Picturing Arne and Marit

photo by Carmen MoeI see so much character and history in those faces on the left, and given all that I’ve learned about the people pictured, I wish I could meet and talk with them. By all available accounts, this is Arne and Marit Malum, our 3rd great-grandparents, who never left Norway.

When I began my family history quest a few years ago, one of the families about whom I knew the least was the Malum family from Norway. We knew their name, that they were from Norway, where later generations lived in Iowa, generally where they were buried, and that our ancestor had probably spent time in Lillehammer before migrating to America with his family in the 19th century, when our great grandmother, Petra, was still a girl of about 12.

That was a good start, but I still had a quest before me. Through various sources, I have since been able to explore the older Malum roots in Øyer, north of Lillehammer, as well as our ancestors’ probable route to Iowa through Quebec and Chicago. I learned that Malum was an adopted farm name (originally Maehlum), changed from the previous name of Solberg. I swiftly added Arne and Marit to the family tree. Until last year, however, I’d always assumed they’d remain blank silhouettes in the tree, no matter how much I tried to picture them and their home in Øyer.

Now I have the images above to consider. At first they confused me. When I saw them, I thought they looked oddly like photographs, but not quite somehow, and anyway, it seemed unlikely that they were photographs, given the era represented. Arne and Marit Malum lived between about 1789 and 1888. I’ve since learned that the images are likely charcoal drawings … of a sort … and I am still exploring more detailed information about them. I was completely fascinated the first time I saw them — fascinated with finally being able to see my ancestors as people, rather than silhouettes, yes, but also with the clothing represented and the medium used to create the images.

From what I’ve learned thus far, charcoal (or “crayon”) images were a fairly common way for people in the early 19th century to produce affordable portraits without having them painted. One explanation is provided on the rootsweb discussion board, although I have no confirmation of that being the means by which the images above were produced.

The more I’ve learned about Arne and Marit — their life in rural Øyer, their Haugean sympathies, their large family — the more questions I’ve had for them. Seeing them in these portraits has done nothing to diminish my curiosity. Now that I am able to picture them a little better, I look forward to the day when I can finally visit the valley area of Norway they called home.

Some of the great sources of help to me in my quest for Malum history were, not just my family, but also Ancestry records and the book Sleeps Not the Valley by Carmen Moe (photographer for the images).

“There was great joy when haugianier friends came to Arne and Marit’s house … In such a company of friends, they had a desire for things belonging to God’s Kingdom…” (Øyer Bygdabok, as translated, quoted by Carmen J. Moe, in Sleeps Not the Valley).

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