Martin's Magazine


Tomas Jonson Spjelkavik Born Noble, died as a criminal

Tomas Jonson was born in Bergen about 1550. His father was Jon (called Little Jon) Tommasen, and was merchant, head of public affairs and from 1543 mayor of Bergen. Jon came from the Orkneys and was of the Randall family. In this period there was a large number of people coming from the Orkneys to settle in Bergen.

The picture to the left show Jon Randall's sign

Tomas's mother was Magdalena Tørrisdatter and she came from the nobility. Through his mother Tomas had contact with noble people from all over the country.

This is the beginning to a life that is going to be eventfull and stormy. It is going to end to the sound of drums at Bergenhus Fort in Bergen. Unfortunately we do not know very much about Tomas, but the little information we have is interesting.

Jon died, probably about 1560, and his widow, Magdalena, stayed unmarried until Aug. 22. 1569 when she married the "Bailiff to Sunnmøre" Hans Laurensson.

Magdalena and Hans Laurensson lived at Søvik in Borgund, probably at his family farm. One may assume that her children with Jon Tomasson moved with her from Bergen. In addition to Tomas it was Carsten Jonson Randall who later became a merchant and sawmill owner in Fyrde in Volda, and possibly a daughter, named Magdalena who later got married to Jens Nilsen Skriver at Gjelstein, Vestnes.

I write possibly a daugther. This question has caused discussions among genealogists and historians. I will get back to this question after we have heard the rest of the story.

Hans Laurensson died in the fall of 1570. From then on and until May 1st 1571 Magdalena served as Bailiff of Sunnmøre. We hear from her in the fall of 1571 when she visits Oslo to give account for the district. The same year she is listed as shipowner in Bergen. In 1592 she lived in Skeide in Ulstein.

The next time the records tell anything about Tomas Jonsson is when he applies for citizenry in Bergen in 1577.


Some years before 1578 Tomas got part of the farm Ramstad as mortgage from Gjervald Knutson at Synnes. As owner of the mortgage claim Tomas is to be paid tax of his part and have the income from the leasehold sites. However, the owner of the farm other part of the farm claimed to be entitled to all the income from the lease sites as he had inherited the farm through male inheritance unlike Gjervald Knutson who had inherited his part though female inheritance. Tomas still claimed the income from all the lease sites and he even chased the leaser off the other part of the farm.

The other owner took the case to court twice, but Tomas did never show up. Records show that they later settled their differences.


In the year 1580 Tomas is mentioned "Til Spielckeuign" This means something like Tomas of Spjelkavik and show that he was recognized as a nobleman. He undoubtedly owned part of this big farm (Gjerdet, Neset and part of the main estate). We do not know whether he some how inherited this or if he had bought it. The rest of the farm was owned by the Giske Estate, the Crown and some other private investors. This part Tomas leased.

The powerful Hans Lindenov, head of Bergenhus Castle and Feudal Overlord in Bergen County, issued in 1580 a warrant for the arrest of Tomas Jonsson who violently had acquired farms that was owned by the Crown and by the church. He had been called to court for this before, but had never showed up.


We do not know the background for this warrant , but this may be how he got his hands on the farm Spjelkavik.


During the Greeting of the Crown Prince Christian (IV) in Oslo in 1582 Tomas showed up and sign the Greeting Protocol as member of the Norwegian Nobility. Tomas and his brother Carsten of Fyrde was the only noblemen in Sunnmøre at that time.

The picture to the right show Tomas' seal. It was found along with 56 other seals of noblemen on the greeting protocol.

The seal show two hunting dogs above a three leaf clover.

 In the year 1585 Tomas is again involved in cases that concerned ownership to land. He did never show up when called to court.

At least a couple of times there are made attempts on Tomas life. We do not know who was responsible.

At a county court meeting in 1599 there was called a case between Carsten Jonson Fyrde, Tomas's brother, and Didrik Bøll, merchant in Bergen. The case concerned the ownership to the farm Vik in Borgund. The case show the following points:

In the first part of the 1580's Tomas borrowed a rather large sum of money from his brother-in-law Jens Skriver Gjelstein. He was at the same time in great debt to the merchant Henrik Schuldt in Bergen. In 1586 Carsten paid Tomas' debt to Jens Skriver. Tomas gave Carsten the farm in exchange. In 1589 Tomas put in the farm (that he no longer owned) again as mortgage on the loan to Schuldt.

We do not know who this Bøll was. The relations between the other parts of the case are pretty obvious, but where Bøll gets his claim, is unknown. He may have been related to Schuldt .

 Anyway, Bøll won the case.

The last Chapter 

In August 1589 Tomas was sentenced to death for what the records call "His big misdeed" He was probably executed not long after this. This probably took place in Bergen.

We do not know what he had done that qualified for a death sentence. If it was less than murder he probably would have been let off with a big fine or deportation.

The Crown claimed the farm Vik as compensation for the misdeeds Tomas had done. However, the claim was not legal as Bøll/Schuldt (?) now owned the farm.

The Crown also claimed the farm Spjelkavik. This claim was legal and many of the Kings officers to Sunnmøre lived at the farm.

Tomas Spjelkavik was indeed a interesting person. There is an discussion going on about wether it was Magdalena or her daugther who married Jens Skriver. This question does cause another: Who was Amund Tomason Gjelstein Nakken? Was he Tomas Spjelkavik's son who came to Gjelstein to live with his grandmother or did he come to live with his aunt. Or is he not related to Tomas Spjelkavik at all?

Amund Tomasson Gjelstein is the forfather to very many of the people living in Møre & Romsdal today. We sure would like to be able to trace our roots back to the nobility, but we probably never will know for sure.


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