I was born and raised on a farm near Waubun in northwestern Minnesota. All of my grandparents emigrated from Norway so I am "full-blooded" Norwegian. My paternal grandparents emigrated from Telemark in 1895. They first settled near Forest City in northern Iowa. In 1914, they moved their family to Mahnomen County in Minnesota. As a small child I remember hearing them talk about their attendance at Telelag meetings. At that time Telelag was made up primarily of first generation immigrants. My mother's father immigrated from Aal, Hallingdal in 1870 and her mother came from Borgund, Sogn in 1871.
Since my paternal grandmother, Anne Aslaksdatter Skjelbreid from Lårdal, was the only member of her family to immigrate to America, I have many Norwegian second cousins. Our family has maintained contact with and visited many of my grandmother's Norwegian relatives over the years. I first visited Lårdal in 1991.
Working with a committee of three Norwegian cousins, I helped organize a family reunion in Telemark in June of 2000. Ninety-two Americans and Canadians gathered with over 200 Norwegian relatives for the two-day reunion. The events consisted of a day-long trip from Ulefoss to Dalen on the Telemark Canal; a banquet and recognition dinner at the famous Dalen Hotel; a church service at the Mo Church, the home church of the my Haugo ancestors; and a family get-together at the original Haugo farm in Mo. This experience peaked my interest in my family history and in my Norwegian heritage.
With the help of the Telelaget genealogists, primarily Darrell Johnson, and several of my Norwegian relatives, I have done extensive family research over the past two years. Through this research, 133 direct line ancestors, going back as many as 12 generations, have been identified. Virtually all of them are from West Telemark. In addition to Mo and Lårdal, my Telemark ancestors were primarily from Nissedal, Dalen, Seljord, Rauland, and Vinje. As with others who have done family research I have identified relatives with interesting backgrounds, both famous and infamous. Included among my Telemark relatives are Tarjei Vesaas, one of Norway's prominent 20th century authors and poets; Tarjei Haugo, a big, powerfully-built man who Hitler felt typified the Aryan(Super) Race and thus had a statue of him placed in Munich; and the Mandt family which is known throughout Telemark for their creative work in silversmithing, painting, and sculpting as well as their prominent roles in business, and in national and local politics. Also included among my relatives are several World War II Norwegian Resistance fighters; several famous Norwegian skiers and the diver who recently discovered the famous Hydro Ferry, loaded with "heavy water", which was sunk in Lake Tinnsjø by Resistance fighters in 1944.
As a member of the Telelaget Board of Directors I am interested in assisting with genealogy projects and with the computerization of various organizational records. I am a graduate of Minnesota State University-Moorhead and have graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota. My career has been varied. Initially, I was a math teacher and football coach at several Minnesota high schools; I then headed a statewide educational computing services organization; and most recently have served as CEO of several Minnesota-based healthcare software companies. At present, I am semi-retired and serve on several company boards of directors. My wife, Sharon, and I have four adult children and live in Hudson, Wisconsin.
The Haugo family at the Haugo farm in Mo
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