They came from Øyer

I still have a lot to learn about geographical references in Norway, but I’ll give this a whirl. It seems some of our ancestors came from Øyer, in the state (or county) of Oppland, about 94 miles north of Oslo and a short distance from Lillehammer (click upper right corner of picture for full screen of Oppland). This is also the valley region of Gudbrandsdal. To be even more precise, they came through … then from … the Maehlum farm, from which they eventually took their name.

Apparently the farm was “located high on the mountainside, with a wide view of the valley and river below.” This detailed and personal information contained in Carmen Moe’s book, Sleeps Not the Valley, has been an unexpected gift. The book provided details about the family’s house … that a kitchen cupboard was blue, with decorative touches in gold, white, and red … and that a new barn was built in 1829. Such detailed history is available partly because of Norwegian bygdaboks — rich, local, rural histories (sometimes speculative and idealized) — and partly because of dedicated descendants who travel, talk to people, and locate and verify sources.

I don’t yet know as much as I’d like to about Øyer Parish (or Øyer Kommune, the township). What I do know is that it was historically a rural farming and logging region and that it was particularly hard hit by the Plague or “Black Death” in the 1400s, losing more than half its residents. It suffered crop failures in the 1830s that led to widespread hunger, even starvation, and many people having to give up their property. What I know, in short, is that life over the centuries in Øyer was probably hard. The Haugeans no doubt had influence in this region, and the local history tells of a more specific spiritual awakening in the 1860s. Today recreation seems to be important in the area, including the Hafjell ski area. I have never been to Øyer, but the descriptions and pictures sound and look beautiful to me, so clearly I must get there soon.

Some of our ancestors lived, died, and were buried in this region, and I’ll have more to say about this family in later posts. Some of their younger descendants migrated in the 19th century, while others remained in Norway. One story has it that our own direct ancestor first went to the western coastal town of Kristiansund, then returned to Lillehammer, near Øyer, where he lived and worked for a while before finally migrating with his family to North America … so stay tuned for a future post: They came from Lillehammer….

(See similar posts in the series: They came from …)

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7 Responses to They came from Øyer

  1. Sheryl says:

    Wonderful post! I haven’t yet done much research about my family prior to them coming to the US. This post motivates me to want to learn more about the towns and regions in Europe they came from.

    • ljhlaura says:

      Thank you! Although it sometimes involves a little speculation, I’ve learned a lot about places to which I might otherwise not have given much thought if it weren’t for the ancestral ties. It’s been enlightening.

  2. Jana Last says:

    Very interesting post! I too have ancestors from Norway. I love the Google maps and images you included. I too would love to go there someday!

  3. Pingback: They came from Lillehammer | Branch and Leaf … a family history blog

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