Wednesday, February 15, 2012

John Mikalsen Hornnes

John Mikalsen Hornnes, ca 1895
[photo courtesy of Alf Georg Kjetså]

The seventh child of Mikal Alfsen and Anne Gundersdatter was John Mikalsen Hornnes. John was born 23 July l874 when his father was 69 years old and still working the farm Lunnen at Evje og Hornnes, Aust Agder, Norway. He was almost 16 years old when his father died in 1890. I think he had what might be termed a “hard life.” He worked at all sorts of different jobs probably beginning from about the time he was 14 or 15. As a younger son in a second family he had little hope of inheriting anything that might have given him a boost starting his own life and family. He worked on farms, in the mines, and finally for the railway line. Working for the railroad appears to have provided the steadiest employment but it meant moving frequently. We find him living in Aust Agder, Vest Agder, Rogaland, and Hordaland. All located in southern Norway but at a distance from the rest of his family who stayed mainly in either Aust or Vest Agder.

John & Lydia Hornnes, ca 1900
[photo courtesy of Alf Georg Kjetså]

John met Lydia Gabrielsdatter Marstad while he was working on the railroad. She was born 23 April 1876 in Hitterø, Vest Agder the daughter of Gabriel Sivertsen Marstad and Olene Elisabeth Olsdatter. They married in Flekkefjord, Hidra, Vest Agder on 5 April 1899 and then moved first to Aarestad, Helland, Rogaland and then shortly after to Voss in Hordaland where they were living at the Føderaadhus at Lassehaugen the time of the 1900 census. While they were in Aarestad their only child a son, Mikal Alfred, was born 2 June 1900 and died the same year probably very shortly after birth. I think the Føderaadhus was some sort of residence mainly for railway workers as there are many of them and their families living at the same place for the census.

In 1901 John and Lydia left Norway for America intending to settle in the farmlands of Minnesota. We know that John’s uncle Torkel and some of John’s cousins were either already living in Minnesota or would soon be, therefore, the couple had family to be close to when they arrived. However, Lydia became ill with tuberculosis and they decided to move to Boston, Massachusetts to be closer to her sister. John and Lydia were living in a suburb of Boston called Melrose when Lil Anna arrived in America a year later. They provided her with a place to live and she was able to help them a little by paying for her room and board.

By the time Sadie and Anna Stean and Gunnie Osmun arrived in America around 1908 it was obvious that Lydia was seriously ill and not expected to survive the disease. She died not too long afterwards. John was devastated. Following her death he worked mostly as a day laborer moving from here to there. He began drinking. He came west and spent some time in Seattle then moved north to Alaska. Eventually he ended up in Seattle where he lived in hotels. He never remarried. He died 4 April 1943 in a fire thought to have been started as a result of smoking in bed while drunk. A tragic end to a man who had a difficult life.


  1. My wife is related to Lydia. Is it posible for me to use the text and photo in our genealogy site on

    1. Dear Nattens,

      Yes, of course, just be sure to give credit for the source. Are you located in the U.S. or in Europe? I am trying to keep track of all these connections so any help you can give me regarding Lydia and her family would be appreciated also. For instance I do not know the name of Lydia's sister who lived in Boston. All my family history posts will be put into a published book at some point so if you read the blog you will see the notice when it happens. Thank you for visiting the blog.

  2. Please use my mail and I will help you.