Thursday, February 1, 2018

Book Review: Vår felles slektshistorie, by Odd Handegård

In 2017 I met Odd online via our common interest in the Y R-Z18 DNA project, although Odd is on the S5676 branch, while I am on the S6989 branch. But our ancestral paths do cross several times on my maternal line from Norway. Odd lives in Norway and introduced me to an ebook which he had recently written titled Vår Felles Slekthistorie, which translated means “Our Common Genealogy”, which focuses on the multitude of noble families living in the Hardanger, Sunnhordland and Ryfylke areas of western Norway.
All these areas are where my ancestors come from and almost all the families he discusses in his large book of over 700 pages are in my ancestry. It does become obvious as I worked through the genealogies in his book, that he is focused on his direct ancestors. Earlier in the book he is more focused on the older ancestry where our paths cross many times. But later in the book as he discusses ancestry closer to our time, his lines begin to follow down his ancestry, which begins to diverge from mine.

However this is an important book for genealogy in this area from the 12th through the 17th centuries!  Odd has gathered together all the documentation from previous researchers and authors that are found in multiple sources. He explains the pros and cons of various issues concerning ambiguous documentations and areas where there is questionable source material. This should be the definitive fall back source for much of the genealogy in my own personal database when questions arise on the families involved.

The book is filled with various genealogy charts and I have spent many hours going through and adding, sourcing and even correcting errors in my own database. Thus almost everyone in Odd’s book is in my genealogy database. There are still discrepancies though, between his book and my genealogy. Sometimes I had a hard time reconciling what he had with other sources that I trusted. But these cases are rather rare as most of his genealogy is in agreement with mine.

Besides the multitude of genealogy charts there are some nice detailed maps showing the location of many farms. There are pictures of coat of arms, seals, insignias and beautiful photographs of this wonderfully scenic area of the Norwegian fjords that just make me homesick for Norway, although I have never lived there. But because I have read and studied maps and genealogies all over Rogaland, Vest-Agder and Hordaland for decades and even a bit further afield back through the Middle Ages, Norway just holds a special place in my heart.

The biggest issue I have with studying this book is my limitations on the Norwegian language. Some of the text I can make out due to my many years of working with Norwegian genealogy, specifically bygdebok. However, my Norwegian is really limited. Thus much of the text I have not “read” nor understand. But I certainly understand the generalities and outlines of the book.

The list of families in the book shown below can also be seen on the nearby images of the CD cover. Almost all of them are also in my direct ancestry, with the exception of the ones marked in red below:

Sletta/Dall greina
Orm- ætta
Aga, Byre Hestebø, Talgje
Hovland (in Kvam, Hordaland)
Vik – Brattabø
Sandven and Norheim
Torstein Bjørke / Rike Torstein
Reiseter in Ullensvang
Randa/ Talgje

The book also contains nice photos of coats of arms and seals, such as the example seals above of Olav Jonsen Tøtland Foss (1510-1563) and his son, Jon III Jonsen Tøtland (1565-1626) in my direct ancestry.

Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby

I will also mention that the CD I got from Odd included a second book called "Hardanger – aner for Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby" (The Ancestry of Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby from the Hardanger Fjord).  Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby was born on 19 August 1973 in Kristiansand, Vest-Agder, Norway, and is the wife of Crown Prince Haakon, the heir apparent to the throne of Norway.

Much of Mette-Marit’s maternal ancestry is from Rogaland and Hordaland counties and thus intersects with Odd’s (and my) ancestry. Thus Odd became interested in writing an ebook about her ancestry which is over 200 pages long. This book is also full of genealogy charts, very similar to Vår Felles Slekthistorie. I have also spent many hours meticulously going through that book and entering all the data which I previously did not have. I am related to Matte-Marit along many different branches but the closest are those where we are 11th cousins. Nearby I show one of my closest relationships to the current Crown Princess of Norway.