Thursday, October 12, 2006

Time travel - the history of a strange necklace

My fathers and mothers family are dominated by seacaptains. In fact, my father was a captain, and sons have followed fathers at sea in his family in 14 generations, back to Peder at Borøya, on the south coast of Norway. He was born around 1580 and took his little ship between Denmark and Norway, crossing the Kattegat.

In fact three of my four great- grandfathers, died at sea in the same decade, in the 1890s. One drowned on a sailship with a cargo of coal crossing the North Sea, the second disappeared on his ship outside Pensacola in Florida, and the third died of beri-beri and is buried in Santos in Brazil.

We think it is the last one, Elling Andersen from Torp, or his father Anders Ellingsen Torp (we do not really know), that left us a strange object - a necklace made out of one of their beards. It looks like lace, and it has survived the last one and a half centuries surprisingly well. These objects were not as rare as you think. In Europe men and women have for centuries left their hair, as a token of love, in lockets and medallions. One of my collegues, coming from another southeastern family, in Mandal, told me that she has a broche, containing one of her ancestors hair.

The necklace has wandered around in the world. It was left to my grandmother Anna that married my grandfather Petter. She, in her turn, left it to my uncle Anders Skuggevik, and he brought it to America, when he, my aunt, and my cousin Anne Margrethe, moved in the late 1940s. Hanne, my aunt, who is now 96, told me that she used it on her wedding-veil. She left it to Erica, and she wanted me to take it home.

It is a very touching experience, taking such a strange and wonderful object home in your hand luggage, thinking that the last time it crossed the Herring Pond, it was on a ship - Vesterøy, 55 years ago.

So now it is back, and if it is my great grandfather, I have his picture and can watch the beard that is now a part of this necklace. If that is not strange, I do not know!

No comments: