Meeting with the family in Norway, Shetlands and Tonbridge.  July 2010 


Friday 15th July

After our Trafalgar tour we met with Marit and Stein. Marit has been a long-time penpal of Patsy, Kathy's sister. We walked around Oslo visiting the Royal Palace, Akershus Fortress and then the Brugge (port) shopping area. It was good getting to know Marit and Stein.  Marit has been very helpful in preparation for our visit to Norway with advice and translation so it was wonderful to finally meet her.



                                                                                                     Marit and Stein

Saturday 16 July The big day!
Wow, what a day. It was one of the most amazing and emotional days ever! First we were picked up by Marit and Stein and taken to see their house. They then took us to our hotel out by the airport and we checked in. We chose the hotel because it is close to the airport and to Nannestad where Kathy's grandfather Harald Oscar Andersen lived.

We came to see if we could find more about Harald and his life. He left Nannestad in 1903 and never mentioned anything about his past life in Norway. He told his family that he jumped ship in New Zealand and that the ship sunk on its way back to Norway. Kathy discovered this was not true when she found his police record in the New Zealand  Archives. He had stolen a suit and was jailed for 2 months. After this he created a new life in New Zealand deep in the bush and later married Andrina. They had 6 children, including Eric, Kathy's father.


  Harald Oscar Andersen

About 6 weeks beforehand Kathy wrote to local newspaper saying she was coming to Nannestad and wondered if anyone knew anything about the Harald's past. The story was passed on to reporter Magnar Haraldsen and he soon realised that Harald was his great-grandfather. Harald had two children Johan and Karoline and then disappeared when they were infants. Johan and Karoline both produced large families in Norway. The family in Norway didn't know they had a family in New Zealand and the family in New Zealand didn't know they had a family in Norway! We then found that the reason why Harald disappeared was that he was involved in a fight in which a man died. He must have thought that he was responsible for the man's death and feared for his life. He chose to 'disappear', leaving his partner Ana Otilie and the children. He found his way to London and from there to New Zealand, never mentioning anything about his past in Norway and even giving false details to cover his tracks. As he was dying at the age of 81 he kept saying "they are going to find me" so must have lived in fear all his life (although it turned out he was not responsible for the man's death).

There was lots of excitement on both sides of the family with our coming because, after more than 100 years, the two families could meet and start to get to know each other. We were met at the hotel by Magnar, and Wenche and her husband Olav. Wenche was wearing traditional Norwegian dress. It was very emotional for everyone! Wenche looks very like Kathy's sister Karen and Magnar looks just like Kathy with quite a round face.

Magnar and Wenche                                                                             Rosa, Magnar, Olav and Wenche

We went to Magnar's house to meet Rosa his wife, who is very sweet (and was also in Norwegian dress). They took us to Holter and Slattum where we saw the church where Karoline and Johan were baptized and Karoline's grave. Next we visited the houses where Karoline & Johan grew up. (They were fostered out to two different families in the area as Ana Otelie could not care for them after Harald disappeared). We visited the site where Harold lived 
with Ana Otilie with the babies, the houses where the two children grew up and the place where the fight probably took place. Amazing.


Cousin Grethe at Karoline's grave                                Cousin Halvard and wife Grethe

We then moved on to Nannestad where about 50 where waiting for us in a guard of honour. This just blew us away, especially as the "guard of honour" had New Zealand and Norwegian flags at its end. We greeted everyone and then went inside to have what can only be described as a banquet. It was like getting married!

We sat at the top table and had gorgeous food. Cameras were going constantly and we were treated like royalty. We gave them gifts and books about the family in New Zealand and they gave us gifts of a Norwegian flag, a plaque of the Nannestad church and wonderful books showing everyone on both sides of the family.
Then we went to the church and one of the church leaders gave a tour of the place. The font where Harold was baptized was made in the 1100's. Ross played the organ and then we went into the graveyard to 
see Johan's grave. It was all very moving. 

Nannestad Church                                                                                           Johan's grave

We then went back inside for coffee and cake. They had made a special cake which had "Welcome Ross & Kathy" on it and Kathy 'cut the cake'. We met so many people it took us a while to sort them all out (and to pronounce their names) but we tried hard and by the end of the afternoon we knew who most were.

All in all it was quite an overwhelming day.  They Norwegian family were all such beautiful people and so warm and loving towards us. It was great to meet 3 first cousins- Grethe, Arne and Kare. Kare has been sick and only got out of hospital for the family gathering. He looked so much like Kathy's Dad - and even had the widows peak and the same fine.  It was amazing to see family resemblances everywhere!

First cousins Kare, Grethe and Arne

Click here to read Kathy's report on this wonderful day, as published in the NZ Genealogist.  NZ Genealogist September/October 2010

Click here to read about our return visit to Norway in 2012. We were in Norway for nearly 3 weeks and stayed with different family members. This was a wonderful time as we really got to know our family, and as they showed us even more of their beautiful country.

Click here to read Ross's novel 'Tomorrow I'm going to disappear'. It tells the story of how Harald came to New Zealand in 1904.

Sunday 17 July To Shetland
In the morning we had breakfast with Rolf Haraldsen (Harald's great great grandson) and his wife Ingrid and children Emilie and Eirik. They couldn't attend the reunion as they we were flying home from 
Italy. We had a lovely time with them and made a wonderful connection which is sure to continue in the future.

Emilie, Rolf, Ingrid and Eirik

We then flew from Oslo to London, then to Edinburgh and on to Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands. We were met by Bill, Kathy's cousin and his wife, Ann and taken to a croft house about half way up the island. 
First impressions of Shetland are its ruggedness, beauty, Shetland ponies, lack of trees, many islands, and voes (like mini fjords). The houses are isolated and there are many in ruins. Shetland promises to be an interesting place to visit.

Monday 18 July Lerwick
We explored Shetland's only large town, Lerwick, with Bill and Ann, we started by going through the excellent Shetland Museum. It depicts all aspects of life in these harsh islands. We then wandered around the 
township and Kathy visited the local genealogical society in an attempt to find information about her great grandfather Andrew Arthur Sandison (unsuccessful!).

We then took the ferry across to the island of Bressay which protects Lerwick somewhat enabling it to be the major port. We stopped at the Bressay Heritage Centre and saw how they made small boats by stretching cow hides around a wooden frame. The hide was prepared using a burnt mound that dates back 4000 years to the Bronze Age. Next we saw a sheep being shorn by hand and were struck by the laid back and friendly attitudes of the local people.  We then drove across Bressay island to see Noss Island which is very isolated and remote. We explored the ruins of some old crofts and reflected on the difficulties of living in these harsh environments. The sheep seem to survive well there, though.



After a traditional fish and chip dinner we returned to our cottage. The weather had been fine and sunny all day with little wind. Unusual for Shetland so we were able to see Lerwick at it's best.

In the evening we explored an abandoned church in a field across from our cottage. There had been lots of love and care in creating this building long ago but now it is in ruins. It made us wonder what happened that led to the building of this church in this isolated spot, how it was made, what happened in the church and why it was abandoned.  There are countless such buildings throughout Shetland, testament to an extended history of living in such difficult conditions.

Tuesday 20th July Northmavine

We headed north to explore the area where Andrew Arthur Sandison, Kathy's greatgrandfather came from. First we went to Sullom where Andrew's mother, Catherine Inkster, came from. We found an old croft house there and nothing much else so it is likely this is where she grew up. We also stumbled upon a churchyard and found the graves of many who were part of the extended family, but not of Andrew's parents.

Next we went to the tiny village of Ennisfirth where Andrew's father, John came from and where Andrew was born and grew up. Again we 
found an old croft house where the family could have lived and evidence of the extended family in a local cemetery. Although we didn't find any direct evidence of Andrew or his immediate family we now have a greater appreciation of where and how he lived.

We carried on to Hillswick and Eshaness at the west of the Northmavine  area. We saw some stunning scenery in the raw, windy and exposed environment out there. We were really fortunate in our time in Shetland, though, with the weather. It was fine yesterday and a little misty today. Quite unusual to have such good weather for two days in a row!


We now have a really good understanding of Shetland and have seen its typical scenery (including Shetland ponies). It was wonderful to be able to visit here even though our stay was brief. And it was especially wonderful to be able to share it with Bill and Ann.

Ann, Ross, Bill and Kathy

Wednesday 21 July to Tonbridge
We drove south to Sunburgh airport and caught a flight to Heathrow via Aberdeen. The flight out of Shetland was delayed and we just made our connection to Heathrow. When we arrived we found that our bags had 
missed the flight!  We got a Budget Rental car and braved the London traffic successfully along the M25 during rush hour. We got to Tonbridge and were excited to catch up with Vera who has just had her 90th birthday. Vera is the wife of Arnold, Kathy's late uncle. We have now visited her three times: in 2001, 2007 and now in 2010.

Thursday 22nd July Tonbridge.

In the morning we went down to the village to get some supplies then Emma and Jen arrived to see us. Emma is Vera's granddaughter and they had visited us in New Zealand last year. We all went for lunch at an English pub and spent a lot of time reminiscing.

Emma, Vera and Jen

We then headed back to London and got our bags from the airport. We dropped off the car and went next door to our hotel, the Premier Inn. It is on the perimeter of Heathrow so was handy for catching our flight to Turkey.

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