Gordon Aalborg … filling in for Robin Agnew
The mysterious power of the internet never ceases to amaze me.
I’ve just spent a few days delving into the intricacies of genealogy, courtesy of an innocent question asked by a distant relative I didn’t even know existed until recently.
Her name is Trine, and her great-grandfather’s brother was married to my grandfather’s sister. In Norway—long ago and far away. She’s coming to Canada this summer for the first time ever, to meet some of her husband’s relations in Alberta. And while she’s at it, she reckoned, she might try to find some of her own distant relatives.
She knew that two daughters of her great-father’s brother, had—way back in the 1930s, before either of us was even born—stayed with an uncle of theirs named Aalborg, on a farm, somewhere in Alberta. And that one of them had eventually married in that district. So she went online looking for any Canadian Aalborg that might know more—and the only one she could find in all of Canada was me, who knew nothing. I didn’t even know my grandfather had a sister!
It was something of a surprise to get the email from Trine. And a huge surprise when my geriatric mind eventually kicked in and I recalled—and then actually found—an old family photo which, miracle of miracles. showed Trine’s relatives—my grandfather’s nieces indeed!—with my father and grandparents. The biggest surprise of all was that I’d actually kept the damned picture at all. I’ve been carting it around for years without knowing why. Now I know.
But I believe Trine got an even bigger surprise when I was able to send her the photo and tell her that I spent several summers as a child on the farm with one of those sisters (our mutual relatives) and the man she married. Good memories clouded by a lot of time.
Which should have been the end of it, except…
About a week later, I registered with www.facebook.com so I could look into this online thriller that fellow Canadian Dr. Brad Kelln is doing. And a few days later I was invited to join an Aalborg group on facebook.
More relatives I didn’t know existed. A lot of them. All in Norway, which is no surprise. And in Norway, apparently, everyone with the Aalborg surname can be traced to one of two families and communities … or is a ring-in from Denmark and doesn’t count.
The name isn’t that rare in the U.S., although most are of Danish heritage, I think. But the only Aalborgs in all of Canada, it seems, are my youngest daughter, my sister and me. At least we’re the only ones with publicly listed phones—there could be hundreds, for all I know, using unlisted and/or cell phones to avoid the pestilence of telemarketers (may they all be cursed to perpetual impotence and have their most intimate bits rot and putrefy and drop off, along with their tongues!)
But by this time, dear reader, my curiosity bump is itching like crazy. I mean—who are these relatives half the world away? And how are we related? And under what circumstances? And what’s the back story to my own lineage? So it becomes my turn to prowl the internet looking for relatives. In a foreign country, with records in a language I can’t read.
Thank goodness for those relatives who’d already found me! Trine’s second cousin (I think that’s how it works) is something of a genealogist—and a good one, too.
With his help, I now know my grandfather was one of eight children. And I know when he left Norway, how he got to Canada, and my paternal lineage back to the 1600s and the Aalborg farm in Tynset, Hedmark, Norway (somewhere I may never see in person, more’s the pity).
And I’ve been able to trace the family line further back yet to the Viking King Godred Olavsson of the Isle of Man in the twelfth century. Royal blood!—is that cool, or what?
Okay … cool, but sort of irrelevant, really. What’s the point of it all? Well there isn’t one, really. Except to assuage my writer’s curiosity. And to make me feel sort of sheepish to realize that the answers to most of my questions today were there, readily available to me, when I was young and my parents and grandparents were still alive and would have answered them had I but asked. Which of course I didn’t. I was only a teenager, then, so I thought I already knew everything worth knowing.
But I should have paid attention and I rather wish I had. Far, far better to get your family’s history first-hand, if possible. While your relatives are still walking around, able to tell you first-hand who’s related to whom and why and where and how.
The internet is, indeed, powerful and mysterious. But it’s no substitute for the real thing—history straight from the hearts and minds of those who made it. That is the point.
For my part, being distantly related to a twelfth-century king of the Isle of Man is vaguely interesting, but not half as interesting as being found on the internet—in this century by the great-grand-daughter of the brother of my grandfather’s sister’s husband … a lady the age of my youngest daughter and a lady I never expected to meet in person.
So you can imagine my surprise when the phone rang the other day and a voice with a decidedly Norwegian accent announced that Trine, her husband, and twin daughters were in Vancouver, with a view to taking the ferry over to Vancouver Island—just to visit me.
Which they did, and it was a splendid visit, too. The highlight of my summer, I think.
Mind you, we’re still trying to figure out exactly what her relationship to me actually is… The term fourth cousin, thrice removed, comes to mind, but I’m sure it isn’t accurate. J