Friday, November 26, 2010

Sepia Saturday - My Norway Connection: The Herstad Family

The Herstad Family of Trondheim, Norway c. 1885
My father was 25% Norwegian through his mother's mother, Fredrikka Herstad Allen (1871-1953). She was the daughter of Peter Martin and Sofie (Einersen Vibe) Herstad. Pictured above is her family in Stjordalen, Norway. Fredrikka is seated on our far right. Next to her (moving to our left) is her sister Petra, her mother Sofie, her sister Ann, her father Peter and then two unknown people who may be Fredrikka's brother Axel and maternal grandmother Henricha Myhre.
This was a well-to-do family who owned and operated a store in Trondheim, Norway. Family records claim that Peter's father was a standard bearer for the king and his mother was a Danish baroness. I have not been able to substantiate these claims and strongly question their authenticity. However, I am not very experienced with the Norwegian records, so I am sure there is a lot more research to be done before I discover all that I can about the Herstads.
I have pored over the details in this photo in an attempt to get to know this family better. Notice the incredible pipe in Peter's hand and please don't overlook the cute potted plants on the window sill. Their clothes are just exquisite and the vines covering the house are really beautiful. The biggest mystery is the two people on our far left. This certainly appears to be a family photo, so I would think that they are both family members. From the arrangement, one would think that the elderly woman seated next to Peter is his mother, however from researching the Norwegian records, I have found that Peter's mother died when he was only 4 years old. Sofie's mother Henricha Myhre could be the woman pictured. She was only 16 at Sofie's (illegitimate) birth in 1838, so she would be about 63 in this photo. Another possibility is that she is Peter's stepmother Serine (Skott) Herstad who raised him after his mother died, but she would be about 83 in this photo. The person standing behond her is a real enigma to me. Is it a woman or a man? What is he/she wearing? Is it a dress or some kind of uniform? The hair parted in the middle leads me to believe it is a woman, but there are no other women in this family that are not already pictured and the person looks more like a young man to me. Axel was born in 1868, two years before my great grandmother. That would make him about 17 in this photo. Since I learned from an article in the New York Herald that he went to sea when he was 16, this photo might have been taken before he left in 1884. Comparing this person to the drawing of Axel in the preceding link leads me to believe that they are one in the same. What do you think? I welcome any input on this photo.

You can visit other interesting Sepia Saturday posts here.


  1. Fascinating photograph! Here are my thoughts - I think the person standing on the far left is a woman - though I agree the face looks like a young man's. But the drape of the cloth from the waist down and the neck look like a dress to me (a cassock is a possibility, but seems unlikely). I see a strong resemblance between this person and the holder woman sitting in front of her/him - esp. the eyes and shape of the head. I see less resemblance to the rest of the family - though Fredrikka's jawline matches. I wouldn't rule out the seated woman being in her 80s.
    Finally - I LOVE the details. The tabletop is so highly polished it shines. The books - I want to know what they're reading. Fabulous image.

  2. gosh i can get lost in that photo - it is fantastic! totally reminiscent of ingmar berman films!

  3. I wonder if they had cross-dressers in those days? He sure does look like a young man and his clothes look like a dress with even a broach at the neck. How absolutely intriguing!
    My ancestors are from Norway, also and I haven't been able to trace them at all. The other side of the family I've traced back to Cleopatra, although I'm not sure I believe it. Maybe almost everyone goes back to Cleopatra.

  4. there is certainly a lot to ponder there; maybe placing this photo next to others with the same people at different ages will help; if she is the step mother did she have other children? The person behind her might be another of her is difficult to determine the ages from this...I am sure you will prevail...

  5. Beautiful photo! Simply stunning. And thanks for the historical information.

  6. This photograph enlarged so beautifully when I clicked on it. Wonderful! Did you notice those exquisite lace curtains in the windows?!!! Wow!

    I think the person standing on the left is a young woman for two reasons. It looks like a dress that she's wearing, and, if it were a man, the hair would not be pulled back so tightly (and I doubt men wore long hair in those days). The books indicate to me that the family is literate, something that cannot be said for lots of folks of that time period. Obviously, that was something very important to them or they wouldn't have made a point to show it in the photo. Thanks for sharing this gem of a photo. I hope you're able to figure out who the two unknowns are.

  7. I also think it is a woman on the left and I love that they are sitting around a table and have books as a prop. The older lady could be his step mother or could even be an aunt.

  8. As always you lead us on a tour around the photograph, and as always it is a tour de force.