On the family tree

Want to know more about your roots? Genealogist Susan Andersen can help.

by Kelsey Larson

Susan Andersen’s husband always claimed that his ancestors had come from Luxembourg. Everyone in the family agreed, but for some reason, nobody could tell Andersen who this mysterious Luxembourgian ancestor was. In 2004, Andersen’s curiosity finally got the better of her, and soon she had made her first family tree. Not only did she find out the ancestor’s identity; she found the exact village he had left so many years ago.

Her husband’s family was surprised, but even more so when Susan discovered that their proud Luxembourg origins were actually Scandinavian as well; the original Mr. Luxembourg had married a woman from Oslo. “They didn’t know that,” Andersen laughed, as she related the story.

Andersen is a native of Bergen, Norway, and has lived in the U.S. with her husband for nine years. She has always been interested in history.

“[Genealogy] was really my hobby,” she says. “And then I thought, maybe I should make a little money doing this.” After years of doing the research for fun, she finally started doing it for profit in August 2010.

Since 2004, Andersen has made 24 family trees.

“I get absorbed the whole time I’m doing a family tree,” she says. “I’m really interested in it.” Andersen’s trees aren’t simply a record of birth and death dates, either. She includes towns where people lived, even street addresses if she can find them, and other relevant details. “When I see those trees with just when they were born or died, I think, that really doesn’t tell you much,” she says. “It’s not very fulfilling.”

Though Andersen specializes in families of Norwegian descent, in both the U.S. and Norway, she has done research involving many different countries: Poland, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, and England, to name a few. But, Andersen says, even if the family doesn’t think they are originally related to Norway, as in the case of her husband’s family, “you always end up finding a Norwegian uncle or something.” The furthest back she has been able to trace ancestors is 1700, although while showing one family their ancestral farm in Norway, she discovered the farm dated back to the Viking period.

“People are usually happy and amazed,” she says of the families she has assisted. While working on a project for one woman, Andersen discovered that the woman had another sibling she hadn’t known about, who died as an infant, and was a twin to her brother. “She actually didn’t believe me,” Andersen says. “I told her, ‘I have a death certificate!’ But she still didn’t believe me.” Although the woman eventually accepted the truth of Andersen’s findings, such surprised responses are not uncommon in her line of work.

To get in touch with Andersen, email her at susanfindancestors@gmail.com, or call her at (847) 299-5396. She draws from a variety of different resources, and charges $15/ hour for her services, less than half of what a professional genealogist would charge. Normally she spends 20-60 hours on a project, and keeps in touch with regular updates on what she has discovered.

This article was originally published in the Sept. 2, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.