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Summary: The following pages contain information on the Larsen Family - Our Norwegian Roots - Debora Expedition - Aldabra Atoll - Hordnes - Salbu - Fana - Norwegian History - Norwegian Immigration


Norwegian Family History

The Larsen Family and the Debora Expedition

Sivert Andersen Hordnes, son of Anders Tollevsen Salbu (Salbuen) and "Jana" Johanna Hansdtr Hordnes (Hordneas), was born on the 18th of November 1836. Sivert married Marie Elisabeth Olsen on the 17th of September 1865 - at the time he was employed as a carpenter on a boat-building estate called "Little Damsgaard". Marie was born the 20th of August 1844 - she was the daughter of Captain Sivert Olsen, who, together with his wife Severine Torelsdtr Nygaardsvig, were tenants on a smallish part of a big farm, Nygaardsvig, now a suburb of Bergen. Sivert and his father-in-law were boat builders (sic).

Sivert and Marie had three sons, Angel, the eldest, and, identical twins, Sigvart and Emil. The twins were born on the 9th of April 1868 and christened at the Askøy Church. As Askøy is an island, the family used to row to church each Sunday from Nygaardsvig.

On the 27th of February 1869, Sivert, who had returned to the family farm Hordnes and was farming the section called "Haugsneset", drowned when his sailboat, heavily loaded with herring, overturned in the Korsfjord - near the entrance to the Fanafjord - during a storm. Sivert's father-in-law, Sivert Olsen Nygaardsvig, was lost in the same accident. (See Askøy Church Records)

Sivert's widow married her second cousin, Fredrik Johan Larsen Lervig (age 26), on the 10th of September 1871 in the Askøy church. Fredrik, the son of Lars Findsen Lervig, was born on 24th of March, 1845, and was baptised (Askøy) on the 6th of April 1845. Fredrik was the oldest of eight children and was working near to the farm Nygaardsvig at the time (sic). The first of Fredrik and Marie's seven children, Petra Bendikte, was born in Nygaardsvig on the 3rd of February 1872..

On July 19th 1879, the family left Bergen harbour on the Sailing Ship Debora bound for the virgin island of Aldabra in the Indian Ocean. The three sons of the late Sivert Andersen Hordnes - Angel, the eldest, and the identical twins, Sigvart and Emil - were adopted by Fredrik Johan Larsen Lervig and sailed with the Debora.

Mr Kjell Falck of the Maritime Museum in Bergen records -"The Debora expedition endeavoured to find practical and Christian people to create a settlement at Aldabra. Hans Nilsen Hauge laid down the principles for a religious order of Christian/industrial philosophy - All had the right to preach - all had to follow the Bible - there would be no official formalities - any place was a church - all would endeavour to create new economic activities."

A German Newspaper "Hamburgische Boersenhalle", dated 28th July, 1879 reported "The idea for this undertaking was conceived by some Norwegians and the galeas Debora, a strong new ship, was purchased to undertake the crossing to the new home, under the leadership of Captain Tobiassen who was one of the original people from Madagascar"

A private letter received in Bergen stated "The Debora left Bergen, on the 19th July, 1879, with 47 people on board and arrived after a pleasant trip, in the harbour of Nosse Be in Madagascar on the 17th October."

In Madagascar the travellers received the unexpected and unwelcome information that the expected paradise had already been claimed by the French. Since they were not able to stay in Madagascar, they decided, on the advice of those who founded the undertaking, to continue to Port Natal, the harbour which belonged to the English possession of the same named colony in South Africa, where they arrived on the 12th November, 1879. These people who, in the old homeland, had a certain high standard of living (since all those who participated had contributed fairly high sums of money) had now to be grateful for a labourer's wage in a strange country where their language was not spoken.

Erik Ellingsen, a member of the Debora Expedition records "On the 11th August - at 40 degrees 15 minutes a son was born to Mr and Mrs Fredrik Larsen and the Debora Company was increased to forty-eight. The thunder rolled and a shower of rain fell in honour of the day. On Sunday, 17th August at 4 p.m. Larsen's son was christened by the Captain and received the name Atlanter. The forty-seven persons who took part in the Debora expedition were: Captain Tobiassen and wife, mate Berentsen and wife, mate Oftedal, A Olsen and wife, I Iversen and wife, O Heidalsvig and wife, J Finsen and wife, K Bang and wife with three children (Amanda, Severin and Knut), F Larsen and wife with six children (Angel, Emil, Sigvart, the three sons of the late Sivert Andersen Hordnes, and Petra, Ludvig and Karl), H Johnsen and wife with three children (Sina, Josefine and Karl), A Andreassen and wife with three children (I don't remember their names), R Andersen, R Rasmussen, K Jensen, Hesselberg, Grang, O Fosdal, E Eriksen, P Bang, E Ellingsen, widow Egelandsdal and Miss Serene Larsen. A son was born to Mr and Mrs Andreassen."

On Monday, November 11, 1929, the Natal Mercury published an article to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival in Durban of the 90 ton schooner "Deborah" in Durban. The article was headed "How the first Norwegian emigrants came to Natal" and included a photograph of a Durban group of the Debora survivors. The names are:- Standing Mrs Petra Thorvaldsen (nee Larsen), Mr S.A. Bang, Mrs Wettergren. Sitting:- Mrs Iversen, Mr Ellingsen and Mrs Heidalewig.

The Larsen family finally settled south of Durban where they purchased a 1030 acre farm - lot 8 of Oribi Flats. Fredrik Larsen and his wife Marie are buried in a small grave yard on the farm.

A list of the "Larsen" descendants of the Debora Expedition is available at this site.

Debora Expedition - Historical References: A number of interesting accounts of the Debora Expedition.

Compiled by David Victor Larsen, great-grandson of
Sivert Andersen Hordnes.
Tuesday, December 3, 1991


The Fana Bygdebok (4) records: "Jana" Johanna Hansdtr Hordnes (Hordneas), was the daughter of Hans Paulsen who died in 1792, Hans Knudsen, who had no children of this own, married "Siri" Sigrid Iversdtr Birkeland the widow of Hans Paulsen. Jana, being Hans Paulsen's only child, inherited her fathers portion of the farm Hordnes. Jana and Anders Tollevsen Salbu were the parents of Sivert Andersen Hordnes.

The Askøy records show: Sivert Andersen, age 32, and his father-in-law, Sivert Olsen Nygaardsvig, age 62, were lost at sea Feb. 27, 1869 in a "Strong Storm". Their bodies were never found.

The Askøy records show: Sept. 10, 1871 the widow Marie Elisabeth Olsen married Frederik Johan Larsen, age 26, and the son of Lars Findsen Lervig. They had a daughter Petra Benedikte Feb. 3, 1872. A son Ludvig Nov. 3, 1873, another Ludvig born Jan. 10, 1875.

The Askøy records show: Fredrik Johan Larsen Lervig and Cathrine Marie Tollefsdatter had (out-of- wedlock) a daughter Cathrine Johanne March 8, 1866, but the child died Jan. 29, 1869.


Aldabra - The Worlds Largest Archipelago

Mystical Atoll Of The Indian Ocean: The Aldabra archipelago is one of the least affected by man of any of the Indian Ocean Islands. Aldabra is the world's largest raised coral atoll and is made up of a chain of more than a dozen islands. Together they are about 35 km wide and enclose a huge tidal lagoon so vast that one cannot see from one end of the lagoon to the other. Volcanic in origin, it is a harsh yet incredibly beautiful and unique eco-system rising out of the oceans depths off the eastern rim of the Mozambique channel. "Aldabra" wrote Sir Julian Huxley in 1970 "is one of natures treasures and should belong to the whole world".

Charles Darwin himself was well aware of Aldabra's importance to naturalists and pleaded for its protection over 100 years ago. Incredibly, (since the time of the Debora Expedition) Aldabra has been off limits to all but a few scientists and explorers. In 1991 Aldabra was officially opened to selective and small groups of eco-tourists, primarily birders and divers. The United Nations has proclaimed Aldabra a World Heritage Site. It is managed by the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), which is sponsored by the Royal Society and the Smithsonian amongst others.

The Land Mass - Aldabra is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. 4 main islands (Picard, home of the research station and nature reserve wardens, Polymnie, Malabar and Grande Terre) surround a lagoon so immense that one cannot see from one end to the other. 4 main channels cut through the atoll filling and emptying the lagoon twice a day creating a tidal flow so awesome that it is considered by witnesses to be one of the most remarkable forces of nature known to man. On land is the largest colony of giant tortoise on this planet. Over 150,000 of these imposing reptiles make Aldabra their home. Off Aldabras virgin beaches over 2000 giant green turtles mate and come ashore to lay their eggs. Rare exotic birds like the Flightless Rail and Ibis are found in the undergrowth along with giant coconut crabs with powerful claws capable of crushing a coconut husk.

The Channels - Deep cut channels and shallow mangrove colonies line the outer rim of the lagoon.

The Lagoon - an incredible wonderland of endless shallows dissected by the deep cuts of the main channel. Much of the lagoon is exposed in low tide. Giant mushroom rocks laden with colonies of sea birds, eagle rays, black tip sharks, parrot fish and jacks, all in 2 meters of water.

The Mangroves - A dense mangrove jungle borders the channels and lagoon. A shallow area with a wealth of bird life unparalleled on our planet. Boobies, Frigates, Herons, Terns, Flamingos, Kestrels and more. Schools of Parrotfish, Snappers, Grunts, Rays and Jacks glide alongside weaving through the shadows eerily reflecting the sunlight filtering through the mangrove trees.

The Coral Reef - As if all the other parts of Aldabra were not enough , the outer coral reefs of the atoll are as rich in marine life -notably large schools of coral and pelagic fish. Many Eels, Turtles, Rays, multicolored butterfly fish, anemones, angelfish, many cleaning stations. Occasionally Shark and Barracuda can be seen in the open water or cruising along the reef.

Note: In the 1970s Harry Stickley (VQ9HCS) was caretaker of Aldabra. Later, at the request of Mrs Veevers-Carter, he became caretaker of Astove.


Old Bergen

Bergen Harbour at the time of the Debora Expedition. Typical "Old Bergen" Buildings, wooden houses and warehouses - the warehouses were built after the great fire of 1702 and are still standing at the harbour. Ole Bull's Island - Isle Lysøyen in Os Municipality . Lysøyen  is south of Salbu and near Nordvik (Fana area).

Lysøyen (Ole Bull's island)

Wooden houses


Askøy Church and Mill in Strusshamn       A Sunday circa 1820

Captain Sivert Olsen and Severine Torelsdtr Nygaardsvig's family and the Askøy Church : Sivert Andersen Hordnes, son of Anders Tollevsen Salbu (Salbuen) and "Jana" Johanna Hansdtr Hordnes (Hordneas), was born on the 18th of November 1836. Sivert married Marie Elisabeth Olsen on the 17th of September 1865 - at the time he was employed as a carpenter on a boat-building estate called "Little Damsgaard" (Damsgård). Marie was born the 20th of August 1844 - she was the daughter of Captain Sivert Olsen, who, together with his wife Severine Torelsdtr Nygaardsvig, were tenants on a smallish part of a big farm, Nygaardsvig, now a suburb of Bergen. Sivert and his father-in-law were boat builders (sic).
As Askøy is an island, family groups used to row to church each Sunday from Nygaardsvig.
  • David Larsen wrote:

    The Askøy church book records for the periods 1836 - 1851 and 1863 - 1877 show the following :
    The 20th of August 1844 as my g.grandmother Marie's birth date. The 17th of September 1865 as the day my g.grandparents married in the Askøy church. The 9th of April 1868 was recorded as the birth date of my grandfather Sigvard and his identical twin brother Emil. The notation "tvillinger" was placed between the names.

  • SUMMARY - Askøy Church key dates for my family
  • 1741 Church first in use - Marie's birth registered 1844, the church was then just over 100 years old
  • 1861 Church burned down - the fire started in the mill of Hans Nilsen Hauge
  • 1864 Church rebuilt - Sivert and Marie's marriage 1865 - On the 9th of April 1868 my grandfathers birth registration
  • 1966 Church burned down -
  • 1969 Church rebuilt - 1972 I visited Askøy and was told old church had burned down

    Hans Nielsen Hauge: One of the main initiators of the second phase of Norwegian Pietism was Hans Nielsen Hauge, a late 18th- century farmer's son who claimed that everyone had the right to preach the Gospel. According to current Norwegian law, this was restricted to ordained Church of Norway clergy, who were also civil servants.

    Arne Hansen wrote:

    Hi David,

    I found some information about the church in Strusshamn. It was in use from 1741 but burned down in 1861. There are of course no pictures from that time, but I found a sketch (made with a pencil). I made a copy it, the sketch depicts a sunday ca. 1820, you can see boats being rowed to the church. You can also see a mill built near a river. The mill uses moving water for power. It was built and owned by Hans Nilsen Hauge. It burned in 1861, at the same time as the church. The fire started in Hans Nilsen Hauge's mill and went on to the church.

    I will send you the picture and some other information about Strusshamn, but I have to send it by post, so it might take some days.

    After the first church burned down in 1861 they built another one in 1864. It was placed ca. 500 meters from the first church. But it burned down as well in 1966. In 1969 they built the third church at the same place as the second one, and it`s still standing.

    Strusshamn was a very important harbour at the time your greatgrandparents lived in Norway. Even the King visited Strusshamn one time. Your people had to row between 5 and 10 kilometers to get there. I don`t know the exactly distance but they had to be strong men. There is also some other houses on the painting, and some of them are still in use.

    Arne Hansen - November 1997

Aldabra Atoll

The lagoon at the widest points:- North/South: 6miles - East/West:18 miles.
Located in the Indian Ocean NW of Madagascar and SE of Tanzania Aldabra has very little season variation in the weather pattern - daytime temperatures are in the mid 80s, humidity in the high 70s with an a average of 16 inches of rain a month.

Jagtgaleas - Debora

The Natal Mercury of November 11, 1929 wrote:- "Armistice Day is an anniversary of double interest to the Norwegian community in Natal, for it was on November 11, 1879, that the first Norwegian emigrants came to Port Natal. They arrived on the Deborah, a small schooner of 92 tons capacity. It was a vessel of an uncommon type, known as the Galut, and probably many old Colonists remember the sensation created by her arrival at the Point. Despite her smallness, the gallant ship brought to South Africa an adventurous company of 49 men, women and children. The organisers first sailed to the beautiful Aldabra Islands, near Madagascar, with the intention of colonising them under the Norwegian flag, but subsequently decided that Natal offered better prospects."

Route taken by the Debora

The Debora sailed non-stop between Bergen and Madagascar. A member of the Debora party wrote: "We left Bergen, Norway on 19th July 1879, a group of 47 people, including 12 couples and 14 children. On 20th July we were West of Ireland and a fresh breeze from the North cleared the air - the sun shone and gave us all new life. On 11th August - at 40 degrees 15 minutes a son was born to Mr and Mrs F Larsen, so the Debora Company was increased to forty-eight. On 3rd October a dark and foggy bank rose out of the sea in the East. Rasmussen suddenly cried out; "Land fore on the lee side!" Everyone came on deck and viewed the dark outline of Table Mountain and other mountains about Cape Town; it was then 9. 30 am. On 4th October we rounded the Cape of Good Hope in the finest weather. A small German brig which had come out from Cape Town showed us the way, but at 4 pm we passed it. When we left Bergen, the Zulu War had started. The Captain took a hatch and K Jensen wrote with chalk in German: "Is the Zulu War at an end?" The Germans answered on a hatch "Ended". At 8 pm Cape Agulhas lighthouse was passed. On 16th October, at 3 pm, we saw Madagascar's West coast but, as the wind had quietened off, we only lay and drifted with the stream. In the afternoon the next day we had wind from the sea. Two Sakakaves in a canoe with a straw mat as a sail met us and went beside us along the three mile long coral reef which, like a tremendous mole, makes a port outside Tulear, where we in lee of the coral reef cast anchor the 17th October, 4 pm." A detailed chronical of the Debora voyage is at this site - together with a number of other interesting accounts of the Debora Expedition.


Above - Korsfjord and Fanafjord

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