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She was told she was Sámi Print-ready version

by Hilde Staalesen Lilleøren
Bergens Tidende
July 22, 2009

Joni Mitchell's wish to find her Norwegian relatives was heard by the genealogist, Arnfrid Mæland.

Joni Mitchell has on several occasions talked about her Norwegian ancestry, but has never known exactly where in Norway her ancestors come from, despite having met her Norwegian grandmother. In a Dagbladet interview in January 2008 she said, "I have to find out about this before all the old folks die."

Arnfrid Mæland, a genealogist and music educator, read the interview and took the living legend at her word. That led her to Modalen and Farestveit farm, where the mother of Joni Mitchell's father, Emma Anderson, proved to have been born in 1882. Ingeborg, as she was baptised, became Emma after emigrating; a usual name change at the time and a story Joni Mitchell isn't even aware of herself. In the Dagbladet interview, Joni says:

My father's grandparents emigrated from Norway (...) When I met my father's cousin at the shop, I took the opportunity. 'Do we have Sámi blood in our veins?' I asked. 'Oh yes. We are Laplanders,' she said.

"It is very odd that none of the 30 grandchildren and great-grandchildren who were alive when Emma died know exactly where she came from," says Mæland.

In the book, Freeway West, Joni Mitchells' aunt, Alma Anderson writes:

My father, from the Lofoten Islands, was named Hendrick but was called Henry, and my mother, from the Voss Fjords of Norway, was named Ingeborg but called Emma.

"After having read that the father of Mitchell's mother was from 'the Voss Fjords', I had to find out where exactly this really was. By studying emigration papers from 1882 from the fjord areas in the vicinity of Voss, I finally ended up in Mofjorden (Mo fjord) and Modalen (Mo valley)" says Mæland.

Not Sámi

A local census for South Dakota in 1905 has records of Emma and Henry Anderson, together with their two eldest children Alma and Hilda.

"It says here that Emma was born to Norwegian parents in Norway in 1882. The census shows that there was only one Emma Anderson born in Norway that year who emigrated to the USA." Together with genealogists in Brønnøysund, Mæland has also done the research on Emma's husband, Henry Anderson.

"He proved to be from Sør-Helgeland, not Lofoten. We've looked at Henry's family lineage all the way back to the 1600s, but there isn't a trace of Sámi kin as Joni was told by her father's cousin," Mæland confirms.

Are you going to tell Joni Mitchell about your findings?

"Yes, I must try to do so," says Mæland.

Perhaps it will be an American third cousin who knocks at the door next time Arthur Farestveit receives a visit to the farm from relatives.

This article has been viewed 3,548 times since being added on September 5, 2009.

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