Progress Report:  4 June 2001
4 June 2001

As of today, June 4, 2001, we know the following about Syver and Helene:

With the help of Norway-List member researchers, I have two census documents that may document their whereabouts.  The first, from the 1865 Norway Census, shows a Syver Madsen, single, as a young hired hand, on the Alfstad nedre farm in Ostre Toten.  The birth year for this person is, however, 1844.  Later records suggest more clearly that his birth year is 1845.  Records also suggest that our Syver was born in Vestre, not Ostre Toten.  Included in this same census record is reference to an infant, Petter Olaf Olsen, born in 1874, Ostre Toten, Hoff sub-parish. Who was Petter?  Heleneís child from another marriage?  Why would this infant be listed with Syver and Hellene if the child is not one of theirs?  Did they assume responsibility from a brother or sister who died?

Norway Listers assured me that SEVER was not likely our manís name spelling in Norway.  The name Sever is Swedish; SYVER is Norwegian. Why our Sever changed his name in America to a swedish version of his earlier name, is a good question.

Ten years later, in the 1875 Census, we find a Syver Madsen and wife, Helene Olsdatter, both born in 1845, now at Mollerstuen (part of the Berg farm), with children, Ragna Syversen (born 1870) and Ottillia Syversen (born 1873).  The census record shows that Syver was born in Kolbu sub parish in Vestre Toten, and Helene was born in Hoff sub-parish in Ostre Toten. This census does not show the infant that was in the 1865 Census.  The source of this census record is

Now, the same Norway-List researcher who identified the 1875 census information for me, a man whose screen name from Norway on the Internet, and perhaps real name, is Geir Thorud, also continued to research the emigration records for Oslo in the Digitalarkivet, and found the following:

On September 30, 1881, a woman, named Helene Madsen, married, and four (4) children, Ragna Madsen (age 11), Otillia Madsen (age 8), Oliana Madsen (3), and Alfred (not Helfred) Madsen (age 1), boarded a ship bound for America, and their own destination being Eau Claire.  All of these passengers were from Ostre Toten;  the freight or ticket was prepaid (betalt).  These passengers were almost assuredly our Helene and her children.  Syver most likely paid for the tickets.  We know that he may have arrived in the Strum area a year prior.   Alfred vs. Helfred could be a transcription or hearing error, and probably should not be of great concern if everything else fits. 
A young eighteen year old man, Karl Hansen, also from Toten, was on the same voyage and on the same prepaid ticket.  Could this have been Carl Hanson Frodal, son of Hans Pederson Frodal?  Or, was this a brother of Heleneís?   Helene did carry the Hanson name with her in America, Helene Hanson Bjorkebakken, or such.

We know from other information the christening dates for:  Ottelia Sivertsen (June 1, 1873), Ragna Sivertsen (August 14, 1870), and Olianne Marie Madsen (April 23, 1876).  I have ordered, but have yet to receive and review the Hof and Kolbu parish records that are the source for this information.

There are two farms in Ostre Toten similar to the Bjorkebakken name, and spelled Bjerkebakken,  in the 1865 Census. An older woman named Hellen lived on one of them. A Norway-Lister researcher suggests it is worth thinking that this may be a relative.  About thirty Helene Hanson or similar names exist in the 1865 Census.  First names were very often carried from one generation to the next due to patranymic naming.

My father, Roy Matson, visited with a man, Paal Gihle, during his last visit to Norway in 1976.  I am sure that Mr. Gihle knew considerable about Syver and Helene Madsen, at least, my fatherís notes in his travel diary indicate that.  So, I went back to the computer and the Internet and asked the Norway Listers about this man, who I believed to be an historian.  The response was immediate, and from one of my earlier helpers, direct from
Norway.  Paal Gihle died a few years ago (it is now May 2001).  I should contact the Toten Okomuseum with questions.  Bad news.  Not what I was hoping.  But, the name was right, and local researchers knew of this man that Dad talked to in 1976.

What do we know about Syver and Helene now?  Far more than we did only one month ago.  And in one month, when I have the opportunity to view microfilm of both Hof and Kolbu sub parishes, perhaps we will know much more.

June 4, 2001
Fred Matson