Bruskeland-Fladen Family

1768 - 1852

Norwegian families are difficult to put a surname to, since they used patronyms (a combination of one’s father’s name with the suffix “son” or in Norwegian “sen” or “datter”) up until about the mid 19th century when many immigrated to the midwest of America. In some cases, a surname might have derived from one’s farm name. In this case, Bruskeland (sometimes spelled Bruscheland) is the name of the family farm from at least 1768 (possibly earlier) up to about 1801 and was located in Laudal Parish (or Municipality, similar to a township), in what is now Vest-Agder County, Norway. At the time the county was actually called Lister Og Mandal and changed to Vest-Agder in 1919. Fladen was then the name of the family farm from around 1801 to 1852 and was located in Lyngdal Parish of the same county. It’s important to note these farm names were not necessarily considered a surname for the individual, not as we know surnames today. They were much more fluid and dependent on where one lived at the time of the recorded document. So although their farm names were often listed on documents next to or beneath the individual’s name to help identify them, if one moved to a new farm with a new name, parish records would often reflect this by listing the new name in proceeding documents. Although this family never officially took the family name as Bruskeland or Fladen, this is how they will be identified for our sake.

This family begins with Gunder Goudsen and Anne Olsdatter, though their vital data is unknown, they lived on the Bruskeland farm in Laudal Parish and had seven known children:

  1. Ole Gundersen (b. 1762)
  2. Aanen Gundersen (b. 1766)
  3. Ole Gundersen (b. 1768)
  4. Gunder Gundersen (b. 1771)
  5. Anders Gundersen (b. 1772)
  6. Anne Gundersdatter (b. 1774)
  7. Guri Gundersen (b. 1776)

The second Ole was raised on the Bruskeland farm and lived there up until at least 1789 and may have still been living there at the time of his second marriage in 1793 to Ranni Ormsdatter when he was 25 years old. At 41, Ranni was much older than her young groom and it’s no surprise to see their union did not produce any known children. Though it would not have been impossible for a woman to have children in her 40s, Ranni had not been married before and a woman of that age is less likely to carry a pregnancy to full term if she never had children when she was younger. They were married in Laudal Parish but their residences were listed as Sveinall, a town within the parish. This may have been where the Bruskeland farm was located.

The name of Ole’s first wife may have been Ales Aanensdatter and their marriage produced one known child:

  1. Aase Olsdatter (b. abt. 1786)

In 1801, the family are living on a farm called Fladen, in Lyngdal Parish, which appears to have been a farm Ole bought or inherited from his uncle (whose name is unknown) after his uncle’s death. This means the Fladen farm was probably the home of our family for a much longer period of time than what we know.

Aase married Gunder Leegsen (of the farm Eiesland, see the Skaar-Eisland Chapter) on January 30, 1805 in Lyngdal Parish when they were 19 and 28 respectively. Gunder moved into the Fladen farm where he and Aase had twelve children together:

  1. Lars Gundersen (b. 1806)
  2. Ole Gundersen (b. 1808, d. January 6, 1818)
  3. Inger Serene Gundersdatter (b. 1810)
  4. Rakel Gundersdatter (b. 1812, d. Feb 1813)
  5. Elliot Tobias Gundersen (b. 1814)
  6. Rachel Gundersdatter (b. August 8, 1816)
  7. Ole Gundersen (b. May 18, 1819)
  8. Olene Gundersdatter (b. May 31, 1820)
  9. Appelone Gundersdatter (b. January 5, 1823, d. June 8, 1823)
  10. Abelone Gundersdatter (b. October 7, 1825)
  11. Lars Gundersen (b. July 28, 1831, d. August 8, 1831)
  12. Lars Gundersen (b. September 11, 1833)

The last child born in 1833 would have made Aase 47 year old when she last give birth. We also see a number of infant and child deaths and therefore a number of children being named after deceased siblings, though some with different spellings. Though a death record for the first Lars could not be found, given the name, it is likely he died before his brother of the same name was born in 1831. The second Lars, who survived not even a month after his birth, died on his elder sister Rachel’s 15th birthday. Aase herself died in 1846 and her husband Gunder followed her ten years later in 1856.

Their daughter, Abelone Gundersdatter, had been born in Lyngdal Parish on either October 7 or October 20 of 1825 (her gravestone says Oct 7 but her birth/baptism parish record says Oct 20) and she was baptized on October 23 of the same year. On Norwegian records, her name is usually spelled as Apelone but since it is spelled with a “b” on her gravestone and it helps differentiate her from the sister she was named after, we will identify her with the spelling used in her later life.

Abelone was a strong, independant woman and when she was 22 years old, on April 5, 1848, she took up and left her hometown of Lyngdal on her own. The parish record of her move only mentions “Kobbervig” as her destination. Since spellings changed over time, this could have been Kobbervik, Tvedestrand or Kopervik, Rogaland. At some point between this and 1851, Abelone immigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago but since she can’t be found on the 1850 U.S. Census, it’s more likely she didn’t enter the States until late 1850 or early 1851. It was in Chicago that Abelone met Gabriel Andreas Adams Friis, a Norwegian born sailor on the Great Lakes who owned his own boat “Florence” and delivered lumber to Chicago for John Roderman, a sawmill owner in Milwaukee. Abelone and Gabriel married on September 15, 1851 in Chicago and eventually settled in the town of Norway, Racine County, Wisconsin. Being from hardy Scandinavian stock, Abelone smoked a pipe, gave birth to ten children and tended to their farm in Racine alone while Gabriel was off sailing the Great Lakes for his delivery business until Florence sank in 1867. To read more about their life together after marriage, see the Fries/Friis Family Chapter.

© Robin Bauer 2010-2013


Bruskeland-Fladen Photos and Documents

A photograph of Abelone Gundersdatter in her later life with her husband, Gabriel Friis. Probably taken in the 1860s.

Lyngdal parish document showing Abelone leaving the area on her own in 1848. Note the usage of the farm name Fladen, which came from Abelone’s mother, Aase.

Lyngdal Church, the parish where many births, marriages, and deaths were recorded in the Bruskeland-Fladen family.