The Adoption Witness: Tales From Skog-Vefsn Before Lake Cowichan

Our last post on the Baroness of Skog-Vefsn got the attention of descendant folk in Norway. She was the daughter of great uncle Ed Hemmingsen, and his wife, Anna, who lived at Lake Cowichan, B.C. Circumstances led us to opine that she, Dorothea Elizabeth (Betty) was both adopted by, and great-niece, to Anna. Could that be so and how was she, a Baroness?

We saw that Betty was accompanied to New York at six-years of age, by one Johanna Karoline Skog, before winding up at Lake Cowichan. It was summer of 1926.  Johanna’s granddaughter who resides in Norway, reached out to confirm our notion on adoption and added that Johanna actually crossed the US continent with the child, before returning home. She counted it a trip of much devotion, for her grandmother had two little ones at home. She also shared that Betty’s birth particulars were kept secret until lately. Goodness sakes; that was such a long distance to place between ears!

Heritage research often collides with hush-hush of yesteryear. Players who feared shame or laid blame are gone. “He said; she said” can no longer be heard for judgement. Gone are those who may have howsoever been injured by revelation. Today’s documentary evidence that gives lie to cover-up cannot be purged, rather, must be included to allow fruitful continued search of family discovery.  

Many would care to open such package, for the possible true gift inside. As in similar situations everywhere, the principals lived their lives, secure in their feint. Today though, the only grandchild, son of the only other child of Betty’s birth mother, also a son, has found connection.

FACES and PLACES: Preparing for Betty

Three granddaughters (GD) of Vefsn united to annotate “OLDEFAM” photo: Here is adoptive mother, Anna Jørgine, with her parents in 1906 and her sisters Johanna Karoline, Karen Marie and Dorthea Elise. Betty’s birth mother, Dagny Birgithe, stands below her own mother, Karen. Brother Theodur Dass and half-brother Edvin were not pictured.

The original photo sat in the Norway home of Johanna’s granddaughter (GD1). It was undated and with unnamed persons. Of course, Johanna and the old folks were obvious to her, even these many years later. But Anna seemed to be included and she had emigrated in 1901. That did not jibe with the roster of available youngster choices.

Matt, Ed and Mildred Hemmingson

Anna’s In-Laws: Husband Ed Hemmingsen presented Anna with a number of full and half-siblings-in-law whose elders came from Anna’s Vefsn Parish. Blog author or second granddaughter (GD2) relates to full-sibling Matt, and the third, (GD3), to half-sibling Mildred Dybedal. Matt and Ed were Vefsn born; Mildred, US.

Granddaughters Meet: GD1 and GD2 met recently through this heritage pursuit, as did GD2 and GD3, previously. May GD1 and GD3, two wonderful granddaughters of Johanna Skog and Mildred Dybedal, please be acquainted.

Recall the photos (click here) that we posted of Ed, Anna and their son George; Mildred had passed them down to GD3. They unmistakably show that Anna stood center top in “Oldefam”. GD2 here, uncovered that Anna returned from a trip to Norway in 1906, and married Ed in 1907. That narrowed window allowed GD1 to confidently name and age all those pictured.

The “Real” Baron of Skog-Vefsn: In our last post on the matter, Karen’s (standing right) grandson, posturing himself as the Baron of Skog-Vefsn, Dr. Lloyd J. Bailey, of Comox, B.C., provided key information on the Betty puzzle. Indeed, GD1 informs with much mirth, that any Barony would best owe to Daniel Jørgensen (1809-1861), father to Birgithe Danielsdatter (sitting). Daniel owned land, farms and boats in Skog and Bjørnådalen/ Øfstenget.  

It seems then, that great uncle Ed married up, but we know he did the family proud. Here is Anna’s childhood home. Birgithe inherited this property, then passed it to Johanna.

Gul hus og falurød brygge: (GD2 attempt at Norwegian). We previously posted the country side of Skog i Vefsn in black and white. Now we see the vibrant palette of Anna’s home, in the rich golden yellow of the house facade and stunning red of the pier. Or, we can do a quick search on Sjøgata 7 Mosjøen and see the model sailing boat in the lower middle window and take a stroll about town – highly recommended – but do come back, to read.

VEFSN, 1920: Betty was born 16 July 1920 as Dorthea Larsdatter. Her birth mother, Dagny Birgithe was 22 when she found herself unwed, in a rather unforgiving situation. Betty’s grandmother, now Karen Mathisen, had a large family of her own, with children as young as four; she was about to lose her husband in the year coming. Her great aunt, Anna Hemmingsen, had emigrated to the US by a decade. Matriarch Birgithe, ten years a widow, was mourning her daughter, Dorthea Elise, who had been lost to the Spanish Flu. No surprise, that Johanna Karoline Skog, who was caring for her aging mother in the home pictured above, along with a young family of her own, seems to have offered needed refuge.

The Skog family is pictured right. A story on war hero, Tobias Skog (1917-1943), will follow.

We note that Anne Birgithe Gyth (1914-1987) married Leif Vang (1917-1993) and became mother to GD1.

Secret – shh: GD1 informs that Johanna and Johan were first cousins. OH MY! Maybe the roof caved in, for it looks like the house has a new one, but apparently the passage of time revealed no lasting damage; only good things ever came from the Barony of Skog-Vefsn.

Washington State, 1920 -1926: Ed and Anna started their married life in 1907, in Washington State. The US was their country of naturalization. The Memoirs of Matt Hemmingsen showed that the brothers came from a homesteading background and then turned to logging. Ed and family followed Matt to British Columbia in 1909, to log, but returned to Washington by 1920. Ed had apparently moved south again, to try his hand at farming. As well, their sister, Etta Church, also a farmer, had remained in Washington. However, by June of 1926, Ed had secured a logging contract at Lake Cowichan, B.C., and the family returned to Canada, where they would again, naturalize.

Trondheim 1926: Johanna was now on the fifties side of her forties, with Anna, four years her junior. The Hemmingsen’s only child, George, was now grown, while the Skog children were still quite young. The Matriarch Birgithe, passed that year. As it was, a municipal census had been taken of Trondheim in 1925. In a find of improbable good luck, our Dagny, as Dagny Mathisen, was noted residing at a Trondheim Hospital and working in elderly care. Her future husband, Sverre Refsnes, was also a Trondheim resident. The find best illustrates that single mother, Dagny had to work and at this time, into the foreseeable future. Consistent with her job, GD1 remembers Dagny as a most kind and caring person, who loved children, as well as elders. Sverre and Dagny would later have a son, Knut.

Lake Cowichan 1926: Family circumstances were changing around the much loved six-year old in Vefsn. It feels as though a tough family decision was made, to view this timing as the best window, to provide her with safe haven from a life amid secrecy. Although it was far, far away, it was still very much at home.

A Travelling Family’s Photo: The children of Daniel Tobiassen were much travelled, except for Karen and her daughter, Dagny. Johanna and Anna fearlessly crossed ocean and continent numerous times on their own. Strong ties were maintained by all. We will leave this story for now, with another photo that, similar to Oldefam, lay undated, with none of the persons named. Three of them were, however, unmistakable, and as such, are annotated by best evidence, in 2020.

1913 VEFSN: JOHAN SKOG wed Johanna Karoline. Born Daniels(sen/dtr) of Daniel Tobiassen, she and her siblings changed their surnames to Tobiassen, then to Thompson – creating ancestry havoc. Her niece, Thora, had a son, Lloyd Bailey, who dubbed himself Baron of Skog-Vefsn, in fun for family history. He died in 2006, after leaving a key clue for our story series – CLICK HERE for list.  


National Archives of Norway: The Digital Archive Ukjent Arkiv (TRKO) 1925 Municipal Archive of Trondheim. PERMANENT ID: pf01063300023233 Person 004: Dagny Mathisen.

14 thoughts on “The Adoption Witness: Tales From Skog-Vefsn Before Lake Cowichan

  1. Thank you. You are a great writer. Now i feel very close to Anna, Johanna, Karen, Dagny, Betty and to my mother Anne and her brother Tobias. Of cause also to Ed Hemmingsen and his family

    Liked by 1 person

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