many site visitors to fashion-era, Patti Mikkelsen is tracing her family
tree. Patti's family emigrated from Europe to the USA throughout the Victorian
and Edwardian eras. Some
of her close relatives were from Hanover, Germany and the first immigrants
headed toward the Americas in 1833, the last of five families making the
crossing in 1912.
Researching family history opens up new vistas, not only new found
relatives, but also a new interest in subjects such as older
photography methods, fashion history as well as genealogy and geography.
This page is not about dating an old photo, but an examination of the
information one might find in researching elements within the old
Torgir Andreasen Wed Malene (Magdalene) Andersdatter a Nordic Bride of
Patti wrote to me:-
'I've been working on my family tree for about 7 years, with about
80% of the work done on the Internet. Like you, I've made some wonderful
connections.... My father's parents and my mother's father were all from
Norway. I have traced some of their lines back to the 1400s...'
This is the first of Patti's antique wedding photos and my purpose is to
look at the costume of Malene the bride. If you are researching Norwegian
relatives, you may find some of the notes about peasant dress/crowns
at the bottom of the
page of interest.
Left - Bergen Photo - Patti Mikkelsen's great-grandmother Malene Andersdatter, age 31
on her marriage to Patti's
great-grandfather, Torgir Andreasen age 22. The Norwegian couple were married in Bergen, Norway, on the 7th of January, 1883, which happened to be the first Sunday after Epiphany.
The original 125 year old antique wedding photograph that Patti sent me is torn
at the top (see left), probably cracked with humidity damage. The original physical dimensions of this
photograph are very small, which is much of the problem. But, at 125 years old, it is incredible that an image transported
so far geographically, and passing through so many hands, still exists. What
a pleasure it is to add it here.
I have kept much of the original image as scanned, but cleaned up the
torn repair to make it more acceptable. Better results can be
achieved, but time restrictions and sometimes very small images limit that opportunity and I want
you to see as much as practical of the original photograph. This image does
give those of you researching weddings a chance to see the magnificent bridal crown headdress, together
with typical Bergen dress as worn in the late C19th Victorian era.
1883 antique photo shows a close-up of the bride Malene wearing
what looks like a European style of jacket. The skirt appears to flow
dirndl fashion rather than bustle panelled. However, her costume has styling elements suggestive of the Scandinavian region.
The decorative elements on the jacket remind me of similar pattern grids
used by peasants throughout Europe. Norway, Shetland, Fair Isle,
the Balkans, Ukraine and Finland all have traditional knitwear and
embroidery featuring related motifs.
My lack of expertise in the field of Norwegian folk dress means I cannot
tell if the ornamentation is part of the jacket or a separate ornament.
I suspect it is a huge
ornamental detachable metal collar much like mayoral neckwear, or a small
detachable shawl collar cape embedded with disc like metal brooches, since it does
appear that Malene is wearing a traditional bunad blouse visible at the
neckline beneath her jacket. After
all, this was a winter wedding in January, and the weather at this latitude may well have demanded a heavy jacket, so it would be natural to cover up a thinner
A similar Bergen styled outfit immediate right was shown at the International Exhibition/Great London Exposition of 1862.
The exposition featured over 28,000 exhibitors from 36
countries and was held just a decade after the very successful
Exhibition of 1851, also at Kensington, London.
The Norwegian court sent a
model of bridal dress to England; they wanted to show the splendour of wedding attire of their peoples. This drawing is of the peasant bride representation from the exhibition, and shows how a Bergen bride might look when dressed for
Notice how the bodice decoration of the 1862 image right is more in line with the
bodice of the costume in
the old photograph shown above, than the drawing of 50 years later shown below. Similar bridal decorations are on display in a
Patti has confirmed that some ornamental discs are called Sølje, a
Norwegian brooch that can have spoon like forms dangling off it. The volume
of metal in the crown and Sølje were to ward off trolls and illness.
The bridal set of ornaments was loaned for the big day, and
consisted of the bridal neckwear, the crown and a girdle. As a result, every peasant
girl could be regally attired for the special wedding day. The set was probably
owned by the parish church, who then rented the regalia to the brides. Another possibility was that it might also have been a family heirloom
owned by a farmer in a district. It is interesting to
below that Malene was from a farming family.
The silver-gilt bridal ornament drawing shown
left from my 1897 book mentioned below, is described as an ornament
typically worn by a Swedish bride. Malene's bodice also appears to have many similar raised discs.
Reader if you know more about similar Norwegian ornamentation please
enlighten me. Recently a site visitor called Sue did just that and I have
added a note about her solje here.
Sue a site visitor wrote to me "I am of Norwegian and Swedish
heritage. I have an interesting note regarding the Norwegian solje. I
purchased one from a Scandinavian shop back in the 1970’s. Mine has a crown
on top of a heart, with 3 rows of smaller hearts attached to it with the
golden spoon shaped drops hanging from each little heart.
The Norwegian woman who sold it to me said that the Crown represented
Motherhood, the Heart represented true love, and all the little spoon shapes
represented all the tears you shed before marriage that you might never have
to shed them again! Whether this is "true" tradition, I don’t know, but
always thought it was wonderful, and my daughter loves the interpretation."
The political history of what we now know as Norway is complicated. In the 1880s Bergen was part of Sweden. Norway did not gain full independence until 1905, when Oslo was declared the
capital, and Prince Charles of Denmark was elected King Haakon VII Norway.
It is thought that the wearing of bridal nuptial crowns in Norway actually
originated in Bergen several hundred years ago. Although other
Scandinavian countries have similar traditions. Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden have close geographic connections. (Right - map today. Go to Google maps for greater detail.
100+ years ago political borders were different.)
Little wonder we can see so many
similarities amid the headdresses and decorative embellishment here
below. And no wonder then that Norway has wished to stake its claim to
their own versions of the bunad costume styles, an early example of which is
The headdress in this second drawing is strikingly similar to the one worn by Patti's
great-grandmother in the old 1883 photograph and one can imagine such an item being passed down
through generations or held by elders as an heirloom brought out for a nuptial
Indeed the fine
line drawing right of this Norwegian peasant bride and bridegroom is from
The Victorian book 'The Evolution of Fashion' by Florence Mary Gardiner and
published in 1897. Beneath Malene's jacket I suspect her high necked
blouse and costume
matches exactly the bunad described in Gardiner's book.
In 1897 in her book Florence Gardiner wrote of Norwegian dress :-
are three distinct periods in the life of a Norwegian woman, and each one
has marked characteristics, particularly as regards dress.
girlhood, a solemn occasion for which there is much preparatory training,
girls do not usually go from home to work, or earn their own living.
Among the poorer classes this ceremony takes place when they are about
fifteen, their petticoats are short and their hair is arranged in two long
After confirmation they are supposed to regard life from its more
serious aspect, and to engage themselves with various duties according to
their station. The third stage of course is married life, and it should be
stated that neither men nor women can enter upon the holy contract unless
they can bring proof of their confirmation, and can show ample evidence
sufficient means to provide for a household.
The marriage is preceded by a betrothal ceremony, when the young
couple go to the church, accompanied by their friends, and exchange rings of
plain gold jewellery and apparel, which must be worn on the wedding day.
At her marriage the peasant bride wears the crown. It has a rim of
brass to fit the head, and the upper portion is of silver and gold,
sometimes embellished with precious stones. Such crowns are generally
heirlooms, and it is not uncommon for all the brides of one family for
centuries to wear the same adornment for the head.
A very usual dress on such an occasion is a plain skirt of some
woollen material, with a bodice and full sleeves of snowy linen, a corselet
of red and green, ornamented with bands and buckles, and a white apron
trimmed with embroidery. A silver-gilt breast ornament is worn by Swedish
brides. The band is wrought with bosses, and depending from it are small
beaten discs, and a medallion bearing the sacred initials I.H.S....
Usually the festivities in connection with a peasant wedding in Norway
are kept up for three days, and during that time there is much feasting and
merrymaking among the friends of bride and bridegroom."
Beneath Malene's jacket I suspect her costume matches exactly the bunad
described in Gardiner's book, but without the apron. I suggest you read the online paper
Norwegian Folk Costumes and
Cultural Capital by Thomas Hylland Eriksen for a fascinating insight
into the bunad. He identifies where it came from and where its going in the era of
globalization. In particular Eriksen discusses cultural copyright and national ownership of the ethnic identity
of the bunad costume.
Eriksen, a professor of social anthropologist in Oslo University has written many
Of Norwegian dress Thomas Hylland Eriksen writes:-
'The bunad is a particular kind of festive dress.
The term is a slightly archaic Norwegian dialect word, introduced into urban
by the author and nationalist activist Hulda Garborg in her pamphlet Norsk
klædebunad in 1903.....
Garborg argued the need for a truly Norwegian and regional form of
formal dress. She collected and systematized what she saw as intact and
useful regional bunad traditions, and designed some bunads herself.
Interestingly, Garborg never denied the syncretic and partly invented
character of the new, traditionalist folk costume. She nevertheless
emphasized its role as a marker of rural, Norwegian identity. Very many
Norwegian regions and even smaller valleys have their own bunads. Many have
been designed long after Garborg, the Bergen bunad, for example, dating from
1956 but giving the impression of being a very traditional kind of dress.'
Eriksen tells us that a folk inspired Norwegian bunad
is now globally recognised as the traditional Norwegian garment style within
regional variations. But, it first became popularised only from about 1905.
the immediate years after Norway became independent from Sweden in 1905
there was a surge of Norwegian nationalism. Eriksen notes there was a desire
to create a Norwegian political identity at that time and it is fair to say
that recognisable dress, is always one of the fastest ways of creating a
As a Welsh person, I find it fascinating to compare what happened with Norwegian dress with what happened in
Wales in the 1830s-50s. It was Lady Llanover, who illustrated various forms of 'Welsh Dress' and
presented her case to the Welsh community in general and at Eisteddfods in particular.
Incidentally, Lady Llanover is also spelt Llanofer by the new purists since in the Welsh
language, f is pronounced v.
Lady Llanover's water
colours were of clothing she had seen worn in the regions of Wales. She promoted
the 'traditional dress' possibly in an effort to aid the Welsh Woollen Industry, as she had a vested interest of wool production and manufacture.
The fact that the rural dress of most
in Britain was much the same at that time, is neither here nor there. For example, there was a great similarity between garb of a Scottish fishwife's attire, and
the skirts of a woman of Kerry in Ireland. Like Hulda Garborg in Norway, Lady Llanover got her message across to the Eisteddfod community in Wales, and they took notice; so the
Lady Llanover Welsh costume illustrations eventually became
established as 'the recognised form of National Costume for Wales.' Lady Llanover, like Garborg was a progressive - both were the Martha Stewart or Delia of their day. All these women have a mission, promoting
matters of the ideal example, whether dress, interior style and/or food
As I was preparing this webpage, I looked at some of the costume books I own, it struck me forcibly how similar headwear from Russia (Vladimir),
Moravia, the Black Forest and Sweden were to the Norwegian crowns the bride
Malene wears. The full dirndl skirt was also a recognisable feature of
The two images to the left are of Swedish headdresses, and the two on the right are of
Russian origin. These old cigarette cards below came to mind
instantly when I was sent this Norwegian family wedding photo of Malene and Torgir. (Patti, the site
visitor, was at pains to tell me it was not what I was looking
for: but she was so wrong.)
I thought this a perfect example of a costumed
photograph that will get dismissed as unreal because it is not what we
expect. It is not a white wedding, nor a noticeably obvious bunad costume. Unless such
images are kept in the public eye, one day we may begin to think such costumes were
perhaps a fantasy. But here we have seen our bride wearing a crown, and
that transforms her into a
princess for the occasion. A modern day crystal tiara has nothing on
this Norwegian bridal crown in my opinion.
of All Nations', see images above, was a booklet published by W Dukes Sons & Co., in the form of
collectible costume cards. The costume cards depicted the upper body and
headwear of people of the world. The cards were sometimes posed by famous
actresses of the fashion era, such as Sarah Bernhardt or Mrs Lily Langtry. They highlighted the ornamentation in dress rather than the plain.
This marriage discussed was recorded in Bergen, an area I have never travelled to, but may well now consider for a future holiday.
Patti explained some information about Norway regions and naming
patterns I did not know and which may help anyone researching their family tree with Nordic genealogy roots.
"Norway is split into 19 administrative regions, called counties. The
counties are further
divided into 431 municipalities.
Bergen is the second-largest city in Norway, a municipality, in the
county of Hordaland. It was separated from Hordaland as a county of its own
in 1831. It was established as a municipality January 1, 1838. Sadly, the city lost
its status as a separate county on January 1, 1972.
Until about 1840, Bergen was Norway's
biggest city, when it was overtaken by the present capital, Oslo. If you check a map, you will see Bergen on the west coast of Norway. It is situated between the de syv fjell ("the seven
mountains"). Bergen's several harbours are
used by a variety of vessels, small pleasure vessels, cruise ships, cargo
vessels, and it is the base for most of the country's fishing vessels.
the time both of these weddings took place (one for 1907 still to be added), Bergen was a separate county in
south western Norway."
In the nineteenth century, the Scandinavian system of surname inheritance is interesting in its own right, and also helpful in tracing genealogy. The Norwegian method is patronymic with the focus on the
father's Christian name. Let us take Andreas Olsen as an example; his
Christian, or given name, is Andreas. Now Andreas has a son who is christened Torgir. The son's full name is Torgir Andreasen. The
spelling of such surnames can vary, for example Andreassen or even Andreasson, where the 'son' is more obvious then 'sen'.
In the Norwegian system,
daughters are named after their fathers, but have datter appended, not sen. Hence if Andreas Olsen had a daughter called Halle, she would be called Halle Andreasdatter.
So far I have only dealt with the simplest version, complications arise when
families add the name of their farm or town. Thus you could have Andreas Olsen Bergen. What happened to the women's surname when they got married varied depending on the era and on local variations. They
may retain their maiden surname – no change at all. They may take their husbands surname, as happens in most countries, or occasionally, they may take the patronymic name of their husbands. If Halle
Andreasdatter married Jon Olsen, she would become Halle Jonsen, yes Jonsen, very
Patti wrote to me :-
7 Jan 1883: Torgir Andreasen (age 22) married Malene Andersdatter (age
31). They are my great-grandparents.
Torgir's father was named Andreas Olsen. So, originally, his surname was
Andreasen.... Sometime later, his name was changed to Torgir Andreas Andersen.
He was at various times a bagersvend (baker's apprentice) and a sailor who left home when he was about 20. Travelled a bit, and
settled in Bergen. He was born in Bjerkreim in Rogaland (county), which is on the west coast,
south of Bergen and died in 1889 at the age of 28."
The moral here is when doing any kind of genealogy work, to check thoroughly all possible spellings and
misspellings of names. It is
also important to remember what short and hard lives many people had just a
100 years or so ago. Unlike today, you may find yourself searching
through a death register not 50 years after a marriage, but just 10 years or
"Malene the bride was born in Innvik, a former municipality in Sogn og Fjordane
(county), on the west coast, north of Bergen. Her
father died when she was very young. Her mother remarried when Malene was 3,
and had three more children with her new husband. He took over the farm that
had belonged to Malene's father.
It appears that Malene and her two older
brothers did not have much future there, because they all moved to Bergen.
And the children of the later marriage took over the family farm. As far as
I know, Malene struggled most of her life. In the 1891 census, 2 years after
her husband died, she was working as a seamstress and receiving assistance
from the government to help her support their three children."
But the kindness in Malene's face especially in the later photo I
have, prompted me to ask Patti if she knew much more about her great
grandmother. A crop of Malene in 1907 is shown left.
Patti wrote to me:-
"About Malene's demeanor - I wish I could tell you what she was like.
The only thing I know is that she sent beautiful engraved silver spoons to
commemorate the birth of my mother and her sisters.
There is also a story
that after he got to America, my grandfather used to send her money
regularly from his paychecks. After he got married, she is supposed to have
sent it all back to him, saying that he would need it for his family. I
don't believe she ever came to America to visit. So, no one in the family
(that I knew), ever met her."
But across the oceans she remained a kind woman. Having lost her own
father as a toddler and her husband after just 6 years of marriage she cared
deeply for her family. Her only requirement was not money, but the welfare
of her family prompted by a maternal love many will recognise.
She is one of the people whose old wedding photograph I have examined
I would have liked to have known.
Reader if you know more about similar Norwegian types of wedding ornamentation please
enlighten me. Recently in November 2009 a site visitor did just that and
here is the note about her knowledge of a Sølje. Any other other ideas,
folklore or comments are welcome.
For more information about Wedding Photos click below:-
Old photos can be useful when tracing family members and narrowing down
search dates. These photo pages may help you put an era to your
If you have old wedding photos please send them to me and if suitable I will
add them to this pictorial section of social history.
OLD WEDDING PHOTOS
For superb Victorian or Edwardian re-enactment costumes in USA, try the reproduction costume range at:
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