What would it be like to leave home alone at the age of 16 and move halfway around the world to a place where you’ve never been before and you know only one other human being who actually lives there? My paternal grandfather, Ragnvald Duesund Bergeson, did just that in 1910, moving from the west coast of Norway to the southeast corner of South Dakota. I’m pretty sure that leaving home wasn’t something he had been planning on doing for years in advance. However, with many siblings and a homestead that wasn’t very large, he didn’t see a viable future for himself in Norway. He didn’t know it at the time, but he would not see anyone in his family again until he was 29.
The picture above was taken on the occasion of his return to Norway in 1923, the first time that he was able to meet the youngest three of his ten siblings. He had recently graduated from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with a degree in electrical engineering and was taking this journey as a homecoming reward paid for by a loan from a friend of his in America. Grandpa was concerned that he had still not accumulated enough savings that he could pay for his own passage.
Ragnvald is third from the left in the back row. He is surrounded by his brothers and sisters. He and his two full sisters shared the same mother as two of his half-siblings and shared the same father as the other seven half-siblings. I have had the pleasure of meeting all of these family members except the two oldest, but I’ve yet to see even a picture of the oldest, my grandfather’s half-brother, Halvard Duesund. I’m still searching for that!
In today’s world, there is no end of stories and concerns about immigrants taking risks around the globe. Some things never change! I am grateful every day that my grandfather was courageous enough to take the action that he did so long ago.
L to R back row: Marta, Olufina, Ragnvald, Maria, Olav, Brita, Johanna
L to R front row: Johannes, Trygve, Birgir, Ingolf