Ephemera · Norwegian

A True Victorian Story – with a mystery attached – Part I

I present Ingeborg Olsen Bakke Brynestad to you today:

Wings of Whimsy: Ingeborg Brynestad Ca 1895 - free for personal use #vintage #ephemera #freebie #printable #photo

She was my grandfathers paternal aunt, born on the Bakke farm (where I’m from) in 1869 in Hornindal, Norway. She emigrated to the US in 1893, and settled in Minnesota. This is the picture she sent home to her family shortly after, so around 1895. 

The late 1800s were hard times in rural Norway. Crops failed and people were starving. The homes were crowded, most families had many children (Ingeborg had 7 siblings) and making a living other than farming was very difficult. While the farmers had previously hired help, thus provided work for other non-farmes, they were now forced to cut back and stop hiring. So if you were not the oldest boy in a family and taking over the farm, or if you were a girl unable to marry a farmer, you were running out of options. Some decided to move to the cities, but mainly this meant finding a living, but only to cope in poverty. Some brave frontierers decided to try America, and they found acres and acres of land, cheap and waiting for hard working people to farm it.

Of course their letters home about the “Golden country” were very promising to those with no prospects at home. For a period of approx 30 years, numerous Norwegians emigrated and settled all over USA and Canada, although a majority can be found in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Today the American Norwegians in USA count around 5 million people, a population equally big as the population of Norway itself! It also means that the American Norwegians are the 10th largest immigrant group in the US.

Look at the hat and all the details of her dress! I think she was very beautiful! She looks a little sad in the picture, maybe she missed her loved ones back home, she never got to see them again. I hope you can use my Ingeborg for some fun crafting project, enjoying that you know a little about her too!

Now for the mystery: I’m working on a genealogy site to trace family members and share these old pictures, and I’m trying to find living relatives of Ingeborg. Ingeborg died in 1919 and her husband Edwin Brynestad (also Norwegian) died in 1931. I belive they had (at least) 3 children: Esther(1901), Helen(1903) and Oscar(1906). Places like Ellendale, Owatonna, Albert Lea, Minneapolis keep coming up when I try to research this… I believe they are all part of Steele County, Minnesota? If I had access to US registers, I’m sure tracing them all and also finding living relatives would be easy, but I don’t…. so I’d love to get help from anyone from Steele County, Minnesota, or from anyone interested in genealogy with access to US registers 🙂

The file is free for your personal use and enjoyment. I scan all my ephemera in 600 dpi. Go to the download folder below to grab your high quality PNG-file (transparent background):

Download Printable

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39 thoughts on “A True Victorian Story – with a mystery attached – Part I

  1. Good Morning ~  I married into a Minnesota Bakke family back in the ’50s.  They were from Granite Falls, MN and had a farm on the Minnesota River.  My husband’s parents names … Eric and Edna Bakke.  I do not recognize your other families first names but I’m not the archiver of the family.  If you believe there is any connections between your Bakkes and my husband’s Bakke family, I’m sure I can find out more info for you.

    Best,  Shar

    1. WOW this is so exciting! I posted my mystery here as a “long shot” and then you answer me after only 2 minutes…lol!

      The family members of Ingeborg were not likely to have kept the Bakke name, since she was married Brynestad, BUT there are more parts to this mystery, that I was planning to reveal little by little… she also had 2 brothers named Rasmus Olson Bakke and Lars Britanus Olson Bakke who emigrated. They would have kept the Bakke name, and most likely their sons and so forth. I started with Ingeborg because I was sure it is she in the picture, and because I had those clues about her since she was already married when she emigrated. For Rasmus and Lars I know nothing after they left… It would be great if you could look into your husbands ancestors with that information.

      Unfortunately Bakke is a fairly common name in Norway (it literally means Hill, so places everywhere were named that…) but if we are not connected, I can probably trace your relatives to where they came from in Norway, the Norwegian registers are very easy to work with, if you know the language…lol

      Big hugs, and fingers crossed! xoxoxo

    2. The name started out as Birkkenbakke (which means Birch Hill) but was shortened to Bakke when they emigrated to the U. S. Are you sure your people started out from Norway as Bakkes?

      1. Yes, Bakke was definitely their surname. So which brother did you marry: Jaque or Dean? 😀 I noticed both Edna and Eric were born in Minnesota? I’ll see if I can find any Birkenbakke-emigrants 🙂

    1. I agree! They left on the big steamers form Bergen, and had to bring provisions for 12 weeks. Most of them knew that they would never return to Norway. But they behaved like immigrants anywhere, they helped each other and the early arrivers took care of the newcomers. Most of them married other Norwegian immigrants and thus failed to learn English. I’ve learned that whole towns in Minnesota were Norwegian speaking in the beginning… 😛

  2. An absolut awesome story Gunnvor, I really enjoyed to read it, and it´s very simular to many of my own ancestors too. I have a lot of family and friends in the US and Canada too, and if you like, I´ll try and ask some of them to see, if they can find anything about your family over there? I have a wonderful friend over there, who´s playing a bit with this herself, and if you could maybe mail me a list with all the names and relevant dates, I´ll try and ask her to look into it for you, and I know, she too says it´s very easy to look their files, if they know where to look. She found more of my relatives for me, when we visited there 2 years ago, and by the way her own grandmother is Norwegian too, but I can´t remember her name thoug, even she´s told me about her many times, but who knows, maybe you can help each other out then, that could be sooo much fun I think .
    Thanks sooo much for the wonderful picture here it´s really beautiful, and did you see the “Eastereggs” I made for the girls this year? I´m sure, you´ll love them ha ha ha. Have a wonderful week ahead now.

    1. Thank you sweetie 🙂 I’d love to get in contact with your genealogy expert 🙂 It is very frustrating, there are extensive American registers, but they all charge a fortune for me to access the information.. and you know how I love (and need) free…:-O Please tell her that I will of course help her as best I can in return, with any questions she has about Norwegian relatives. Just knowing the country is helpful, like I’m experiencing now when trying to research Minnesota. I have no idea if the places I run into are small or large, towns or regions or what ever…:-P Please give her my email adress, if she prefers to write me privately. Thanks a lot Hunny! I’m on my way now to see your Easter eggs, I can’t wait…lol! xoxoxo

  3. I put Edwin’s name in the Google search and came up with something on Ancestry.com. The link below will take you at least that far. It listed Ingeborg as his spouse, so it is on the right track.

    I am also of Scandinavian descent and have found it difficult at times to navigate the ancestry sites past a certain timeline. My searches go back to about the same time as yours but in the opposite direction (to Sweden and Norway). I hope this will help and please let me know if I can do more.


    1. Thank you so much Sandee for the help! I found Ingeborg and Edwin and their children using google search the same way you did. Unfortunately when I try to click on the records to get the details, I can go no further, unless I pay to access the data. This is not so here in Norway, here all registers are free. But they are in Norwegian only, so that might cause trouble for someone trying to research their Norwegian anchestry. I’ve been able to go back on most roots about 8 generations, on some a lot further… I have found direct ancestors as far as 22 generations, we are talking about b-e-f-o-r-e the vikings, around yr 800…:-O But with the American registers I’m hitting a brick wall 😦 This is why I would like to get in touch with someone that has access to the details, either because the data is free to US citizens (I don’t know if they are?) or because they are themselves researching US genealogy and have chosen to pay for the data. I’d be more than happy to do research on Norwegian registries in return! xoxoxo

  4. There is a website for Steele Co here http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mnsteele/ and it is free. I believe they have volunteers on that site. I have access to the Census online and I looked for your people just now. 1920 census states Brynstad, Edwin and wf Isabelle with children Helen and Oscar. Esther is living with another family as a boarder in another twsp looks like Andrew Lerberj and wf Charlotte.
    1930 Berlin Twsp, Steele Co had Brynestad, Edwin age 62 and wife Ingeborg age 61 with son Oscar in Berlin Twsp. Looks like Ingeborg’s name was misspelled in 1920 as she is still living in 1930. They have land records for Berlin Twsp Steele Co. I could not find them or Oscar in 1940.

  5. I just checked the death records for Steele Co and Edwin Johan Brynestad’s death cert is there but not one for Inge.
    There is one for Oscar Johan Brynestad 18 JAN 1933. I think he might be yours as his fathers middle name was Johan also..

    1. OMG! Obie you rule! This is soo helpful, and exactly the kind of resource I was looking for 😀 I must find bed now, it is past midnight and I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to exploring this further in the morning 🙂 Thanks a lot Sweetie 😀 xoxoxo

  6. I found Ingeborgs death ,her last name was misspelled.
    BRYNESTAD, EDWIN JOHAN 31 AUG 1931 -DEATH CERT # 1931-MN-014725
    all four are buried in FIRST LUTH. – FLU cemetery in Berlin, steele Co
    ingeborg born 1868 [from cemetery records]
    Brynestad, Helen 21 may 1903-20 Feb 1975 buried with Edwin & Ingeborg
    mothers maiden name Bakke CERTID# 1903-27527
    I found Lars on the Minnesota Death Index also on the 1930 Census living in Pinelake, Clearwater County and he was unmarried. On 1940 Census he still there and is still single. That is as far as I can go on Census.
    I did not find anything on Esther after the 1920 census. I ran a check on the marriage index and death index but did not get anything.. Inge and her brothers immigrated in 1900. Rasmus says 1899 but the other two say 1900 on the census.

    1. Thank you soooo much again Obie! This information is immensely valuable, and I have used it to located living realatives of Ingeborg. I am in the process of contacting them now 😀 I am also going to let the case of the the brothers Rasmus and Lars rest for now, it seems neither were married. When I have established contact with Ingeborgs relatives I will ask them if they know otherwise about the brothers. Thank you very much, I hope you are up for the next part of the mystery, coming sooooon…lol! xoxoxo

  7. Gunnvor, I could not believe as. I read your ancestor’s story, that you mention Owatonna, MN. That is where I live! I volunteer at the Steele County Historical Society where I will happily seek information using the family names you have mentioned. Wish me luck.

    1. Dear Dianne 🙂

      I was hoping someone from the local area would read this and be willing to help! Like I just wrote to Obie, I have used the details she provided to find some living people I belive are related to Ingeborg. If you are ok with it, I will send you their names by private emails, and have you look into it further? I don’t want to post names of people I expect are alive here on on the blog :-O xoxoxo

  8. I see many other Steele County folks have pointed you in the same direction! So happy there is recorded information you can use to help in your search.

    1. I belive both the girls were married and no longer use Brynestad. So far there is also no information suggesting Oscar was married. BUT with the information Obie provided, I was able to locate who I belive are the daughters and their families, and I used the white pages link you provided here to search for their contact information!!! Sooo exciting 😀

      1. I would be happy to make contacts for you here in Minnesota. Send information to ddsuarez@charter.net. I noticed my e-mail was incorrectly typed, but I have fixed it!

      2. Dear Dianne
        I’m working on my emial to you now 🙂 Just to let you know for later: when you post a comment here, I also receive an email notification that includes your email address. So if you’d rather not have your email posted out here “in the open” you may delete this comment 😉 xoxoxo

  9. Hej Gunnvor, Jeg kan se du søger slægt i USA.

    Jeg er medlem af Jesu Kristi Kirke af Sidste Dages Hellige (Mormon), og kirken har et enormt register af kirkebøger og optegnelser.

    Du kan oprette en profil og få adgang til at søge ganske gratis. Prøv at kigge på dette link http://www.new.familysearch.org Det ville da være fantastisk hvis du kan finde flere fra din slægt.

    Held og lykke…

    Knus Lene Frost 🙂

    Have an amazing day..


    1. Tusen takk Lene 🙂

      Jeg bruker både MyHeritage, Mundia og FamilySearch. Noe informasjon kommer opp, men jeg føler at det ofte er mangelfullt…:-O Derfor har jeg hatt moro av å poste historiene her, for å se om jeg skulle være så heldig å lykkes enda bedre 😉 Det har vært en fantastisk respons, som har hjulpet meg meget. Mer om resultatene kommer snart 🙂 xoxoxo

  10. Naaaaaaaaaaaaah! I didn’t knew you had ‘Ingeborg’ in the family as well! Now that is so neat! I love the pictures. So classy! I love it! How special that you still have those pictures! Wow!

    1. Hello again Sweetie 🙂
      I have just recently (about 2 months ago) started tracing all the relatives who originate from the farm where I grew up. I guess I have heard about Ingeborg growing up, but the name had not stuck on my teflon brain before…lol (even though it sure is pretty!!!)

      My new friend Dianne in Owatonna, has helped me so much to learn about Ingeborg’s family in Minnesota, great fun! I plan to make family charts and an album to send to her so she can give it to one of my relatives there to enjoy. He is quite old and not online in any way, so we have to do it by old fashioned snail mail 😀

      I totally need to get my studio together, so I can complete the projects I have started…lol!!! xoxoxo

      1. That is so lovely that you managed to trace your relatives! I am sure that relative that will receive the family album will be flabbergasted. Such a great idea to do that and foremost so kind of you to do. Most of the time the old people are neglected by the young ones these days. I didn’t knew your brain was made of teflon? Not made of eggshell like mine? Are you sure? LOL ;-D

      2. Teflon is my middle name! lol The album is still in the planning stages, as are several other projects…:-P I am working a little bit here, a little bit there allowing myself some space…lol but I’ll complete it eventually, I always do, it’s just some times it takes a little longer… hehehe

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