This is the story of two families, both from Nordfjord, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. Two of their children, my great grandparents met and married on the plains of western Minnesota. They were the proverbial Ole and Lena, Ole Johan Abrahamson Henden and Oline Eriksdatter Grønevik, both Ellis Island immigrants. The Henden family is denoted by green trees (), and the Vik family by blue trees ().

One family back to that time, called Henden from early times, comes from Hennebygda (the community of Hendens), about halfway up the fjord (historically in Gloppen, now in Eid since 1982). The other family, Vik, Grønevik, Øvreberg, and other names (since people took the name of the farm they lived on), resided in and around Stryn, at the head of the fjord. Even today there are descendants of the two families in Hennebygda and Stryn (as well as up and down the fjord.)

My great-grandfather Ole was a gårdsman's (farm owner's) son, the fourth of five sons and seventh of eight children. They were relatively wealthy, and had the second pew in the church.

My great-grandmother Oline was the youngest of "seven beautiful daughters" plus an older half-brother, all begotten of a cotter who was an illegitimate cotter's son himself. (Cotters rented land on a gård (farm) in return for housing, labor and fruits of the harvest.) They were poor; one of my great-grandmother's nephews talked of catching flounder from the fjord when there was nothing else to eat. Fortunately, flounder and potatoes (introduced in 1825) are a living diet.

Two of Ole's siblings, both younger sons, and two of Oline's siblings, both younger daughters, also emigrated to Midwestern America in the 1880s-1900s, at a time when Norway was "bleeding young people", according to a cousin's wife.

I am indebted to my grandmother Alma Henden Stewart, mother Betty Stewart, and cousin Orien Vick (all deceased) for the beginnings of this study, Oddbjørn Heinum and Nelly and Else Brobakke for their valuable help with present-day cousins, and to all my Henden and Vik cousins for the information they've shared.

A note on Norwegian names

Until about 1920 (earlier in cities, which doesn't apply to this family), people had no fixed surname. They were known as "son of" or "daughter of" their father, and if necessary the place they lived was tacked on. In the 4 Aug 2014 update, I've converted all of my names from patronymics to farm names as surnames, to meet the needs of DNA projects I belong to. I've retained the patronyms and they're indexed. I've also standardized on "son" rather than "sen" for the male patronym, though I'm aware that some of my earlier conversions still have "sen" and Norwegian usage can be either.

Spelling of both names and places varies over time: g migrated to k, aa migrated to å, ö became ø, among many others.

Mons Henden is finally found!

In April 2015, at long last, I located Mons Anderson Henden, son of Ole's sister Anne and Anders Myrold. See here for his story.


Nordfjord was given to Tycho Brahe, the Danish astronomer, in 1580 as a fiefdom, a bribe to keep him in Denmark when he wished to be in Italy with Galileo (the fiefdom was taken away by Danish king Christian IV in 1596; see for a history of Tycho Brahe.)