My great-grandfather, Berge Rognaldsen Duesund, was originally named Berge Rognaldsen Mjanger. In Norway, it was customary to name children after both their father’s name and the place where they were born. Berge’s father was named Rognald and the homeplace of the family farm was Mjanger, located some 45 miles north of Bergen. However, Berge married a woman named Brita Eriksdatter Duesund (nee Andvik), who lived one fjord further north at a place called Duesund. Berge wasn’t the oldest son in his family and so he couldn’t inherit the Mjanger farm. Brita’s husband, Ola Halvordsen Duesund, died in 1887 leaving her with two children, Halvar, age 6, and Marta, age 2. I’m not sure how they met, but it wouldn’t have been difficult since they only lived 5 miles apart. I’m guessing they met at church, but it could have been in some other circumstance.
At any rate, Berge and Brita married in 1890 and Berge moved in with Brita at her Duesund farm. Very soon after this union, additional children joined the family. First was Olufina in 1891, next came Ragnvald (my grandfather), in 1893, and finally Maria, in 1896. The family name was now Duesund, not Mjanger. Eventually, there would be 12 Duesund children: 2 from Brita’s first marriage, 3 from Berge and Brita’s union and 7 more from Berge’s second marriage to Malena Oldsdatter Skjeggedal.
In time, both Olufina and Ragnvald would move to the United States and have families of their own. Olufina’s last name changed to Andvik after she married Berge Martin Olsen Andvik. Ragnvald’s last name changed to Bergeson (son of Berge) after he and Gladys Rebecca Parke mutually decided that Duesund wasn’t a name that was destined for success in the United States, especially when it was preceded by the name “Ragnvald”.
In 2003, my daughter,Kari, and I went on a pilgrimage to Norway to reconnect with our relatives there. We visited family in Oslo and Bergen, but we also wanted to spend time at the Duesund and Mjanger farms, which are in rural Hordaland, the fylke (county) in western Norway where our family originated.
My 3rd cousin, Erling Mjanger, was as eager to host us on this journey as we were to be in his company. He took us to Duesund to visit the last living sibling of my grandfather’s, Johanna Duesund. She lived her entire life in the house where she was born! She was 96 when we visited, but sadly died the following year.
As luck would have it, we arrived at Mjanger just in time to experience a recent and growing family tradition: Mjanger Dagen (Mjanger Days)! For several years, the extended Mjanger family from all points in Norway and the United States had been returning to the family farm the first weekend in July for round-the-clock revelry. Being one-time Mjangers, we were honored to be included in this family celebration. By the end of the weekend, we were card-carrying Mjangers once again!
While we were visiting Mjanger, we also spent time with Erling’s family, his wife, Anne Kari, and their three boys: Emil (12), Jo (9) and Sondre (5).
Fast forward to 2019. Several years after our visit to Mjanger, Erling developed a brain tumor that eventually cut his life short at the age of 61. In 2019, Erling’s brother Ragnvald Mjanger who lives near us in Minnesota, began dealing with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer during the summer. In December 2019, two of Erling’s sons, Emil and Sondre Mjanger, traveled to Minnesota to check in and spend time with their Uncle Ragnvald. My sister Beth Bergeson Behrens and husband Paul Behrens opened their home to us so that we could spend an evening getting reacquainted and sharing stories.
My father was always reminding us of our Mjanger heritage and, in fact, couldn’t resist throwing a genealogical curveball at us from time to time. “You know,” he’d say with a twinkle in his eye, “we’re really all Matres if you want to know the truth!” Maybe I’ll leave that one alone for now.
P.S. 4/29/20–I realized that I should include the married names of my grandfather’s female siblings in the mix so that all of my cousins will feel included in this and future stories. They’re all Mjangers too! Those names are Syversen, Espeland and Andvik.