Sunday, March 3, 2013

National Women's History Month: Favorite Female Ancestor

March is Women's History Month in the US and over at The Accidental Genealogist, it's being celebrated with daily prompts, each one with specific ideas for bloggers on how to honor the women in your tree. I won't be able to keep up with all of them but I thought I'd pick out a few that inspired me.

Abelone Gundersdatter and her husband,
Gabriel Andreas Adams Friis
The first was "Do you have a favorite female ancestor?"

I have several but the one that always sticks out in my mind immediately when I think of strong, independent characters is my Norwegian 3rd great grandmother, Abelone Gundersdatter Fries. She was born in Lyngdal, Vest-Agder County, Norway in 1825 to Gunder Leegsen and Aase Olsdatter and grew up on the Fladen farm. When she was 23, she decided to pack up and leave the family home on her own. At this point, I'm not sure exactly where she went. When she left Lyngdal, she was recorded in the parish records as heading to what looks like 'Kobbervig' but I can't confirm where this is. In any case, within three years, she had immigrated to America and married Gabriel Andreas Adams Friis on September 15, 1851 in Chicago. They settled in a town called Norway in Racine County, Wisconsin where Abelone tended the farm while her husband sailed the Great Lakes. She gave birth to ten children, six of whom survived to adulthood. Even considering her hardy Scandinavian heritage, some of her behavior was quite masculine, she smoked a clay pipe and when visiting neighboring farms, would discuss the fields with the man of the house. Bizarrely, she loved the smell of manure and would actually dip a corner of her handkerchief in it and carry it around with her.

According to my great grandfather, her grandson, she had favorites among her grandchildren and when they were sick, her favorites were given sweets while the others received bad tasting medicine.

After the death of her husband when he was only 50 years old, she continued to tend the farm which remained in her name throughout her 60s until she died when she was 70 years old in 1896. She is buried in Norway Lutheran Church Cemetery in Racine County.

She was certainly a unique character and independent woman to immigrate to America on her own and tend the roles and tasks on her farm that were typically performed by men, and so (despite her favoritism among her grandchildren) I always think of her foremost when I think of strong female characters in my tree.

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