A monthly column putting people in touch with their Norwegian roots
by Liv Marit Haakenstad + Kathy Anderson
Welcome to Genealogy Detective! Our first inquiry comes from Ruth Ertzgard Dodson, who writes: “I read with interest in The Norwegian American about your upcoming column regarding Norwegian heritage. I look forward to reading it, and I would love to be considered one of your subjects. A few years back, I learned that one of the Eidsvollsmen was Peter Johnsen Ertzgaard, who is possibly in my family tree.” Ruth continues to write that her grandfather was Sigurd Martin Ertzgard, born in Stjørdal, Norway (1893-1965). His father was Johan Peter Ertzgard, whom she believes also lived his life in the Stjørdal area.
A National Assembly gathered in Eidsvoll, Akershus, Norway, on April 10, 1814, to begin writing a constitution. On the 17th of May, 1814, 112 representatives ratified a final document that liberated Norway from the rule of Sweden. Ruth is wondering if Peter Johnsen Ertzgard (Ertsgaard, 1784-1848), from Stjørdal, Trøndelag, Norway, and one of the signers of this constitution, is part of her family tree.
Our team began by researching Ruth’s grandfather. Through emigration records, we found that Sigurd Martin Johnsen Ertsgaard, born in 1893, was a hired hand and resided in Stjørdal. He left Trondheim for the United States on June 19, 1912. In the Stjørdal census of 1910, we found him working at the Brenna øvre vestre farm. According to the same 1910 census, his parents, John Petersen Ertsgaardsnæs and Sigri Andersdatter, with children, live at Ertsgaardsnes.
Next we turned to the church records for Nedre Stjørdal and confirmed the birth of Sigurd Martin, born July 30, 1893, and baptized Sept. 17, 1893, the son of tenant farmer Jon Pettersen and his wife, Sigrid Andersdatter, who were living on the Ertsgaard farm. Continuing with the Stjørdal church records, we found Jon and Sigrid’s marriage on May 7, 1886, when they were both servants at the Ydsti farm. Jon’s father is cotter Petter Jonsen; Sigrid’s father is cotter Anders Pedersen.
Sigurd Martin Johnsen Ertsgaard’s parents must have come to the Ertsgaard farm after their marriage in May 1886, when they both lived at Ysti. The 1891 census lists Sigurd’s father, John Petersen, as “husmann uten jord,” a cotter without land, which means he was working at the Ertsgaard farm, but not able to grow his own food to support his family. Our team continued searching earlier church records from Stjørdal and published records from local farm histories tracing back four generations to collect and confirm more information.
In 2014, Norway held a celebration for the 200-year anniversary of the establishment of the Norwegian constitution. Before the jubilee, The Norwegian Genealogical Society (Norsk Slektshistorisk Forening) published a book, Eidsvollsmennene—Hvem var de?, with biographical information for each of the 112 Eidsvoll men, including overviews of their ancestors and descendants. Reviewing information for constitution signer Peter Johnsen Ertzgaard (1784-1848), we found he was born at the Ertsgaard farm. He was a member of the court, a Senior Petty Officer, Assistant Mayor and lord, or foreman, of the farm, at various times during his life. He resided at Ertsgaard at a time much earlier than when Ruth’s family came to the farm (between 1886 and 1891). Although there are many similarities in the names and geographical locations of the two families, we are sorry to report that we could not find a familial connection.
Liv Marit Haakenstad has been doing genealogy research for more than 30 years. She is now working on her master’s thesis in non-fiction writing. She has published several books on Norwegian emigration and genealogy, and dozens of articles. She is a frequent contributor to the research staff of the Who Do You Think You Are? television show. Many of her distant relatives immigrated to the United States and Canada, including several who settled in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 9, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.