I claim no Portuguese ancestors, but the Portuguese do have such a perfect word for this strong emotion - "saudade". Saudade describes a deep nostalgic or melancholic longing for an absent person or place that one loves deeply. Sometimes it can include the knowledge that you will never see that person or place again. I think it could even extend to family members one has never met. It can include terrible sadness and feelings of loss or absence, but it can also include the recollection of happy times past and bittersweet joyful recollections. If you have experienced it, you know that it is a much stronger emotion than merely missing someone; perhaps it most closely resembles a bad case of homesickness.
The closest thing in Norwegian (the mother language of my great grandmother Anna Elton) might be lengsel etter fravaerende familie.
|Anna Elton c1890|
When my paternal grandparents decided to uproot and move across the border to homestead in Saskatchewan, Canada, it meant they were too far from their own parents in Minnesota to have them involved in their children's lives. The result was that my Dad only met only one of his 4 grandparents and that was during one single visit to Minnesota when he was just 4 years old. The grandparent he met was Anna Elton, his paternal grandmother ("bestemor" in Norwegian, or even more specifically, "farmor" to distinguish his father's mother from his mother's mother who would be his "mormor").
Anna (sometimes called "Annie") Ericksdatter Elton (sometimes spelled "Ellent" or "Elson" or "Eltun") was born in Vang, Valdres, Oppland, Norway on 14 March 1849.
|Pin marks location of Vang, Oppland|
Google Earth image
She was baptised 9 April 1849 at the local Lutheran church at Vang. The church was at that time quite new, having been completed just 10 years earlier. The church records also show her being vaccinated for smallpox on 19 September 1851 at the age of 2 3/4 years.
Photo Courtesy John Erling Blad on Wikimedia Commons
|Øye i Vang in Valdres, Oppland, Norway|
Photo courtesy John Erling Blad, Wikimedia Commons
Her father died tragically the following year after being crushed by a falling tree. Times must have been very difficult for Sarah and her young family. We don't have any details of how they survived, but it has been suggested by a descendant of Erick's sister Sigrid Andrisdatter (who had come to America with her brother's family and who also became a young widow) that the sisters-in-law probably banded together for support. No doubt saudade was a common emotion for missing both their deceased husbands as well as their traditional family support systems back in Norway. But the women would have had to soldier on, day after day doing what it took to raise their children. This was the situation in which Anna grew up to young womanhood.
It appears that Anna gave birth to a son Erstein (or Steve) at Canon Falls, Renville County, MN in September of 1868 when she was 19. Unlike the Norwegian church records, American records do not provide us with the name of Steve's father. (The only surname ever associated with him was "Bardahl", the name of Anna's future husband. Even Steve's death certificate names Hans and Anna as his parents. However, it is highly unlikely that Hans was Steve's birth father since there would have been no reason for him not to marry Anna at the time of her pregnancy rather than waiting until 5 years later.) (2018 updated information: Steve was born 8 September 1868, named for his father Osten Ostenson. He was baptized 20 December 1868 according to US Evangelical Lutheran Church Records, Transcribed and obtained from Ancestry.ca , record 10 for 1868 births and baptisms, Holden Lutheran Church, Goodhue Co., Minnesota.)
In 1873, Anna married Hans Bardahl in Goodhue County, MN. The witnesses to their wedding give us some idea that Anna had been among extended family: her older half-brother Hans Asbjornsen was one witness and the surname given for the other witness was Elson, quite possibly also a relative or at least a close friend from Norway. The newlyweds soon moved to Renville County where they farmed and started their family.
Anna would give birth to 10 children over her lifetime, 7 of whom survived infancy. Sarah was born in 1876, my grandfather John in 1879, Ole in 1883, Susie in 1886, Hanna in 1887 and Ella in 1890.
|Bardahl Family late 1890's: Top row left to right - Hannah, Ole, John, Susie;|
Seated left to right - Sarah, Hans, Ella and Anna; Steve is absent
The same year that youngest daughter Ella was born, the family moved to Grant County where they farmed 3 miles south of Barrett, MN. Upon their retirement in 1918, Hans and Anna moved into the village where they were living when two of their young adult daughters, Susie and Hannah, died tragically in the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Four years later Hans died too.
|Anna age 81 with sons Ole and John, 1930|
This was the only time that Anna met some of John's children
and she appears delighted to be with two of her three sons
|Kenneth Bardahl (age 4) lower left in front of his oldest sister Joetta;|
2 Christenson cousins on right side during the visit to Minnesota in 1930
|Anna Elton Bardahl summer 1930 with some of her grandchildren|
|Anna Elton Bardahl July 1935|
Anna passed away 77 years ago this week on Saturday 3 December 1938 just before midnight at the Christenson home. Her death was attributed to old age (she was aged 89 years, 8 months and 19 days). Her obituary said that she and her husband Hans had been active members of the Lien Lutheran Church and that "their home radiated with true friendship and with a hospitality which their hosts of friends will never forget." Funeral services were held at the Lien Lutheran Church on the afternoon of Wednesday 7 December. The Lien choir sang "Sweetly Resting" and Karen Samuelson sang "Den store hvide flok". She is buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery near Barrett, Grant County, Minnesota beside her Hans.
|Headstone for Hans and Anna (Elton) Bardahl|
Photo by Ken/Elinor Bardahl
- Ancestry.com: Minnesota Death Index, 1908-2002; Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Records 1875-1940; Minnesota Find a Grave Index 1800-2012; 1930 United States Federal Census
- State of Minnesota Marriage Licence and Certificate for Hans Bardahl and Anna Elton
- State of Minnesota Certificate of Death 4733 for Anna Bardahl
- Kirkeboker for Vang, Oppland, Norway (microfilm 307321) and Norwegian digital archives