Unlocking Family Mysteries with Gravestones

As you comb through different resources, it’s amazing to find out which resource leads to your latest family clue. One great resource for finding more information is from gravestones. I know it seems morbid, but gravestones often provide really interesting information. For example, you can validate birth and death dates, family relationships (spouse, children), or even sometimes birth locations and job titles.

A few months ago, I was contacted by Jeanne Nelsen via the website, www.findagrave.com. Jeanne contacted me as I was listed as a contributor to the website in Norway. If you don’t know, findagrave.com is a website bringing volunteers together to take photos of gravestones around the world. Jeanne was interested in getting a photograph of Halvard Storm’s gravestone.  

Jeanne began researching her ancestry after retiring and came to find out about Halvard. He was a Norwegian artist, specializing in etchings of landscapes and architecture in Norway during the early and mid-20th century. Jeanne purchased one of his etchings and had to learn more. After using several genealogy tools, she was able to find through DIS-NORGE that Halvard was buried at Vestre Gravlund in Oslo.  This then led to an email to me!

I love a good mystery and receiving Jeanne’s email was exciting. After a few weeks, I was able to make my way to Vestre Gravlund and take the photos of Halvard’s gravesite. What we found was not just Halvard, but several members of his family and two wives. As you can see from this photo, the gravestone provides a great deal of information. We see Halvard’s parents, John and Louise, and his siblings, Olaf, Einar, and Aage. Also, Halvard had two wives — Martha and Sigrid. You can also see the job positions for a few family members, Johan was a professor, Olaf was a captain, and Aage was a Supreme Court attorney (barrister). You can also see that Halvard was a “raderer” which is a specific type of artist.  With a little research, it looks like a raderer specialized in etchings – possibly in metal plates (see Radering and use Google Translate).  The wikipedia page indicates that this was a common way of creating mass-produced images before photography.  Really interesting!

Jeanne went on to use these photographs for the wikipedia page which I highly recommend reading to learn a little about an interesting Norwegian-American artist. You can also find Halvard Storm’s Find A Grave page for additional information and to see a typical entry on that site.

Connections, like this one, help to make family research grow. Whether it’s an online resource or people across the world working together for a common purpose, your connections will often drive the success of any findings. Not only that, but this blog underlines the importance of gravestones and how much information you can yield from them.  What other resources have you used to find a breakthrough in your family history research?

Interested in learning more? Contact us to get started on your journey (info@kithandkinsmen.com).  

~ Tara