The Hande farms in Norway
Geographical context is all important when trying to understand the Hande family relationships as they were, and to some extent still are, in Norway. The cluster of Hande farms is located in Vestre Slidre municipality, between the villages of Slidre and Røn, in the Valdres valley, north-west of Oslo. In total there are seven farms bearing the Hande name. The two biggest are Nedre (Lower) Hande and Øvre (Upper) Hande, with Handemyre (Hande Marsh) and Midtre (Middle) Hande sandwiched in between them; they are flanked by Nørre (North) and Sørre (South) Hande. Then Handestølen (the Hande summer pasture) sits above them all, a bit farther north and about half-way up the slope to the top of Slidreåsen, the mountain ridge that separates Vestre (West) Slidre from Øystre (East) Slidre parish.
Topographically the Hande farms present a picturesque landscape on the east side of Slidre Fjord. Nedre Hande and Sørre Hande are situated on the shore of the fjord, while the others perch themselves on the gradually steepening slope up to Slidreåsen. Handestølen lies about 285 meters/935 feet above the fjord. The farms comprise a mixture of old log buildings and more modern structures, cultivated fields, rugged and stony pastures, and dense patches of forest.
The origins of the Hande name are uncertain, but the local historian Geir Beitrusten believes the farm could be among the first in the district, dating back to the time when this part of Norway was first settled, 400-600 AD. The oldest document referring to Hande is dated 1316, a generation before the Black Death arrived in that part of the country (about 1350). Originally there would have been just one large farm, but already by 1316 it had been divided into Øvre and Nedre Hande, and by 1419 Sørre Hande had been split off from Nedre Hande. Handestølen was the most recent to be created a new and separate property in 1942. Besides the legally subdivided properties, numerous tenancies were located on all the main farms, where a tenant (husmann) would rent a small parcel from the landowner. This husmann would raise a little crop of potatoes, keep a few head of livestock, and often work at a trade like blacksmithing or carpentry as well. Sometimes these tenancies passed from one occupant to the next generation. And of course, in accordance with Norwegian custom until about 1900, anyone who lived on the farm would take the name of Hande, whether they were farm owners and their families, or the tenants and their families.
Now we can look briefly at the individual farms and those who currently occupy them:
Midtre Hande (Property No. 48/1) contains 75 dekar (ab. 19 acres) of arable land, 300 dekar (ab. 75 acres) of forest, and 170 dekar (ab. 43 acres) of other land. It was owned by Birger Johan Dahlen Hande (born 1947), who is not a direct blood relation. The property then passed from Birger and his wife Solveig on to their son Geir (b. 1975), and then daughter Wenche (b. 1979). Wenche has sold most of the land to Knut (Nedre) Hande and retained a small plot on which she has built a new house.* The last of our kin to own this farm was Ole H. (Øvre) Hande (1874-1958), who sold it in 1921.
Nedre Hande (48/2, 12, 14 & 15) contains 120 dekar (ab. 30 acres) of arable land, 15 dekar (ab. 4 acres) of pasture, 350 dekar (ab. 88 acres) of forest, and 20 dekar (ab. 5 acres) of other land. Knut Berge Hande (b. 1938), the current owner, is a grandson of Knud T. Berge (b. 1852), the Hande kinsman who purchased the farm about 1925. Knut Berge Hande, his wife Randi Berit Tveit, and their daughter Kari Tveit Hande (b. 1988) are now joint owners/operators of this farm, Midtre Hande and Nørre Hande (see below).*
Sørre Hande (48/3) contains 25 dekar (ab. 6 acres) of arable land, 130 dekar (ab. 33 acres)
of forest, and 10 dekar (ab. 3 acres) of other land. This property was split off from Nedre Hande in 1858. It is presently owned by Åshild Reien (b. 1972), who is not related, and has been incorporated into Reien farm.*
Handemyre (48/6) contains 48 dekar (ab. 12 acres) of arable land, 30 dekar (ab. 8 acres) of pasture, 132 dekar (ab. 33 acres) of forest, and 17 dekar (ab. 4 acres) of other land. This farm was owned by Nils Johan Hande, son of Nils N. Hande (1881-1943), until his death in 1990. It was then inherited by his wife Marit’s niece Margit S. Bratvold (b. 1950). Margit is a descendant of Thiøstul Hande, not related in this genealogy.
Nørre Hande (48/10 & 13) contains 26 dekar (ab. 7 acres) of arable land, 45 dekar (ab. 11 acres) of pasture, and 46 dekar (ab. 12 acres) of forest. This farm was carved out of Midtre Hande in 1905 by Knut N. Tildheim and his wife Randi H. Hande in this genealogy. The property was owned by Knut and Randi’s grandson Harald Tildheim (1947-2020) until his death, at which time it was sold to Knut (Nedre) Hande.*
Handestølen (48/17 and 100) contains 72 dekar (ab. 18 acres) of arable land, 10 dekar (ab. 3 acres) of pasture and 120 dekar (ab. 30 acres) of forest. Once the summer pasture for Midtre and Nedre Hande, this farm became a separate property in 1942 and was purchased by Trygve Bråten in 1956. Trygve was a grandson of Knud Pedersen Bråten (1881-1914) in this genealogy. Trygve’s son Ove (b. 1958) now owns the property.
Øvre Hande (49/1), by far the largest of the Hande farms, also has the longest continuous line of inheritance, generation to generation, dating back at least to one Knut Hande who lived there in the 1500s. It contains 100 dekar (ab. 25 acres) of arable land, 70 dekar (ab. 18 acres) of pasture, 1300 dekar (ab. 325 acres) of forest, and 100 dekar (ab. 25 acres) of other land. The current owner/operator is Kåre Lome (b. 1943), the grandson of Ole H. Hande (1874-1958).
* Many thanks to Bente Bratvold (daughter of Margit), now living on Handemyre, for the updates on recent changes in ownership.
Some of these can be seen in the picture below.
Norwegian naming customs
As was mentioned above, the custom in rural Norway until about 1900 was to adopt the name of the farm where one resided as your surname. So in that time period, you would traditionally have three distince components to your name: a given name, a patronymic based on your father’s name, and finally the farm name where you lived. As examples, Barbo Tostensdatter Hande or Halvor Knudsen Hande. If a daughter inherited her parents’ farm, when she married and her husband moved to her farm, he would adopt her farm name as his own.
Naming customs for individual children were usually quite formal and rigidly followed. The first children born in a marriage were named for the grandparents. Where both grandfathers or grandmothers had the same given name, then TWO successive children of the same gender were named after them. So there could in fact be two living sons named Ole if both grandfathers had that name. Formally, the two brothers would be known as Ole “den ældre” (the elder) and Ole “den yngre” (the younger). Within the family they were generally known as Store Ole (Big Ole) and Vesle or Lille Ole (Little Ole). An exception to naming the oldest children after their grandparents was when either the husband or wife had been widowed, in which case the first born child in the new marriage would be named after the deceased spouse in the previous marriage.
As one can imagine, standardized spelling for names did not become common practice until relatively modern times, particularly when the common folk were not well educated. Spelling of names in church, census or property records was left to the recorder and was very often phonetic. Most people readily adapted to this fact. So in the course of a lifetime, an individual may be baptized with the name IngebjørJohannesdatter Jarstad. However, her confirmation, marriage, death and other records may have presented that name in numerous other forms, e.g. Ingebiør Iohannesdatter Gjærstad; Ingeborg IohanesdatterIarstad, etc., etc. What is more, Ingebjør may have been born on Jarstad farm, but if the family were husfolk (tenants) they might have moved frequently from one place to another. So Ingebjør could have been also recorded with the names Viken, Hamre and Hande throughout the years, depending where she lived at any given time.
This fact of Norwegian records presents challenges for the practicing genealogist today, but we are generally speaking quite fortunate that Norwegian records are so detailed and thorough, especially since about 1800. For the purposes of THIS genealogy, I have tried to enter an individual’s name as it appeared in the earliest official record where I found it. I have also endeavoured (though perhaps not entirely successfully), to indicate changes and variations in names as I found them in subsequent records. The important consideration for you as reader is not to take any spelling iteration of a name as gospel.
For further information, please do contact me.