finding your roots

Deer running Through the Woods

Joanne L. Hjort April 3, 2012

The family story is that my Grandfather deserted the Swedish army at the time when Sweden was aligned with Finland and Finland went to war with Russia. As in our Viet Nam era many fled to Norway, so many that they were called a hjort which is Norwegian for deer, like deer running through the woods.

My Grandfather, Martin Mortenson, left Norway for America and it is unclear if he took if the took the name Hjort to hide from the Swedish army or from the wife and two young boys he left behind.

My father was the youngest of six more children born to this union in America. My Father was sure his Mother went through Ellis Island, with two young boys, in 1903 but I have tried Tobina Mortenson, Tobina Hjort, her maiden name Hillesum etc and been unable to locate her passage. White, Northern Europeans also have difficulty negotiating name changes.

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  • Jo

    April 23, 2012 at 12:19 am

    Try other ports besides NY. Also, try the possibility that he went to Canada first and then crossed into the US. Many Norwegians took that route. Yours is late enough that the Canadians kept passenger lists and the border crossings also exist. Norwegian emigrant, census and church records are online for free at:

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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