Norse Handeland Ancestors from Vikings to Stord Islanders, Minnesota Farms and Beyond

Research on my mother Betty Handeland's ancestry centered associations with famous American historical figures and events. These include our Finley ancestors in Westmoreland county of what became Pennsylvania in 1790's after being contested by Virginia since George Washington surveyed lands around Pittsburgh before the French and Indian War to strengthen Virginia's claim on lands west of Appalachians. At about the same time we learned of our ancestor John Finley being first European to descend Ohio to falls where Louisville is now and bring back tales of richness of blue grass country of Kentucky to nightly campfires of Braddock's failed campaign with George Washington to push French out of Fort Duquesne.

We also learn of Finley inspiring a young Daniel Boone at those Braddock campfires to search for Warrior's trace through mountains, which Finley had only heard about from Indians. And we were amazed to learn that it was his son John who showed up at Boone's cabin to plan a spring expedition in 1769 where this peddler John Finley found and led Boone through what became knows as Cumberland Gap. Shortly after we found another of John's sons named Andrew was part of Pennsylvania 8th regiment in Revolutionary War, serving initially at frontier of Lake Erie and then with Washington from Brandywine, Valley Forge to last battle at Yorktown. It was in 1792when that son Andrew became first owner of farm near Smithton, which is still in our family, perhaps from part of lands Washington was given for his original surveys of area.

A few years later John Wallace emigrated from Belfast to Philadelphia and walked across Pennsylvania, finally settling at our farm as hired hand to Andrew. He eventually married one of Andrew's granddaughters and in 1848 built still existing farmhouse. His son Henry was first of three generations of Henry's who left our farm for Iowa, where son and grandson became Secretaries of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce and FDR's Vice President from 1941-45, after having also founded Pioneer Hybrid in 1920's, which now if focus of DuPont's life sciences business strategy.

The other thread of comments on mother's ancestry is farm, which after Wallaces left for Iowa was owned by a neighbor named Pore before being bought by John Fullerton who also owned farm on which John Wallace's Finley wife was raised west of Millgrove cemetery as well as a third farm east of Millgrove where his daughter Clara lived. Fullerton's grandson Thurman Painter got our farm after marrying Miriam Painter who was direct descendant of Andrew Finley. My Thurman and Miriam Painter grandparents lived the remainder of their life on our farm which Thurman was also tied to through his Kilgore ancestors who served with Andrew Finley in Revolutionary War Pennsylvania regiment and Andrew's wife Jane Jack. All this and other aspects of mother's ancestry with which we will conclude the comments below on my father's ancestry are covered at

With all these remarkable historic ties as well as a cornucopia of ancestral ties to our Finley farm, I never imagined that comments on my father Roger Handeland's ancestry would evolve in a similar vein. This is because my grandfather changed family name of Vic in Norway to Handeland, as he was raised by Handeland grandparents in Norway before emigrating to America in 1890's, His voyage to America and settlement in Iowa and then Minnesota was probably much like that portrayed in 1971 Emigrants film with Liv Ullmann and Max Von Sydow.


Like the Smithton Pennsylvania farm, the Minnesota farm where my father grew up is still in family. That farm and others nearby are owned or leased by my cousins, sons of my father's younger brother. Each year they bring bumper crops of bushels of GM corn and soy to their market in small town of Clarkfield, a couple hours drive west of Minneapolis. My father was most happy when farm machinery was broken and he could work to fix it, which is why he left farm for career in customer engineering with IBM. Growing up we stayed at Dad's farm every summer on way to fishing vacation weeks near Brainerd. Unlike my father I always loved farm just as it was just as I liked endless fishing on north Minnesota lake much less than he did.


1930's Roger, Ken and Ole in fields ; 1940's threshing; 1930's Roger and Sadie on front porch steps; 1930's Brothers Roger and Ken

In 1971, after Asia and Africa trip, I visited Minnesota farm for first time since all those summers we had stopped on way to fishing ended in 1960 for me. We all returned to see my cousins on Minnesota farm in 2008 summer. Since then I have returned a couple more times, the last with PJ.


2208 Summer Minnesota farm: California Handelands and big GM corn; Handeland cousins young; Handeland cousins Ken, Rod, Byron

Both my parents and sisters have visited the many relatives who still live in same area south of Bergen on Stord Island. Their notes and trip journals cover relatives still in Norway, so my comments will focus on how our ancestors related to Norwegian history. This also includes some legends and myths from old Norse sagas, with which I became familiar in 1980's and 1990's through Met and San Francisco productions of Wagner's Ring. Recalling seeing the 1958 film Vikings with Borgnine, Douglas, Curtis and Leigh, I recently learned it was loosely based on the Saga of Ragnar and his sons, I still recall the dramatic cry to Odin, who was Wagner's Wotan, climaxing the dramatic sword battle between Ragnar sons that led to one's death and epic burning ship Viking funeral. See Google search Images Stord Island for next eight photo details and others.

Google Earth Bergen South to Stord Is; Stord Is map; Stord Is. Google Earth

Most of the central part of nearly hundred square miles of Stord island, where most of our relatives still live, is mountainous, leaving the islands population living mostly along the coasts. The vast majority of the population lives on the southern coastal area near the Hardangerfjorden. The area around Fitjar has been settled since the Stone Age. At that time, the sea was 33–50 ft higher than today, which means that it went into the present lake Storavatnet and far up Fitjar river.


Stord Island vistas: Hordaland; Fitjar Aerial W to Islands, N Sea; Aerial of Islands, fjords near Stord; Fitjar port aerial

The mild climate of the last ice age meant that much of the area was covered by forest, most probably oak, ash, and lime/linden. The area was rich with wildlife, deer, and wild boar. Archaeologists say there have been people in Fitjar for the last 10,000 years. They have made many discoveries of stone tools around Fitjar. Near the Rimbareid farm, a dwelling under a cairn was discovered by archaeologist E. de Lange in 1906. This residence is probably from the late stone age, but could also be from the early Bronze Age, since residue showed a square house, while the round house was more common in the stone age.


872-930 Harald Finehair First King of Norway, Royal Residence Stord Island

Harald I unified Norway in 872, and as the first king ruled to his death in 930. He maintained a royal residence at Fitjar, and it was there Håkon the Good was mortally wounded in the Battle of Fitjar against the sons of Erik in 961, nearly two centuries after Viking era began from Kaupang, with raid on Lindesfarne monastery on isle off Northumbria.


690 Lindisfarne Gospels manuscript; 782 Kaupang aerial; 782 Kaupang aerial and submerged ground (orange); Kaupang port

Harald succeeded, on the death of his father Halfdan the Black Gudrödarson, to the sovereignty of several small, and somewhat scattered kingdoms in Vestfold, which had come into his father's hands through conquest and inheritance. His protector-regent was his mother's brother Guthorm. The unification of Norway is something of a love story. It begins with a marriage proposal that resulted in rejection and scorn from Gyda, the daughter of Eirik, king of Hordaland. She said she refused to marry Harald "before he was king over all of Norway". Harald was therefore induced to take a vow not to cut nor comb his hair until he was sole king of Norway, and when he was justified in trimming it ten years later, he exchanged the epithet "Shockhead" or "Tanglehair" Harald Fairhair.


872 Stavanger homage to Harald after battle to unify Norway; Stavanger today sunset; Stavanger Harald memorial

In 866, Harald made the first of a series of conquests over the many petty kingdoms which would compose all of Norway, including Värmland in Sweden, which had sworn allegiance to the Swedish king Erik Eymundsson. In 872, after a great victory at Hafrsfjord near Stavanger, two hours south of Stord and Harald became king of the whole country. His realm was, however, threatened by dangers from without from the opponents who took refuge abroad, not only in Iceland, but also in the Orkney, Shetland, Hebrides and Faroe Islands as well as northern European mainland. Harald's opponents leaving was not entirely voluntary.

Many Norwegian chieftains who were wealthy and respected posed a threat to Harald; therefore, they were subjected to much harassment from Harald, prompting them to vacate the land. He was a hard king and many Norwegians fled to Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Great Britain, and Ireland. Places such as Dublin and Limerick were founded by these Norwegian settlers. At last, Harald was forced to make an expedition to the West, to clear the islands and the Scottish mainland of some Vikings who tried to hide there. Over time Christianity began to replace old Norse. In the mid 10th century King Haakon the Good became Norway's first Christian King.

Much of Harald saga, along with sagas on which Ragnar and sons as well as Wagner's Ring Norse sagas had been passed down through generations through long nights of storytelling and poetry, They were finally written down, mostly in 12th century in Iceland and modified or added to later. They aren't exactly consistent with Biblical traditions or history of early civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, but have many striking parallels that may place them in more of a historical context than myths and legends typically allow. For example, the first Biblical humans, Adam and Eve, would have been at earth creation about 4000 BC. The garden of Eden would have been near Sumer, the first of Mesopotamian civilizations that arose between the Tigris and Euphrates about the same period as Egypt along the Nile. Sigmund and Seglinde in Ring saga were created by Odin from Ash and Elm trees and among first humans in Ring and Norse sagas, perhaps Biblical Adam and Eve equivalents. Their historical parallel might better fit a couple millenniums later in Biblical period, which would include Ramses II and Moses leading Israelis in Exodus from Egypt.


1970, 71, 76 Erzurum Turkey N to Ararat; 1976 Rift Valley Turkey S to Mediterranean; Harvesting Ararat N.; Aerial Iran, Iraq, Turkey

In my 1970's travels, I was north of Mesopotamia through Turkey and Iran around Mt. Ararat on way to and from India, as well as return from USSR Tran Siberian rail crossing. The Biblical flood does seem to have historical confirmation, regardless of whether Noah and Ark embellishment is more than myth, just like the Ring parallel of Rhine overflowing to destroy Valhalla at end of Goertedammerung.

I never visited Israel, but traveled extensively around it through Egypt, Lebanon and even Syria. My visual recollections are mostly associated with Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Ramses II in 1954 's Ten Commandments film, as well as travels down the Nile in 1971. Wandering of Israelis in Sinai could be viewed as akin to Wotan as Wanderer in Ring seeking knowledge, but better analogy to Ten Commandments might be Wotan's compacts and treaties on his spear An even more apt analogy could be Hammurabi's 1700 BC Code, one of first examples or writing.


Ten Commandments 1954: Moses and Ramses; Red Sea Parting for Israeli Exodus; Moses Ten Commandments; 1700 BC Hammurabi

Barbarians like Attila the Hun may have brought what became Norse Sagas from Central Asia to Germany and then Scandinavia at the end of Roman Empire about 400 AD. These were kept alive and extended through storytelling from generation to generation until first written down in twelfth century Ireland. Meanwhile shortly after Attila and other barbarian tribes for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Saxons, Jutes, Angles and others moved into England, now vacated of Roman legions, from across North Sea and Picts in Scotland raided from North.


During the centuries between the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 465 and when the Vikings swept out of Scandinavia in their long ships to plague Europe and beyond, Europeans would have first become aware of these Norse sagas, some of which most monumentally incorporated as the basis for Wagner's epic operatic portrayal of The Ring of the Niebelung. This is probably the most powerful and all encompassing as well as longest series of operas ever. I came to know and love it as PJ and I were learning opera together, shortly after we met. PJ and I saw full Ring cycle in San Francisco in 1985, 1990, 1999 and at Met in 1989 including Aurora's Eric Halvorsen as Hagan in Chicago and San Francisco.. Tristan joined in for Siegfried and Goertedammerung at Met at age 4 and then for full cycle in San Francisco in 1990, just as Kevin when he was ready in 1999. Since these were so intertwined with Viking and Norse heritage, it seems appropriate to include a few of those memories below:


1985 SF: Morris first Wotan, Schwartz Frica; Rheingold Valhalla procession; Hoffman, Altmyer Sigmund, Seglinde; Jones Brunhilde



1985: Walkurie Fire Music; Siegfried Kollo, Marton Awakening; Goertedammerung Gibelching Hall; Goertedammerung Icy End before Loge


1989 Met: Rheingold's Valhalla sets; Morris and Valkuries; Morris, Behrens Fire Music


1989 Met: Errant Valkurie Brunhilde; Saalimen Wotan Fire Music Walkurie; Siegfried Behrens Awakening; Behrens Siegried Funeral


1990,99 SF: Morris Wotan Rheingold; Racette Freia with Giants; Morris Frica Valhalla; Rhine Maidens Siegfried Goertedammerung


1990, 99 SF: Morris Martin as Wotan Brunhilde; Morris Fire Music Walkurie; Halvorsen Hagen Goertedammerung; Jones Brunhilde End

Ragnar leading Viking invasions to Britain and then Paris in 845 may have been a composite of Nordic Viking leaders, who started raids with attack on Lindisfarme Island Monastery in 793. In 2014 while on home exchanges in Normandy, we stopped at Chateau Gaillard where Vikings overwhelmed French defenses leaving Paris as easy target for subsequent raid, pillage and extortion. For map below detail click here.


After Ragnar's capture and death in snake pit of Aella in Northumbria, Anglo Saxon chronicle of Great Heathen invasion of East Anglia in about 865 when in which Ragnar son's were leaders seeking revenge. King Edmund of East Anglia was killed in 867 as Vikings moved north to overpower and control York and Aella's Northumbria, before moving on further west and south in England. This Great Heathen invasion would have been much of historical background of 1958 Vikings! film where Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis were leaders seeking revenge for their Ragnar father played by Ernest Borgnine and Curtis's wife Janet Leigh as Northumbrian princess Morgana, whom both brothers loved, :




After King Aethwulf died, Wessex was ruled by his three sons Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred successively. Their younger brother Alfred fought alongside them to stem advance of Great Heathen Army advances without success in 868. We remember Alfred from statue in Wantage where he was born. We walked almost daily to Wantage from small hamlet of Letcombe Regis where we spent a month Intervac house exchange in 1998 below Ridgeway, which ran the length of high ground from the Thames west across the Wiltshire downs to Bristol.


1869 Great Heathen Army kill St Edmund E Anglia; 1867 Norse England invasion; 802-839 Egbert of Wessex; 839-856 King Aethelwulf

In 871 Alfred became King of Wessex when his brother Aethelred died. Subsequent years were spent retreating to fens and building up strength of army, which finally triumphed over Danes of Great Heathen Army at Edington in 878 fought near Westbury Wiltshire. The defeated Danish leader Guthram and his officers converted to Christianity and Guthram becoming Alfred's spiritual son. A Treaty of Alfred and Guthram divided remaining English stronghold between Alfred and Danes, with Alfred gaining London, although he ruled from Winchester until his death in 899. Map:


865+ Alfred Plots attack on Dane fleet; 865+ Great Heathen Army invasion and Wessex defense; Fens of Somerset where Alfred hides


849+ Alfred born in Wantage, statue Market Square; 886 Reestablishment of London; 880 Alfred Jewel; 878+ Alfred statue in Winchester

The Vikings in England may have been finally checked in their takeover efforts by Alfred at Edington, but remained as rulers elsewhere for almost two hundred years, centered in York. They continued further west to occupy much of Ireland, discover and settle Iceland and continue their epic voyages of colonization to Greenland, and even for a few years in 1000 reached Newfoundland, nearly five centuries ahead of Columbus.


866+ York as center of Viking control of England; 1001-3 Leif Eriksen in Newfoundland; Boat and remnants of Vikings in Newfoundland

 1066 was a historic year for England, the world as well as our ancestry. For it might have been about then that our parents ancestry was first linked, nearly a millennium before my parents met in late 1930's at A.C Nielsen in Chicago, where dad was a young IBM customer engineer servicing the punch card machines and mother was a fresh off the farm maiden key punching cards on those machines. Much of the background for this remarkably serendipitous millennium earlier meeting of ancestors is covered in Macbeth, Macduff, Duncan, St. Margaret section of our family's Finley saga at

However, who is central to why our mother and father's ancestors were 'kissin cousins' a millennium before they met in Chicago is simply that: 'Ingibiorg Finnsdottir was a daughter of Earl Finn Arnesson and Bergljot Halvdansdottir and niece of the Norwegian Kings Saint Olaf and Harald Hardraade. She is also known as Ingibiorg, the Earls'-Mother. She married Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Earl of Orkney. The Orkneyinga Saga claims that Kalf Arnesson, Ingibiorg's uncle, was exiled in Orkney after her marriage to Thorfinn. This was during the reign of Magnus the Good, son of Saint Olaf, who ruled from 1035 to 1047, and probably before the death of Harthacanute in 1042. Thorfinn and Ingibiorg had two sons, Paul and Erlend, who fought and died in Harald's ill-fated invasion of England in 1066.


1031-93 Malcolm III life highlights; 1000+ Scotland map section indicating Macbeth's Fyfe and Birnam Wood; Malcolm III Family and life highlights

Ingibiorg remarried after Thorfinn's death to Malcolm III. Malcolm and Ingibiorg had at least one son, and probably two. The Orkneyinga Saga tells us that Duncan II of Scotland was their son, and it is presumed that the "Domnall son of Máel Coluim, King of Scotland" whose death in 1085 is reported by the Annals of Ulster was their son. Ingibiorg is presumed to have died about 1069 as Malcolm married Margaret, sister of Edgar Ætheling, in about 1070. So Ingibiorg, as a niece of St. Olaf and Harald Hardrada, who died in Battle of Stamford Bridge is link to my father through his direct ancestor King Harald Hardrada. As wife of Malcolm III, Ingibiorg is also the link to my mother, as her direct ancestor is King Malcolm III Canmore. The detail ancestry of my father goes indicates the last king of Norway, Harald Hardrada as a 28th Great Grand Parent and my mother's direct ancestor is Malcolm III, King of Scotland shortly after Macbeth and Malcolm's father King Duncan as summarized at


It is intriguing to look at the 'what if's' of history, as well as history's splendid coincidences. For if Harald Hardaade had triumphed at Stamford Bridge in 1066 and then gone on to Hastings and emerged as victor over William, it may better explain why our son Tristan and Laura selected a corgi as their first family member in our time a millennium later. As for our family, life is just fine in California and we certainly never miss all the world's brouhaha over another UK royal tyke. Regarding our Norse ancestry, it is sufficient to think of the discoveries of the times of our Viking ancestors and many associations they had with historically important figures that led to the British royal line. These began with the first Norwegian King Harald Finehair in 872 maintaining a royal residence on Stord and continued to the semifinals of the race to found a new line of English Kings after Edward died without an heir in 1066.


Harald Hardrada's loss to Harold Godwin of England at Stamford meant that it would be an Anglo Saxon rather than Norwegian advancing to the finals at Hastings. And at Hastings, he lost to another Norseman who showed up by way of his last Rollo Norwegian Earl by way of line of Dukes of Normandy. As William the Conqueror after his Hastings victory, William established line of English Kings rather than the Anglo Saxon loser Harold or our direct ancestor Harald, who died at Stamford Bridge as last Norway King.

1066 Harald Hardaade Norway against Harold Godwin England Stamford Bridge; Contenders for English King; Stamford Bridge today

However, the greatest find of the time was that this was the moment that my mother and father's ancestors were linked for the first time through Harald's niece Ingibiorg. Both her sons with Thorfinn before she married King Malcolm III Canmore died with Harald at Stamford Bridge. But we still see Malcolm and second wife Margaret as English throne claimant on chart above, despite loss at Stamford Bridge and William's victory at Hastings. All this provides lots to think about, imagine how it might have been then 1000 years ago and feel a sense of vicarious pride.

It seems akin to the thrill of discovering similar associations in my mother's ancestors in Western Pennsylvania to the history of 1700's through George Washington ties in both French Indian as well as Revolutionary Wars and to Daniel Boone , Cumberland Gap and Kentucky discovery. Or even her Finley ties in 1800's to Samuel Morse and Davy Crockett. And finally our Finley and farm ties to Henry Wallace who married a Finley granddaughter, built our Pennsylvania farm house and who's grandson rose to be FDR's, just three months short of then succeeding to Presidency when FDR died. For me, it seems a bit like working at Business International, when a Columbia grad joined and we all knew him in passing in halls of NY office, never imagining that within 25 years, he would be and still is President of United States.


Roger and Betty Handeland to Norway: NY Pan Am Clipper Club Kevin, Tristan; Stord Relatives in native dress at church and gathering images

Even though my parents visited Stord and our many relatives still there, just as both my sisters and their husbands did a decade later, I never spent more than one single day in Norway. After finishing Northwestern in 1965, I spent a summer with a friend in Europe and took boat from Copenhagen to Oslo where I spent a beautiful summer day, most memorably at folk and Viking ship museum as well as Vigeland's sculpture park before leaving on overnight train for Stockholm. I have most of my parents pictures and journals of their Stord visit and expect both my sisters have many fond reminiscence and memories of their time with Stord relatives in Norway. Someday I may get there, now with added incentive of learning whether they know even more of the times and ties to our ancestors I commented on here. Until then, I'll remember Norway as in 1965.


1965: Oslo Port and Downtown Aerial; Norse Viking Ship Museum; Norsk Folk Museum Outdoor; Frogner Park Vigeland Sculptures and Statues and Fountains

As for all those of my father's clan still on Stord Island off west coast of Norway between Bergen and Stavanger, they too seem to be doing just fine from all I know. They are still close to Stord historic past, dating back to both Norway's first and last kings as well as long before either. There are two historic churches on the island: Fitjar Church, built in 1867, and Stord Church, built in 1857. In Hystadmarkjo, are 12 burial mounds, some of them have given rich finds from the Bronze Age.


2000 Stord Haugesund University College; 1973 North Sea Offshore Platform launch; 2000 North Sea Oil Operations West of Stord; 2000 Kvaerner Stord Oil Platform Mfg

From all I know, Stord has benefitted greatly by nearness to North Sea's offshore oil and gas deposits. These provide many jobs in Stord towns in related offshore platform construction and supply, just as oil tanker construction before the oil bonanza. And it appears that Norway's take from North Sea oil has been far richer than UK's and may last longer. The main industries found on the northern part of the island, other than the municipal government, include engineering and agriculture with substantial cattle and sheep. Fitjar ranks second after Austevoll in Sunnhordland in landed volume of fish, so fishing is a major part of the economy. In Stord municipality, industry began developing from 1920 until the 1970s.


Manufacturing was the main industry with Kværner and Apply Leirvik as the large enterprises. Both concentrate on offshore oil installations and onshore facilities for oil recovery. Aker Solutions (Aker Stord) built supertankers of up to 370,000 tons until 1975. When the crash of tanker market came, the company went on to build the large production platforms in the North Sea. By 2000, manufacturing included 63% of the economically active employees within the trade and service industries, while only 1% were related to primary industries.

1793 - 1066 Viking Age in Europe Timeline

So a toast to all those Norse greats I came to know as Handeland ancestors in last few weeks since Trish's husband Cal made me aware of the detail genealogy of my father's ancestry back to Viking timeline above from first King Harald Finehair in 872 ahead to last King Harald Hardrada, who died in Battle at Stamford Bridge in 1066 as narrated in climax of Magnus Magnusson's Viking! last chapter titled 'Here King Harald is Killed'. And most of all, Skal to all those relatives on Stord today who helped our family learn how we are tied to Norway and its past. And in parting perhaps even a thought of the powerful operatic depiction of the mythical clans below, who long ago may have started our long and winding road to today.

Norse Mythology Gods, Mortals - Background of Wagner's Ring Operas