Bestefar: My Norwegian Grandfather

Collage, photo transfer, tea, pen on sketchbook paper

“A Bird’s Eye View”

Now here’s a good question: How did I grow up (an only child) never once meeting another person with my thoroughly odd last name – Loffswold (try spelling that on the telephone)- when my grandpa Lee had 11 other siblings? Well, maybe as a child when my family visited the relatives on their farms in South Dakota. I do remember eating lots of delicious corn and watermelon and thinking those cousins were a lot luckier than I, who lived in the boring old suburbs back east. But did any of them really have my thoroughly weird last name? I mean, it’s not even Norwegian. The ancester from Norway arrived at Ellis Island and was asked his name, “Amund Andersen”, and where he came from, to which he must have given the name of his farm in Gran, Norge which I believe was “Loft vold” or maybe he was just saying “the house on the hill”. And so the immigration guy probably thought he was doing Amund a favor by giving him a really nice American sounding name (and avoiding being yet another of those Andersens), “Edmund Loffswold”. And so began my confusing search for my roots which ended in Norway, when, after 2 years of living there, learning fluent Norwegian, I gave up on trying to be Norwegian with that name, or any other for that matter.

But back to my grandpa Lee. He was the oldest, just like my grandma Selma. Lots of hands needed on that farm. Can you imagine nowadays assembling 12 adult siblings to take a picture like this? And not a one of them cracking up or making peace signs or worse? By the time that picture was taken my grandpa was already sporting a receding hairline. I never knew my Grandpa Lee because he died before I was born, but I think it must have made some kind of impression on both him and Grandma Selma to have been the oldest of large farm families because they had only one child – my father Lester, the boy who you see pictured here. THe feet at the bottom belong to the heads on top. On the original photograph which we have, my father wrote, in red ink, the names of all the siblings, which you see below. I guess he named his only child after his youngest brother. Do you think they didn’t allow people to smile in photographic sittings back then? I guess they were all holding their breath. But smiling on the inside? One can hope.

Art-wise, this was fun. You make some really strong tea and brush it on your paper. THen make a copy of the pictures and transfer them onto clear contact paper. Soak it in water and then rub the paper pulp off. Then dry it and glue it onto your paper. There lots of good collage books on the market now that tell you how to do transfers. Here’s one: Collage Discovery Workshop by Claudine Hellmuth


  1. Are you by chance related to a Richard Loffswold, from Girard, KS? That is my grandfather and I was googling the last name. I enjoyed the story and the picture!


    1. I may be related to Richard Loffswold. My understanding is that the patriarch who came over from Norway was Amund Anderson from a farm named Loftvold and at Ellis Island he was renamed something supposedly more American, namely Edmund Loffswold. Does this ring any bells? I’ve never lived in the mid west and never ever seen another Loffswold in the phone book. So. . .happy to meet you.


  2. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your website. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes
    it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often.
    Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? Outstanding work!


  3. Great story, Susan. I am in Washington DC on a Fulbright scholarship and remember our trip to Chesapeake Bay having blue crabs at an outdoor place on the sea. Hope you are well.



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