In 2005, the Gudbrandsdal Lag sponsored a Heritage Tour to Norway. The first week was spend on researching our heritage. Sixteen people participated in the part of the tour. We visited many libraries and museums during the week. This is the group photo at Maihaugen.
For the second part of the tour, we visited many churches and historical farms. We also participated in the many activities planned for the Emigrant Festival in Ringebu, Norway. This is a group photo of us when we stayed in the mountain hotel outside of Otta, Norway.
I. CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE
Everyone on our trip has a wonderful story to tell. While we all shared the same hotels, bus, events, food and laughed together, in-between there were relatives arriving at hotels for short visits, cars whisking people away for home visits or at least to drive by ancestral homes, and some chose to stay a week longer to visith with relatives.
The first week there were 16 on the genealogical tour, and a week later 23 more joined the group for the cultural heritage tour, but we all had the same goal in mind of connecting with your family roots in Gudbrandsdalen, Norway. We came from the Midwest, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North & South Dakota, Illinois, but also Washington, Oregon, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado.
In the process of searching for our Norwegian roots many of us on the tour discovered that we were related to each other. Marilyn Sorensen, our genealogiest from Minneapolis, MN, tells us that it is common for people from the same kommune in Gudbrandsdalen to be related. Five people on our tour discovered they were related to Tordis Trennes, our Norwegian genealogy contact.
Witnessing the connections our group members had with their ancestoral families was truly exciting, but when it happened to you, it was the moment that you had hoped or planned for, for many months and maybe even years. We all rejoiced with Stan Arlton, Fergus Falls, MN when he had that moment. He met his third cousing Stein Stensgard, a musciian in Lillehammer, was interviewed and featured in the Gudbrandsdalen Dagningen newspaper along with a picture of our group. When we arrive in Skjak, we were entertained by accordion players, Mayor Ole Stensgard and his daughter Mari Ann who just happened to be Stan's third cousin. Stan spent the afternoon at the mayor's home.
Not everyone had close relatives in Norway, but connections were still possible. Marta Aanstad from Favang remembered Don and Charlotte Danielson from a Sons of Norway gathering three years ago. She had lots of connections and showed up in several places helping people connect. We experienced this hospitality all through the valley. For me, it was a librarian in Vinstra that offered to call the daughter of Paster Skaare who took me to my family farms in 1959. It was amazing to met his daughter Snofrid Skaare and reminisce about that experience so long ago. Snofrid also helped Polly Johnson locate her ancestral farm just up the hill from Vinstra. While at the Favang church, we looked up the family farm of Clarice Sulzbach and Ruth Ferguson of Aitkin, MN. Soon after we were in Ringebu and ride to farm was being arranged for them. For Betty Strand of Minneapolis, MN, a special day came when she was picked up and chauffeured to the farms of her ancestors. This was a day she had dreamed of for a long time. John Peterson, Eau Claire, WI reconnected with an acquaintance he met on his last trip to Norway. We all searched the cemeteries together, helping each other find ancestrial names.