|Kari Belle Myren, ca 1898|
A self-published family history, Overli-Belle-Siem Family by Marion Myhre Chappelle, lists my Great Grandmother as Kari Belle Siem, the daughter of Syver Hanson (Overli) Belle. To me, my Great Grandmother will always be Kari since that was the way my mother spelled her Grandmother's name. Below is a quick look at how Kari is listed in various records. This variety of names is part of why it sometimes takes a while to locate information about Kari.
- 1853 Norway, Baptism Record, Lesja Parish Karie Sivertsdatter
- 1865 Norway, Census, Lesja Parish Cari Syversdatter
- 1868 Norway, Confirmation Record, Lesja Parish Kari Belle
- 1885 Dakota Territory Census Cary Petterson (now married)
- 1900 U.S. Federal Census Karie Myren (same husband)
- 1910 U.S. Federal Census Kari Myren
- 1915 Census of North Dakota Carrie Myren
Kari's variety of names reflects her Norwegian birth. Born in Norway in the mid 1850s, her name reflected the patronymic naming custom used at that time. Simply put, a child's last name was determined by the father's name and the sex of the child. Kari's grandfather's first name was Hans and her father was Syver, Han's son, so her father was known as Syver Hanson. Because her father's first name was Syver, Kari's last name was a form of Syver's daughter, sometimes written as Sivertsdatter or Syversdatter. All of Kari's sisters had the surname of Sivertsdatter/Syversdatter; all of her brothers were Sivertson/Syverson. At least this made it easy to know who the father of a child was.
Another part of Kari's name was Belle or Siem, names of two farms that had been owned by Kari's father through the years. The farm name became attached to Syver Hanson's name and to the names of his children, like Kari. This helped to distinguish between the Syver Hanson family who lived on the Belle farm and another Syver Hanson family who lived elsewhere. The Belle as part of Kari's name also suggests that the family might have been living on the Belle farm when her name was recorded as Kari Belle in 1868.
These Norwegian naming conventions took a while to click with me, but once I grasped the concepts, it has been helpful in tracing the family back through generations. A person's name often has clues as to a parent's or grandparent's first name, and the names can also point to where the family lived. To help us all, FamilySearch.org has a clear explanation of these Norwegian naming customs here.