Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Serendipity Happens? Dear Randy: Can you Help with my Lelands?

While we were on our vacation two weeks ago, I received this email from Louis on 14 September (edited to remove extraneous or identifying information):

"Dear Sir, attached you will find info on Lewis B. Leland of Voss, Norway.  He was my great-grandfather. ... I have seen spellings vary from Liland, Leland, Leeland to Lieland.  I'm doing pretty good with the USA Lelands but nothing on the Norwegians except what you read in the attachment.  ... My Leland grandparents died between 1920 and 1929.  I knew very little about the Lelands as they were not mentioned while I was growing up. "

The attachment that Louis sent along was a sketch from the book:

Arthur P. Rose, An Illustrated History of Lyon County (Marshall, Minn.: Northern History Pub. Co.,1912), accessed on the Lyon County Biographies website,

It said:

"LEWIS B. LELAND (1879) is a farmer of Nordland township who has a thirty-three year residence in Lyon county to his credit. He lives upon the farm he took as a homestead in the early days, the southeast quarter of section 28.

"Mr. Leland was born in Vos, Norway, December 11, 1847, a son of Bernard and Maglina (Grimestad) Leland. The family came to the United States in 1849, in company with Knute Nelson, now United States senator from Minnesota, and landed in New York on the nation's birthday. The Lelands made settlement in Dane county, Wisconsin, and in 1873 moved to Buffalo county of the same state.

"It was in 1879 that Lewis B. Leland left Wisconsin and came to Lyon county. He purchased a preemption claim to his present farm, changed the filing to a homestead, proved up on it, and engaged in its cultivation until 1894. That year he moved to Minneota and for the next fifteen years he worked at the carpenter's trade and conducted a wagon shop there. In 1909 Mr. Leland returned to the farm. For seven or eight years he was clerk of school district No. 25 and for four years he was a justice of the peace. He is a member of the Norwegian Lutheran church.

"Mr. Leland is a man of family, having been married in Stoughton, Wisconsin, May 9, 1872, to Martha Gilderhus. She is a native of Dane county, Wisconsin, and was born October l, 1850. Her parents. Ole and Martha (Overland) Gilderhus, were born in Vos, Norway. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Leland are Luella, Josie, Lillian, Beatrice, Marvin, Mabel and Winnifred."

My email response to Louis:

"As you will see, it is fortuitous that I did not answer you immediately!  When you sent the email, we were on vacation in Wisconsin and on 16 September I visited the Norwegian-American  Genealogy Center and Naeseth Museum in Madison, Wisconsin.  While there, I found significant information on my wife's Leland family and, I think, on your Leland line. 

"One of the resources at this library was:

"K.A. Rene, History of Emigration from Voss and the Vossings in America (Madison, Wis.: the author, 1930), English Translation, Volume 1, page 383-4, provides a short summary of Brynjulv Larson Liland's life:

" 'Brynjulv Larson Liland was born in Voss December 11, 1825, the son of Lars Brynjulvson Liland and wife Anna Styrksdatter Seim, born 1797, who was of the Miltzow lineage.  He was married to Magli Samsonsdatter Grimarstad, born March 8, 1824, and one son, Lars, born in 1847, then they emigrated in 1849.  They came to Koshkonong and settled on a farm that they bought one mile southwest of Kroghville in Deerfield Township.  There they built a good residential home -- and a smithy.  He was an inordinately clever man to do all kinds of work in iron and wood.  On his farm, he began to manufacture farm equipment -- especially wagons.  He also made a pipe organ, which was used at Liberty Prairie Church and sold for $300.  For 18 years, he lived there.  He ran a wagon factory nin Ft. Atkinson, WI.  Then he sold the farm and moved to Stoughton, WI, where in 1867 he constructed an iron foundry and blacksmith shop: continued with the manufacture of wagons, plows and other farm implements and employed, on the average, twelve men.  He found a market for his manufactured ware in Iowa and Minnesota, besides Wisconsin.  However, there were others, who carried on in the same kind of work in that little town, and in 1876, he sold out and moved to Lyon County, Minnesota, where he farmed.  He died at home in Minneota, MN, in January 1903.  His wife died in March 1914.  They left ten children:  Lars, Joseph, Anna, Martha, Sam, Ole, Erick, Betsy, Mary and Sivert.  One child died young.

" 'Lars Brynjulvson Liland -- Brynulv's father died in Deerfield Township, Wisconsin.  The mother died in Voss.'

"I believe that Lars Brynjulvson Liland is the Bernard L. Leland named in the Lyon county MN Biographies page you sent to me as an attachment.  I also think that the son, Lars, mentioned above as born in 1847, is your Lewis B. Leland.  While the first names are different, I think that it is because of two factors:

"1)  I don't know how much you've learned about Norwegian names and the surname selection that was forced on them in the 1870s time period in Norway, which also occurred in the USA.  Before the 1870s, people in Norway took their father's first name as a second name - it was called a patronymic naming system.  Hence Lars Brynjulvson was the son of Brynjulv, and Brynjulv Larson was the son of Lars, and Magli Samsonsdatter was the daughter of Samson.  They would often use the name of the farm that they resided on (and the farm name could change when they moved) as another identifying name.  In the 1870s, Norway directed that everyone choose a surname and that surname would be given to the children of that person.  Many chose the patronymic name of their father, and many chose a farm name, and some chose some other surname altogether.

"Hence, when Lars Brynjulvson came to America, he was known as Lars Brynjulvson until the 1870s, when he chose the farm name Liland (in Voss) to be known by.   His son Brynjulv Latrson also chose the Liland farm name.  His daughter, Kari Larsdatter, married Ivar Torgerson (son of Torger Olson of Tungeteigens in Voss) and Ivar's family adopted the Liland surname also.  So did Ivar's brother, Sjur Torgerson and his family (that is my wife's line).  I believe that you will be able to find them in the 1850, 1860 and 1870 census records using their patronymic names, and in the 1880 and later census records using Leland (or a spelling variant).

"2)  As time went on, the Norwegians also Americanized some of their first names - Brynjulv became known as Bernard, Lars became known as Lewis, Sjur became known as Sivert, etc.  

"That, in a nutshell, is why I think your Lewis B. Leland is the son of Brynjulv Larson Liland, and grandson of Lars Brynjulvson. 

"I have not followed the Liland farm families back before Lars Brynjulvson.  I am quite sure that they are listed in the Voss bygdebok (farm book, in Norwegian) that is available at the Norwegian-American Genealogy Center and on microfilm at the LDS Family History Library and Family History Centers."

There were several points of commonality in the names and places that led me to my conclusions - such as the mention of Voss in Norway, of Minneota, Minnesota, of Maglina Grimestad (similar to Magli Grimarstad), etc.  In addition, the Americanized names using Liland or Leland match the patronymic names fairly well.  I love it when clues come together like that!

As you can see, this was a fortuitous find for Louis.  If I hadn't copied every sketch of a Liland/Leland person from Rene's book at the Norwegian-American Genealogy Center and Naeseth Library (NAGCNL) in Madison on 16 September, I would not have had the piece of information that helps Louis identify the Norwegian name of his great-grandfather, and two generations before.  Louis still has plenty of work to do!

I will be showing more of the information I found at the NAGCNL i n future blog posts.

I love it when serendipity happens!  If Louis had written me a month ago, my response would have been "I'm sorry, I know nothing about your Leland ancestry."

1 comment:

Nettie said...

MN 1925 Plat book shows three schools in the township that Minneota is in, which is Eidsvold.
Minneota is also on the old North Western Railroad and old state highway 68.
Most of the history for this county is at SW MN State University at Marshall, MN Do you have land records that state what township? Nordland range 43N T112N or Eidsvold. Range 43W T113N.