(Originally published in Reunions magazine, Vol. 13 n. 3, 2003)
When my mother was confined with Alzheimer’s disease in 1997, I was moved to contact her generation’s relatives because she could no longer keep in touch. The result was a reunion celebrating the 100th anniversary of her father’s emigration to America in 1902 with his parents and four brothers. My grandfather’s paternal grandmother, Torine Larsdatter, was one of Lars Halvorsen’s six children. Our roots are in the small Hvaler (Whale) Islands at the mouth of Oslo Fjord.
The deal was sealed by the response to an online message I posted to a Norwegian genealogy group. A Norwegian woman completed a genealogy of my mother’s paternal grandfather’s mother’s family. So it was a matter of finding living Norwegian relatives, all by e-mail.
Our main contact in Norway was Knut Westgaard (my fourth cousin, a descendant of Torine’s sister Oline), who put us in touch with Oline’s American descendants. We also found American descendants of Torine’s and Oline’s sister Andrine.
Meanwhile, in searching for my great grandfather Karl Karlsen’s siblings descendants, we found two cousins living within blocks of each other in Chicago exurbs; they never would have known they were related if not for this reunion.
Eventually a group of us decided to travel with our cousins to Norway. Knut Westgaard formed the host committee in Norway. Americans totaled 33: four from Phoenix, two from Montana, three from Minnesota, six from California, two from Michigan, eleven from Chicago and my family of five from Washington, DC. We all descended from either Karl’s sons, his first cousin Kris Jensen, or another first cousin’s son, Johan Grønli. I had met eight of the others just once before and met another fifteen for the first time in Oslo. Our gathering reunited descendants of the five children (all born in the 1830s) of Lars Halvorsen and Inger Malene Knudsdatter Bislet.