My mother's family - Wilson Gjesdal Family Tree: 1846 – present

Harald August Vetlesen GJESDAL 1874 - 1955 and Johanna GRILL 1889(?) - 1957


The Wilson / Gjesdal Family
from this line originate in Norway from a town called Fjaere,  Grimstad located in the East Adendal region of South East Norway.
My grand father on my mother's side was Harald August Vetlesen GJESDAL. He came to SA in the late 1800s and changed his name to Harold Wilson. I presume it was either easier to remember or maybe for some other curious reason?!  When his three brothers emigrated to the USA, they also changed their names to Wilson?

When Harald emigrated to SA he worked on Kimberley Diamond Mine and was known to be a physically powerful man with thick powerful wrists which most of the males in our family inherited. Legend says that he was a rather 'wild', highly principalled man and that his father paid him a stippend to come to SA to be away from their genteel and religious family in Norway.

It is family legend that on Fridays 
the shanty pubs around the Kimberley mine got destroyed during a night of drinking and that if he was involved, he would go and see the proprietor on the Monday and pay for all the damages. A rough diamond with a genteel conscience...seemed the best place for him to be! 
He fought in the Boer War on the Boer side and in the Depression Mine Strike in the 1930s, he sided with the strikers and lay on top of the mine dumps with a rifle 'popping off' the police down below while they were trying to arrest the strikers.  Seems he sided with the under-dogs – admirable!

Harald married twice. The first to Elizabeth nee ? and they had a son Velle (named after his grand father), known as Willie by his step-siblings who were from his second marriage to my grand mother, Johanna nee GRILL of German descent.  They also had a dau Freda and I have postcards sent to her from her grand father, Velle in Norway. Elizabeth also worked at Siemens in Johannesburg with Harold so this perhaps where they may have met.  Willie's descendants still live in SA and maintain the name Gjesdal Wilson. Our direct family dropped the Gjesdal and only go by the name of Wilson although any one of the descendants can use the 'family name' legally should we wish.

Harald and his second family lived on the East Rand where he worked on the mines as an Electrical Engineer. The first electrical lights in Benoni were installed by him. He was also an inventor and my mother told me that one of his inventions was a tiny electrical motor that could fit into a match box plus he invented the emergency brakes on the mine-shaft lift which transfer the miners up and down the shaft. Apparently, he sent his inventions to his brothers in the USA in the hopes they would be patented however nothing was ever heard from them and they seemed to become very wealthy almost overnight. Willie went over to the USA to visit them and the story goes that he was left on the doorstep of their mansion and refused entry?!  Rather odd greeting for a relative travelling all the way from Africa – and especially in those days!

My grand mother, Johanna or Hanna as she was known was born on the ship coming over to SA with her parents Fredrich and Martha GRILL nee von Reichhold in circa 1895.
Fredrich came over to SA from Hamberg, Germany in the German Volunteer Corps to assist the Boers in the Boer War.  He was also on the board of the German Union which aparantly assisted Germans who wanted to remain in SA after the war.  

It was always presumed that Martha was an illegitimate dau of a German Kaiser – this requires further research.  She was a chef in a hotel in Cape Town and was always known for her delicious cooking. Fredrich died of tongue cancer as a result of slipping while repairing his house roof and biting down onto his tongue with his pipe!  
Martha lived with the Wilsons until her death which is unknown and kept them all happy and well fed as the cook in the home.

There were tensions in the home during WW2 when the Germans bombed Norway.  Papa Wilson refused to speak to his wife and her mother during this time as they were German and thus his ememies - this soon passed and the family returned to normal.

Harald or Harold was born 6 Jun 1874 in Fjaere and died in South Africa 28 Apr 1955 from gangrene 
complications.
Hanna was born circa 1895 and also died in SA in 1957 from heart failure.

Great Grand Parents
Children
Spouse Comments
*Skolelaerer(?) Velle Gjesdal or Vetle Gjesdahl
b: 24 Aug 1846 in Lye 
Fjaere, Grimstad, Arendal
d:
*This appears to mean School Teacher- on the birth register of all his children

Velle was listed as a 'teacher' in the census and family legend said he was a Prof. of Languages at Oslo Uni. & his father was Admir. of the Norwegain Navy Fleet (TBC).

At that time in Norway, the ruling elite were mainly teachers & academics as it was still a 'new country' and fell under Sweden.

Later when he retired, he bacame a minister of religion in Habestad, Arendal

Not much is known about our Norwegian ancestors' lives and still requires more research
1st Karen Oline
b: 12 Nov 1869, Fjaere, Grimstad
d: 18 Mar 1945, Jordmor, Grimstad (76)
married Norwegian & had 1 daughter Hakon Eide
b: 18 May 1874, Skogn, Nord- Trondelag
d: 2 Feb 1953 (79)
Children: TBA
Went to live in USA and returned to Norway where she lived and died





2nd Wilhelm Gjesdal (Bill) 
aka: Bill Wilson
b: 16 Mar 1871, Fjaere, Grimstad
d: USA ?

Gjesdal was registered as his 2nd name in the USA
married:
24 June 1903, Cuyahoga County,Ohio
both lived at 278 Cedar Ave
Nth Haven, Conneticut. 
Name: Mary E McGuire
b: 1873
Father: Stephen McGuire
Mother: Bridget Octagon

No children?
Emigrated to the USA 1888 at age 17.  Found his passenger list for Ellis Island

No children are listed and he married Mary at age 32 and she was 30
1940 Census -19  West 48 Street with Mary
Occ: both Executives at Reducing & Conditioning?
Neighbours next door same occ. - Mary's sisters or nieces, Jane and Loretta Theriot
1930 Census - Lived in Apt: 37, 200 E Chestnut Street, Precinct 4, Chicago, County Cook Illinois with wife Mary.
Occ
 Director of Health Building Co  
1910 census was in Salt Lake Ci living with his mother-in-law, wife and wife's sister & family Jane Theriot






3rd Gustaf (Gus)
aka: Gustav Wilson
b: 12 Apr 1872
d: 13 Oct 1942, San Francisco
Soc Sec #: 557035789
 

Gjesdal was registered as his 2nd name in the USA 
Married a 'Swedish' womanName: Marie b: 1874 - ?
Children:
1. Gladys: b: 1912
3 children: Elaine, Elinor, Ken
2. William: b:1913 - ?
no kids
3. Robert: b: 1915 - 2005
4 Children: Richard (Dick), Marjorie, Geraldine & Janet

4. Edward: b: 1920-2003 m: Elsie & had 3 children: Tommy, Marie & Ramona + 4 step-children

5. June: b: 1925-1980
2 children: Heidi & Judy

Emigrated to the USA circa 1900 at age 28. Found his passenger list

The 1930 census has him listed as Gusta, born in Sweden and he & his family living in San Francisco plus another 1930 census living in Chicago - ?
His wife was born in Sweden/Norway
1940 - census: Living with his son William
14 Ford street San 
Francisco
1930 Census: Occ: Carpenter in SF & shipping clerk in Chicago - very confusing.  Married when he was 36 and Marie was 35



 
4th Theodor Gjesdal (Theo)
aka: Theodor Wilson
b: 22 May 1873, Fjaere, Grimstad
d: USA ?

Gjesdal was registered as his 2nd name
 in the USA 
married:
09 Jan 1909, Utah
Both lived in Salt Lake Ci & seems Rose was a Mormon?
Name: Rose S Schiebel
2 children, both born in South Dakota:
William W - b: 1911
George R - b: 1913
Emigrated to the USA 1899 at age 26.  Found his passenger list

Drafted into the WW1 from 1917-18 7 was living in Salt Lake City, Utah at the time.
1940 census:  Living as a lodger with his son William in Earl Lund's [Norwegian] apartment, 295 North Montane Court.  Occ: Carpenter in Building/Construction
1930 census:  listed a widower living with his 2 sons
Living in Apt 303, 6320, N. Kenmore Ave, Precinct 93, Chicago, County Cook, Illinois
Occ: Looks like 'Massner' or V.assner in an office 
Seems he also only married at age 35 & Rose had died before the 1930 census
1910 & 1920 census: living with mother-in-law Anna Schiebel and Rose in Salt Lake Ci
married: date: ?




Gunhild Tomine Gjesdal
nee: Gundersen
b: 1836. Fjaere, Grimstad
d:
5th Harald August 
aka: Harold Wilson
b: 6 Jun 1874, Fjaere, Grimstad
d: 28 April 1955, Benoni, SA
1st 
circa 1900 




2nd
circa 1920
Elizabeth nee ?



Johanna Wilson, nee Grill.
(Prev married to Vincent Dunker – no kids)
Their 2 children:
Velle: b: ?; d: ? m: Jessie (Willie or Bill)
Freda: 
b: ?; d: ? m: ? 
Surname: Gjesdal-Wilson

Their 5 children:
Sonny b: 1920; d: 1976; m: Mary nee Barber. 1 dau, Carol
Thelma b: 1922; d: ?; m: Jack Searle. 1 dau Jeanette
Norma: 23 Feb 1924; d: 26 Jun 1988; m: RJ Macmillan. 3 sons: William Redvers, Brian Wilson, Malcolm Andrew and 2 dau: Beverley Isobel & Lynn Margaret.
Kenny: b: 1926; d: ?; m: Mattie nee ?. 3 dau: Theresa, Valerie & Dawn
Aubrey: b: 1928; d: ?; m: Bessie nee ?. 2 dau: Linda & Colleen; 1 son: Lesley







6th Ragna
b: 9 sept 1875, Fjaere, Grimstad
d: 1938
married in Norway Telef Lei Johansen
2 sons: Arne & Wiggo
Both sons lived in Africa, married Norwegian women and appeared to have no children? Place of death is also unknown but is presumed they returned to Norway






7th Ingeborg Marie
b: 7 July 1877
d: 1881

NONE Died when she was 3/4 years old







8th Sofie
b: 28 Sept 1879 
d: ?
unmarriedNONE Registered as a 'virgin' in the census. 
She was still living with her parents in the 1910 census at the age of 35.  The is a passenger list of her visiting the USA in the early 1920s
















More detail of this family can be found on the Wilson / Gjesdal website which is still under construction
9th Ingeborg Marie Karoline (Marie)
b: 29 Mar 1882, Fjaere, Grimstad
d: Feb/Mar 1931, Husmor, Notodden
married Gunnar Woxholt

Seems they lived in SA and SWA as some of their kids were born in Norway & others in SA. Some of the Woxholt family is still living in SA in Vereeniging & CT.  
There is a passenger list of Marie visiting the USA in early 1920s
Their 4 children:
Astrid
Willy
Odd
Gudveig