(This page is a work in progress, and I will continue to update and add new information.)
This is about our search for Norwegian ancestors who came to the U.S. from Toten in Oppland fylke, Norway at the beginning of the twentieth century. Names include Dybdal, Hagen, Grotberg, Hagen (Rustadhagen), Mylius, and others. I share some photos from my trip to Norway in August 2014; my mother made a similar visit in 1999.
My great-grandfather Oscar Hagen (Rustadhagen) (1884-1959) married Anne Karine Dybdal (1883-1958) in Mabel, Fillmore County, Minnesota on 8 June 1905. (This is a photo of them on their 50th wedding anniversary.)
“Anne Karine Dybdal, “Annie”, was born November 7, 1883 in Kapp, Østre (East) Toten, Norway, daughter of Ingvar Pedersen Dybdal (a bricklayer) and Helene Evensdatter Grøtberg. She had brothers Hans, Ingvar, Evald, Even (who died when he was about one year old) and a sister named Petra. In Norway, a person often took the name of the farm they were born on or lived on, otherwise they may have taken their father’s name, for example, Olsen (son of Ole) or Olsdatter (daughter of Ole), or they may have opted to use their mother’s surname. Hans and Annie used the surname Dybdal while Ingvar, Evald and Petra used Grøtberg.
Oskar Olesen Rustadhagen (whom we call “Grandpa Hagen”) was born September 28, 1884 also in Kapp, Østre Toten on a farm called Rustadhagen. His parents were Ole Hansen and Ellene Marie Haavelsdatter. He had brothers Hans and Harald Olesen and sisters Palla, Olga and Martha Olesdatter. Palla (Paula) came to America and married Henry Tranum.
Østre Toten is located in a county of Norway called Oppland and is located on the western shore of Lake Mjøsa in the central area of the country. The area is mostly farm land and rolling hills; no fjords or high mountains as we see in many photos of Norway. There are mountains in other parts of Oppland but none to be seen where our grandparents came from. Gjøvik is the largest city near the area they lived in and Lillehammer is maybe an hour or so north. Many of our “cousins” still live in the Toten area.
The Grøtbergs owned much land up above Lake Mjosa and had built a number of houses on it. The relatives I visited took me to the property and pointed out certain houses where family members had lived. The houses and the land they were built on had names such as Nystuen, Skjæparud, Bergli and Frederikstad. Bergli was where Great-grandpa Dybdal lived in his later years and was one of the smaller houses. A daughter of Grandma Hagen’s sister, Petra, lives there now. She’s Mary Grøtberg, a little bit of a thing, 84 years old at the time I was there.
Grandpa Hagen’s family lived not too far away from the Grøtberg property on a smaller farm, “Rustadhagen.” I went there to visit Raidar Hagen and his wife, Karoline, who live there now. Raidar is the grandson of Grandpa Hagen’s brother, Harald. Harald’s daughter, Ester, was also there and showed me an album of photos of the family. One of those photos was of my Aunt Esther (my mother Helen’s sister) when she was about 17 years old. They showed me the stairway going up to the second floor where Grandpa Hagen had painted some decorative leaves and designs when he was younger. It was a very, very touching experience to be in the same house he lived in at one time.”
More about the couple and their emigration from Norway:
The 1900 Norwegian census shows Annie working as a seamstress/dressmaker and Oscar (the Americanized version) as a painter in Ostre Toten. Where and when they met is unknown but family lore has it that Annie’s parents disapproved of her relationship with Oscar because they felt his social status was beneath that of her family. Perhaps that’s one reason they left Norway for America.
On March 11, 1904 Anne Karine Grotberg (not sure why she used Grotberg instead of Dybdal) left Oslo on the ship Montebello for Hull, England. From what I’ve learned from information on the Internet, after arriving in Hull people took a train to Liverpool and from there boarded ships to America. Annie arrived in Boston, MA on March 25, 1904 on the Saxonia. Her traveling companion was Karen Mynvold, also from Ostre Toten. From Boston it’s assumed they went to Mabel, MN to work. I believe Annie had relatives there but I don’t know who they were.
On October 21, 1904 Oscar Ols. Rustadhagen left Oslo for Hull, England also on the Montebello. I haven’t been able to find a record of a ship carrying him to America.
Oscar and Annie were married in Mabel, MN on June 8, 1905. His name as shown on the marriage certificate was Oscar Hagen so he must have dropped the Rustad when he got to America. Witnesses to the marriage were Karen Mynvold and Erick Grotberg. No doubt he was a relative of Annie’s.
On November 30, 1905 their son Oscar Ingvar “Oskey” was born and they were living in Duluth at 222 S. 70th Ave. W. next door to Hans Ostdahl. I think Hans may have been Oscar’s uncle. According to the city directory for that year Oscar’s occupation was “painter”.
A year later, on November 14, 1906 Helen Mary was born; November 12, 1907 Olney Harold arrived; and on November 24, 1908 they had twins. One of the twins was a boy they named Ewald who died on February 9, 1909 from starvation according to his death certificate. They were living in Proctor, MN, a small town near Duluth, at the time. While I haven’t found birth certificates for either of the twins I got the date of birth from Ewald’s death certificate. I only know that we were told Grandma Hagen had twins and they both died as babies; one shortly after birth and the other from drowning. I have yet to find a death certificate for the other twin.
The Duluth city directory for 1909-1910 shows Oscar living in Proctor but I can’t find him in the 1910 census there. I did find an Oscar Hagen living in Duluth as a boarder in a household where there were other boarders who had come from Norway, but Annie and the children are not listed. My theory is that she was homesick and depressed from having lost her babies and went back to Norway leaving Oscar in Duluth working for the railroad as a painter.
We know that Oscar joined Annie and the children in Norway at one point. When I visited Norway in 1999 I was shown the house they lived in while they were there. It was called “Nystuen” and was very near the house Great-grandpa Dybdal lived in when he was alive. It was in this house that Alf W. “Snick” (not sure what the W stood for) was born on September 16, 1911.
On April 17, 1912 they left Norway once more on the ship Oslo for Hull, England, took the train to Liverpool and sailed on the Arabic, arriving in Boston, MA on May 3, 1912. It’s hard to imagine how difficult it must’ve been for them to travel back then, especially with little kids. First, they had to get from Toten to Oslo somehow; train/bus? Then, after arriving in Hull, the train to Liverpool. None of the modern day conveniences were available and they had to bring their food, diapers and whatever else they required with them. Besides that, Annie was already pregnant again! Their destination, as reported on the ship’s manifest, was Duluth, MN to join “Uncle” Hans Ostdahl. I imagine they would have taken a train to MN. I always wonder how they could afford to do all this traveling.
Another passenger on the Arabic was Inga Evang, from Toten, who was going to join her father, Anton, in St. Paul, MN. She was later married to a man by the last name of Lee, according to information from a cousin in Norway. I have childhood memories of Aunt Esther and Grandma Hagen telling tales about Inga Lee and her son, Robert, and laughing like crazy. I never met Inga but I got the impression she liked to put on airs now and then and Grandma thought she was pretty “high falutin”. Esther used to mimic her with a great Norwegian accent saying “I can stop on a dot”. Evidently Inga’s driving left something to be desired.
On September 6, 1912 Myrtle was born. Census records show she was born in MN but I haven’t found a birth certificate for her yet. Esther was born in Parkland, WA on May 29, 1914. How in the world did they get around like that? Lester’s birth occurred January 8, 1916 and Edward (Eddie Boy) was born November 3, 1920, both in St. Paul, MN. Eddie Boy died in a car accident near Forest Lake, MN on August 3, 1933 at the age of 12.