#52Ancestors – Strong Woman

This is my contribution to the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge

This week’s challenge is called “Strong woman” This makes me think of my 3rd Great Grandmother Gunnhild Olsdatter Kyrkje-Sylte.

This is how Gunnhild and her family appear in my genealogy software:

Gunnhild Olsdatter Kyrkje-Sylte, daughter of Ole Madson Kyrkje-Sylte and Gunhild Eriksdotter Sør-Sylte, was born on 10 Sep 1794 in Kyrkje-Sylte, Sylte sogn, Veøy/Vestnes Prestegjeld, was christened on 14 Sep 1794 in Tresfjord Kyrkje, Sylte Sogn, Veøy Prestegjeld, died on 18 Oct 1864 in Kyrkje-Sylte, Sylte sogn, Vestnes Prestegjeld at age 70, and was buried on 30 Oct 1864 in Tresfjord Kyrkje, Sylte Sogn, Vestnes prestegjeld.

Gunnhild married Hans Hanson Sør-Sylte, son of Hans Larson Steinsrud and Guro Olsdatter Bergsvik, on 09 Nov 1823 in Tresfjord Kyrkje, Sylte Sogn, Veøy Prestegjeld. Hans was born in 1788 in Sør-Sylte, Sylte Sogn , Veøy Prestegjeld, was christened on 09 Nov 1788 in Tresfjord Kyrkje, Sylte Sogn, Veøy Prestegjeld, died on 05 Nov 1851 in Kyrkje-Sylte, Sylte sogn, Vestnes Prestegjeld at age 63, and was buried on 23 Nov 1851 in Tresfjord Kyrkje, Sylte Sogn, Vestnes prestegjeld.

Children from this marriage were:

i. Hans Hanson Kyrkje-Sylte was born in 1823 and died in 1824.
ii. Guri Hansdatter Kyrkje-Sylte was born in 1825
iii. Ole Hanson Kyrkje-Sylte was born in 1829
iv. Hans Hanson Kyrkje-Sylte was born on 08 Jun 1831
v. Gunhild Hansdatter Kyrkje-Sylte was born in 1834
vi. Martinus Hanson Kyrkje-Sylte was born in 1835
vii. Anders Hanson Kyrkje-Sylte was born in 1835

I have mentioned Gunnhild and Hans before as I told about their son, my 2nd great grandfather Hans Hanson Kyrkje-Sylte (Eidhammer). They lived at the cotters place “Innlågå” under the farm Kyrkje-Sylte. Innlågå is right outside the left frame of this picture.

The story I want to share took place in 1835. I know this because it is supposed to have happened while Gunnhild was pregnant with their youngest son Anders.

All through the 1800’s there were bears roaming the forests of Romsdal. The numbers were declining though, but bear sightings were made up to about 1910. Today there are no bears permanently living in Romsdal, but they may be found in the eastern part of the district. The local history books have many stories about bear encounters.

This encounter took place on day Gunnhild was raking some hay in the small field they had on their cotter’s place. Suddenly she heard that that their cow mooed loudly up in the little valley where she was grazing. Gunnhild immideately understood what was going on and ran up into the valley. When she got there she saw that a bear had attacked their cow and knocked her over. He had already taken a bite out of the cow’s neck.



Gunnhild shouted and screamed at the top of her lungs. She hit the bear with the rake she had brought. The bear growled and blew blood towards her. At the same time someone down at the house fired a rifle. This might have been Gunnhild’s husband Hans as he was a soldier. At the sound of the gunshoot, the bear ran away.


The cow lived for many years after this encounter. Her scar healed, but was always visible on her neck.

As I mentioned before, Gunnhild was pregnant with their youngest son Anders and it is said that he was born with a birthmark the shape of a bearpaw in his side.

Reading this story made me proud of my foremother Gunnhild. I have, however, read similar stories from other parts of Norway. Of course, there where a lot of bears and a cow was extremely valuable for a cotter family, but I guess we will never know if this story is true or not. Anders’ birthmark and the supernatural aspect it adds, makes me think that this story, if it has a kernel of thruth, has grown over the years.


If you have a story about your family that you would like to share, I am happy to publish it here on my blog.


Agnar Skeidsvoll: Bygdebok for Tresfjord [Tresfjord]  1959

Steinar Eik: Bjørnakyttar’n på Vestad in Bjørn Austigard (editor): Romsdal Sogelag Årsskrift 1998. Molde 1998

4 thoughts on “#52Ancestors – Strong Woman

  • March 11, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Oh ya sure it must be true when I see the picture of the cow. Of course they didn’t have color pictures back in those days. At the very least the picture should have been taken in black & white if anyone had a camera. Uffda


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