Genealogy Report Oscar M. Hagen

Generation Three

Ole Larsen and Goro Pedersdatter

Grandparents of Oscar Melvin Hagen

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A short history of the Tofte farms in Gulbransdalen, Sør Fron Parish, Oppland County, Norway.

Before we start we need to get some idea of the history of the Tofte farms. These are the farms where Ole O. Hagen, my dad's father, (then known as Ole Olsen Toftehagen) and all of his known male ancestors lived and worked as cotter's.
(Note: In Norway a cotter is a renter who is given a cottage and piece of land - for this he pays rent or works on the main farm as payment. This he does in addition to working on his own little piece of land.)

(Note: All of the information below was translated by Arne Sivertson from Stavanger, Norway. Arne noticed a message of mine on the Internet requesting information about the Tofte farms in Sør Fron Parish, Oppland County, Norway. He translated a history of the Tofte farms from a book, "Gardar og slekter i Fron", (Farms and Families in Fron), written by Einar Hovdhaugen. I found this book through interlibrary loan and copied the necessary pages. It was written in the old Norwegian but Arne was able to figure it out although he said that he was not absolutely sure of some of translation. Arne is an old pensioner (his words) who lost his wife in 1992 and does this for people that are trying to find their ancestors in Norway. (Arne has no relationship with our family.)


Owners and users.

In letters from the middle age, we are hearing about several persons at Tofte, even if we can not place them into any family-connection. But from what we knew, we have reason to believe that in the middle age, powerful and honourable people were living at Tofte. We have a letter from 1293, that certainly is missing, but we know the contents of a letter from about 1340 that confirms this first letter.

In 1293 duke Håkon Magnusson protected Eystein Gyduson's son Bjørn and wife Ingegerd with children and property, against all illegal road-traffic to the Tofte fishing-water, and enjoined the royal commissioner to assist them. We can be sure that it was not common people that the duke took care of.

Eystein Gyduson must have been living on Tofte, and Engebret Haugen might be right when he expects that he was the brother of the prominent knight Sir Guttorm Gyduson. They are using their mother's name (Gydu/ Gyda) so there is reason to believe that she must have been a woman of special honourable descent.

In 1318 we hear that Eystein Raggad and his brother Kolbjørn divided their inheritance at Tofte. They were probably a part of Eystein Gyduson's family.

In Aslak Bolt's rent-roll we're hearing of a Guttorm on Tofte who has sold a farm to the archbishop. And from about 1450 we're hearing that Olav Alvson celebrated a wedding at Tofte. He was not a common man either.

This remote and big farm far up on the northern mountainside seems to have been a seat for people of high descent. That too makes the idea of a chapel at Tofte more likely.

According to Oluf Rygh (the author of Norwegian Farm names) the name Tofte means pure and simple building site. The oldest known name is the plural form Toftom.

Tofte is a very ancient farm, and has its origin far back in prehistoric time. A farm with only one family, isolated and powerful, with a wide view over the valley. Tofte was a big farm. Totally the farm had a "skyld", (Tax or amount that the farm was worth), that is a basic standard for landed property's mutual valuation, of 17 and a half hud.

(A note from Arne: Taxes were usually paid in nature, in this case the hides of livestock. In other parts of the country, the standard was in fish.)

(Note from DCH - I later found the following definition on the Internet.

Hud and Skinn -- The words for hides and skins, i.e., tanned leather, deserve special mention. Leather in itself appears to have been a trade commodity used as it was for so many finished products from shoes to harness, to furniture, to book covers. Wealthy merchants are known to have covered their walls with engraved and painted leather panels. One hud (cow hide) was equal to 12 skinn, a skinn was usually a Kalvskinn (calf hide) to 6 geitskinn (goat hides).

(Continuing with the translation.)

At that time there was only one farm Tofte, and early in the middle age, the farm must have been among the biggest in the valley. Tofte is mentioned in several farm records from the year 1318. By that time the farm had been divided, at least into TofteUppigard and TofteNigard. TofteUtistugun is of younger partition. We're hearing about nedre or nedste (lower) Tofte in 1318 and 1366. In any case, as early as 1528 there are 3 Tofte-farms. In 1604 Tofte still consists of 3 full farms.

(Note from DCH - Uppigard/Oppigard means upper farm, Nigard is lower farm. I have never received a good translation of the word Utistugun. Arne thought it might mean the following - "I am a little unsure of the meaning of Utistugun, but I believe this word means a farm outside, or shortly separated from the other farms." Later I received a translation that said it meant the main headquarters of the three farms or the farm where the owner of all the farms lived.  I put the question on the Internet, where I used the name "Udistuen". This is another name that was used in the census. I received two replies from Norwegian listers:
Stugu is an old form of stue, which especially in earlier times meant a small house/cottage.( s. also means a living room) 
Udi = Uti ( outside - furher off) I take it that Udistuen was a small farm situated some distance from the main 
farm. Especially in the 1800's the system of dependant small holders or crofters ( husmenn) was widespread. The crofters were 
obliged to do seasonal work for the farmer ( who owned the land) but were allowed to keep a cow and a few sheep. They usually had
a small patch of land for themselves, where they grew potatoes and vegetables. 
I can't say for sure if Udistuen in Tofte once was a small farm (husmannsplass) but the name gives me that association. 

Second reply:
Hello ! This is not easy to translate, so may be an explanation will do the job.
"Udistuen" is a kind of danish, or the norwegian used at the time the census'es were taken. "Utistugun" as used by Einar Hovdhaugen is dialect and describes the same fact as the Udistuen.
On a farm there were many houses, and as the generations grew up and started their own families, they builded new houses and gave them new names to indicate the position to the old or main house. If the new house were located higher then the old house, they called it something like Oppigarden / Upperfarm or Nerigarden / Lowerfarm, and if it was located in a  direction Østigarden - Vestgarden - Sørgarden - Nordgarden.
I guess that "Utistugun" just means "out in the (new) house (or farm).

Back to the translation of the Tofte Farms.

Much of the Tofte land is quite steep, but is well situated on the slopes facing southwards. The farm has been subject to landslip, especially a big fall of ground in 1789. Also the farm has sometimes suffered by scarcity of water. In 1865 it is mentioned that they had to drive for water a "fjordungsmil"

(Note from Arne: The word "fjordungsmil" I believe is a certain distance, but the word is unknown to me.)

( Note from DCH - I did find a similar word in old Norwegian weights and measures. It is as follows -- fjerding(er) = a quarter of a mil, then as now. Now equal to 2 and one half kilometers or 1.5625 English miles.)

Hiorthøy writes in 1785 about Tofte "that long ago there had been a chapel, (because) of the many mans bone found on a certain place on the farm." There is no other factual evidence of the existence of a chapel on Tofte. It is not described any place, and Oluf Rygh considers it to be a doubtful question. But without further research we can not dismiss it. If it is really a fact, then it might have been a private chapel. We know that powerful and distinguished people were living at Tofte in the middle age, and it is not inconceivable that they would have built their own chapel. (On my trip to Norway in July, 2000, I was shown the place where a small chapel had been built. It was apparently used by the Tofte farm people and other farms in the region for worship.)

All three Tofte farms had a hand-mill in 1668 and 1723. All three farms kept cattle and sheep in the summer at a chalet (Toftesetra) in 1668.

(Note from DCH - This chalet was the seter (summer pasture) for the Tofte farms. This seter was very high in the mountain. Cattle were taken here during the summer because the hay and grass on the farms were needed for harvest and food in the winter. They could not be used for grazing or pasture. Only old foundations of the Tofesetra remain. Many seter's are used as summer homes in the present day since better farming methods allow them to keep their cattle on the main farm. The expense of insuring sanitary methods required at the present time in the production of milk, butter and cheese would be out of the question.)

Nigard Tofte has a hop-garden in 1668 (used in the brewing of beer). Uppigard Tofte and Nigard Tofte have a cotter each in 1723. In 1801 Uppigard Tofte has 4 cotters, Nigard Tofte 2 cotters and Utistugun Tofte 5 cotters and Nigard Tofte which is now divided into 4 farm-parts, had 2 cotters in all.

(Note by DCH -- Ole Larsen was probably one of the cotters on Utistugun Tofte when his son Ole Olsen Toftehagen was born.)

Utistugun Tofte became a sanatorium for tuberculous people (suffering from TB). The wholesale dealer Johan Sørensen bought Utistugun Tofte from Hans Olsen Listad in 1895 for Nkr. 9.600, and started a sanatorium management. Sørensen became a big landowner in the Tofte region. Besides Utistugun Tofte, he also was the owner of the farms N.Flåtå, S.Flåtå and Borolia south. 

(During my visit in July 2000 I was told by Arild Larshaugen: Only a part of the Utistugun Tofte was used for the sanatorium. This sanatorium was a sort of rest home for wealthy Norwegians whether they were ill or not. The Germans took it over during WW II. According to the story by Arild Larshaugen, the Germans accidentally burned the place down. It is now owned by a private party and there is a residence there.)

My Norway trip in July, 2000 and the  impression of the valley and the Tofte farms. Gudbrandsdalen (Gudbrands Valley) stretches from Sel in the North to Lillehammer in the South. The Lågen River is the main water course through the valley. Hundorp, (district headquarters) and Sør Fron Parish are in the center of the valley on that river. When you stand at Hundorp and look South across the river, the ground rises sharply to a height of approximately 1000 meters. This is called the Langlia (long mountainside or hillside) and runs as far as the eye can see and beyond east and west. On this hillside there are several small farms. Near the 800 meter elevation is the location of the Tofte farms. The farms, Tofte Nedre, Tofte Oppigard, and Tofte Udistuen (as it is called in the 1865 and 1875 census). In the 1900 census the only farms listed are Tofte Oppigard, Tofte Nerigard (same as Nedre or Nigard), Tofthagen and Tofte stenbrud ( stenbrud is translated as "stone quarry", so this probably not a farm but a place where they sold rock and gravel). It is my impression that Tofte Udistuen is no longer considered a part of the Tofte farms. 

The Tofte farms are probably the highest up the mountain of any of the other farms. The farm buildings are very well painted and the entire area appears very clean. Each farm has a house, a barn and 4 to 5 outbuildings. The buildings for each farm are constructed so that they appear to form a rectangle around a small open area. This arrangement is called a "tun", and is pronounced somewhat like "town". What surprised  me is the fact that the three farm tuns are quite close together. As I stood on a hill above the farms, Tofte Nedre was the lowest farm, next to it at a slightly higher elevation were the buildings of Tofte Oppigard and just to the left of that was the tun of Tofte Udistuen or Tofthagen. As in the old days the cash crops appear to be dairy and wool where the milk is shipped to a creamery that produced the milk, butter and cheese for resale. The work on the farms is accomplished by tractor, and at the incline that they must operate on it appeared to be very dangerous. The hay that they cut and bail was all in large round bales. I also saw a lot of oats that was grown. I would have liked to have had about a week to walk around this area and speak with the farmers but time was too short. In any event I was in the area where my grandfather had played as a child and worked as a young man. Perhaps another trip.

Ole Larsen, Birth to Marriage.

I do not know for sure where Ole Larsen was born but strongly believe that it was on one of the Tofte farms. I could not find a birth or baptism record for Ole Larsen. The first filmed records in the Church of Latter Day Saints library for the Sør Fron Parish did not start until 1799. When a search for earlier church records was attempted I was informed that the church where this parish had worshipped prior to the above date had burned and all of the records were destroyed in the fire. Ole's birth year was established from his confirmation record which was found in the Sør Fron Church records. He was confirmed (probably sometime in May), in the year 1809. His age was given as 15 and he lived on the farm "Toftehagen". From now on he would be known as Ole Larsen Toftehagen and it would remain that way unless he moved to another farm.

To understand this we need to learn something about Norwegian farm names. The following was written by Johan I. Borgos. Johan is a Norwegian educator who specializes in the history of Norway and especially in the history of the Sami, the native inhabitants of Norway. These articles are excerpts from Johan's writings on "Norway Farm Names".

"Many Americans have a Norwegian farm name as their surname. Farm names are important clues for the genealogist, but they also carry lots of interesting cultural history with them.

First some information about Norwegian farm structure: In earlier centuries most of the Norwegians lived on farms, and each farm had a name. A few hundred years ago all the farms were listed in a land register ('matrikkel" in Norwegian) and given a number. Each rural district ('kommune" or herred" in Norwegian) had it's own list, where the farms were numbered from 1 and upwards.

The numbering and the spelling of the farm name may have changed with revisions of the land registers, but with only minor exceptions the farms were the same units. The numbers are called 'gardnummer" in Norwegian, often abbreviated to 'gnr" (gardnummer is 'farm number" in English). Farms that were listed in these old registers are called 'matrikkelgarder", in English I will call them 'main farms".

Originally there may have been only one family on each main farm, but as the population increased, the land had to be divided between many families. Each holding is called a 'bruk" in Norwegian, (bruk means 'a small farm, part of a larger farm") and just before 1900 the authorities had to create a secondary numbering ('bruksnummer" or only 'bnr.") for these holdings. If a main farm were divided into five parts, they got the numbers from 1 to 5. 'Gnr. 7, bnr. 4" consequently means 'holding number 4 on main farm number 7". In addition, the holding got a name.

On many main farms, there were cotter's holdings.

(Note from DCH -- For some reason Norwegians think 'cotter" is a normal English word. I had to look it up. It means 'a tenant farmer". The Norwegian name for a tenant farmer is 'husmann.").

The cotters used land belonging to the numbered holdings, therefore their small places didn't get their own number. As a rule they had a name, but it could easily change. The farm names that made the transition into family names as a rule once belonged to a main farm, but many numbered holdings and some cotter's holdings also have produced surnames."

Ole Larsen's father was a husmann or cotter and was living on the Toftehagen holding of probably the main farm "Tofte Nigard". He probably continued working on this same farm. The farming community in Norway was made up of several categories of people as we will see later. We will only talk about the "husmann class" here. Much of the work done on the main farm was done by the "husmannsfolk", (anybody that was a husmann or was in their family. The husmann was provided with a small dwelling, maybe a cow, sheep, or a few goats, and if he was "husmann med jord", (cotter with land), a small plot of ground. In return for all this he must give of his labor and/or a fee. But it was not only the labor of the husmann but the labor of his wife and children, that was required. When the husmann's children reached the age of 8 or 9 years old they were given chores, such as, herding sheep, goats, or cattle in return for their food. When they reached the age of 12 years they were normally given both food and clothing. At the age of confirmation (14 or 15) they were considered adults. Then they would hire out as servants or hired hands on a farm usually until they married.

I have no idea what Ole Larsen did in between the time of his confirmation and date of marriage. In the church files for November 6, 1824 there is a record of marriage to one Goro Pedersdtr. (dtr. is the Norwegian abbreviation for datter/ daughter.)

The Marriage of Ole Larsen and Goro Pedersdatter.

Ann Gesme writes in her book, "Between Rocks and Hard Places".

"It is said that in olden times in Norway a bachelor was unknown and an impossibility. Not only did a man need a wife to bear children who would grow to help with work on the farm, he needed a wife to prepare food, spin, weave, knit, sew clothes, milk the cows and goats, shear the sheep, make hay, and perform other sundry duties. Most people married, and rarely was the marriage broken except by death. Life became extremely difficult, if not impossible, without a mate; so when disease or childbirth claimed a spouse, the survivor was quick to find a replacement."

Be that as it may, Norwegians like everyone else had to go through the phases of meeting, courting, proposing and the ceremony of marriage. Like any country there were customs that dealt with these phases. Normally young men found their mates among the community where they lived. They could not meet in church during confirmation or other church functions because at that location boys and girls were separated and sat apart. I would imagine though that there may have been some time after the various church functions that they did some socializing.

It may have been at the mountain farm when the young man would bring provisions to the women that were working there. During the summer, wives, daughters and young women servants took the livestock up into the mountain pastures. This spot was called the "seter". Here they watched over the herds, milked the cows and goats, churned butter and and made cheese. On weekends the men from the farms would bring supplies to the seter, spend the weekend partying, and then return to the main farm with the foodstuffs that had been produced during the week. According to research many of the boy-girl relationships were made during the summer at the seter.

At other times a person referred to as the "wooing man" was used to assist in the courtship. The young man's father might have this person talk to the girl's father to attempt to make a match. Other courting was done at night right in the home of the young lady. This was called "night courting" and is very similar to the New England procedure called "bundling". Especially during the winter if a young man came to call on a young lady he might be invited to join her in the bed. She would be clothed on the bed. The man might be invited to remove his jacket and shoes and climb under the covers. Of course, the only reason that this was done was because there was little or no heat in homes during the evening hours.

Even though most people married it was not that easy for persons within the rural community. By tradition if two people were engaged, they could not become married until a cottage became vacant. They would remain on the farm as house or farm servants, and being engaged they actually lived together as partners. This resulted in many illegitimate children, which was not considered wrong, morally or lawfully in most parishes. If the child was born before the marriage ceremony it became legitimate when the couple married.

Ole Larsen Toftehagen and Goro Pedersdatter Ode (hard to read, but probably Odenmoenhaugen) were married November 6, 1824 . On the church record, Ole's age is listed as 30 years and Goro as 25. The wedding was held at the church. There is a column listed in the church record for Bonder. Ann Gesme states that this word meant owner or freeholder of a farm. I would expect that in this case it would mean the main farm that Ole Larsen worked on at the time of his marriage. The name in this column of the record is Paul Tofte. It was sometimes a custom that the owner of the farm would give a wedding celebration to persons that had served on the farm for a long period of time. (Note: Einar Hovdhaugen's book "Farms and Families in Fron" indicates that in 1824 a Paul Tofte was the owner of Tofte Utistugun.) The name Ole Larsen Toftehagen indicates that Ole Larsen was living on the Toftehagen farm when he was married.

There is no document that describes the wedding celebration that was given for Ole and Goro, but, Metcalfe in his "The Oxonian in Thelemarken" describes one which he observed on a farm. This is the celebration after the wedding ceremony at the church.

"At that hour, the cry of 'They come! They come!" saluted my ears. Down the steep hill leading to the house there came, at a slow pace, first a carriole with kjøgemester (master of ceremonies) standing on the board behind, holding the reins over the head of the bridesmaid, a fat old lady with a voluminous pile of white upon her head, supposed to be a cap. Next came a cart, containing two spruce young maidens, who wore caps of dark check with broad strings of red satin riband. Their jackets were of dark blue cloth, and skirt of the same material and colour, with a narrow scarlet edging. Over the jacket was a colored shawl, the ends crossed at the waist, and pinned tight. Add to this a large pink apron, and in their hands a white kerchief. After these came a carriole with four little boys and girls clustered upon it.

But the climax is now reached. The next vehicle, a cart, contains the main actors in the show, the bride and bridegroom, who are people of slender means. He is evidently somewhat the worse, or better, for liquor, and is dressed in the short blue seaman's jacket and trousers, which have become common in Norway wherever the old national costume has disappeared. The bride sat like the image of the goddess Cybele; on her head a turret of pasteboard, covered with red cloth, with flamboyant mouldings of spangles, beads, and gold lace; miserable counterfeit of the fine old Norwegian bridal crown of silver gilt! Nodding over the turret was a plume of manifold feathers mixed with artificial flowers; from behind it streamed a cataract of ribands of some fifteen different tints and patterns. Her plain yellow physiognomy was unrelieved by a single lock of hair. She was further dressed in a red skirt with gold belt, a jacket of black brocade, over which was a cuirass (breast plate) of scarlet cloth shining resplendently in front with the national ornament, the Solje, a circular silver-gilt brooch, three inches in diameter, with some twenty gilded spoon-baits (fishermen will understand me) hung on to its rim. Frippery or divers sorts hung about her person. On each shoulder was an epaulet or bunch of white gauze bows, while the other ends of her arms were adorned by ruffles and white gloves.

As this wonderful procession halted in front of the door, the gallant kjøgemester advanced and lifted the bride in his arms out of the vehicle.

The kjogemester is a very ancient institution on this occasion. He is the soul of the whole festival. Without him everything would be in disorder or at a stand still. He is supposed to combine the offices of master of ceremonies, chief butler, speechifier, jester, precentor, and above all, of peacemaker."

After the wedding Lars and Goro lived and worked on the Tofte farm. I am unable to decipher where they lived on the record of baptism of their first child which we will discuss later. It appears that Lars occupation was gmd. (the abbreviation for gardsmand which meant farmer). I can read the word Tofte but not the particular spot where he worked or lived. Also I am unable to establish which farmer group he belonged to on the Tofte farm.

Johan Borgos has written an article on the various farmer groups within the community. Old Norwegian sources have met with some strange words when it comes to describing Farmer Groups. He writes:

"This text gives some simplified explanations for the terms, 'Selveier", 'leilending", 'husmann" (husmand ). What were the realities behind these terms? The difference between these terms has to do with their rights to the farming land they used. Secondly, it depends on 'where and when" - geography and time.

Selveier (pl. 'selveiere") - A "selveier" is a person who owns the farm land he or she is using, and who has a registered deed to prove the ownership. This deed is both a security and potential danger. It's a property, and in a bankruptcy it can get lost to the creditors. Back in history the Norwegian farm land was owned by the church, the crown or other landowners, but as early as 1660 a fifth of the farm land in Southern Norway had a 'selveier". The next century the 'selveier" share of the farm land increased in other parts of Norway.

Leilending (pl. 'leilendinger") - is usually translated to 'tenant farmer". The 'leilending" didn't own the farm. The right to use the land was granted through a registered lease contract. The Norwegian word for this lease contract is 'bygselbrev ', hence the word 'bygselmann", is synonymous with 'leilending". This lease was valid for 'his or her lifetime". This clause reveals a very important fact: A leilending was usually a married couple. Selveier and leilending should be treated a socially equal. In most cases a leilending could let married offspring inherit the lease, but then a new lease contract had to be registered. If a bankruptcy occurred (and it often did!) the lease contract was not treated as a property, so in most cases the leilending could continue to live there and use the land as before. The biggest threat was the death of either the husband or the wife. Since there had to be a couple on the farm, remarriages were very common in the leilending system.

Husmann (pl. 'husmenn") - the English word for 'husmann" is cotter. Behind this term you will find a very heterogeneous group, with great geographical differences and equal great changes during history. But some conditions seems to have been common for all the 'husmann":

There was a social gap between the 'husmann" and the selveier or leilending. The husmann class, however, can be seen as the solution to a difficult problem: A growing population had to make a living in a country where the land resources didn't expand at the same rate. Many couples could get a farm, but not all. The last group became husmenn. By and large the husmenn had to their disposal the poorest land resources, and they lacked any kind of permanent rights to use them. During the 1800's the husmann group grew in numbers. Their means of living didn't get any better, most of them experienced harder times. Then came a new possibility - farm land in another country. The emigration to America was heavily recruited from the husmann group.



Birth to marriage.

Goro Pedersdatter was presented for baptism by her parents December 1, 1799 at the Sør Fron church. It is impossible to decipher the names of her sponsors. From information that will be produced later, she was probably born on the farm, Odegårshaugen. The farm was located about ¼ mile from the Sør Fron Church. There were three main Oden farms, Oden, Odenmoen and Odenrud.

In 1813, most likely in the month of May, Goro was confirmed in this same church. Her age was 14, and she was living on the farm, Odegaarden (as I read the writing on the record).

Work on the farm had no gender. Girls, as well as the boys, had their chores and work to do. When Goro was confirmed in May it was also about the time that the farm was ready to move it's cattle from the farm in the valley to the mountainous grazing areas. Much of the time this was a job for the girls. The mountain farm was called a Seter and there would be a hut or cottage on the farm called the Seter hus (house). This house was usually located along a mountain stream where food could be obtained by fishing, clothing could be washed and where the cool water would have a cooling effect for the cheese and butter that was produced. A responsible woman was placed in charge of the seter, especially one who was talented in making cheese and butter. The younger girls were used to herd the cattle as they pastured. The older girls were milk maids and helped in the making of the cheese and butter. Since these farms were some distance from the main farm the entire summer was spent by these people in the mountains. On weekends, the father, boyfriends, or someone else from the farm, would bring provisions to the mountain farm and then return to the main farm with the produce that had been made the previous week. When the days became shorter and fall had arrived the entire mountain population would return to the main farm with the cattle, sheep, and goats.

If Goro was not involved with this occupation she could have been a tjeneste kvinne (woman servant) somewhere on a farm. Here just as the men servants or hired hands, she would receive food, clothing and a place to sleep. Many times the sleeping quarters was a building with a loft where they slept on straw. She may even have received a small compensation from time to time.

Just what my father's Grandmother Goro Pedersdatter did we of course do not know, however, at some point Ole met and courted Goro in a fashion that resulted in marriage.

The seven children of Ole3 Larsen and Goro Pedersdatter  were as follows: