Strømm Church Baptism Record(1858)Birthe Marie Andreasen and her twin sister Julie were born on 01 Nov 1858 in Svelvik, Vestfold, Norway to parents Andreas Johnson and Anne Marie Olsdatter. Birthe and her sister were baptized on 23 Jan 1859 in Svelvik.3, A Birthe's parents named her after her maternal grandmother, Berthe Marie Jensdatter, who was nicknamed "Berthe-Dol", which loosely translates to “valley-girl”.1
At the time, the town was known as Svelvikstrømmen a combination of the two adjoining towns of Svelvik and Strømm (between 1845-1964) on the west banks of the Svelvikstrømmen strait in the Drammen fjord. It was a small but bustling port town, big in the shipping and trade business for the nearby city of Drammen, and thus a big home for all sorts of seafaring men.
The Andreasen family lived around the corner from Cornelius in a farm house at 11a on Tømmerås Road in Svelvik (since renamed to Brinchs gate). Here Birthe grew up with her older brother John, sister Julie, and other siblings Annette, Ole and Andreas.4 At the age of 9, Birthe's mother tragically passed away due to complications from the birth of her youngest son Andreas.5, 6
Cornelius & Marie's Wedding (1888)
Birthe's father didn't remarry right away. It appears he quit his life at sea to become a carpenter at the local shipyard7, 0 and raised his children over the next six years with the help of Birthe and her sister. I say this because two months after Andreas remarries8 Birthe has her confirmation in 02 Mar 1873 in Strømm, Vestfold, Norway.9
It would make sense that Birthe was confirmed later than normal because, before her step-mother came along, she was too busy raising her siblings to worry about things like getting married and leaving the family.
However, it wasn't to be. Birthe's step-mother would pass away only a year and a half into their marriage leaving Andreas, the couple's two year old son, and his children without a mother... again.10 This most likely meant Birthe and Julie returned to playing a big part in raising their younger siblings.
In 1885, Birthe, now 27, is listed as living at house 11a with the whole family, minus sister Julie visiting her Aunt across town and, plus eldest brother John and wife Othilie who were noted as visiting, and a 2nd family with their 5 children. That's 14 people normally living in their small home.7, E
Marie & son Christoffer (1891)On the 1 June 1888, Birthe's father passed away. He was only 58 at the time and no cause of death was listed. He left the family house to be shared among the children and it's here on probate documents finalizing his death and estate where we first see Birthe written as only Marie. Birthe didn't seem to care for her first name too much and officially abandoned it for her middle name around this time.
Cornelius Christoffersen and Birthe Marie Andreasen married on 04 Oct 1888 in Svelvik, Vestfold, Norway at Svelvik Church. Best men at the wedding were Birthe's uncle, Jens Christian Olsen Ruud and friend & fellow mate of Cornelius, Hans Christian Killingstad.11
In 1898, Cornelius acquired the Andreasen family house from his sister-in-law and the family moved into farmhouse 11a on road Tømmeraas Gade.12 In the coming years as the family grew, Cornelius was doing well enough for himself that he was able to employ a nanny to help Birthe with the growing number of children while he was away at sea. In 1900 it is noted that Cornelius not only employed a nanny but the nanny's daughter worked around the house as well.13
In 1901, Cornelius was offered the opportunity to officer the crew of a new ship destined for the China trade. Jumping at the chance, he sold his boat the "Jens Ruffen" in 1902 for $4000 and took the a boat owner Bruusgaard Kiøsterud up on his offer and captained his shipping vessel.1, 2
Four years later, Cornelius made a decision to put the shipping industry on hold and took up carpentry. After consulting with Birthe's relatives in America, he decided to take a trip to the United States for the summer to explore the possibility of immigration. On the 21 Jun 1906, Cornelius arrived in America to visit with Birthe's siblings and get the grand tour of the Cleveland area.14
Christoffersen's Arrival Manifest (1907)Cornelius must have liked what he saw, because on 08 Feb 1907, the Christoffersen family boarded the S.S. Hellig Olav in Christiania, Norway and set sail for New York City, USA. The family arrived at Ellis Island in New York on 20 Feb 1907 with $82 to his name. Cornelius was said to be a white male, standing 5'8" tall with fair hair and blue eyes, who was able to read, write, and speak English. Birthe described as being a white female, 5'2" tall with a fresh complexion, fair hair and blue eyes.15
Cornelius and Marie's first residence in America was living with Marie's twin sister Julie and her husband Martin Christiansen at 225 Superior in Cleveland, Ohio. Here they settled in and found jobs and their own place to live.
The family lived in multiple rental properties in the coming years. The first is believed to have been at 3904 Whitman Avenue NW,16 and by the end of 1909 the family had moved again to 2064 West 55th Street in what seems to be a small building with 4 separate apartments where they lived until 1912.17
Shortly after arriving in America, Cornelius was known immediately through his employment as a sexton at the Calvary Presbyterian Church on East 79th Street, one of the larger churches in Cleveland, and remained employed there until his death.18
On 18 Nov 1912, Cornelius obtained his naturalization, became an American citizen and legally changed the family name from Christoffersen to Christopher. At the time he was living at 7812 Euclid Avenue. Witnesses who testified on his behalf in front of the County Judge were brother-in-law Andrew Andersen of 1884 W. 58th St. and cousin Martin Christiansen of 304 Superior Ave. (also husband of Birthe's twin).19, B
1910 U.S. Census for ChristoffersensIt seems the Christophersen children didn't care too much for the new family name. Most of the children (Ingvald seems to keep the Christopher surname) chose to follow in their brother Christopher's footsteps and adopt the last name "Lowe" in honor of their oldest surviving grandparent, grandmother Mathea Gulliksdatter Loe, who died in Norway about 7 years prior.20
In 1913, the now Christopher family finally found some sense of stability and were able to make a home they could settle in at 2275 E 74th SE in Cleveland.21 That stability wouldn't last long however, as on 10 Sep 1914 their 2nd son Oscar was admitted to the Cleveland Marie hospital with terrible stomach pains (he was most likely working aboard a steamship on Lake Erie at the time). Over the next 2 weeks the doctors and nurses tended to him and did what they could, they even attempted to operate. I assume the operation was too late and Oscar's appendix had already burst because on the 24 Sep 1914, Oscar died of acute appendicitis.22
The family did their best to recover and continue living their lives. Eldest daughter Anna "Marie" married Carl Oxford in 1916,23 eldest son Christopher married Thora Haugen in 1917,24 and in 1919 the family moved to a new rental property at 7612 Dix Court.25 Their final move occurred 1921, when they relocated to 1883 E 69th Street.26
Christoffer, Oscar & Marie (1894)
Tragedy would strike the family again in 1926. This time, youngest son Ingvald "Rudd" took a turn for the worse on 15 Apr 1926. Rudd had been suffering from tuberculosis for the past 10 years and had been managing well enough. He'd altered his life and avoided marine life, becoming a salesman instead, but it wasn't enough. His parents cared for him at his bedside for the next 2 weeks and on 30 Apr at 4:30 AM, Ingvald Rudd Christopher passed away from tuberculosis at the age of 31.27
In December 1926, Cornelius fell ill and doctors discovered that he had stomach cancer. Cornelius was able to get by for a while but eight months later, on the 10th of August, he got sick again. Over the next two months, his wife Marie and daughter Cornelia cared for him.
Cornelius died at 5:30 AM on 28 Sep 1927 in Cleveland of an intestinal hemorrhage caused in part by the cancer.21 A funeral was held on 30 Sep 1927 at Calvary Presbyterian church where he had worked28 and he was buried at the family plot in West Park Cemetery in Cleveland with his sons Oscar and Ingvald - Section 21, Lot 226, Grave 1.29
After husband Cornelius' death, Marie lived in the family home at 1883 East 69th Street with daughter Cornelia and son-in-law Henry Hanson.30
Only months later, in early 1928, eldest son Christopher learns he has lung cancer, and then the following year, doctors find the origin of his cancer is in his throat (nasophyrnex). The outlook is grim and he has only months to live. Christopher dies in 2 Oct 1929.31
Death Notice in the Plain Dealer (1933)Between 1914 and 1929, in those 15 years, Marie lost her husband, her 3 sons, her brother Andreas and her brother-in-law Martin, that's all but 2 of the men in her life. Her brother John would also die before Marie in 1932.
On 17 Sep 1933 at 8 PM, Marie Christofferson died of coronary sclerosis at her home in Cleveland.32 She was buried on 20 Sep 1933 at family plot in West Park Cemetery with her husband, sons Oscar & Ingvald, and brother-in-law Martin Christensen - Section 21, Lot 226, Grave 1.33
Marie’s twin sister Julie would survive 19 years without her husband,34 but only made it 2 months without her twin sister. Julie died on 19 Nov 1933 and was buried with the rest of the family at the plot in West Park.35
Andreas Johnsen, 08 Mar 1830 - 01 Jul 1888
Anne Marie Olsdatter Ruud, 07 Oct 1827 - 11 Aug 1867
Cornelius Christoffersen, 16 Sep 1860 - 28 Sep 1927
- Christoffer Christoffersen, 21 Nov 1889 – 02 Oct 1929
- Oscar Andreas Christoffersen, 03 Nov 1891 – 23 Sep 1914
- Anne Marie Christoffersen, 19 Aug 1893 – 01 May 1980
- Ingvald Rudd Christoffersen, 22 Dec 1894 – 30 Apr 1926
- Cornelia Christoffersen, 29 Sep 1897 – 06 Jun 1989
- Astrid Mathea Christoffersen, 21 Mar 1903 – 05 Dec 1903
A Norway Parish Registers for Svelvik at the time of Birthe Marie's baptism were not located under their current county of Vestfold. At the time, even though Svelvik was a part of the County of Vestfold, Svelvik's Stromm church was a part of the Hurum parish in Buskerud County.
B In 1912, when Cornelius starts the application process to become a naturalized citizen of the United States he lists his residence as 7812 Euclid Avenue. I have no other documentation to back up that they ever lived in the church while Cornelius was a sexton, but since it's mentioned, I felt I should list it just the same. My belief is it's more likely that with the frequency of his family relocating almost on a yearly basis, Cornelius chose to write his job and place of worship as his residence, since they would always be able to find him throught the church no matter where he was during the application process.
C To help convey the closeness and connection between twins Birthe & Julie and their families, it's worth noting that the Christoffersen/Christopher and the Christiansen Families share a common burial plot and single family headstone at West Park Cemetery. 8 family members are buried under the single headstone, simply labeled: "Christopher - Christiansen". Family member entombed under this all-encompassing headstone include: Cornelius & Marie Christopher, sons Ingvald and Oscar Christopher, infant granddaughter Barbara Hanson (of daughter Cora), Martin & Julia Christiansen, and Julie's daughter Martha Fricker.
D The 1910 Census lists a phantom child 'Cornelius', this is NOT CORRECT. There is no Cornelius born in the Svelvik Parish registers, nor on the emigration record in Svelvik Parish, nor on the family's arrival manifest, nor in father Cornelius' 1912 naturalization paperwork, nor in the family burial plot (with the other family members who died young), nor on any other census, nor in father Cornelius' nor mother Marie's wills or probate records. Marie even states this herself, by noting on the exact same census, that she has 6 children, 5 of whom are still living. That's 1.Christopher, 2.Oscar Andreas, 3.Anna Marie, 4.Ingvald Rudd, 5.Cornelia & 6.Astrid Mathea (deceased). The census taker is likely trying to note 20 year old son (not 10) Christopher Christophersen who was still living with the family but would have been out workingon a steamship on Lake Erie and not around to check the validity of his census entry. Christopher would not leave the house until he married in 1917-1918, at which point he still stated his residence was with his parents. (License was filed Dec 29, 1917, couple married Jan 2, 1918.)
E It was very common for homeowners in Svelvik, Norway to share their residences with other sailors and their families. This was because Svelvik was a sailors village and many of the men in town spent months if not years at a time away at sea. Some families provided younger sailors a place to stay for the winter months while other sailors found it advantageous to have a second family to help their wives while they were away.