventory. Although there was a foot spinning wheel listed in her inventory, there was no quilt frame listed. Probably when it was time to layer and back the pieced top and stitch the layers together Margaret's friends would have helped her at a quilting bee. When it comes time for me to join my replica blocks into some sort of finished quilt or art quilt piece, I will most certainly hand quilt the final project. Perhaps I will elicit the help of some of my quilting friends to quilt a few stitches, just to add to the authenticity of my do-it-yourself heirloom.

Margaret's Album quilt was one of her most valuable ones. During the period 1830-1860 when Margaret would likely have been making these quilts, the album or Baltimore album quilt was one of the most famous. Using many appliqued floral wreaths, monuments, ships and animals, each block would be an individual work of art. Sometimes album quilts were made by several women, especially if one of them was moving away during this time of westward expansion in the United States. Each woman would sign her block or personalize it in some way so that when all were combined the album quilt became a collection of memories of old friends.

Not Margaret's Album Quilt - Image provided courtesy Denver Art Museum:
Elizabeth Sanford Jennings Hopkins (1824–1904), Album Quilt, Port Jefferson, New York, 1840s–50s. Hand pieced and appliquéd cotton and silk; silk , cotton, and linen embroidery; pen and ink; hand quilted with raised work (trapunto). Denver Art Museum Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds from Mrs. Irene Littledale Downs, Mrs. August Kern, and Mrs. Alexander Girard by exchange, 2007.38

As an aside, it is interesting to see the valuation given to Margaret's quilts, ranging from 10 cents to $1. Although it is almost impossible to determine with any accuracy what that would be worth in today's currency, one estimate is that $1 would be about equivalent to $23 today; a labourer's wage in those days would be about 90 cents per day, land cost between $3-$5 per acre. Quilters today like to complain that the price charged for a hand made quilt at best covers the cost of materials and doesn't allow much, if anything, for the quilter's labour (which could take days if not weeks or months of work). It doesn't sound as if quilts were accorded much monetary value in 1860 either. No doubt they were, however, an important part of a household's possessions for both usefulness and beauty. (And I would value one of Margaret's quilts far beyond any gold or silver!)
Sample Irish Chain Block

So where did Margaret's quilts go? From her will, we know that her land in Huron, Wayne County, NY was left to son Jerry Barton. Each of her five daughters was to receive the sum of $10 and 1/5 of her household furniture, beds and bedding. It is probable that the quilts were divided among the daughters, with each receiving at least one. It is possible for quilts from this period to survive to the present day, but there is no way of knowing if any of Margaret's have survived in any of the daughters' families.

Margaret's Life

Margaret was the only daughter of Henry Christian Vought and his wife Rebecca Nelson. She was born about 1785 in Peekskill, Westchester County, NY and grew up in a family with four brothers.

She was married under the name of Abba C. Voack on 23 April 1804 in Yorktown, Westchester County, NY to Isaac Barton. The couple had 6 children: 5 daughters (including my 3X great grandmother Catherine Barton) and one son.

She died of palsy at the age of 76 on 10 April 1860 in Huron, Wayne County, New York, three years after her husband Isaac. They are buried in the Huron Cemetery.

Tombstone for Margaret (Vought) Barton
Photo courtesy Liane Fenimore 

Huron Evergreen Cemetery
Photo courtesy Liane Fenimore


  • Fenimore, Liane, email correspondence and scanned documents received May and June 2015 resulting from DNA match through FamilytreeDNA, including copies of the will and inventory of Margaret (Vought) Barton
  • Trestain, Eileen Jahnke, "Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide 1800-1960", American Quilter's Society: 1998
  • Conroy, Mary, "300 Years of Canada's Quilts", Griffin House Toronto: 1976

Final Thoughts

Growing up with tales of barn-raising bees and quilting bees, it never once crossed my mind that 21st century DNA technology would one day enable me to discover a 4X great grandmother and learn about her quilts. Even without having them as heirlooms, I feel as if really do possess them on some level.

And finally: my hand-pieced "Full Moon" block. No longer a commonly used block, I've drafted the pattern from a photograph of a block by that name. So far I've been unable to find an example of the "Kites and Diamonds" block but the search continues. Any leads would be appreciated.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Kari Nottolsdatter (b. 1761) June Bride (52 Ancestors #23) Theme: "Wedding"

With most of my stories having focused on my mother's maternal line, I was hoping to balance with a story of a June wedding on my father's Norwegian side. There was not a single one to be found! A Norwegian wedding story on my mother's paternal side will have to suffice. Kari Nottolsdatter married Ole Kittilson on Monday 9 June 1783 in Drangedal, Telemark, Norway. Kari and Ole are my 4X great grandparents.

In the kirkebøker (church records) for marriages in 1783 for  Drangedal, Telemark, the yellow-highlighted area in the above marriage record shows that their engagement had been announced on 4 May and the wedding solemnized on 9 June. The record indicates that Ole Kittilson Wraalstad ( sometimes spelled Vraalstad) was a soldier and bachelor and that Kari Notolsdatter Woxland (sometimes spelled Voxland or Vogsland) was a single maiden. The two bondsmen or witnesses were Ener Wraalstad and Tordbiorn Ericksen Woxland. (Vrålstad and Vågsland are the two current "farm names" indicating the area where these two families lived.)

Google Earth image of southern Norway with Drangedal, Telemark marked with yellow pin

Not surprisingly, no photographs or other details of their wedding are available, but Norwegian marriage traditions can give us some clues as to what the wedding might have entailed. Before they would have announced their engagement at church in May, their families would have had to agree to their marriage. Gifts would have been exchanged during the engagement.

On the day of the wedding, Ole might have worn the traditional bunad (woolen suit) with white shirt, short pants, calf-length stockings, vest and coat when he arrived with his family at Kari's family's home. (Perhaps, being a soldier, he would have worn his uniform instead.) Usually the groom is greeted by the bride's father and given a cup of beer. (Sounds like a good start to the day!) But tradition demands that after he takes just a sip of the beer, the groom must again ask the bride's family if they are still in agreement with the wedding. Obviously the family did agree, and Kari would have then been permitted to make her appearance. The bride's traditional wedding dress is the bridal bunad (a handmade dress of dark blue or black wool embroidered in the traditional Norwegian manner).

Kari would have probably worn the bridal crown of gold or silver dripping with hanging bangles that would have produced a melodic sound as she moved. This is done to ward off evil spirits. The door of her parents' home might have been slammed 3 times as additional protection from evil spirits.

No, not Kari but an unknown Norwegian bride wearing the traditional brudekrone (bridal crown)
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Then a fiddler would have lead the procession to the wedding ceremony, followed by the bride and groom and their families either on foot or on horseback.

Visit the Drangedal church website to see some interior photos of the church and get a better sense of the location of Kari and Ole's wedding. The church was built in 1775 and would have been quite new at the time of their wedding.

After the ceremony, the wedding party would have returned to the family home of Nottol Larsson Vogsland and Kari Torbjørnsdatter Vraalstad (Kari's parents) to eat, drink and dance until the wee hours (or until the bride's crown fell off!). Many toasts would have been made and then the cake would have been cut. One of the more usual types of wedding cake is the kransekake, made from rings of cake stacked atop each other in descending sizes to form a fluted pyramid which is then decorated with icing  and perhaps candy and flowers. Traditionally the bride lifts the top ring off the cake and the number of rings that pull off with it are said to predict the number of children the couple will have. We don't know if Kari indeed pulled off 6 of the top layers!

Kransekake wedding cake prepared by Kari and Ole's 3X great granddaughter Elinor Bardahl for Elinor's granddaughter Angie's wedding in 2013 - the bride and groom topper probably not traditional in Norway

We don't know whether Kari and Ole went on to "live happily ever after." Although we don't know too much about their lives together, they probably fit into the well-ordered lives of Norwegians at the time. They went on to have a number of children all born in Drangedal, Telemark, Norway:
  • Kittil Olsen born 1784
  • Nottol Olsen born 1786
  • Knud Olsen (my 3X great grandfather) born 02 July 1788
  • Maria Olsdatter born 1791
  • Kari Olsdatter born 1794
  • Lars Olsen born 1797
The family were recorded in the 1801 census where the household consisted of Ole Kittilsen, age 38, farmer in his first marriage, Kari Nottolsdatter, age 40, his wife also in her first marriage, Kittil Olsen 17, Nottol Olsen 15, Lars Olsen 4, Knud Olsen 13, Maria Olsdatter 10, Kari Olsdatter 7. (The children all have the patronymic last name where their father's first name has the suffix "sen" (son) or "datter" (daughter) added.)

Despite much searching for death and burial dates for Kari and Ole, none have been located as yet. They are undoubtedly buried in the cemetery of the Drangedal church where their children had all been baptised and where they had been married so many years before.

Drangedal Kirke
Courtesy Photographer Hallvard Straume
Wikimedia Commons