My great great grandfather Jørgen Oleson Wold, 1816-1892, from Skougar near Drammen, Norway, was born 9 years before his parents tied the knot. Although his father is listed as the man his mother eventually married, DNA testing has stirred up my doubts.
Having a child out of wedlock was not uncommon in rural Norway of the 1800s. It was not considered shameful in many areas. Often the couple would marry later on; you had to be able to support a wife in order to have one. Another reason is that people wanted to be sure they could have children before marrying, since many hands were needed on the farm. The data shows that quite often women were pregnant at the altar. Click here for an article showing that having a sexual relationship and getting pregnant was the normal way to start a marriage in at least one area of Norway at that time. Night visiting, fully clothed, was a customary way for young people to get to know each other.
According to the 19th century clerygyman and sociologist Eilert Sundt (my 10th cousin 3R), who looked carefully at many population statistics, 43% of all Norwegian children were conceived before their parents got married back in the mid 1800s. Click here for the article that cites this.
The problem for Jørgen’s parentage is that there are no DNA matches on just his father of record’s line. It is always possible to get less DNA from one 3rd grandparent but it seemed that all my family’s matches to the descendants of other children of that marriage were smaller than expected. We also have many matches quite far back on Jørgen’s wife’s line, suggesting it was possible we just had more DNA from her side but also demonstrating that when there are many generations of large families, DNA matches to 5th and 6th cousins will be found. This is also true on our other Norwegian lines.
Could Jørgen have a different father? If so, I would expect to see a group of 4th cousin matches who match each other but are not assigned to any of our known lines. Since Norwegian records are good, our ancestors are well documented back into the 1700s or even earlier.
There is a large group of matches that fits that scenario, all descended from one Torkild Westby b 1810, Drammen, Norway. It so happens that Westby/Vestby is a farm in Skoger just outside of Drammen where Jørgen may have lived as a youth. Norwegians did not have surnames back then, they used their father’s name plus their farm of residence which could change. Also W was pronounced as V in Norway so they are interchangable in the spelling. When Torkild’s children came to America they used the surname Westbye. I found the birth record for Torkild in the Norwegian archives and sure enough, he was born on farm Westby in Skoger..
I decided to try a ThruLines experiment by changing Jørgen’s father to Torkild’s father, Jahn Jahnsen Westbye, in my Ancestry tree and see what happened. For Jørgen’s father and grandfather of record, Thrulines listed no DNA matches that were not also listed for his son.
Within a day, ThruLines showed 6 matches on myThruLines list for Jahn Jahnsen Westby, all descending from Torkild. Plus there are many more common matches in the Westby cluster group without trees. My brother and Wold side cousins all had new ThruLines matches as well.
Another possibility is that Jørgen’s listed father, Ole Christensen, might be the biological father of Torkhild. However when I compared a known 4th cousin from the Christensen group, those descended from Jørgen’s parents of record, to all these Westby people there were no matches to any of them. Since most of those cousins tested elsewhere, now I need to convince some of these Ancestry matches to upload to GEDmatch where there are more Wolds and Christensens than at Ancestry to check if any others match the Westby group.
In the diagram below, the Westby descendants are listed on the left by initials and the amount they share with the various descendants of Jorgen are in the columns. Note that “SW”is a (half) 4th cousin descended from Jorgen’s parents of record. The people shaded green are all in my generation descended from Jorgen via his daughter Maren. Yellow is one generation below me, also from Maren, and M, the reddish columns is one generation above me from Jorgen’s son Charlie. M seems to have far less DNA from Jorgen as she shares only 11 cM with her half 3rd 1R “other” as well as less with these Westby relatives.
A third option is that my great grandmother Maren had Torkild for a father, not Jorgen, This seems to fit the DNA shared with the Westby group but not the small matches to the Christensen group. Then M’s matches to the Westbys would have to be from a further back ancestor. Note that both Torkhild and Jorgen were living on South Imjelt farm in Skoger in the mid 1800s. Torkel owned it and Jorgen worked as the overseer. The birth certificates of Jorgen and Anna’s first six children including Maren, all list the farm South Imjelt as the place of birth.
At this point I am somewhat convinced of my theory that Jørgen and Torkel share a father but need to do more research and look at more tests before I change my trees everywhere.
Here are my action items:
- Get more of the Westbye matches to upload to GEDmatch so I can compare them to my father and other Wold descendants that tested at different companie and confirm they do not match other Christensens, descendants of Jørgen’s parents of record.
- Use the What Are the Odds Tool at DNApainter (WATO) to try out the different theories
- See if I can find a male line Christensen descendant. Find out if he also has the viking I1 Y-haplogroup that the Wold line has. If so, then get him and my male Wold cousin to do Y 37 tests at Family Tree DNA,
- See if I can find a male line Westbye descendant and find out if he also has the viking I1 Y-haplogroup. If so, then get him and my male Wold cousin to do Y 37 tests at Family Tree DNA,
- Look through the records for Skoger to learn more about my new ancestors. Thanks to my cousins in Svelvik, Vestfold, (descended from a brother of Jørgen’s wife Anna) I now have copies of the farmbook pages for Vestby/Westby and Imjelt and I am slowly transcribing it all to GENI although I have not yet changed Jørgen’s father to Jahn Jahnsen Westbye. I need more proof.
- Find other descendants of Jahn Jahnsen Westbye not descended from Torkild and see if they have DNA tested yet …