Saturday, December 5, 2009


Researching the Williams family history began in earnest as Vince and I were planning a vacation trip to Norway in 1975. We had a few family traditions to go by: (1) The Williams' (then called Webjørnsen) came to America from Eina in Toten (Toten is north of Oslo about 50 miles); (2) The surname could have been Vål or Sagness as well. (Walter, and other of his siblings, were confirmed as Sagness.) Walter had related to us a story he heard his father tell. It seems Sigvart had to skate across the fjord to get to church for his confirmation study, and he was warned never to skate on "rubber ice." However, he did one time. When he made it to the church, he was given such a "bawling out" from the pastor that he immediately turned around and skated back home.

So on our trip to Norway we included the area of Eina on our itinerary. We wandered the streets, and drove the country roads. We stopped at the Eina church and walked in the cemetery. But we found no stones that applied to the Williams family. We also drove past a farm with the name Sangness on its mailbox. That was close to Sagness, so we stopped to ask some people close by who were working on their car. They didn't know any answers to the questions we were asking, but did treat us with eats and beverages as if they had known us for a long time. And they took us to an elderly lady who was quite a historian. She thought she remembered hearing some of the names we were talking about, but we gained no definite information. We did take pictures of the Sangness farm, and of the Eina church.

Some time later we were given an old hymnbook which had been given to Walter. And inside the front cover was written by Webjørn Webjørnsen Waal (Vål) his birthdate, his wife's and their children's. They were born in Kråkstad. The late Oivind Hovde, Luther College, translated the writing for us. The research began to reap results. With the help of the Kråkstad bygdebok (farm histories) and the Vesterheim Genealogical Center, Madison, WI, we found that Webjørn Waal moved to the Brekke farm where Webjørn Webjørnsen Brekke/Karlsmyr was born. He in turn moved to the Karlsmyr farm where Sigvart Anton was born December 1849. In 1854 the family moved to the Eina area where they lived first on the Jonsrud farm. This farm was on the east side of Einafjord, where the church we visited was later built. In 1857 they moved to the Sangness farm, and from there they left Norway in 1864 to come to America. Copies of the hymnbook family record, and a letter verifying the move to the Eina area and from the Toten area to America are enclosed in this history.

Kråkstad is south of Oslo on the east side of the Oslofjord. When we lived in Norway from Jan - May 1986, we visited the area several times, worshipped in the Kråkstad church, saw the Skotbu, Vål, Brekke, and Karlsmyr farms. Our guide and host was Oddvar Bjerke and his family. He is interested in family history too, and had figured out he was a 7th or 8th cousin of Vince's.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Map of Norway with Counties and Towns

Norway map. Image courtesy of Verla Williams.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Map showing Eina in relation to Oslo

Map showing Eina in relation to Oslo. Image courtesy of Verla Williams. Eina is highlighted.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Map of Kråkstad area

Map of Kråkstad area. Image courtesy of Verla Williams. The Skotbu, Vål, Karlsmyr, and Brekke farms are highlighted.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Kråkstad church

Kråkstad kirke (1880). Image courtesy of Ski lokalhistoriske arkiv. Used with permission.

Kråkstad kirke (2007). Photo: © 2007, Thore Bakk, courtesy of Picasa Web Albums. Used with permission.

The Kråkstad church was built in stone (walls - three feet thick) in the year 1160. The entryway with spire is much younger. The church was restored in 1801. Originally, the spire was in the middle of the roof, and the windows were smaller. This was the church in which Anton Sigvardt Vebjörnsen Carlsmyr [Sigvart Anton Williams] was baptized on 20 January 1850.

Interior of Kråkstad church. Photo: KA/Atle Evensen, courtesy of Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU). Used with permission.

UPDATE: (1 Jun 2016) Came across a beautiful video of the Kråkstad church shot by a drone.