Thursday, 5 April 2018

A Brasileira in Norway in the 1600s

Until now, I've mostly blogged about my own family history and written technical reviews of DNA analysis sites and apps. However, the world is bigger than one's own back yard, and from now on, I will also blog about historical persons and events that are not necessarily directly connected to myself.

One of my main interests within the fields of genealogy and history is the concept of migration, especially inter-continental migrations in the early modern era, and particularly migrations into Norway from other continents. Many people mistakenly believe that up until very recent times, Norway has been solely a source of emigration and not a destination for immigrants. This, however, is wrong, a point I have made in several earlier blog posts (this and this and this and this and this).

Some early immigrants to Norway came from very distant shores. One of them was Anna Catharina Stricht van Hoffmerssel (1651-1731). She was born on 17 December 1651 in the town of Recife, then called Mauritsstad or Mauritius, which was the capital of Dutch Brazil. Her father, Abraham, was commissary general of the Dutch artillery in Brazil; her mother was Catharina Alberts. The names of both parents suggest Dutch origins, but neither Abraham's nor Catharina's ancestors are known, and there might well be other ethnicities in their backgrounds in addition to Dutch. Recife/Mauritsstad started out as a Portuguese settlement, and it is not unlikely that Anna Catharina Stricht van Hoffmerssel had some Portuguese ancestors, maybe even Sephardic Jewish and Native American ones.

Mauritsstad in 1645, close to the time of Anna Catharina's birth. Engraving by Peter Schenck the Elder, after a drawing by Frans Post. Source. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.

As a young girl, Anna Catharina travelled to Europe on what must have been a long and difficult sea voyage, and on 13 March 1667, at the age of 15, she married Danish civil servant Peter Drejer (Dreyer). Peter, who passed away in 1703, is rather famous, and has his own article in the Norwegian Biographic Encyclopedia. He was from Denmark, but had an international career; among other things, he was Embassy Secretary in London in 1663-64.

In 1668, Peter, who wanter a "calmer" position, was appointed vice lawspeaker of Trondheim in Norway. He rose in the ranks of the Norwegian (Dano-Norwegian) civil service and also became a director of the Kvikne copperworks. At home, however, things were less easy. As the Norwegian Biographic Encyclopedia tells us, his wife Anna Catharina "had a difficult mood", and "Peter Drejer's notorious infidelities did not make matters easier". Peter ended up leaving Trondheim, quitting his position as lawspeaker and "fleeing to Denmark" (!) while his wife stayed behind in Trondheim where she died in 1731, almost three decades after her husband.

Peter Drejer and Anna Catharina Stricht van Hoffmerssel had four children, two sons and two daughters, and there is a large number of descendants living today.

The Brazilian origin of Anna Catharina is no secret among Norwegian genealogists, and she is mentioned in a number of online family trees (e.g. here and here and here). However, she is rarely discussed outside her circle of descendants (one public discussion can be found here), and I don't think the majority of Norwegians - or Brazilians, for that matter! - are aware that at least one Brazilian lived in Norway in the 17th century.

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