Gertrude Sinnes Simonseth Oral History Interview, 1981  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Simonseth, Gertrude Sinnes
1981 (inclusive)
3 file folders
9 photographs
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Gertrude Sinnes Simonseth, a Norwegian immigrant.
Pacific Lutheran University, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Pacific Lutheran University
12180 Park Avenue South
Tacoma, Washington
Telephone: 253-535-7586
Fax: 253-535-7315
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The oral history collection is open to all users.

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Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Gertrude Simonseth was born on January 9, 1904 in Rindal, Norway, which is located south of Trondheim. Her parents were John and Eli Sinnes, and she had three younger siblings: Torval, Ellen, and Johanna. Gertrude's father worked in the mines during the winters and Gertrude's mother stayed home to work on their small farm. The family made money by selling milk, and Gertrude helped her mother with the farm work. She loved to work in the barn. Gertrude continued to work at home after her confirmation, and then met her husband, Nels Simonseth, in 1922. The young couple decided to emigrate to America and left on September 10, 1922. It took them 8-10 days to reach Ellis Island, and they then had to stay there for 3-4 days because it was so full. When they were finally through customs, Gertrude and Nels took the train to Madison, Minnesota, which was mostly a Norwegian community. In Madison, the couple got married and had two children, Marie and Esther. Gertrude and Nels then moved to Washington and had five more children: Edmund, Norman, Grace, John, and Agnes. Gertrude did cooking and cleaning for fifteen years in Washington, including working at the Cedar Inn Restaurant and Josephine's Sunset Home in Stanwood, WA. Through the years, they have also lived in Milltown, Montana and Freeborn, Minnesota. Gertrude maintained many Norwegian traditions in her home, including speaking mostly in Norwegian and cooking flatbrød and lefse. She has also taken four trips back to Norway.


Full Name: Gertrude Sinnes Simonseth. Maiden Name: Gertrude Sinnes. Father: John Sinnes. Mother: Eli Dalseg. Paternal Grandfather: Tore Sinnes. Paternal Grandmother: Ellen Sinnes. Maternal Grandfather: Rolf Dalseg. Maternal Grandmother: Gertrude Bolme. Brothers and Sisters: Torval Sinnes, Elen Sinnes, Johanna Sinnes. Spouse: Nels Simonseth. Children: Marie Simonseth, Esther Simonseth, Edmund Simonseth, Norman Simonseth, Grace Simonseth, John Simonseth, Agnes Simonseth.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Gertrude Simonseth on October 30, 1981 in Stanwood, Washington. It provides information on family background, emigration, marriage and family, and Norwegian heritage. The interview also contains photographs of Gertrude's mother and father, the Rindal Church, Gertrude and a friend at work, the Simonseth barn and house at a funeral, Gertrude and her husband Nels on the Atlantic Ocean, and Gertrude and Nels at the time of the interview. Also see Nels Simonseth and Nels and Gertrude's personal tape. The interview was conducted in English.

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Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The partial interview transcription highlights important aspects of the interview. Numbers may be used as guides to important subjects. Two numbers separated by a slash indicate that the first number is for cassette and the second for CD.

Container(s) Description
112, side 1 004:
Gertrude Sinnes Simonseth. Born in Rindal, Norway, south of Trondheim on January 9, 1904.
112, side 1 012: PARENTS
John and Eli Sinnes. Mother's maiden name was Dalseg, which is the name of a place. Sinnes is from the area north of Trondheim.
112, side 1 020: GRANDPARENTS
Maternal grandparents were Gertrude and Rolf Dalseg. Gertrude's maiden name was Bolme, she was from Rindal. Rolf was a farmer. Paternal grandparents were Tore and Elen Sinnes. Her maiden name was Sinnes. Sinnes is a place by the fjords. Several people are named Sinnes after this place. Did farming on small scale, dairy farming.
112, side 1 043:
Sold milk from the farm. Had a creamery where butter and cheese were made. Farmers took turns taking milk to the creamery.
112, side 1 051: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Four children. Torval was a farmer and did some work in the mines. Her sisters married farmers. Tells the names of her sisters' husbands.
112, side 1 069: CHILDHOOD HOME
Small, upstairs and downstairs. Had 4-5 cows. Had stabbur where meat and grain were stored. Made a living by selling milk. Parents were in their early 80s when they died. They had lived off the small farm.
112, side 1 093: CHILDHOOD
Helped her mother with her work. Also helped others on their farms. Women did the chores. She loved working in the barn.
112, side 1 105: SCHOOL
Went by skis in the winter. Stayed all week at school because of the snow. Went one week and stayed home the next. 8-12 kids in her class. They had three classes. 3-4 years in each class.
112, side 1 124: ENTERTAINMENT
Met on the roads, sang, and danced. Public dancing in the big halls. Parties at the homes of people.
112, side 1 133: CHRISTMAS
Fixed up so much. Had a tree, baked, and butchered. Between Christmas and New Year's did not do very much. Began preparing for Christmas weeks before.
112, side 1 142: CHRISTMAS BAKING
Fattigmand, krumkake, good bread, and lefse.
112, side 1 146: CHRISTMAS EVE MEAL
Lutefisk, made their own beer, had kegs in the basement. It was good with the meal.
112, side 1 158: PRESENTS
Not many in Norway. Supposed to have something new for Christmas or you would have to sit on the wood box, this was an old custom. Christmas morning you went to church unless it was cold and snowy. Church was in the valley about 12 miles away.
112, side 1 195:
Father was strict on certain things. Could not do anything where the preacher was in the pulpit. Could not work during this time.
112, side 1 209:
Father was not home during the weeks in the winter. He worked in the mines. Mother did the work at home. Father was home during the summer.
112, side 1 222: CHRISTMAS
Christmas Day has special food. Second day was also special. Christmas Day was the home day, did not even go to church, and ate sweet soup and lutefisk. Second day they ate meat and sodd. Went to church on the second day.
112, side 1 243: FOLK STORIES
Put out food for the julenissen. Put grain by the woodpile for birds and juleneget.
112, side 1 260: CONFIRMATION
Worked at home after confirmation. During confirmation they met once a week with the pastor for a few months.
112, side 1 279:
Had ideas to go to America since she was small. She had read letter from her uncle, Lars Dalseg, who was in America. He came in 1903.
112, side 1 302:
He came back to Norway in 1908 and told Gertrude about America. He took apart his mother's spinning wheel and put it in his trunk.
112, side 1 325:
Gertrude remembers getting a cup and saucer from her father, he said "flink pike."
112, side 1 345: WORK
Gertrude worked in many different homes, she learned many things from this.
112, side 1 353:
Mother worked outside a great deal, did not teach her girls much about housekeeping. Made bread for her mother. Gertrude did a lot for only being 11 years old. She did knitting. Rocked the kids in the kitchen.
112, side 1 393: MEETING SPOUSE
Met Nels, her husband in 1922. They decided to go to America. Her mother was not crazy about the idea. Her brother was in the U.S.
112, side 1 409: TRIP OVER
Seasickness. Three others in the same lugar. Describes this. One woman snuck a plant into the states. The others were crazy about the homemade bread Gertrude had with her. Two of her roommates got friendly with the helpers on the boat and got special food.
112, side 1 463:
The seas were rough, sound was loud. Dancing up on deck to accordion music.
112, side 1 482: TRIP
Left from Trondheim, by train, beautiful sight of the Dovrefjell. Same guy played the accordion on the train as on the ship. Food was good on the boat although Gertrude did not eat much because she was sick. Had laundry rooms to do laundry on the ships.
112, side 1 509:
Talks about the different kinds of potatoes, the different ways to prepare them. Fish seldom fried, usually broiled, meat broiled. Did this on a wood stove.
112, side 1 543: ARRIVAL
Stayed in New York 3-4 days because Ellis Island was so full. Boat trip took 8-10 days. Took the train to Minnesota
112, side 1 560: FIRST IMPRESSIONS
First time she saw Negroes was in New York. First impression of the U.S,. was that it was 'swell' and had good food.
112, side 1 580: MARRIAGE
Married in Madison, Minnesota. Had a big dinner. Went to the minister's house with two neighbors. All Norwegians around town.
112, side 1 607:
They lived with a bachelor who was rich, careless with his money. She tells a few stories about this man.
112, side 2 SIDE II:
112, side 2 008:
Mostly Norwegians in the area around Madison.
112, side 2 010:
Took a long time to learn English. Helped when her kids went to school. Two children were born in Minnesota, Marie and Esther.
112, side 2 019:
Lived in Milltown, Montana for a while. Moved to Freeborn, Minnesota and lived there for a few years.
112, side 2 028:
Gertrude worked at Cedar Inn Restaurant when Agnes finished school. Worked at an old peoples home, Josephine's Sunset Home. Did cooking and cleaning for 15 years.
112, side 2 040:
Had a small farm in Freeborn, Minnesota. Had one cow, a calf, a few chickens, and pigs. Had a garden and grew vegetables.
112, side 2 045: CHILDREN
Had seven. Marie is married and lives in Stanwood, Washington. Her husband is Roy Anderson. Esther married a man from Ohio. Talks about what Esther's and Marie's children are doing. Grace lives in Mt. Vernon. Edmund and John are next. She talks about their children. Norman worked for Carnation Co. for 36 years. Agnes lives in Canada.
112, side 2 104:
Have big family reunions when they all get together.
Mostly Norwegian in the home. Eat flatbroed and lefse. Speak Norwegian in the home.
112, side 2 133: SONS OF NORWAY
Went to the Sons of Norway when they were in Canada. Worked for the Sons of Norway years ago, helped with the lutefisk dinner.
112, side 2 145: CHURCH
Was active before, not to involved anymore.
112, side 2 150: TRIPS BACK TO NORWAY
1956, 1963, and 1970. In 1956, she went by herself. Her mother was getting old, spent the summer with her. Many changes.
112, side 2 163: CHURCH
Church in Norway the same as in America. Still is community church in the valley where Gertrude grew up. Young people attend church, mostly the Lutheran church.
112, side 2 183:
Gertrude says a few words in Norwegian.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Christmas
  • Confirmation
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Norway -- Social conditions -- 1945-
  • Norwegian-Americans--Ethnic identity
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Ocean travel
  • Personal Names :
  • Simonseth, Agnes
  • Simonseth, Edmund
  • Simonseth, Esther
  • Simonseth, Grace
  • Simonseth, John
  • Simonseth, Nels
  • Simonseth, Norman
  • Sinnes, Elen
  • Sinnes, Tore
  • Bolme, Gertrude
  • Dalseg, Rolf
  • Simonseth, Marie
  • Simonseth, Gertrude--Interviews (creator)
  • Sinnes, Eli Dalseg
  • Sinnes, John
  • Corporate Names :
  • Josephine Sunset Home (Stanwood, Wash.)
  • Sons of Norway (U.S.) Fritjov Lodge No.17 (Stanwood, Wash.)
  • Family Names :
  • Bolme family
  • Dalseg family
  • Simonseth family
  • Sinnes family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Freeborn (Minn.)
  • Madison (Minn.)
  • Milltown (Mont.)
  • Rindal (Norway)
  • Washington
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Domestics
  • Farmers