The Adoption Witness: Those Peripatetic Skog-Vefsn Folk At Lake Cowichan

Our story has been about Anna, wife of great uncle Ed Hemmingsen and their adopted daughter, Betty, aka Baroness of Skog-Vefsn, who was also Anna’s great niece. They were Norwegians living at Lake Cowichan, B.C. mid-1920. Descendant Skog-folk from Vefsn sought an even broader emigrant accounting to include Anna’s brothers, Edvin and Theodur, plus Betty’s young aunts, Elfrid and Thora.  We were glad to oblige, once we pinned them down – if, indeed, we did. Whom of them would Lake Cowichan host, they wondered?

Edvin Marcelius Tobiassen (1870 -1907)

Edvin was the first-born of Daniel Tobiassen, thus, half-brother to Daniel’s subsequent children. Edvin chose Oconto Wisconsin as his destination in 1896 – no surprise having seen a photo of the pier at his home in Mosjøen Vefsn. He was 25 and a sailor, after all.

He docked at Ellis Island on 04 May 1896 and according to the Family Bible, died accidentally in the woods, somewhere in the US, in 1907. Somehow he escaped disclosure in Wisconsin State and Federal Censuses, Death Registries and Cemeteries.  

Edvin called upon Theodur to join him in Oconto, so we can surmise he was doing well. Theodur did so, in 1901, at least on sailing papers. What these brothers had against documenting themselves is unknown, but Theodur left no trace in Wisconsin either.

This dead end called for a work around.  Enter Anna’s cousin, Peter Dass Petersen Skog. He presented himself during a gone gaze of idle document scanning, just as the brain suggested a time out to smell some roses. Aha!      

Peter Dass Petersen Skog, b. 1865

Theodur arrived in Boston MA on 6 Aug 1901 aboard “Saxonia”, from Liverpool.  Its manifest told of his intent to join his brother Edvin, in Oconto. WI. Its’ very sloppy ink also said “with cousin Skog”. The line above was for 36-year old sailor Petter Skog, who was “going home to Oconto”.  Petter was declared single, and of 15-year US residency. Single would prove wrong, but not every gift is perfect.

It turns out that Peter had beaten Edvin to Oconto by six years, arriving in 1890. Oddly, we say, he went unaccounted for in Wisconsin for 20 years, such that single status could still be believed of him. Those Skog-Vefsn boys! That interfered with research until a census appeared. The 1910 US Census of Oconto finally captured him, revealing a fisherman, married for 16 years to Norwegian wife, Oleanna. Their 15-year-old son, Daniel Edvin, was Wisconsin born.  It bespoke a fairly long vanilla life for the family, in Oconto. Little did we know!

Petter had obviously been abroad for a bit by 1901, but then, why were Oleanna and Daniel not in the 1900 US Census or aboard the Saxonia? Ours was to wonder why, but not for long.

England Census 1901: To be precise, it is unfair to suggest that Peter and Theodur went un-enumerated at the turn of the century. It was twice for Peter! They were captured in Yorkshire District, Vessels, Tasso in England’s census. Except that, Peter is mistaken as Peter Sand and again, listed as single. In light of the newly found 1910 Census, the question was “what was he up to?”

We will not know what transpired over the next five years for the Tobiassen two.  It could well be that Theodur spent time with Edvin in Oconto, then left there for Ashland, in time to welcome Anna. However, sometime after delivering Theodur to the US, Peter apparently returned to wife and child in Norway, rather than “staying home” in Oconto.  

The Emigrant Convergence of 1901:  It occurred to us that Anna had emigrated a couple of months after Theodur’s August 1901 entry to Wisconsin, as shepherded by Peter. Yet, she docked in Portland ME with papers “through to Canada”. Would Anna’s next steps inform Peter’s later movements, just as Theodur presently reacted to direction from Edvin and Peter?

The Ex-Pat Convergence of 1906: “Ex-pat” was not accurately descriptive yet, but would become so, as matters would reverse, more than once.  As it was, in 1906, Peter Skog was off to Canada from Norway, and Anna Tobiassen, to Wisconsin.  

Oldefam photo

Anna’s US naturalization shows she did not stay in Canada, rather, must have begun US residency by 1903. We next saw our American Anna stand for the “Oldefam” portrait in Mosjøen, in 1906. She returned to the States that September, telling authorities she would visit Theodur in Ashland WI. She married Ed Hemmingsen in Washington State, the following August. Her brothers may have accompanied her to this final destination, but there is no good proof of that.

Notably, Ed grew up around Ashland. We are reminded by the Memoirs of Matt Hemmingsen, that Matt returned his fatally ill wife, Caroline Dybedal, to her home there, from the Lake Cowichan area. Their failed emigration converged with Anna’s arrival to Theodur.  We presume Ed was already west, and stayed put, because family lore says that Ed and Anna met in British Columbia.

Peter was living in Mosjøen at the time of the Oldefam gathering.  As a long-time resident of Oconto, he could regale the Tobiassen family with stories of Edvin and of Theodur’s voyage!  Anna though, would own the air-time with her stories of international cross-continental travels, from sea, to shining sea. Little would table member Karen Mathisen (Tobiassen) suspect, that, in time, she would lose her daughters Elfrid and Thora, as well as granddaughter, Betty, to this call of the west.

N.A.T.C. Bonus Allowed: Canada 1906: The North Atlantic Trading Company had been providing bonuses to increase agricultural immigration to Canada. The government cancelled their contract, but used the concept to entice British and American farmers selectively, starting 1906. Exactly how “N.A.T.C. Bonus Allowed” became stamped on travel documents owing to family members of the American fisherman Peter Dass Petersen Skog as they departed Norway, after years away from the US, is anyone’s guess.

Quebec Canada, 14 SEP 1906: US Aliens Peder Skog, his wife Oleanna and 19- year-old son, passed through customs at St. Albans VT, to arrive in Quebec Canada bound for Cranbrook, B.C. They were Farm Labor with N.A.T.C. Bonus Allowed.  Their outbound documents had specified Fernie; no matter, the two lay at the foot of Canada’s Rocky Mountains. The Skogs, leaving their breathtaking fjords, were about to gasp at sky-piercing snow-clad peaks, their gasps repeatedly halted and renewed, as their tunneling train delivered them to the British Columbia side of awesome.    

US. Census 1910; Oconto WI: Bonus and natural beauty aside, his mid-life change of career in Canada may have failed. As noted, fisherman Peter Skog with wife, Oleanna and son, Daniel, populated that 1910 census page looking like established citizens of Oconto WI. There was no reason to suspect he had ever left the area since 1890.  We will leave their story now, as they are set to become life-long residents of the Oconto area.

Canada Census 1911; Comox BC: Logger Ed Hemmingsen, his wife Anna, and son George, decorated a Vancouver Island census page for Comox, indicating arrival from the US in 1909. They initially had located to the Lake Cowichan area, before moving “up-Island” to Comox. We know that because we answered the question “So was Ed Hemmingsen at the Wedding?” – Matt Hemmingsen’s wedding in Comox, in 1910. That answer unveiled this Anna, born Anna Danielsdatter, who had assumed the surname Thompson, after first assuming the surname Tobiassen. This Anna who seemed to be here, there and everywhere has brought us to Comox, as Hemmingsen. We already know her Hemmingsen family shall return to Lake Cowichan – but not before another dosey-doe in Washington – that dance to end with the threesome returning to Lake Cowichan, one month before Johanna Karoline Skog docked in New York with the Baroness of Skog-Vefsn. That was 1926. But what had become of Theodur?

Vancouver BC 1929: Theodore Dass Tobiassen (Theodore Thompson) (1881-1929)

The Family Bible told the story. Teodor Tobiassen died in Vancouver B.C. 29 July 1929. No surprise to find he was living as Theodore Thompson. No surprise to not find him in a Canada Census.

The Family Bible gave this clue: by 1930, Theodur left a widow, Henriette. Now, the Theo Thompson, variously T. D. Thompson, listed in the B.C. Street Indices for Vancouver, 1926-1929, could be attributed to our Theodur. Widow Henriette Thompson, widow of sawyer TD was listed in 1930. The listings showed Theodore as a sawyer, employed by North Shore Lumber Company, Ltd., in North Vancouver. Their last street address was East Hasting Street.

The Mathisen Aunts: Elfrid and Thora and Their Mother Karen

Karen Pedersen (Mathisen) (Tobiassen) born Danielsdatter (1876-1961): Betty’s mother, Dagny Birgithe, was Karen’s first child. She was born out of wedlock, after which Karen married Daniel Mathisen. Dagny lost her stepfather the year after Betty was born. Karen then remarried, to Anton Pedersen. Karen Mathisen had six children, including two who emigrated to British Columbia: Elfrid in 1928 and Thora in 1930. Our Baroness was six in 1926 when she arrived at Lake Cowichan. She was still a child when these, her aunts arrived from Norway.

If there was a relationship to be had, it was more likely with Thora, because she became a maid at the impressive Empress Hotel in Victoria. Both Hemmingsen families, Ed and Matt, had homes in Victoria by then. Thora married salesman Harold Bailey in 1933; it was their son Lloyd, who assumed the Baron of Skog-Vefsn moniker. We last heard from Thora at 88, in 2000, when she co-signed the letter with the Baron, to our father, John Hemmingsen.  Thora and Lloyd were living up-island in Comox, at the time, which was the scene of Matt Hemmingsen’s wedding in 1910, on which we asked the question “So was Ed Hemmingsen at the wedding”? – a question that lead to the Betty puzzle.

Elfrid, on the other hand, located to Vancouver. She married carpenter Kai Peterson of Denmark there, 1 Oct 1930. That was the year after Theodur died. She was a housekeeper on Theodur’s street: East Hastings. She must have reacquainted with her uncle. It is most probable that both would have made time for fun with family gatherings at Lake Cowichan.

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.  

Notes and Sources

See referenced past posts for further “notes and sources” on this posting.

Amdam Family Collection, Molde Norway.

Ancestry. Com: 1900 Norway Census Nordland Mosjoen 001  3 Dec 1900 Riksarkivet: The National Archives of Norway; Norge; 1900 Norge Folketelling. British Columbia Street Indicies. UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists 1890-1960 Peter Skog 6 Aug 1901 Liverpool to Boston; New York Passenger and Crew Lists 1820-1957 Peter A Skog 16 May 1890 Liverpool to New York; US Index to Alien Arrivals at Canadian Atlantic and Pacific Seaports 1904-1944 Peder Skog 1906; Canadian Passenger Lists 1865-1935 Peder Skog 14 Sep 1906, Liverpool to Quebec; Massachusetts Passenger and Crew Lists 1820-1963 Petter Skog Aug 1901 Liverpool to Boston

 The “Memoirs of Mathias Hemmingsen – Victoria B.C.” is a 25-page volume dictated to his daughter Margaret Henrietta circa 1956. It is unedited and unpublished, and graciously provided by Mathias’ grandson, Matt via the Matt Hemmingsen Family Collection. The work is protected here and published at copyright © 2018-2019. All rights reserved.

17 thoughts on “The Adoption Witness: Those Peripatetic Skog-Vefsn Folk At Lake Cowichan

  1. Wow I like this!!! I`m impressed!! All this you have found out in a short time. Thank you for our familystory!!!


  2. They just went hopping all over the place! It seems so unlikely given how difficult and time-consuming it was to travel in those days. But you have the proof!


  3. What were those naughty Vikings up to – do you think they were avoiding the Law? I feel sorry for poor Edvin. Maybe a troll got him in the woods?
    My mum immigrated to the States from Liverpool in the early 1950’s through Ellis Island.


      1. It was one of my moments of genius – benefits of being ‘special’!! I am fascinated by your Norwegian relatives and a tad envious. So far I have only found Swedes and Germans…


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