Friday, 30 October 2015

Captain John Marchante - Pirate or Privateer? (1540-1596) (Week 44) Theme: "Frightening"

It is said that they who live by the sword shall die by the sword.

This week is Hallowe'en and there will probably be some frightening sword-wielding pirates at our doorsteps expecting booty. Their swashbuckling threats will be part of the fun, but real pirates are another matter altogether. Whether or not he was particularly frightening, this seems like a good week for featuring my ancestor privateer/pirate Captain John Marchante.

Pirate Ship Painting by Ambroise-Louis Garneray
Photographed by Poecus
In the Public Domain - Wikimedia Commons

My cousin Michael entertained us by singing a grand version of Stan Roger's "Barrett's Privateers" at our 2000 family reunion at Waterton Lake. Perhaps if Michael had known of our 11th great grandfather John Marchante, he could have adapted the lyrics accordingly. No doubt he will do that for our next reunion.

Technically speaking, a "pirate" is someone who seizes a ship or its cargo from its rightful owner while a "privateer" is someone who does the same thing but is authorized to do so by a government. Labelling someone as either a "pirate" or "privateer" is often a question of perspective. From my admittedly biased perspective, Captain John Marchante was a "privateer".

The reign of Queen Elizabeth I marked the golden age of piracy and privateering. Authorizing private vessels to serve on her behalf saved Elizabeth the cost and trouble of expanding her own navy. She was also able to enjoy her share of the spoils brought back to England. Many of England's greatest heroes were actually privateers - Sir Martin Frobisher, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake included. Their famous explorations were actually secondary goals to their plunders.

John Marchante was born about 1540 in Yeovil, Somerset, England. There he married Eva Cominge on 18 July 1568. In September of 1571, their son John Marchante (my 10th great grandfather) was born and would live out his life in the Yeovil area. Father John ranged much farther afield. He spent his life as a ship's captain, though we don't have any details of just where his voyages took him until he was in his 40's. If he was already serving as one of Queen Elizabeth's privateers, there is no early mention of such activity.

Yeovil, Somerset (marked by red pin) from Google Earth
What we do know is that Captain John served as captain of a ship under Sir Francis Drake beginning in 1585. Francis Drake had been born in about the same year as John and had been a politician, sea captain, privateer, navigator and sometime slaver. By the time our Captain John served under him, Drake had circumnavigated the globe and had been awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth I.

Sir Francis Drake is, of course, a hero to the English, but the Spaniards called him a pirate. No doubt they attached the same label to those who served with Drake. That would have included our Captain John who was one of the captains serving under Drake in the 1585 expedition.

The 1585 expedition was a pre-emptive strike ordered by Queen Elizabeth after Phillip II of Spain had declared war on England. In September of that year, Sir Francis Drake and his fleet (including Captain John aboard the Hopewell) sailed from Plymouth (see map above), first attacking Spain and then the Cape Verde Islands before sailing across the Atlantic where they sacked the port of Santo Domingo and captured Cartagena in what is now Colombia. Not content with that, on their return voyage to England they raided the Spanish fort of St. Augustin in Spanish Florida. They also made a friendlier stop at Roanoke (North Carolina), the settlement started by Sir Walter Raleigh, before returning home to heroes' welcome on 22 July 1586.

Rumours of a planned invasion of England by the Spaniards caused Elizabeth to order another pre-emptive strike in 1587 when Drake sailed into and occupied Cadiz and Corunna and "singed the beard of the King of Spain". John Marchante was Sergeant-Major in this expedition in which 37 Spanish ships were destroyed.

The expedition was not without controversy. At one point Sergeant-Major John Marchante was serving on the Golden Lyon under William Borough and replaced him as Captain after Borough's insubordination. The Golden Lyon had to be evacuated when Borough reportedly attempted mutiny. After this, our Captain John was found aboard the Spy. Drake called a court-martial and sentenced Borough to death, but after Borough blamed the whole fiasco on our Captain John's lack of strength and command, Borough was eventually set free.

Following this, Drake and his fleet patrolled the Iberian coast disrupting ships on the Spanish supply lines. Nevertheless, in 1588 Phillip proceeded with the planned invasion of England by his Spanish Armada. Drake was vice admiral of the English fleet when it pursued and overcame the Armada as it attempted to make its way up the English Channel. Captain John took part in the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The actions of the English seafarers were not primarily acts of patriotism as it is apparent that plundering the Spanish ships was probably their real motivation. There was much ill will when Sir Martin Frobisher complained bitterly that Sir Francis Drake had claimed more than his fair share of the spoils. We don't know what Captain John Marchante obtained as his own share of the plunder.

Presumably, Captain John was content with whatever payment he was receiving for his services. In 1595 he was still accompanying Drake when they failed to conquer the port of Las Palmas and suffered a number of defeats in Spanish America including San Juan de Puerto Rico.

Both Drake and Captain John were to lose their lives during this expedition. After failing to seize a Spanish treasure ship in Puerto Rico, they made their way to Panama where they took the town of Nombre de Dios. They were hoping to intercept Spanish gold being brought over the isthmus but when Drake's men marched up the hill, they were surprised to discover a Spanish fort on the top. The Spaniards were ready for them and some 20 English men were killed in the action. (Drake would die of dysentry a few weeks later.)

Captain John Marchante was one of the 20 who died at Nombre de Dios on 02 January 1596. It was a sad but not surprising end to the eventful life of English privateer Captain John. He had lived by the sword and had indeed died by it.

Nombre de Dios, Panama, site of death of Captain John Marchante
Google Earth Image


  • Wikipedia articles on "John Marchant (seaman), "Sir Francis Drake" and "Privateers"
  •, Global, Find a Grave Index for Non-Burials, Burials at Sea, and other Select Burial Locations, 1300s-Current
  • Andrews, Kenneth R., "The Last Voyage of Drake and Hawkins", Cambridge University Press, 1972
  • Marchant Family website accessed online 28 September 2015 at
  • "A List of the Participants in the Roanoke Voyages" accessed online 28 September 2015 at

Friday, 23 October 2015

Simon Eyre 1588-1658, Lavenham, Suffolk (Week 43) Theme: "Oops!"

The "oops!" to match this week's theme is my having dropped the ball on my 6th great grandmother who was identified in my records for years simply as "Sarah", wife of Major Edward Winslow. While recently browsing through the one big family tree on, I noticed that Sarah was identified with the surname "Clark". A bit of investigation convinced me that I had been missing out on a whole branch of my family tree. Oops!

Quickly being able to get back three (and more) generations from Sarah Clark led me to my 9th great grandfather Simon Eyre who will be this week's focus. (As with so many surnames in these times, the variations in spelling of Eyre are numerous including Ayer, Eyres, Eir, Eire.)

Church of St Peter and St Paul, Lavenham, Suffolk
Church completed about 1525
Simon was baptised 21 June 1588 in the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Lavenham, Suffolk, England, one of the most charming unspoiled villages imaginable. His parents had been married in this church on 7 February 1582/83. No doubt many family members were buried in the cemetery here.

I first visited Lavenham twenty years ago while on honeymoon with my second husband, Graham. He had emigrated from Suffolk to Canada several decades earlier, but his siblings had all remained in England, primarily in Suffolk. They insisted that we visit Lavenham to experience its 15th century authenticity with crooked half-timbered medieval buildings - and I fell victim to its charm, not knowing until this week that I had ancestors originating there. (Another "oops!")

The author at Lavenham, Suffolk 1994
Photo courtesy Graham Barnard
Simon married Dorothy Paine in the church at Lavenham in 1616 and it seems that both the Paine and Eyre families were well established in that community. Lavenham had prospered greatly during the 15th and 16th centuries on the basis of its wool and was then one of the wealthiest towns in England. The Guildhall of the wool guild was built in 1529 and continues to stand in the centre of the town square. (The charming ambiance of the town has resulted in its use in several films including "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows".)

The Church was completed in about 1525 with the tallest village church tower in England at 121 feet. During our 1994 visit, Graham climbed the tower to take advantage of the views of the surrounding countryside.

View of Lavenham and surrounding area from Church tower
Photo courtesy Graham Barnard
However, by the time that Simon and Dorothy were married, cheaper European cloth imports had caused a sudden and drastic decline in the fortunes of the town. It is said that the resulting poverty is the reason for so many of the buildings remaining unspoiled - no one could afford to modify or replace them with something more up-to-date.

Crooked descendants of Simon and Dorothy at Lavenham's Crooked Gallery:
My sister Sandy and mother Elinor during 1998 road trip
The crooked buildings in the town are thought to have inspired the poem
"There was a Crooked Man"

Simon and Dorothy started their family in Lavenham, but then moved a few miles away to Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Simon was a surgeon and physician, and, with the decline in population and wealth in Lavenham, he probably moved to the bigger centre for economic reasons.

At Lavenham, 1994
Photo courtesy Graham Barnard

It seems that the Eyre family was caught up in the religious discontent so prevalent at the time in England (and in Suffolk in particular). This might explain the inability to find baptisms for any of their children at Bury St Edmunds in the established church. On 13 April 1635, "Simon Eire, gentleman, and Dorothy his wife" sold 2 houses, a stable, 2 gardens and an orchard at Bury St Edmunds in preparation for their departure from London for New England two days later aboard the Increase. Included on the passenger list were Symon Ayres, surgeon, aged 48, wife Dorothy aged 38, Marie aged 15, Thomas aged 13, Symon aged 11, Rebecca (my 8th great grandmother) aged 9, Christian aged 7, Anna aged 5, Benjamin aged 3 and Sara aged 2 months. (Coincidentally, other of my ancestors were also passengers on that same voyage - Samuel Morse and his family from the Redgrave and Hinderclay areas of Suffolk.)

They lived first at Watertown, just out of Boston, where Simon became a freeman of the town on 17 April 1637. In order to become a freeman, he would have joined the Puritan church there. Clearly, he was a respected man who was often named to act as deputy to the General Court, Commissioner to end small causes (probably a sort of Small Claims Court), Selectman on council from 1636-1643 and on the committee to lay out farms when it was "ordered that Simon Eire shall write a transcript of the lands in a book and give it to the Court."

He became a large land owner with grants of land in Watertown 1636-1638. The 1644 Inventories show him possessed of some 10 parcels of land, one as large as 1900 acres. On 22 August 1646 he bought a barn and garden in Boston and soon moved his family to Boston, where he was admitted to the Boston church early in 1647.

It was in the performance of his public duties that Simon was thought to have had his own little "oops!" He was the Clerk for writs for Watertown in the 1640's but, when he left for Boston, his successor John Sherman prefaced his 1648 report by saying that "What was taken before was by Mr. Eirs and uncertain in the transmitting - yet in this book transcribed according to the order of the Court so many as came to hand 1648. The year by Mr. Eires as I supposed began the first of March, but from 1648 the 25th of March." (This seems to relate to the confusing period of time when the Gregorian Calendar was replacing the Julian Calendar at different times in different places. The Julian Calendar started the new year in March rather than 1 January as it does now, so perhaps Simon can be permitted a bit of latitude and forgiveness for how he expressed his dates. On the other hand, perhaps the problem was really with his handwriting if it was as notoriously bad as that of some doctors!)

After wife Dorothy's death in 1650, Simon married a woman named Martha (Hubbard) Whittington who is mentioned in his will dated 5 July 1658. He could have had a premonition of death, since he died on 10 November 1658 in Boston, not long after writing his will. He left an estate valued at almost 600 pounds, a large estate for the time. Over half of the value was in his real estate - house and garden in Boston and houses and lands in Watertown. He bequeathed books, manuscripts, mortars, scales and weights, stills, pots and glasses to one son. His inventory included books valued at 30 pounds and 5 Dutch pictures. Compared to many immigrants, Simon Eyre had clearly led quite a comfortable life.


  • website for Simon Eyre accessed 15 October 2015
  •, "Suffolk, England, Extracted Parish Records"; "Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records 1620-1688"; "New England, The Great Migration and the Great Migration Begins"; "England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975"; "U.S. and Canada Passenger Lists Index 1500's -1900's"
  • Wikipedia articles on Lavenham and on Church of St Peter and St Paul
  • Early Boston cemeteries article located at this link
  • Bond, Henry, M.D., "Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts, Volume II"; Boston: Little, Brown & Company 1855, page 756

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Karen Marie Nilsdatter (1842-1915) (Week 42) Theme: "Proud"

This week's suggested theme is "Proud: Which ancestor did something that made you proud?" Like so many other "ordinary" immigrant women, my great grandmother Karen Marie Nilsdatter lived a life of courage and determination in starting over in a new land. No, she did nothing particularly heroic that would have garnered her any medals. Although no history books are likely to ever celebrate her achievements, she quietly went about doing what was required of her, leaving a trail of strength, goodness and love in her wake.

Karen was born in Norderhov, Ringerike, Buskerud, Norway on 23 December 1842 to Nils Torgersen and Olia Sorensdatter. No doubt because of the winter season, she was not baptised until 17 April 1843.

Church Record of 1842 birth and 1843 baptism of Karen Marie Nilsdatter

At the age of 15 she was confirmed in the local Norderhov Lutheran Church.

Karen's daughter Louise Nelson Bardahl's
comments and photograph of the Lucken, Honnefoss Church, 1969
Other images of this church (including its beautiful interior) and a description of the church, which was built in 1170, can be found through this link.

On the third of July in 1866, Karen married Carl Johan Nelson in the church pictured above. Their daughter Gunhild was born 23 August and baptised there on 15 September. Newlyweds Karen and Carl and baby Gunhild soon packed up and headed to America. The church records in Norway kept track of people who moved out of the parish in their "Uttflyttede" records such as this 1867 record for the departure of Karen, Carl and Gunhild to Wisconsin, America, recorded in January of 1867. One must admire women like Karen who could take a young baby on this courageous voyage across the Atlantic to an unknown life in America, knowing that she would probably never again see close friends, family, and the community that had formed her entire life to that point.

1867 moving out record for Carl, Karen and Gunhild (#6,7 and 8)
Carl's half brother Engebret Nilsen and his family (#2,3,4 and 5) moved with them
The story passed down in the family to my cousin Karen regarding her namesake great grandmother is one that makes me proud to descend from this woman. Apparently, at one time she and Carl experienced a difficult situation and Carl was about to throw up his hands in despair, asking how they were expected to move a lot of heavy sacks of grain across a road without a horse. Karen's response was to hoist up a load herself and say, "Like this." No doubt this is just one small example of this woman's strength of purpose. She was not just along for the ride but was a contributing partner to their success in establishing their family in this new land with new language and new culture.

They were in Wisconsin for only about 3 months before moving to Minnesota, first to Douglas County and later to Erdahl, Grant County, where they would remain for the rest of their lives. Census records show Carl and Karen and their growing family of 7 daughters and one son. Their youngest daughter, Louise, was my paternal grandmother.

Carl and Karen with their family identified in Carl's handwriting in which he uses the
Norwegian patronymic naming system showing my grandmother
Louise Nelson as "Louise Carlsdatter, born 5th of August 1881"
Above photos taken in 1890 - Karen would have been 48 years old in these pictures

In my grandmother Louise's "Fodselsdagbog" (day book) she recorded for 9 April (unknown year) "Mrs C.J. Nelson operated on for tumor". Both Carl and Karen were to ultimately die of stomach cancer. Carl went first, dying 4 December 1911. Karen survived him by nearly four years, dying 27 October 1915 in Erdahl, Grant County, Minnesota.

Her obituary was published in the Grant County Herald on 4 November 1915, page 5, part of which reads as follows:
"The death of Mrs. Carl Nelson at her home south of Erdahl Wednesday, October 27, after a lingering illness of about a year, marks the passing of one of Grant county's pioneers, and a woman loved and respected by all who knew her. 
Mrs. Nelson shared with her husband all the hardships and trials of pioneer days, as well as the happiness of contentment and achievement.
The funeral was held Friday, October 29 from the home, and later at the Synod Church in Erdahl, of which the deceased was a member. Interment was made in the Pomme de Terre Lake Cemetery." 
Headstone for Carl and Karen Nelsen
Erdahl Lutheran Cemetery (aka Pomme de Terre Lake Cemetery)
Grandson Kenneth Bardahl and his wife Elinor visited the area in 1992 


  • Website regarding Norway Parishes
  • Norwegian church records for Norderhov, Buskerud, available on Norway's Digital Archives
  • Minnesota Death certificates for Carl Nelson and Karen Nelson
  •, U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940
  • Fodelsdagbog of Louise Nelson Bardahl in possession of author
  •, Minnesota Wills and Probate Records, 1801-1925

Friday, 9 October 2015

Peter Browne (1595-1633) (Week 41) Theme: "Colorful"

Having already written stories about those of my ancestors that I think of as particularly colourful characters, I thought instead to choose an ancestor with a colourful name to satisfy this week's theme. I'm afraid I couldn't find a single Scarlet, Cardinal, Indigo or Chartreuse in the family! Brown is perhaps not the most colourful of colours, but there is a whole list of Browns (and Brownes) in our family tree. My 10th great grandfather Peter Browne is one of them. One rather colourful story about him survives in the folklore of early Plymouth Colony.

Peter Browne's Tankard
Europe, Baltic Region, 1610-1650
Oak, birch
PHM 1191, Gift of Mrs. Gorham Brown, 1959
Image Courtesy of Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts

There has been much confusion and disagreement about where in England Peter Browne originated. I believe Caleb Johnson's version since he has devoted decades to thorough Mayflower research. According to him, Peter Browne came from Dorking, Surrey where he was baptised on 26 January 1594/5. His father's name was William Browne and Peter had a younger brother John Brown born in Dorking in 1600. Both brothers would grow up to be weavers and move to New England.

Probably Peter knew the Mullins family who were also of Dorking, and it may have been their influence that caused him to join the contingent sailing to America aboard the Mayflower in 1620. In his mid 20's, he was still unmarried and travelled on his own with his pet dog. (Yes, there were at least two dogs aboard the Mayflower - Peter's English mastiff and John Goodman's English spaniel.)

Rigging on the Mayflower II
Replica in Plymouth Harbour, MA 1999
During the first winter that the Mayflower passengers were in Plymouth, many continued to live aboard the ship while they were busy constructing homes. On the morning of 12 January 1621, Peter Browne and John Goodman, accompanied by their dogs, were cutting reeds to use as thatching for roofs. After they had had their lunch and gone for a walk to refresh themselves, the mastiff and the spaniel scented a deer and gave chase, as dogs will do. The men followed in hope of fresh meat, but quickly found that they were hopelessly lost. All afternoon they wandered around in the rain. Night fell quickly and they were still wandering in the forest, cold and frightened, as rain turned to snow. They heard noises like wolves howling, a sound they identified as "two lyons roaring exceedingly, for a long time together" and spent much of the night marching up and down under a tree for shelter. Peter Browne's mastiff kept trying to break free to go after the "lyons". Of course, the remaining colonists were worried by their absence and had sent out search parties that found no trace of men or their dogs. When morning arrived, Browne and Goodman made their way to the top of a hill where they could see the bay and regain their directions. They made it home after nightfall that second day "readie to faint with travail & wante of victuals, and almost famished with cold", but Goodman's shoes had to be cut from his swollen frostbitten feet. He died within a few days but Browne and the dogs all recovered from their ordeal.

Peter Browne was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact signed by the men of the company upon arrival in Plymouth.

Peter Brown's name appears about halfway down the second column
Mayflower Compact 

Building lots were assigned at Plymouth and Peter received the lot at the foot of the street above the Common House. When Peter Browne's name shows up in the Division of Land that occurred in Plymouth in 1623, he was still single.  He ended up marrying twice, first to Martha Ford and, after her death, to Mary (my 10th great grandmother, unknown last name). All of Peter's children from both marriages were daughters, including my 9th great grandmother Rebecca Browne born in 1631.

Author in front of Peter Browne's (replica) house in Plimoth Plantation, MA 1999

Peter Browne is in the Division of Cattle that occurred in Plymouth in 1627. At that time, he was married to his first wife Martha (Ford) Browne and is listed with their daughter Mary Browne and Martha's children from her first marriage, John and Martha Ford. That same year he was one of the 27 "Purchasers" who signed a contract to repay the "Undertakers" who had funded their voyage to the New World.

Life was not easy in the new colony. Disease often took its toll. When an infectious fever swept the town in 1633, Peter Browne was one of its victims. He was not yet 40 years old. My 9th great grandmother Rebecca Browne was only about 2 years old and would grow up never having known her father.

Peter Browne's estate inventory was taken on 10 October 1633 and showed that he had died possessed one Bible, a felling axe, handsaw, augers and chisel, suit and cloak, Irish stockings, coat, 12 oz. of shot and a spade. He also owned 130 bushels of corn, 6 milk goats, one cow, eight sheep and a number of pigs. (As a weaver, he had owned more sheep than the norm.) On the 11th of November 1633, a court of assistants dealt with his having died intestate. It ordered that his wife Mary as administratrix pay down 15 pounds for each of Peter's two daughters from his first marriage with the balance going to Mary and the two daughters from their marriage. Those of us who are his descendants must be thankful that he at least survived his ordeal in the wilderness with Goodman and their dogs long enough to produce these daughters!


  • Caleb Johnson's Mayflower History website accessible through this link.
  •, "New England Marriages Prior to 1700"
  •, "U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s", Place: Plymouth, Massachusetts; Year: 1620; page number: 56
  • Anderson, Robert Charles, "The Great Migration Begins - Immigrants to New England 1620-1633" NEHGS 1995, Vol. 1
  • Bradford, William. "Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647", Morison, Samuel E (ed) NY 1952
  • Caffrey, Kate, "The Mayflower", 1974: 73
  • Johnson, Caleb H. "The Mayflower and Some of Her Passengers", Xlibris Corporation 2006
  • Philbrick, Nathaniel. "Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War", Penguin Group 2006
  • Roser, Susan E. "Mayflower Increasings", 2nd Edition, Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1997
  • Willison, G.F., "Saints and Strangers", New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1945
  • Pilgrim Hall Museum website

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Erick Anderson Elton (1817-1855) (Week 40) Theme: "October"

The theme this week is "October - What ancestor has a birthday or anniversary in October?"

Vang Kirke in Valdres, Oppland, Norway
Photo Courtesy John Erling Blad Wikimedia Commons

My great great grandfather Erick Anderson Elton married Sigri (Sarah) Knudsdatter Holien on 28 October 1844 in Vang, Valdres, Oppland, Norway. They would have just ten (or perhaps eleven) opportunities to celebrate their October wedding anniversary. But during that decade, they were a very busy couple and made a major decision that would change their lives and that of their descendants for all time.

Vang Church Marriage Records for 1844 showing
Erick and Sigri's 28 October wedding (detail shown above, highlighted in pink)
The marriage record shows that Erick was 28 at the time of his marriage and that his father's name was Anders Erickson. Erick's birth record in the Norwegian church records has him born 12 January 1817 and baptised 26 January 1817 at Øye i Vang.

Øye i Vang in Valdres, Oppland, Norway
Photo courtesy John Erling Blad, Wikimedia Commons

When Erick married Sarah, he became step-father to her 3 year-old son Hans Asbjornson Holien. (Sarah had given birth to a second son before their marriage, a boy named Henry Evenson, but he had either died or was being raised by someone else.) They soon added to their family before their first wedding anniversary when their daughter Synner (Susan) Holien was born 12 July 1845 and then another daughter Annie (my great grandmother) was born 14 March 1849. One final daughter Sigrid was born in 1852 but died within the year. Her death may have provided the final impetus for Erick and Sarah to do some soul-searching and make a major change in their lives.

The 1850's were times of great change in Norway. Every spring, shiploads of settlers from all over Norway headed across the Atlantic Ocean. The Vang area emptied out to the point where in 1920 its population was fewer than 2000 people. Tens of thousands of Norwegians were leaving for opportunities in America and Erick and Sarah soon joined that exodus.  The "utflyttede" (moving out) portion of the church records details the departure of the family for America on 10 April 1854: Erich Andersen age 38, Sigrid Knudsdtr age 39, Sannava age 11, Anne age 5, Plar Aslynsen age 13, and Sigrid Anderstr age 24. Although the names are a bit "off", presumably the children are Susan, Anne and Hans. Sigrid Andersdtr was Erick's younger sister who moved with them to America.

Location of Vang, Oppland, Norway marked with red pin
Image from Google Earth

Before leaving for America, Erick sold the Eltun farm to Trond Iversson Eltun who was married to another of Erick's sisters, Anne. After Trond's death, Anne continued to run the farm. The same farm exists to this day, now called Teigen.

By the time the Eltons sailed to America, their port of arrival most likely would have been Quebec even though the desired destination was the American Midwest. To reach this destination, Erick and the two women and three children probably would have gone by boat down the Saint Lawrence River from Quebec to Montreal and then taken a canal boat on the Welland Canal (completed just a few years earlier) to Lake Ontario, across Lake Ontario to Buffalo and then sailed the Great Lakes to the Midwest. (A railroad connecting Quebec and Detroit wasn't in operation until the year after their immigration.)

Points in the likely journey taken by Erick and Family in 1854
Image from Google Earth

The family first located in Iowa where Erick and Sarah would have celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary during their first October in America. They then moved to Goodhue County, Minnesota. Although we don't know their specific Iowa location, Goodhue County had many Norwegian settlers who moved there from Washington Prairie, Iowa, in 1855.

It would appear that Erick was either lumbering or clearing the Minnesota land for farming when he met his death by being crushed under a tree. This accident was a tragedy for the entire family who were left without brother, husband and father. It isn't clear how the family made ends meet since Sarah never did remarry. Sadly, she and Erick had celebrated so few 28 October wedding anniversaries.

Erick is buried in a small rural cemetery, now abandoned, near Kenyon, Minnesota. His plain marker indicates simply that he died in the Fall of 1855.

Gravesite of Erik Anderson Eltun who died Fall 1855
Photo courtesy Dave Vangsness from Find a Grave website

Old Hauge Cemetery, now abandoned, near Kenyon, Minnesota
Photo Courtesy Dave Vangsness from Find a Grave website


  • Norwegian kirkebøker (church records) for Vang, Oppland, Norway accessed online at digitalarkiverket
  • Bygdebøk for Elton Farm at Vang, Valdres - information provided by
  • LDS microfilms 125645, 125646
  • "Eltun-manuskriptet" provided by Mona Dolen to Astrid Jorgenson of Swift Current, Saskatchewan in 1996 (copy held by author)
  • Family History Library, Salt Lake City, "Research Outline - Norway" 
  • "The Valdris Book", 1920 accessed online on 1 October 2015 through this link