20 July 2001

On June 1, 2001, I woke up at 5:45 a. m., in anticipation of Grandpa Helfred Sever Matson’s “birth”.  I could feel what Syver and Helene must have felt, or, at least the non-birthing part that Helene probably felt.  Did Syver have time and interest to give serious thought to the fourth born, his first son?  Probably so.

Precisely 3 months from Helfred’s one-hundred and twenty-second (122) birthday, August 31, 1879, the History Center in Oakdale, Minnesota, called to say that the micro-film I ordered on May 8, 2001 had arrived.  I can view it at their location, not three miles away, less than a trip from Strum to Eleva, and not even as far as the Oakdale City Hall, until July 1, 2001.  (note: I learned from later reviews of Parish records that Helfred was born on July 31, 1879).

On the Internet, at familysearch.org, I found Helfred’s three sisters that were born in Norway: Ragna, Ottilia, and Olianna.  Of course, their relatives here in America may know the same thing, but, for me it is like beginning to find a family again, a family that not too much was known about.  At least, we knew very little about Helfred’s mother and father when I started this effort.

True to form, Syver and Helene changed their surnames along the way, and those changes affected their children too.  The changes appear to have involved both patronymic and farm identifications.  As the material I have been reading suggests, their names are probably closer to addresses, than fixed names.  At least that appears to be the case for Helene.  

Now, as of July 20, 2001, and following a review of Parish Records, I know the following: the first born, Ragna, (b. June 17, 1870), was Christened Ragna Sivertsen on August 14, 1870; second born Ottelia, (b. April 19, 1873), was Christened Ottelia Sivertsen on June 1, 1873; and third born Olianne, (b. March 4, 1876), was Christened Olianne Marie Madsen on April 23, 1876.  Helfred, born July 31, 1879, was Christened Helfred, and his father and mother's names, at that time, were Syver Johannes Madsen and Helene Olsdtr.  Ragna and Olianne are the daughters of Syver Johannes Madsen and Helene Olsdr;  Ottelia is the daughter of Syver Johannes Madsen and Helena Olsdr, all, of course, the same parents.    Only the first name of their mother changed or was interpreted to as having changed.

Helfred’s birth information is found on LDS microfilms #1553661 and #1693967.  The three girls are found on microfilm #0307297.

As I read material about Norway and early customs and rules, it occurs to me that Helfred is the first of the children for which, at least in the searches I have done, a birth date is recorded.  In those days, the church was responsible for the records, but focused and recorded only those events that were religious.  Christening, confirmation, marriage and burial were religious events, birth and death were not.  That began to change about the time of Helfred’s birth.

All of this most recently found information about the girls is consistent with information from the 1875 census where the two oldest girls, Ragna and Ottillia, are recorded with surname, Syversen, and Helene, their mother, with the name Olsdatter. 

And so, now, the question is, what more do I have from these microfilms.  I am struggling to decipher, but there are the names of witnesses, and farm residence of Syver and Helene for each of these birth records. Will I learn of Helfred’s godparents?  Will I learn of other witnesses and relatives?  My readings say that witnesses to these events were more often than not, relatives, close relatives.  Will I learn more about Syver and Helene?

Progress Report:  20 July 2001