Wednesday, July 13, 2011



by Eugene H. Halverson

Finding our Danish ancestors has been very difficult at the best, Farm Names are easy, Patronomic Names without farms are very difficult and then we have the picking and choosing of names after an ancestor arrived at Elis Island and again in Utah. 

Christian Peter Chrstensen Boel gave up his patronymic name changed his farm name from Bol to Boel.  His children were all Christiansens by their Mother's oun records changed their name to Petersens or Boels and even Bole.   Christian Boel's sister who was a Christensen became a not a Pedersen but a Peterson like the rest.   Most all took the Anglisized version of a Danish name to seem more like an American.  For generations we have been adding "sen" to the given name of the father to obtain the surname of the child, "Patronymic naming"  Swedes add son or dotter to the given name.  Sen and datter are used by Danes and Norwegians, the Anglisized Name follows the Swedish version.  The part I can't understand is that the Norwegians and the Danes both hated Sweden and England because of the many wars they fought against these countries.    

In Runic times about 500 A.D. a baby was given a name to describe a quality or characteristic.  For example Ragvald means "he who is mighty with power."  Ragvalt was once the name of my Grandfathers farm in Finland.  They were quite content with these old Gods, they had protected them from all other Gods and enemies.  The farm was named “HOLMS” so now Holms was added to the ever changing Patronymical names.  But first we were Bertil’s until Erik’s unmarried son (a “drang) fell in love with his master’s daughter and inherited a part or all the Kock Farm.  Then we were Kocks for a few generations.  It works the other way too.  When the landowners son married the maid, son rises up in the world.  So my grandfather married his “piga” (maid) at Holms.  In those days there were masters and serfs (drang’s and piga’s).

Then came the first millennium of the Christian Era when all of Scandinavia was Christianized.  It was no easy matter to convert these heathens to Christianity.  It took many kings and Saints from all over Europe and Scandinavia to do this.  Saint Olaf, King of Norway complained bitterly of being shot at by day and his ships sunk by spells at night.  People knew if you were a Finn, you were a wizard.  The old Pagan Gods, Trolls, spells and the power of words are now gone and forgotten.  The peasants on Grandfathers farm got the message when seven of them were burnt as witches.  The Ragvalt Farm is now called the Holms Farm.  All of the people in all of Scandinavia also had to change their names, by law they soon had the people named for one of the Christian Saints in the Bible, "The Patronymical Laws".

By using the Scandinavian variations of one of these saints, my great grandfather Peder Halvorson could be called Petrus, Peder, Pater, Pehr, Par, Per, Pierre and Petter, all names of the same Saint.  Peder Halvorsen  was called, Peder, Peter, Pehr and Per. 

In a few centuries, there were so many people with the same name, it was now fashionable to add a fixed family name to the patronymical name.  A farm name was the most popular, and if the family moved from the farm, they sometimes left it there.  Our Bouet (Bovet) name was found on a plaque in the Saeby Church.  The name came from Bovetgard (Bouet Farm). on the island of Laeso.

We had many farm names;  Aagaard, Grontved, Starholm, Kul, Moller, Bouet, Holms, Kock, Murkais, Hagglof, Kneck, Ohlis, Nygard, Norrgard, Bol or Boel, Twede and Smidt.  There were also combinations of Farm Names, like
Hagglof-Kneck, Kock-Holms and Murkais-Pahis.  Some had real meaning and some had no meaning.  The Bov in Bovet means shoulder.  Holms: small island.  Kock: cook.  Mur in Murkais: wall.  Nygard: new farm.  Norrgard: north farm.  Bol: for the bowl shaped puddle on the hill.  Twede: for a town in Denmark.  Smidt: a Landlord. 

The eldest son inherited the wealth and the name of the Farm the others it seems were sent on their way when they became of age if they were no longer needed.

There were only a small number of our immigrating ancestors who kept their original names.  Only a handful stood up to the pressures and kept the our Norwegian and Danish names.  The idea was to blend in, not to have foreign names, customs or traditions.  The great gatherings of the Danes or the celebrations of the Swedish-Finns are gone.  Can't we be Americans and remember who we are and where we came from?  At one time there was great pressures placed on the immigrants to conform in the name of patriotism. 

In New Zealand they love their country but they still seem to remember their past.  The sons of Peder Halvorsen kept their Danish naming systems and customs.  Our true name is “Pedersen” but they have Petersons because of the English culture there.  They still have many Scandinavian clubs flourishing from Dunedin to Auckland.  They teach Scandinavian language classes and folk dancing.  Good Kiwis find their heritage gives them an extra dimension of which they are immensely proud.  Colin Peterson has sent me newspapers accounts when more than 500 descendents of Scandinavian settlers made a nostalgic pilgrimage to Mauriceville West to pay homage to their ancestors and to remember the deeds and sufferings of their past.  They built and then burned a replica Viking ship, a funeral pyre of the olden days.  Each descendent threw his flaming torch into the ship. 

Sandra Pedersen, Granddaughter of Halvor Pedersen of New Zealand, said they have kept up the traditions.  Her Father is Halvor Albert Pedersen and her brother is Halvor Thomas Pedersen but is the father of three girls. 

Who in our family can cook a Danish or Finnish dinner or desert?  It's not too late, let's remember!  I am only now learning the songs, customs, words, etc. of my Danish heritage.  Most of the customs and traditions that were passed down to me were from my mother's side.  I can only remember bits and pieces of my Danish heritage from visiting with my Grandmother Halverson.  It seems as though the women folk are the ones who retain all the wonderful traditions and stories of the past.  I did not have nor did I know of anything about my Danish Heritage.  I was amazed to find that Aunt Mary Halverson Bowen and her daughters were still singing old Danish songs such as "Thomas da maus".  This is a silly and lively song or a poem about a cat and some rats in the house.  The Danish people do seem to be a carefree and fun-loving people.  The girls are still using some of grandmother's cookie recipes. 

Leona Ashby Lazio, Aunt Myrtle's daughter, has a tape of her mother and Uncle Jim speaking in Danish and telling stories of their childhood.  In this tape was a Danish word my grandmother said when she was angry.  It was stronger than the "darn" she used in English.

Aunt Mary and her children promised to send me a tape of Danish songs and some Danish words, greetings, goodbyes and sayings.  Of all Grandma's children, only James, Myrtle and Mary learned the Danish language.   Aunt Mary said;  "Only when the wife controlled the purse-strings in the family, did the family prosper and become wealthy".  Truer words were never spoken: read the story of Peder and all of his children to see for yourself.  We don't find many wealthy Danes in our family.  It's almost like the old farm Nisses or trolls steal it at night as told in old Danish folklore. 

NORWAY MIGRATION                   by Andrew Halverson

"There was a time in Norway when the harvests were poor and the population had doubled.  In order to avert the impending famine the King readied his ships and scattered many of his people to parts of Europe.  Our family journeyed to Denmark at this time, the exact time of migration is only a guess. 

NORWAY MIGRATION                   by Niels Halvorsen

"During the years 1800 the Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and sometimes Iceland were nearing starvation caused by long, biter cold winters.  Norway suffered a worse disaster than the other countries.  Two or three ships were loaded with starving Norwegians and dumped on the isles of Denmark, a disastrous blow to the Danes who were already in deep trouble.  Peder Halvorsen was one of that group.  

KNUD ELSIG said:  Helle's father, Christen Halvorsen, was born in 1707 when Norway was part of Denmark.  Norwegian History may give an approximate date of the immigration.  Knud Olsen Elsig, a relation of Peder's sister, Maren Halvorsen Knudsen, in a letter dated 20 April 1974 from Sabey Denmark said "Per (Peder) Halvorsen's grandfather came from Norway.  He had a family in Albak Denmark.
Halvor (Halvorsen) is a Norwegian name and one has only to follow its origins to Norway.  Peders's father was Halvor Christensen, his mother was Helle Christensen, and Helle's father was Christen Halvorsen.  Our family name actually came from the mother's side of the family with the Patronymic naming system.  They were proud of our Norwegian roots and wanted to remember it because there was a child named Halvor for the next six generations.  Aunt Mariah Halvorsen Jensen was the last one here in America to name a child Halvor; her eldest song was given the name Peter Halvor.  He was the father of Mina Briggs.  I'll have to talk this tradition over with my daughter, Diane.

Those who know Norwegians can identify them by their looks and demeanor, Peder Halvorsen looks like a Norwegian and so did my father, Harvey. 

Eugene Name   Finland celebrates “Eugen Day” every year on the 16th of June.   In 1904  Eugen Shauman killed The Governor-General Nikoliai Bobrikoff the Czars ruler of the Grade Duchy of Finland.  This was a grand old celebration, Finns who even smiled were arrested and charged with “unmotivated happiness”, then there were wide spread strikes when everyone just stayed home, trains, busses no longer moved.   Not even ox carts or horse moved.  On my trip to Finland where ever I went, they told me about Eugen Day and were happy for me.   Bobrikoff was the one who forced all my mother’s family to immigrate to America.   There are 4 Eugenes in America, I was the first.  

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