What constitutes “proof”?

Good morning!

I have been working this question for a couple of days as I try to obtain information about Jens T. Dahle (b. 1839, d. 1919) in Norway.  Jens, according to the 1900 census was born March 1839 in Norway and emigrated in 1858, ending up in MN.  But where in Norway?  I found his wife very quickly.  He remained elusive.  I could not find him in the Castle Gardens passenger manifests, so I am taking an enumerator’s “word” for the birth month and year and his year of immigration.  I did look at rootsweb.org for others that might have posted information about Dahle and found that Jim Larson had posted information that placed him in Leikanger parish (on a deep fjord on the west coast of Norway).  Jim had given a source for the birth but there was no comment about how he knew it was “his” Jens.

Genealogy proof often relies on indirect evidence….the accumulation of consistent evidence from a wide range of sources which makes it difficult to believe that there would be someone else with that set of same facts.  Such was the case for Jens.

In Norway, people had a patronymic name but also had a farm name…..so “Jens” was a given name, “Dahle” is a farm name and probably the “T.” represented a patronymic name or that of his father.  Jim L. reported that the patronymic name was “Torkelson” for his father, Torkel.  So now I needed to if there was a Jens, born in March of 1839 with a father of Torkel in the Leikanger parish records.  Sure enough, a Jens was born 25 March 1839 in Leikanger parish, the same date that the Findagrave website recorded.  Now, the question was, “Did Jens Torkelson emigrate in 1858?”  Sure enough, Jens Torkelson emigrated from the parish to North America in April of 1858 with a small group of others.

Is that enough?

It would be great if I could state that I found Jens Torkelson in the passenger manifests but to date I haven’t been able to find him.  Perhaps I will if I keep looking, especially since I suspect he traveled with the others.  I might be able to find the others and find that the record/search engine transcription is grossly misspelled, not an uncommon event.

So, do I think that this is enough “proof” even if I cannot find the immigration record?  What we have:

  • an consistency on birth date, day, month and year
  • an consistency on emigration year, which is early for emigration from this area
  • a consistency of name with traditional naming practices
  • what we do not have: Jens did not name his children using the traditional Norwegian naming pattern for given names (i.e. first male child named after father’s father, etc.)

My conclusion is that Jim Larson got it right because the number of Jens T.’s that would emigrate from Norway at 19 years of age in 1858 would be relatively small.

I suspect that more information will reveal itself over time and will either confirm or deny this conclusion.  It will be important that I outline this in the report to the client so she is aware that there is a chance, ever decreasing that I found the wrong one.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  worked on the research of Jens T. Dahle in the US and finding him in the Norwegian Digitalarkivet, an on line data base of digital images of original parish records of Norway (and it’s free!).  It’s fun to do the research after writing papers about what I have found for the past couple of weeks.


3 comments on “What constitutes “proof”?

  1. Raymond Hager says:

    I am a great grandson of Jens T Dahle, being the grandson of his Son, Sidney. I have a copy of your booklet on him. Nice work! It seems the facts you present, most of which we also have, are in agreement. I do believe we have some more info on him if you or your client is interested. For example, we have a couple of letters, one from a war buddy and photos. I have done a lot of reading of history books with references to either him, the Second Co Sharpshooters and the Firt Minnesota. Also my wife keeps a geneology of the family. I also saw the lineage posted by Jim Larson but I do not know him nor have I been able to contact him and can’t vouch for that information.

    • jkmorelli says:

      Thanks for writing! I will pass on your contact info to Mary. My client would be interested I am sure. Jens has a remarkable story. I was talking with a Civil War expert not too long ago and mentioned that Jens was with the 2nd MN….he immediately became sympathetic. It is well known that they had it tougher than most units. I, too, could not corroborate the information from Jim L. Contacts with him were not responded to. Thanks for writing.

      • Raymond Hager says:

        Thanks for the quick reply! Yes, I think the most interesting battle he was in is the battle of Gettysberg because the First Minnesota was decimated. They had been held in resevere in an area where the ememy began to break through the line and Gen. Hancock ordered them to charge the line. I don’t know if Jens participated in the charge, although I remember my Grandpa telling the story, it is possible, since Jens was a sharpshooter, that he was assigned to guard a battery and wasn’t in the middle of that fight. Regards, Ray

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