Matt Hemmingsen 1867-1976: Uncle’s photo – but for a decade?

For sure, Benjamin Mikael Arntsberg, son of Mathias Bentsen and Marith Johnsdtr was born on 16 Sep 1848, as published in the Church Book of Vefsn Parish, Norway.1 He was Great Granny Beret’s brother. Poor her, gone so early, just one year into her American experience and apparently no headstone erected around which to grieve. Now, should the Benjamin “Matteson”, reportedly born in 1858, who just might be him at and pictured right, actually be him, well then, we at least have a sibling photo, for comfort. 2

This is the same brother who, on account of his misspelled listing in the 1865 census, was chosen as subject of our post “Our Anecdotal Jewishness”. Well, he out-migrated to America two years later appropriately labeled Benjamin Mikael Arntsberg Mathiassen. Surely when sporting that much name, he would be memorable, coming and going.

Still, we lost him after he made a safe landing in Quebec, in July of 1867. (See note A, on their emigration, below.) We needed him to support our claim put in the last post “In The Beginning Again” that Beret’s people were first in our family to America. So here he is at last, or so we think.

It is difficult to believe that he dismissed his interior nomen. Yet, the Mikael Arntsberg part seemed not to surface in America. Rather, Findagrave profiles a vanilla Benjamin Matteson. This Benjamin, they say, emigrated from Norway in 1867, but gives his days as 1858-1926, not 1848-1926. We could just walk away on such glaring disparity, but it is a splendid photograph attended by an interesting biography. Beret would like us to clear up the uncertainties, for a glimpse of her, perhaps.


Obit-Ben tracked in Iowa and Minnesota. We will take his bio apart to see how his life events comported with what we know of Our-Ben.

Obit-Ben came from Norway with an unnamed uncle. That works for Our-Ben too, who sailed with his mother’s brother, Torger Johnsen. Still, lots of people came over with an uncle. The cautionary thing is that Our-Ben was a young adult who may have deemed his older brother, Hans Matias, to be his more significant travel partner. Obit-Ben’s bio failed to mention him, or others in the group of nineteen, from Hatfjelldal.

Obit-Ben, a carpenter of Martin County, MN, married Jennie Anderson on 30 Mar 1881.2 It was his first at 29, or, born in 1851 – and she was a decade his junior. All four parents were listed: his were Mattias Matteson and Mary Johnson. Mary Johnson worked for Our-Ben as Marith Johnsdtr, but Mattias Matteson disappointed, since he did not look exactly like Mathias Bentsen. Plus, Our-Ben was a farm hand, although way back in 1865. The event was recorded to Cerro Gordo, IA.

Obit-Ben said he had docked in Quebec too, and went to Postville IA; Cerro Gordo is to its west. He was not distinguished in a Federal Census until 1900. However, he and Jennie had been seen in Minnesota State Censuses 1885 and 1895.

Taking a gigantic stretch, Cerro Gordo may answer the Federal absence for 1870, to the favor of Our-Ben. Again, Obit-Ben was a carpenter until 1872 and a Norwegian carpenter, Benj. Hetland, lived at Cerro Gordo, in 1870, but was reported to have been born in 1843.

Despite the Obit claim that the pictured Benjamin Matteson was born in 1858, and that by census, Benj. Hetland was born in 1843, we claim the photo to be of Our-Ben Mathiassen, born in 1848. This is based on the Cerro Gordo analysis below; that is, Obit-Ben, Benj. Hetland and Our-Ben are one. Will there be any naysayers out there?


That Benj. Hetland can overcome the name challenge follows our reference post In The Beginning Again. (The PDF attached to it provides Ben’s rich ancestry and sketches those who remained home, and those who emigrated.) There, we showed that Hemming Paulsen, for example, assumed the moniker Hemming Grolid as a reflection of his farm called Groli, in Hatfjelldal. Ben’s farm (and Great Granny Beret’s) was the historic Hattfjelldalen, from which his municipality drew its name. He was likely very proud of that.

There were no Benj. Hetland, born 1843, Norway in past or future US Censuses. “Hat fjeld” means “hat mountain” in Norwegian and is descriptive of Our-Ben’s local mountain in Hatfjelldal. In 1870, he was just a few years off the boat. Cerro Gordo’s census enumerator, of surname Emsley, was unlikely to have been a Norwegian speaker. It is no longer much of a stretch to imagine Our-Ben poorly anglicizing his pride and joy and uttering “Hatland” or “Hetland”. Given the connection of Cerro Gordo to his marriage, we hold the notion that Our-Obit-Ben was hiding there, in 1870 and dismiss “Mattias Matteson”, “1858” and “1843” as recording errors.


Ben was a naturalized citizen at Jackson, Jackson MN. He and Jenny had one child, Mina O, in 1881. She married Frank G. Albertus.

The Mattesons must have been well respected in town, for the information comes from an article in a souvenir edition of the Jackson Republic, Jackson County MN of 1895. At that time, Jenny was applauded for the beautiful home that she maintained. Ben was sole proprietor of a thriving jewelry store, having first bought into a partnership in 1888. Leading up to that, Ben had shown much determination and versatility, applying his farming skills in Postville IA upon arrival. He quit that for a wagon shop, and a year or so later, for bridge building and teaming for Iowa railroads. It is unclear where he came upon the second skill, but he then bought a farm, and combined that work with carpentry. In fact, he sequentially bought two farms, in different locales. Of course, we saw that he married in 1881, and enjoyed his lovely family of three.

His sister, Beret, came to Wisconsin in 1886, and being unwell, died the next year. It appears that although he moved about, Ben was probably not more than 350 miles from her. Perhaps they met again, to bridge their twenty-year gap. If so, we share the face she gazed upon.


It could easily have been assumed that Our-Ben had met an early death in America for his lack of “obviously him” spotting in 19th Century Federal Censuses. The problem was compounded by the similar disappearance-by-record of at least five of his six close-relative co-emigrants.

Uncle Torger Johnson b. 1810 and Thomine Jorgensdtr b. 1812, brought three children along: Marit Dorothea b. 1851, Hans Andreas b. 1854 and Oline Jorgine b. 1857. Plus, Ben’s brother Hans Mathisen b. 1846. We found no census citing or life events recorded in America for these six, with the possible exception of Hans Andreas Johnson (born Torgerson, he would have become Johnson in the US). He may have been Hans Johnson, a farm laborer, reportedly born in 1852, Norway at Paint Creek, Allamakee County, IA. The Postville reference would support this.

On the other hand, two families, probably uncle-nephew, who may have held in-law relationship to Ben’s sister, Beret, also accompanied them. They settled in Little Sauk, MN by 1870 and may hold the key to the lost. This in-law relationship is unproven, but suspected for coincidence as explained in their story, given in Note B, below.

The younger couple provided an interesting insight; they had arrived in Hatfjelldal in June of 1865 from Meraker, some 400 kilometers to the south, only to move off to America a couple of years later. They were surely on a mission to change their circumstance. Now we know their shipmate, Benjamin Mikael Arntsberg Mathiassen, found the American dream.

Please leave comments, corrections and/or questions in the reply box below.

Notes and Sources

NOTE A: Their emigration – leaving Hattfjelldal; at “Utflyttar” for Benjamin Mikael Arntsberg Mathiassen, Hattfjelldal Parish 1867, 23 Mar 1867// Norway to Canada; Passenger Lists 1867 for Benjamin A?? Mathiasen aboard the St. Lawrence departed Namsos on May 22, arrived Quebec on July 16.

NOTE B: Ole Pedersen b. 1816 and Marit Johnsdtr b. 1821, as well as Ingvald Johannessen b. 1837 and Ingeborg Johnsdtr b. 1837 emigrated with this group in 1867. To be clear, neither woman was related to Our-Ben’s mother, Marit Jonsdtr. Rather, the suspected in-law situation would have been through our Great Granny Beret Mathisdtr, who married Ole Hemmingsen. Hemmingsens had migrated in the 1840s from Stjordal-Meraker to Hatfjelldal, as had these two families, in 1865. Ole Hemmingsen, grandfather to Beret’s Ole, was their neighbor in Susendalen in 1865, and here now, the common emigration. // Children of the older couple: Sivert and John, John’s wife Sigrid and their son Ole Martinus b 1866, as well as, of the younger couple: Johannes, Berit and John Mathias travelled too, and were accounted for at Little Sauk MN. Bendict Mathis Johanssen born 1846 was also aboard, but we did not follow him.

1 SOURCES: Reference post for Norwegian data in this present piece was published June 4, 2022: hyperlinked above, “In The Beginning Again” with the prime source. // Note: The scan in Church Books from Vefsn Parish 1846-1854, Births and Baptisms for Benjamin Mikael Arntsberg, so spelled, is located at 1849-07-14 reflecting when he was baptized. // Church book from Hattfjelldal parish 1860-1878 (1826P) Innflytar 1865 and Utflyttar 1867.

2 SOURCES: US Data, accessed through NARA’s US Censuses 1870-1920/ Minnesota, U.S., Territorial and State Censuses, 1849-1905 for Benjamin Matteson (and variants)/Iowa, U.S., Marriage Records, 1880-1945 for Benjamin Matteson, 30 Mar 1881, in Dickinson IA. //, Benjamin Matteson died USA, born 1848 ±10. Picture of Benjamin Matteson, Memorial ID 177020391 kindly posted by volunteer Matthew Aleshire.


3 thoughts on “Matt Hemmingsen 1867-1976: Uncle’s photo – but for a decade?

  1. Hi Marilee

    Interestingly I have the name Hatfield in my birth background, in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I had not thought of it as a name of Norwegian derivation. But if I recall there may have been a teeny portion of my genetic makeup which was from Norway. Or was that Illtyd? Must go back and look.

    Hellos to you. Joanne


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