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Norwegians join the fun at family reunion

“This is the first time in the history of Bua/Tjernagel reunions that we have been fortunate enough to have 13 relatives from Norway come and attend our reunion. This is a very special event for everybody in our family, and we are so fortunate that they decided to sign up and come and visit us in America in Minnesota. John Tjernagel of Hutchinson was pretty excited about the reunion, which was held at the Peace Lutheran Church in New London. The relatives that came were from the Haugesund, Stavanger, Bua and Tjernagel area in Norway. He said there’s actually a village with their last name in Norway and a lot of them live in the area of Bua or Tjernagel. “My grandparents were Lars Tjernagel and Elizabeth Harkness Bua. They had three children born in Norway, and in the spring of 1898, they immigrated to America and settled in Story County, Iowa which is in the Story City, Randall area, approximately 20 miles north of Ames, Iowa.” There they homesteaded on a farm and they had 11 more children for a total of 14 children. All of their original children are now deceased, but there are second, third, fourth and fifth generations all over the midwest. He said they had extended an invitation two or three times for cousins to come over when they have a reunion, and they started talking about it two to three years ago, and last year settled that it would work for some of them to come over this year. “We waited until we heard plans from them, and in the end, a total of 13 decided they wanted to make this trip.” They flew into Minneapolis on a Tuesday night and were in the area for 10 days. John said they expected 150 to 200 people at the reunion. The church hall was filled with relatives, all visiting and having a good time reminiscing and getting to know each other. “My wife and I made a trip over there in 1995. Had we met all of the 13? No, but we had met about five or six of them.” John said his brother, who lives in Nebraska, went over there with his youngest son in 1998 and met some of them. An aunt and uncle from New London went over there 40 to 45 years ago and met some of them and about two or three of the cousins and several of his aunts on this side in the New London area made a trip over there 25 to 30 years ago. The 13 from Norway came on a Tuesday evening, and they rested because by the time they arrived in Hutchinson they had been up for 28 hours. They stayed at the Victorian Inn in Hutchinson. The next night John and his wife, Louise, hosted an old-fashioned barbeque for about 40 friends and relatives. “We  have a friend of ours who was born and raised in Norway and we asked that friend ‘what would you serve’ and he said ‘we would give them an American barbecue because they aren’t going to experience that in Norway.’ So we did hamburgers, potato salad, beans, chips and dip and homemade brownies with ice cream.” They absolutely loved it, he said, and the weather was perfect. They gave them other options in regard to activities; they took them on about a two hour evening boat ride on the Mississippi River. “It was perfect weather. It was a pizza, salad and beverage boat trip and because of the weather the skyline of Minneapolis was beautiful. All we can say is they absolutely loved it.” Another cousin who lives in Bloomington met them at the Mall of America where they experienced the shop till you drop. John said they spent six to seven hours there. Then came the big event, the all-day reunion at the Peace Lutheran church in New London. There were relatives from Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Arizona, just to name a few. The event lasted until late afternoon at which time they returned to the Victorian Inn in Hutchinson. The next morning they they caravanned (the Norwegian visitors, the Tjernagels and his brothers from Nebraska) to Story City, Iowa where their grandparents immigrated to and bought their farm. “They wanted to see what was left of the farm because that would have been their grandmother that lived there.” Plans included visiting the cemetery where all the relatives are buried and visiting the church and the immediate area, after which they caravanned back to Hutchinson. They also had a trip planned to the Minnesota State Historical Museum. “A friend of ours works for them and set up a special presentation and tour because they have the new exhibit that just opened on the Indian Sioux Uprising of 1862.” Also, he said, they have an exhibit on what immigrants experienced when they immigrated to America. He figured they’d spent four to six hours or more there as well. After that they went back to Hutchinson and the next day they were going to spend checking out the Hutchinson area, doing a little shopping and what have you. John said they also suggested they experience the winery just outside of Hutchinson to see what an American winery looks like, and then the next day it was back to the airport for the return trip to Norway. “We suggested activities and then we let them pick out what they thought they would be interested in seeing and doing. “ The Tjernagels have lived in Hutchinson for four years. “We were familiar with the area because I worked at a bank in Dassel back in the 80s and I worked in a bank in Watertown, Minn., back in the 70s and we ended up settling in Hutchinson because of what they had to offer and its location and we love the area.” Helge Bua said the reunion and everything they experienced was very nice. “We have a lot of second cousins here and it was very nice to meet them.” He went on to explain they are a group of first cousins who meet every three years, and then in Norway, they sometimes have people from America from the family coming to see them. “One year ago we decided to have this reunion of first cousins to go to America to meet relatives here. I have been here to meet the family once before. The area is nice.” It’s not like Norway, he said, here it’s very flat. “In Norway we have these big mountains and big fjords so it’s totally different from where we come from.” He added, “the immigrants, some of them got crazy because they come from Norway with a lot of mountains and fjords and they come here and everything here was flat.” Helge said the Tjernagels were taking  good care of them. “We have big dinners every day, and it’s nice for us to be here. We stay at the hotel but close to John’s house. For us it’s fantastic to come here. It means a lot for us.” John said this was the first time in the history of Bua/Tjernagel reunions that they were fortunate enough to have 13 relatives from Norway come and attend their reunion. “This is a very special, unbelievable event for everybody in our family, and we are lucky and so fortunate that many decided to sign up and come and visit us in Minnesota.” There were relatives at the reunion from many cities, including New London, Sunburg and Kerkhoven. John said his mother came from a family of 14 children and his father came from a family of 14 children so there are many relatives intertwined. He said his brother, Luther, did  a genealogical book and they’re up to between 800-900 descendants from his grandparents who were Elizabeth Harkness Bua Tjerngel and Lars Tjernagel. “That’s an unbelievable number of descendants.” The committee members for the reunion were John, his brother, Luther, their uncle, Robert Anderson from Norway Lake and a cousin, Pam Gjerde Tjernagel.

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