By Ruth Christ
formerly Vosselag Genealogist
[A version of this article has appeared in Avisen, v. 13, no. 1, May 2005]
Vosselag welcomes as members all who have a heritage, affiliation, or other interest in Voss, Norway. We are one of several lag which have joined to form Vestlandslag and membership is acquired through that organization. Our website at www.vosselag.org provides access to a variety of information on Vosselag. There is a Voss Genealogy page with direct links to Voss specific pages within the Digital Archives and the Digital Inn as well as many other pages containing Voss related information.
Voss is the largest kommune in Hordaland Fylke and is located south of Sogn and north of Hardanger. The tip of Bolstadfjorden connects it on the west to the fjord country, though Voss Kommune is primarily a large inland valley with several branches and two side valleys. The region to the west of the city of Voss is Evanger. Vossestrand is the region to the north, and Vangen (Vossevangen) is the area around the city. For some time these were separate administrative units, but are now united in one kommune. This change is reflected in the farm numbers. Formerly, the farms were numbered in three separate sequences. Now they have been merged into one sequence of 412 numbers. Eighteen farms which were numbered in the Evanger sequence now have Vaksdal numbers 62-80. Alphabetical and numerical listings of the farms are available on our website.
Emigrants from Voss were among the earliest to come to America with the first family leaving Norway in 1836. During the period from 1836-1914 several thousand Vossings emigrated. Many of these came through Chicago and spread throughout Wisconsin, northern Iowa, Minnesota and into the Dakotas. A large colony formed in Chicago in the 1840s and ‘50s and other early settlements of Vossings were at the Beaver Creek and Fox River Settlements in Illinois; Shelby County, Missouri; Sugar Creek in Iowa; and Jefferson Prairie, Koshkonong, and Spring Prairie in Wisconsin.
As with emigrants from other areas of Norway, there was a desire to get together with other emigrants from "home" to share news and speak the home dialect, in this case vossamål. In March of 1909, preparatory meetings were held in Lake Mills, Iowa, with the intent of holding a gathering in Albert Lea, Minnesota, to form a lag. About 250 Vossings assembled in Albert Lea on June 24, 1909, and Vosselag became a reality. The intent was initially to have a local organization, but it soon became clear that there were strong feelings about forming a national organization as several states were represented at that first meeting. The first officers included such men as Knut Henderson, Cambridge, WI, (secretary of the National Norwegian Pioneers association), President; Ole Skuttle, Lake Mills, IA, Vice-President; Torbjørn Ringheim, Northwood, IA, Secretary; Oscar Horvei, Lake Mills, IA, Treasurer; and as Directors: Prof. Lars W. Boe, Forest City, IA; John Anderson (publisher of Skandinavian), Chicago; Helge Opland (Sioux Falls Posten); Ole K. Takle, Albert Lea, MN; and Anton J. Rockne (speaker of the House of Representatives of Minnesota).
Vossingen was a publication of Vosselag issued during the period from 1920 to 1950 with Knut A. Rene as the editor. Articles informed Vosselag members of lag activities, but more importantly for us now, many articles contained information about Vossing families both in America and Norway. There were also articles about events of the day as they related to Vossings in both countries. Dr. Stanley Nuland has begun translating Vossingen and some issues are now available on our website in Adobe Acrobat portable document format (pdf). Each translated issue has the Norwegian and English texts in parallel columns.
Another important work published with the support of Vosselag was Historie om Udvandringen fra Voss og Vossingerne i Amerika, written by K. A. Rene while he was secretary of the organization and editor of Vossingen. It was published in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1930. In 1917 the Lag had decided that a history of Vossings in America should be published and questionnaires for short biographies were sent out to those Vossings for whom addresses were available. Initially Knut Henderson, the Historian, was to gather the information and compile it. Due to his advancing age and vision problems, compilation of the volume languished until 1920 when Knut Rene was elected Historian and took over the writing of this history. The resulting volume contained information about the history of Voss, descriptions of the farms there, and emigration in addition to the biographical sketches. For many years American genealogists have struggled with the language of this work since it was written in 19th century Dano-Norwegian (riksmål). In 2003 an English translation by Dr. Stanley Nuland was issued by Vosselag on CD-ROM. Dr. Nuland was particularly qualified to do this translation in that he had been taught the Voss dialect of that era by his mother and had actually seen her interviewed by Rene. Though the original did have an index, the pdf has made it possible to search on any term making the content much more accessible. We are most grateful to have this translation available for research.
Dr. Nuland also translated the four-volume Vossaboki by Lars Kindem. Vosselag has made this avalable as well on CD-ROM. While there are gaps in the information provided in the original work, this translation is a valuable resource making much information available to English speakers.
Currently Vosselag meets annually at the Vestlandslag stevne in June. At each stevne one day is devoted entirely to genealogy and the resources are available an additional day for research. Vosselag owns virtually all the films of church, land, and probate records for Voss. These, as well as census records, are also availble on the internet and the genealogists are available to help with searching and interpreting these records and searching other databases. Recently Vosselag purchased additional bygdebøker, so the genealogist now has the major ones available.
In some years there have been additional special events. For instance, in 2001 Vosselag held a genealogical workshop at Vesterheim Genealogical Center and Naeseth Library in Madison, WI. In 2005 Vosselag held a Heritage Tour to Voss to celebrate Norway’s centennial. Vosselag marked its own centennial in 2009 with special events at the annual stevne and the publication of a Centennial program which highlighted the charter members. Vosselag is at this time in the early phases of an Emigration Project which will attempt to identify the immigrants and first two generations of descendants of immigrants from Voss and link them to their Norwegian ancestors in a database. Individual members are also creating databases which will greatly enhance our research capabilities. We appreciate the cooperation of genealogists from Voss whom we met while there on the Heritage Tour.
The 2010/2011 officers for Vosselag are:Jean Marthaler, President; Ken Moen, Vice-President; Richard Flisrand, Secretary; Marge Moen, Treasurer; Vivian Gullickson White, Genealogist, (with assistants Jean Marthaler and Ruth Christ); Jean Marthaler, Historian; and Ruth Christ, Webmaster.
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Page prepared by Ruth Christ, Vosselag
Created: June 22, 2010
Last updated: June 23, 2010