Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sentimental Sunday - An only child with four siblings

My seventh-great-grandfather Johannes Andersen of the Berstad/Bergstad farm married Dorethe (or Dordei) Larsdatter from Hiornevigen farm on 22 June 1751 in Evanger sogn, Voss parish, Hordaland County, Norway. It still boggles my mind that I have digital copies of the church records from when they were married.
Marriage record - Johannes Andersen Berstad and Dorethe Larsdatter Hiornevigen
A little over a year later, their daughter Marite Johannesdatter was baptized. Marite had at least four siblings that I have found records for - sister Barbru born in 1753, sister Anna born in 1756, brother Anders born in 1759, and another sister named Barbru born in 1761.

However, Marite and her parents suffered a tragedy in 1758 when the older Barbru died at just 4 years and 19 weeks old (she never even got to see the youngest two siblings). Another tragedy struck when little Anders died in 1760, just 16 weeks after he was born. They remained a family of five - Johannes, Dorethe, Marite, Anna, and the younger Barbru - for the next 12 years. Then something, perhaps illness, claimed the lives of both Anna and Barbru, who were buried the same day, 22 March 1772. Not yet 20 years old, Marite had witnessed her family lay four of their five children to rest. I can't imagine what that kind of frequent encounter with loss and grief would do to a young girl.

Then, nearly two years later, something wonderful happened - Marite married Sjur Nielsen from Horvei farm, also in Voss parish. Part of me wonders what she thought about that day - did she remember the siblings who should have been there? Did she grieve for her parents, who would only get to see one of their five children live to be married? Or was she happy that she was able to give them that day of joy, to give them the chance to see their only surviving child find a husband and have a family of her own? It was probably a mixture of all of that, and more.

It's sad that Marite ended up being an only child, but I'm grateful that she survived. The loss of her siblings may have helped her cope with the losses she suffered as a parent - she also lost four children in infancy. Her parents lived long enough witness the first of those losses, a son named Niels Siursen who died at 8 months, and I'd like to think that they helped her and her husband get through it. But Marite also had two children, Johannes (my ancestor) and Niels, that her parents lived long enough to see. Hopefully they were able to spend time with their grandchildren before they passed away. It wouldn't have made up for all the losses they experienced, but it might have made things a little easier knowing that some of their posterity would survive.

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