#52ancestors: At the courthouse

I am one week behind with this contribution to the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge, but here we go!

Looking for vital information on my Great-Grandmother Karoline Elise Olsen (born 1872 in Ålesund, Møre og Romsdal county) I found her having left the state church on June 10th, 1898. The reason for her leaving the church is to get a civil marriage to Bård Hansen Eidhammer (born 1872 in Tresfjord, Møre og Romsdal county). The minister has even offered to waive his fee to marry them. This is not an option as traveling to Molde from Ålesund, one night in a hotel and the travel back will cost much more than the minister’s fee.

This is the actual church book record. Karoline is no 5 1898:

SAT, Ministerialprotokoller, klokkerbøker og fødselsregistre – Møre og Romsdal, 529/L0457: Parish register (official) no. 529A07, 1894-1903, p. 281
Quick link: https://www.digitalarkivet.no/kb20050413040253

Searching the church book section “civil married” for Ålesund I find a reference to a note from the magistrate in Molde telling that cobbler Bård Gerhard Hansen Eidhammer has married girl Karoline Elise Olsen on Jun 14th, 1898. The note gives their birth-, and confirmation dates and the names of their parents. It tells that the bride and groom are not related. The witnesses are Karoline’s cousin “Fire chief in Molde Oluf Mathisen” and Merchant in Molde Ole Rypdal. Ole Rypdal was from Tresfjord and probably a friend of Bård from his youth.

Here is the actual record. Bård and Karoline are no 4:

SAT, Ministerialprotokoller, klokkerbøker og fødselsregistre – Møre og Romsdal, 529/L0457: Parish register (official) no. 529A07, 1894-1903, p. 337
Quick link: https://www.digitalarkivet.no/kb20050413040300

Then, about a month later July 16th, Karoline again joins the state church!?

SAT, Ministerialprotokoller, klokkerbøker og fødselsregistre – Møre og Romsdal, 529/L0457: Parish register (official) no. 529A07, 1894-1903, p. 274
Quick link: https://www.digitalarkivet.no/kb20050413040247

This whole story puzzled me.

First of all; Why did Karoline leave the state church? This question was answered when I read up on the laws that governed marriages in Norway at that time. Based on the law about marriages of 1863, two persons who both belonged to the state church had to be married in the church. However, in cases where one or both of the couple were not a member of the state church, they could be married by the magistrate. Before marriage in the church could take place, an announcement (lysning) had to be made. Earlier this announcement had to be made three times from the pulpit in the church. In the late 1800s, this was reduced to one time. A civil marriage could take place without this announcement as long as the couple had witnesses who confirmed that the couple was eligible to marry.

I should add that this is how I understand the rules from a rather lengthy and hard to read discussion in the book “Indstilling til lov om egteskapets stiftelse og kirkelig velsignelse” by “The church commission 1908” Published in Christiania in 1909.

So, why would Karoline and Bård want to get married fast? The most obvious reason would be if Karoline was pregnant. However, their first born, my Grandfather Martin Nicolai was not born until May 19th, 1901. They may, of course, have had a false alarm or a miscarriage. While having a child before nine months after the  wedding was somewhat shameful, it happened in every family.

Perhaps didn’t Karoline’s parents Markus and Nicoline Olsen condone the marriage. After all, Bård came from a cotter family in Tresfjord and Markus was the owner of a shipyard (though a small one) in Ålesund. Perhaps they wanted their daughter married to someone further up the social ladder? Nothing suggesting this has ever been talked about in the family and Markus Olsen was the witness to his Grandson Martin’s baptism in 1901.

The third possibility is that by getting a civil marriage in Molde, they wanted a low-key wedding. Getting from Ålesund to Molde today it is a two-hour car ride, including a ferry. In 1898 this journey was probably undertaken by steamship from Ålesund to Molde. The steamship calling at every little village along the way, this trip must have taken the better part of a day.

The courthouse in Molde. The building still stands today looking pretty much the same. Used by permission from Romsdalsmuseet

I guess we’ll never know the reason for Karoline and Bård’s actions. A funny thing though; The book I referred to above mentions that many couples did this, with no explanation as to why.

4 thoughts on “#52ancestors: At the courthouse

  • March 9, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Very interesting story. The laws of the day explain a good deal in all of history. They may not make any sense to us, but times were so different then. I have a story of my Grandmother from Vesness who was born in America making her a US citizen. She was require to give it up to marry my Grandfather from Vaja Sweden who was not a US citizen. They never became citizens after that. This is just the opposite of today and with the women’s movement it would be unheard of.


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