Anne Olsdatter Røyland, “child wanderer” from Åseral

Anne was born in Åseral municipality in 1841. Åseral is situated in (the old) Vest-Agder County. Her father was Ole Andersen Røyland (1778-1860), while her mother was Anne Olsdatter Byedalen (1800- ). Ole Andersen was married twice, the first time with Gunnhild Neresdatter Eikemoen. He had at least nine children. The first wife died in childbirth.

The farm the family lived at, had different names and spellings throughout the years: Røyland/Røiland/Røgland, Roidan/Rojdan. Today the name on the map is Røyddan.

Migrant child labour, known literally as “child wandering” (barnevandring) in Norwegian, was common only in the Agder counties in Norway. It is a form of labour where children usually migrated from one part of the Agder counties to the other. The children could be as young as 7 years old. This migration started in the 1830s and ended about 1910. It took place in the summer months but could stretch from April to November. The children had to walk as far as 150 to 200 kilometers. Some children lost part of their education because they had to work.

The poverty was severe in the Agder counties in the 19th century much harsher than anywhere in Norway. The family at home would survive on what the children earned.

The walk was arduous, the countryside was hilly, and the route most often taken, was across the hills, not along the bottom of the valleys. The children came from the eastern regions and worked in the western parts. The children came from the eastern regions and worked in the western parts. They often travelled in groups but could meet bears and wolves along the way (and also while they were tending flocks on the hillsides).

The types of task these children performed were shepherding, work in the fields, chopping wood, carrying water, cooking and other farm chores. Some children were well-treated, while others were treated as slaves. The migration to the place they had to work, and life on these farms left some scarred for life. This has been documented in “minnefortellinger”, collections of oral history.

According to family lore, Anne Olsdatter was a “child wanderer”. She came to Froland as a 14-year-old, and she never returned to her family and place of birth. The distance between her home as a married woman and her childhood home was about sixty kilometers, but due to the terrain the distance would have been much longer. Anne appears with the name Brobakken of Åseral when she marries. This is the address part of her name. (Read more about naming traditions here.) It might be a farm Brobakken in Froland instead. There is also a place in Åseral called Bubakken, so could it be a misspelling of that? This is close to where the family knows she served in Froland.

According to family lore, Anne Olsdatter was a “child wanderer”. She came to Froland as a 14-year-old, but she never returned to her family and place of birth. The distance between her home as a married woman and her childhood home was about sixty kilometers, but due to the terrain the actual distance would have been much longer. Anne appears with the name Brobakken of Åseral when she marries. This is the address part of her name. (Read more about naming traditions here.) It might be a farm Brobakken in Froland instead. There is also a place in Åseral called Bubakken, so could it be a misspelling of that? Brobakken is close to where the family knows she served in Froland.

Other family lore is that she worked at the farm Blakstad where she met her husband to be. He wanted to marry her but had to wait for some years because her employer would not let her go. It is unclear what right he had to deny her to quit, but one reason could be that employees had to terminate their contracts only twice a year, on “faredag” and that she did not do it at the right time. “Faredag” was either April or October 14th. The story goes on to say that they had to wait many years before they married in 1870.

The main trail that the child wanderers followed has been recreated into a path that can be walked today. It is 136 km and divided into seven routes. If you want to read more about child wandering and the path, you will find some information here.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s