As a child, I remember my grandfather told me a story about his grandmother working as a maid in Oslo (called Kristiania then), and that a drawing was made as she was standing on a chair because she was scared of a mouse on the floor. Many years later I discussed this with my mother, and she told me that a man named Diriks had made this drawing (and other) and that they probably still existed in the National Library (Nasjonalbiblioteket). A few years later a lecture was organized at the National Library, telling the history of Carl Fredrik Diriks, his life and drawings. We both went to this lecture and I learned much more about Diriks and the collection of papers that he left.
But let us start with the main person, my great-great-grandmother Lisabet Eriksdatter Rundhaugen, the spelling given in the churchbook from Vinger, now Kongsvinger. She was born in 1846 and was one of nine children. At the age of 19 she worked as a servant at the farm her sister was married into. She later moved to Kristiania and continued to work as a servant there. In the census of 1875 she worked for a man owning a large mechanical workshop. And if the story is true she worked for Diriks in 1876.
In the churchbooks in Norway there are many ways to write a name. The minister often used a Danish version of the language, while in everyday life people would use the local version. An example of this is Ole, if written by the minister, which often became Ola for ordinary people. For Lisabet her name varied from Lisabet which is a version of Elisabet(h). But she was also Lisa and Elise. Her name at time of death was Elisabeth. This shows that there is a root word (Elisa) and the name is written as variations of that.
Lisabeth’s life was probably a hard one, she married Karl Johan Jensen form Nes, Akershus in 1875 and had one child in 1876, Johan Oscar. In 1877 Marie Elida was born, she is my great grandmother. They had 3 more children. Karl Johan did all kinds of manual labour. He died in 1899, while Lisabeth lived to 1917.
Diriks was a navy officer born in 1814. From 1855 he was in charge of all the lighthouses in Norway. Because of Norway’s long coastline there were more than 200 of these in the 19th century with people working and living at the lighthouses. In addition there were lighthouses that were not manned. Diriks travelled extensively to the lighthouses, going all the way up northeast. Norway’s coastline is 2 650 kilometers long which is 1 650 miles. Diriks was a self-taught artist and very good at making pen-drawings. He also wrote about the places he visited.
Diriks had a nickname. A lighthouse is called “fyr” in Norwegian. He was therefore called FyrDiriks.
The drawing of my gg grandmother was made in 1876. The characteristic of Diriks’ drawing are that they are good-natured and kind of fun. They give a good glimpse into life in that century, where descriptions of everyday life is more scarce. For a genealogist it is valuable to hear what life was like then. And because this book with it’s varied representation of places in Norway, gives us a better understanding of what life was like then. And we can incorporate this knowledge into making our family history richer.