Looking for lost family in Tromso, Norway - Hansen [closed]

+7 votes

My great great grandfather's name was William Sylvanus Hansen. He was a sail maker and rigger born May 20, 1848 in Tromso, Norway. 

I am looking for his family in Norway as we have no history of them.

This is his story on how he ended up in Canada:

"He ended up working and living in the Port Hill/Tyne Valley area, PEI, Canada.  William had been on many whaling expeditions and spent two winters on the frozen island of Spitzbergen. He made many voyages across the Atlantic and Pacific--and it was on one of these that his Norwegian barque, loaded with lumber from NB, was shipwrecked off North Cape, PEI.

The “August Gale,” 24-26 August 1873, spewed disaster in waters surrounding Nova Scotia and PEI. Many ships found cover in ports along the north shore of PEI; others were not so fortunate. Yeo shipyards had lost two ships in this same storm, and it is said that the crew from the wrecked Norwegian barque was hired by Senator Yeo and worked in Port Hill until they had a ship built.

When it came time to set sail, all but William left. He lived with a Ramsay family in Port Hill and went to school with the children of the area so that he could learn English. He continued to work at the Yeo shipyards, purchased land in Tyne Valley, and built his house with money borrowed from James Yeo. He married and even after, he continued to sail. His family says that “he sailed around The Horn at least seven times.”

When the shipbuilding museum opened at Green Park, Edwin Hansen [grandson], donated a wooden sea chest that carried the tools of William Sylvanus Hansen. The children of the family always called it “Grandpa’s Donkey."

Please comment or message me if you can help with Norwegian translation and genealogy searches in the Tromso area. Thank you!

closed with the note: all information was found thank you for helping, question can be deleted
in Genealogy Help by anonymous G2G Crew (740 points)
closed by anonymous

6 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer


What do you think of this?

If I'm reading it right, Sedinius Vilhelm was born out of wedlock 20 May 1847 to the merchant Frederik Hans(en) in Tromsø and his maidservant Ermegaard Carstens(datter).

Found by relaxing the birth year to ± 1 and the location from Tromsø to Troms Fylke. And just Vil* for a name

by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (401k points)
selected by anonymous

I think this could be it! I'm not sure how Sedinius is pronouced in Norwegian but could see how the spelling is similar to Sylvanus. And his first born son in Canada was named Frederick!

Frederick George Hansen was born Nov 12 1884 in Tyne Valley, P.E.I. Canada and died in Port Hill, P.E.I. Canada



I did some looking around for Sylvanus at FamilySearch and MyHeritage - and got almost exclusively North American hits - which surprised me a little. It sounds to me like the sort of "fancy" name that was starting to get popular among the common folk at that time (at least in Sweden)

Sedinius seems to be a fairly uncommon name even in Norway, which seems to be the only(?) country where it occurs. I can find some girls named Sedinia in the indexed Swedish records 1880-1910 but not even one male. He may have found that a "translation" was better.

To me it also looks pretty convincing with the same birthday but the year one step wrong - particularly if this was from his memory, not from papers. And the father a Hansen.
I would have expected him to use the patronymic standard and use the name Frederiksen/Fredriksen, but it appears he did in fact take the name Hansen. At least here he is in the 1865 census: https://digitalarkivet.no/census/person/pf01038394003674

I can't find him in 1875, so he could well be in Canada by then.

Older half-sister born 1837: https://digitalarkivet.no/view/255/pd00000003309813 (notice the name of the first godparent)

 Younger half-twins born 1851: https://digitalarkivet.no/view/255/pd00000001413470 &  https://digitalarkivet.no/view/255/pd00000001414849

His mother in the 1865 census (now married and with two additional children): https://digitalarkivet.no/census/person/pf01038394003429

The scan of his birth records: https://media.digitalarkivet.no/view/2893/51

His father might be more challenging to track down since several people have a similar name, but at least you have a starting point :)
Very good, Sigmund!
Very good research!
Thank you so much Eva and Sigmund! Life long mystery solved!

Sedenius moved to Tromsø 16 (October?) 1867...




What does the word before his name mean? Thank you so much Cliff!!
It's an abbreviation - Ungk short for Ungift Karl.  So an unwed man not married before best translation is bachelor.
Latin names were a thing in some Norwegian church circles. What's even more fun is playing "what fancy Latin name did they use for Lars?" ;)
Ungk is short for "ungkarl" (ungkar i modern Norwegian), which translates as bachelor. Cliff Lien appears to have absorbed an undestandable but wrong etymologi at some point as "ung" here is just "young", and unmarried is "ugift" in Danish/Norwegian, no 'n' involved. (un- words in English are generally u- words in D/N and o- in Swedish.

+6 votes

This could be tricky. Looking for Hansens in Norway is like looking for Smiths elsewhere. You also need to be aware of the implications of the patronymic naming system. He may be recorded as Hansen or by a locational name in the Norwegian records. We are most likely looking for a boy whose father had first name Hans.

I started by looking for all male children born on May 20 1848. None of them are showing a name that might easily have been anglicised to William Sylvanus. Here is the list from Digitalarkivet.


by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (630k points)
+6 votes
by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (630k points)
With how hard of time I've had trying to find him, I'm really starting to believe his name was not translated correctly when he shipwrecked in Canada. He didn't speak any english at the time he arrived. I really appreciate your help! I never knew of the DA site before!
You are welcome Jessica. I have problems with some seafaring Hansens of my own, so I know how you feel.

I think all three of his names may have been adapted to a Canadian form, which is why I started with a search on birth date and just ignored the name completely. I have not tried census records for Tromsø yet. I may take a look at them later today if I get time.

Digitalarkivet is very useful, but their search function is not the most user friendly. You might also have more success in searching there if you use the extra Norwegian letters where appropriate: æ, ø, å. So put in Tromsø rather than Tromso.

Try playing about with it to see what you can find and give me a shout if you need translation help.
I think I was able to get to Tromsø in the advanced serch by menu choices, without ø typing.
Yes, you can Eva, but my comment was aimed at Jessica and not just related to the actual place Tromsø. If she is going to be doing any Scandinavian research then it helps to understand a little about the various alphabets.

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