Friday, July 11, 2014

From Norway to Minnesota

Mo i Rana is located at the head of Ranifjord, just south of the Arctic circle on the southern side of the Saltfjellet mountains with the Svartisen glacier, Norway's second largest glacier. The river Ranelva meets the Ranifjord in Mo i Rana. Mo is so close to the Arctic circle that parts of the sun can be seen on the horizon from early June to early July, and there is no darkness from mid-May to the beginning of August. The climate is moderated by the Gulf Stream, which follows the coast of Norway north. The name Mo comes from an old farm and is taken from the Norse Móar which means sand or grass lowland. Rana is probably also Norse, meaning quick or fast, and refers to the fast water flow in the fjord nearby. The town was an old trade center in Helgeland and farmers have lived in the area since the Iron Age.


Ole Andreas Christenson was the eleventh child of twelve in his family. He was born 11 July 1857 at his father's farm, Reginaardsli, Mo i Rana, Nordland, Norway. His parents were Christen Nilsen and Hendricha Eliasdatter.

Ole was christened on 27 September 1857. This little kirke is the oldest building in Mo. It was built in 1734. Like many younger sons of large families, Ole immigrated to America to make his fortune. His declaration of intention to become a citizen of the United States was dated 2 November 1886.


Ole married Randi Ottem on 10 December 1891 at Grand Forks, Grand Forks, North Dakota. They both listed Grand Forks as their place of residence. She listed her name as Rosie Ottem. Witnesses were Asa Erickson and Angus Jakobson. Clarence, their first child, was born at Grand Forks.

Sometime after that, the family moved to Marshall County, Minnesota. Family information says they lived at Holt, where all of the children were born. He listed Newfolden as his residence on his Naturalization papers. The two places are very near to one another. Their second child, Reuben, was born 16 January 1894 and died 27 October 1895. He died just after his sister Reubena was born on 22 October 1895. She lived until 7 September 1896. Seven other children were born to them, making a total of ten.

On the 1900 census, the family was living in Holt. Ole and Rose had been married for nine years and had three children, with two deceased. Clarence was eight, Nora two, and Mabel was eight months old. Ole's occupation was a carpenter and he was employed the entire census year. Both Ole and Randi could read, write and speak English. They owned their own home and it was free of a mortgage at the time. It would appear that Ole was successful in bettering his lot in life by coming to America.

Ole's Petition for Naturalization was filed in Marshall County, Minnesota on 1 February 1910, 26 years after his original declaration. It said, "My full name is Ole Andreas Christenson. My place of residence is Newfolden, Marshall, Minnesota. My occupation is carpenter. I was born on the 11th day of July 1858 at Moe, Norway. I emigrated to the United States from Chrstiania, Norway, on or about the 25th day of May 1881 and arrived at the port of Baltimore, in the United States on the vessel not known. I declared my intention to become a citizen of the United States on the 22nd day of November 1886 in Crookston, Minnesota, Polk County. I am married. My wife's name is Randine Christenson (ne Ottem). She was born in Sundal, Norway, and now resides at Newfolden, Marshall, Minnesota. I have seven children, as follows- Clarence Helmer, May 11, 1892, Grand Forks, North Dakota; Nora Adelia, July 7, 1897, Marshall, Minnesota; Mabel Ruth, September 30, 1899, Marshall, Minnesota; Oscar Arthur, October 27, 1901, Marshall, Minnesota; Rudi Melvin, October 22, 1903, Marshall, Minnesota; Mortel Gea, April 20, 1908, Marshall, Minnesota. All reside with parents at Newfolden, Marshall, Minnesota." Ole neglected to list another child, Lawrence Palmer, who was born 20 January 1906. Dolores Irene, the youngest, was not born until 4 December 1916. Ole took his Oath of Allegiance on 28 June 1910 and the family became citizens of the United States of America.

Ole's daughter Dolores said of his death, "I remember it very vividly because he died at home. He had asthma and heart trouble. That was back in 1929. It was way out in the country and you didn’t see the doctor very often. He was very ill one whole winter and then when summer came he was able to get out of bed and he was up for the summer. And then when fall came, of course, it took over again. I remember, and I think about it now, sitting on his bed in the evening. He always wanted me to sing, “Nearer My God to Thee.” And I did it. I remember well, the afternoon he died. It was such a blizzard. It was the 11th of January, and they couldn’t come and get him until the next day, so we kept him in the bedroom overnight. I have a lot of good memories of my father because we were very, very close. I was probably closer to my Dad because my Mom worked outside on the farm so much, and Dad was not well so he was with me. I remember all the little old Norwegian songs he taught me. He never really talked about his childhood, not like Mom did. They spoke broken English, and we always talked Norwegian at home. I sing those crazy songs to myself every once in a while. He called me Tula. "

Ole died on 11 January 1929. He did not have a Social Security number. His parents' names were not known to his informant. His death certificate lists his place of death as East Valley Township, and his usual residence as Holt.

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