September 11, 2017

The Aunt I didn't have, Gerd Sevaldsen


Gerd Sevaldsen was my mother's older sister and my grandparents' first child.

On a visit to Norway, my Grandmother confided to me that she was pregnant with Gerd when she and Grandfather Paul married. Knowing how strictly religious she was I dared to question her on her, shall we say, timing? "But I was engaged!" she vehemently protested. Apparently in rural Norway in earlier times marriage was the religious event. The engagement or trolovelse was recorded by the parish priest with generally two witnesses present. It was the binding agreement between man and woman and the woman often joined the man's family at this time. They would later post banns at the church and the religious event would take place a few weeks after at the discretion of the local priest. If the young couple was expecting, as they often were, the marriage ceremony was expected to be performed before the baby's birth. No one thought poorly of this as it was the intention that mattered. Dagmar and Paul were married in Skien February 22, 1922. Gerd was born May 14 of the same year.

"My most beautiful baby" is how Dagmar referred to Gerd, her firstborn. She had dark hair and brown eyes like Dagmar and a sweet disposition. Paul left for America when Gerd was just 15 months old. He sent money and prepaid tickets for Dagmar and Gerd to join him. Gerd never made it to America. They were scheduled to leave for Kristiana just a few weeks after the Christmas of 1923. Dagmar hesitated to celebrate Christmas with her family as her youngest brothers, had just had the measles. Her mother, who feared she would never again see her daughter after she left for America, begged her to come, believing the boys would not be contagious. She was wrong. Little Gerd got the measles which swiftly turned into pneumonia. Dagmar had to bury her baby in an unmarked paupers grave and board the train for the three-hour ride to Kristiania alone. Pauls sister wrote her brother in America telling him of his daughters' death. When Dagmar arrived in America Paul never questioned her. In fact, they never even discussed the child or spoke the name "Gerd" again. Dagmar felt he blamed her for the little girls' death. Dagmar kept this picture of her "most beautiful baby" on her dresser always.


my Aunt
Gerd Sevaldsen 
born:14 May 1922 Gjerpen, Telemark, Norway
         died:14 Jan 1924 Gjerpen, Telemark, Norway