New book available at Norsk Høstfest 2015 by Norwegian-American immigrant and world-class photographer, Anders Beer Wilse

Posted on September 27, 2015 by Deb Nelson Gourley


Publisher Deb Nelson Gourley, Astri My Astri Publishing, Waukon, IA has released her newest bilingual English/Norwegian book.

Anders Beer Wilse Photography: Life of a Young Norwegian Pioneer, Volume 1 – is the 13th bilingual English Norwegian book published by Astri My Astri Publishing. The book was first published in 1936, but has now been translated into English for the first time by Odd Steinar Dybvad Raneng (Australia) and co-edited by Deb Nelson Gourley (Iowa) and Wilse’s great-grandson, Christian Wilse (England).

Gourley’s new release includes many photos, which capture the rich heritage of America in the late 19th century.

She will have the new book, as well as previous publications, on display during the 2015 Norsk Høstfest Bookstore/Author’s Corner, Helsinki Hall, Minot, ND.

Gourley also will offer her previous titles, written on the subjects of Norwegian heritage, culture, history, language and genealogy.

Several of her books have won national awards, including the prestigious G.K. Haukebo Heritage Resource Award for Historical Emphasis.

Gourley’s book release is timed with the 150th anniversary of Anders Beer Wilse’s birth (1865).

In commemoration, the country of Norway is honoring Wilse throughout the year with an extensive exhibit at the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, a set of four commemorative stamps and other celebrations.

A Wilse photo will also be featured on Norway’s new money to be introduced in 2017 and on the new 500 kroner bill.

About Wilse

Born in Vest-Agder and raised in Telemark, Norway, Wilse immigrated to America in 1884, where he worked as both a railroad engineer and cartographer.

The book chronicles Wilse’s childhood in Norway where he grew up hunting, keeping an extensive menagerie of animals, learning to swim and climbing aboard sailing ships that arrived in port.

At just 13 years old, he had the opportunity to sign on as a deck boy during his summer vacation.

At 17, he attended Horten’s technical school, later getting a job as a grease monkey on a passenger ship. In October of 1884, at just 19, he set sail for America aboard the Thingvalla. The book chronicles some hard times for Wilse after he first arrived in New York, where he struggled to find employment before moving to Chicago to find work in an architectural office. When that job ended, he and a friend took a train to St. Louis where they again encountered challenges related to finding work.

Broke and jobless, the two men wired a friend in St. Paul, Minn. to send them train tickets and they headed north.

As luck would have it, while staying at a boarding house, Wilse met four fellow Norwegians, who offered him and his friend work with a Minnesota railroad company digging holes for boundary markers. When that job ended, Wilse found work at a railway office, where he did tracing and other work. He would stay employed with the company for 13 years.

“As there was big competition between the different railway companies to seize this uninhabited territory for future railway construction, it (the company) depended on there being the least amount of publicity that we were pegging,” wrote Wilse, adding when the Minnesota work dried up he was sent to the Dakotas.

Among his stories about a treacherous winter near Sioux Falls, S.D., he emerged from a farmer’s home to see the heads and legs of many animals that had frozen to death under the drifts.

The snow was so high, the family he stayed with had to use “measuring chains” to guide them from their home to their outbuildings to care for livestock.

Home to Norway

In 1888, Wilse almost drowned at sea, when the ship he was on (the Geysir) was hit by the Thingvalla, the very same ship he had originally taken to America. “And when all had been brought in by the boats, there were only 31 left of the Geysir’s 149 passengers and crew,” he said, adding it was many years before he could ever feel safe aboard a boat again. When he returned to America, Wilse embarked upon surveying in the forests of Minnesota before being transferred to Washington state to work on the Great Northern Railroad.

Local connection

During the summer of 1892, Wilse was married to Helen Marie Hutchinson, who he had proposed to during his 1889 visit to Norway. The couple was married in Seattle by Carlo A. Sperati, a 1888 graduate of Luther College and Luther Seminary. (In 1905, Sperati returned to Luther to replace Halder Hanson and was hired to teach both vocal and instrumental music as well as religion. He was the only full-time music faculty member until 1928.) It was after his marriage that he started regularly using his camera, which he refers to as his “photographic apparatus” throughout the book. He bought out a traveling photography business and proceeded to be commissioned to take photographs for a number of purposes, including pack expeditions. It was on an expedition to Montana that he was given a Mustang pony named “Pussy,” who would remain his faithful companion for many years. His last years in America were spent photographing different Native American tribes, before he headed home to Norway in 1900 after 16 years of living abroad. Gourley’s new release includes many photos, which capture the rich heritage of America in the late 19th century. “And so I came home where I had grown up … to be tempted to embark on the work that would become my life’s work: to study and know Norway and its beauty from behind a camera,” wrote Wilse of his return to his homeland. He returned to Christiana (now known as Oslo) to open a photography business and subsequently became extremely well known as a world-class photographer. “His images of Norwegian landscapes, of people at work, of people in their national costumes, and of the Royal family are well known for every Norwegian interested in photographs. In his images, we can see the transformation of Norway towards a modern society in the early 20th century,” states the Norsk Folkemuseum. At the time of his death in 1949, he left behind over 200,000 documented photographs. Gourley collaborated with the family of Anders Beer Wilse on Volume 1 and the soon-to-be-published Volume 2: Anders Beer Wilse Photography: Norwegian Men and their Country, which chronicles photos he took in Norway from 1900-1949.

Many thanks

Gourley said her publishing business would not be possible without the mentoring and assistance of Anundsen Publishing Company (owner of Decorah Newspapers), which stores her pallets of books and ships her online orders. For more information, visit

Reprinted with permission from Decorah Newspapers, Decorah, IA

Article written by Lissa Blake and reprinted from The Decorah Journal

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Norwegian Genealogy Kit — map poster for doing genealogy research in all areas of Norway

Posted on February 10, 2014 by Deb Nelson Gourley

Map Poster: Knowing your geography is a must when researching Norwegian genealogy. Deb Nelson Gourley, Astri My Astri Publishing originally published maps of Norway's 18 fylker (districts) and the 433 kommuner (municipalities) in the 2006 book "History of the Norwegian Settlements" by Hjalmar Rued Holand. In 2009, she designed and published an 18" x 24" map poster containing all of the fylker and kommuner in order to have a working copy (something to write on) when researching genealogy and documenting were those elusive ancestors lived. The copyrighted maps in the book and on the poster were printed by Astri My Astri Publishing with permission from the Norwegian Automobile Federation (NAF).

The map poster has became an invaluable tool when researching the FREE Norwegian Arkivverket Digitalarkivet — Digitised Parish Registers (old handwritten church books from Norway).

Deb found the need for such a map poster after researching her own 7/8 Norwegian ancestry since 1976. In all, Deb had 27 ancestors (1 g-grandparent, 10 gg-grandparents, 15  ggg-grandparents and 1 gggg-grandparent) who began emigrating as early as 1845 from various areas of Norway including Hallingdal, Numedal, Telemark, Voss, Sognefjord, Valdres and Selbu near Trondheim. After attending numerous book signing at various Norwegian genealogy events, Deb also found the need for and designed a kid-friendly five generation genealogy chart along with easy step-by-step instructions to use the Digitised Parish Registers.

5-generation genealogy chart: Kids of all ages will love the self-guided genealogy chart so they know where to enter one's self, father, mother, father's father, father's mother, mother's father, mother's mother etc. You'll be amazed to see how kids of all ages enjoy filling in their own 5-generation chart from scratch, making it theirs!

2 pages of easy step-by-step instructions: The original old handwritten Norwegian Church Registers for birth, baptism, vaccination, confirmation, banns, marriage, immigration, death and other records can be found FREE on the internet, instead of having to use microfilms. What used to take hours, days or weeks on the microfilms can now be done in minutes! The Norwegian Arkivverket Digitalarkivet images are not only clearer, but you can save them as high resolution jpgs and/or pdfs. The Digitised Parish Registers are a tremendous primary resource to verify the data found in the bygdebøker (Norwegian local history book). Just go through the step-by-step instruction sample filled with time saving hints and then you're on your way. No memberships, no signing up and no fees to use the website!

Over the past few years Deb sold her the Norwegian Genealogy Kit at various events. Now for the first time the kit is being offered on the new high-tech Astri My Astri Publishing website.

Norwegian Genealogy Kit contents: 

  • 3 full-colored 18" x 24" map posters, each containing 18 fylker (districts) and 433 kommuner (municipalities) maps
  • 3 kid-friendly five generation genealogy charts (for kids of all ages)
  • 3 sets of easy step-by-step instructions (two pages each) on how to use the FREE Norwegian Arkivverket Digitalarkivet — Digitised Parish Registers (old handwritten church books from Norway)
    For more information visit:

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    “Meet the authors of the Høstfest” — Janet Martin, Deb Nelson Gourley, Gunlaug Nøkland and Lauraine Snelling

    Posted on October 04, 2013 by Deb Nelson Gourley

    Norsk Høstfest, Minot, North Dakota is the largest Scandinavian Festival in North America. Each year about ten authors from around the world are invited to sign books in the official Norsk Høstfest bookstore. Deb Nelson Gourley has been one of the authors for each of the past ten years. Her 2013 Astri My Astri Publishing Norsk Høstfest team included from left to right: Deb Nelson Gourley, Lila Burmeister, Margit Nysetvold Bakke, Alf-Torgny Nøkland, Gunlaug Nøkland, Astrid Gullestad and Bjarne Gullestad.


    Printed October 5, 2013,

    Meet the authors of the Høstfest

    Those seeking a quiet way among all the music, dancing and eating going on at Norsk Høstfest should make their way over to the bookstore in Trondheim Hall.

    There, The Minot Daily News spoke with three authors and interviewed another at her own booth in the corner of Stockholm Hall next to the entrance to Helsinki Hall.

    Janet Martin

    At her own booth in the corner of Stockholm Hall next to the entrance to Helsinki Hall, Janet Martin sits behind her 17 books and innumerable other offerings. She is the author of 17 books starting with 1983’s “Cream and Bread,” about growing up in a “Scandinavian, Lutheran community in North Dakota.”

    “All my stuff is humor based,” the Hillsboro native, who now lives in Hastings, Minn., said.

    Many of her books are written with her writing partner, Suzann Nelson.

    “We are known as ‘Those Lutheran Ladies’ and we have performed out here,” Martin said. “We do stand-up.”

    One of the books she co-wrote is called “Growing Up Lutheran,” which has jumped from book form and onto the stage.

    “This was turned into professional musicals called ‘Church Basement Ladies,’” she said of the book. “There’s five of them. They’re the most successful musicals that have ever hit Minnesota. Over a million people have seen them across the nation.”

    The author said that she is “100 percent Norwegian American,” and that her children retain 75 percent of that heritage, with the other 25 percent being Swedish.

    She described her work as having univeral appeal, but admits that much of the humor and references are regional. She has attended the Høstfest ever since its launch 35 years ago.

    Deb Nelson Gourley

    Deb Nelson Gourley owns Astri My Astri Publishing, based in the city she lives in, Waukon, Iowa. The publishing house describes itself as “Your #1 source of bilingual English Norwegian books.”

    And the subtitle doesn’t lie.

    The recently released three-volume set “Norwegians in America, their History and Record” is quite the undertaking that had her working with her two sons to transform old Norwegian record books into volumes to help Norwegians trace their ancestral roots in America.

    Working as a type of “Who’s Who” for Norwegian Americans, the book is transcribed by her son Benjamin Keith Huntrods and translated by her son Alexander Knud Huntrods [Correction: Translators of the Martin Ulvestad 3-volume-set were Olaf Tronsen Kringhaug (Volume 1) and Odd-Steinar Dybvad Raneng (Volumes 1, 2, 3)].

    But record books aren’t all she writes. Gourley, who describes her own bilingual abilities as “survival Norwegian,” and who grew up on a Norwegian farm in Fillmore County, Minn., keeps Norwegian culture alive in America with several bilingual translations of classic folk tales and original Norwegian novels. This is her 10th consecutive time being invited to [Norsk Høstfest as an author].

    Gunlaug Nøkland

    Gunlaug Nøkland is the author of “Legend of Siljatjern Seter: Life, love and faith on a Norwegian mountain dairy,” published by Gourley’s company in 2007. The book was originally published as two books in Norwegian before being combined and translated.

    She comes from southern Norway and all of her other nine books are in Norwegian.

    The book in English is the story of a girl named “Mette,” who she falls in love, solves mysteries and other things when she decides to take a summer job in the Norwegian mountains as an old fashioned dairymaid.

    “It’s actually for all ages,” she said of the novel. “Youth love it because of the love story, old people like it because of the history and traditional stuff. And there also is life and faith. It’s based on the Lutheran faith.”

    The novel is fitting because Nøkland is primarily a historian.

    She has written two books about an orphanage in the far north of Norway after the whole region was destroyed by fire during World War II by Germans so that Russians would not be able to sustain if they attempted to march through.

    “So all the people had to move south,” she said. “But these Sami people, they didn’t move, they just escaped into the mountains.

    Lauraine Snelling

    Described as the most famous author at the event by Gourley, Lauraine Snelling sits behind a table laid with tons of books displaying her name and a line snaking around to get copies signed.

    The prolific author has written over two books a year, having published 78 novels since 1980.

    “I work hard at it, but I love what I do,” she said of her pace. “The closer I am to deadline the harder I write. My deadlines are frequent so I better keep on it is what it comes down to.”

    She writes both historical fiction and contemporary novels, but one of her several historical series has kept readers flocking back to her, including her novel “An Untamed Heart,” which was 15 days off the presses when she was interviewed Thursday.

    “I have a lot of different series, but the one I’m most known for is “The Red River of the North,’” she said. “Those are Norwegians coming into the Red River Valley of North Dakota in 1880.”

    “I also write contemporary novels. The latest is ‘Wake the Dawn’ set in northwestern North Dakota and it’s a Border Patrol story and I write books for kids, too.”

    “They’re all here,” she said. “This is the only place anywhere where someone can see all of my books laid out in one spot.”X

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    "Old trunk inspires Astri My Astri publisher" reprinted from Fall 2013 issue of Scandinavian Press

    Posted on September 29, 2013 by Deb Nelson Gourley

    “The wagon was fully loaded for the burn pile when I spotted amongst the scrap lumber the old painted trunk. I was an 8-year-old at the time and yelled above the tractor noise: ‘Where did it come from?’ ‘Why does it have 1812 on it?’ and ‘Can I keep it?’ ”

    Thus begins the first chapter in the book “Astri My Astri: Norwegian Heritage Stories” by Deb Nelson Gourley.

    Deb’s book, published in 2004, is unique for several reasons: Along with documenting her genealogy research and her half-year stay in Norway as a young woman, it is bilingual—with text in both English and Norwegian.

    Research eventually revealed that the trunk once belonged to Deb’s great-great-great-grandmother, Astri Herbrandsdatter Bjortnes Syversrud of Nes, Hallingdal, Norway. The date “1812” was likely the date Astri received the trunk as a hope chest; a generation later, it served as an emigrant trunk for either Astri’s daughter (in 1848) or Astri herself (in 1857).

    Deb’s first bilingual book just whetted her appetite for the publishing business. She has published 12 books in all, many of them nonfiction works with a historical theme. She named her new company “Astri My Astri,” in honor of the third-great-grandmother whose old trunk she had rescued. It also happens to be the name of an old Norwegian love song: “Astri Mi Astri.”

    One of the first books Deb brought to life as a new publisher was “History of the Norwegian Settlements” by Halmar Rued Holand. The book, written in Gothic Norwegian, was first published in 1908. It documented the experiences of the earliest Norwegian pioneers as they gradually moved from state to state, ever westward. For years, a manuscript of the English translation languished on archive shelves, where it was all but inaccessible to researchers.

    Deciding this “bible” of history and genealogy needed to be shared with the world, Deb worked to get it in shape for publishing—a tough task, since the original book was in Gothic text. The 512-page, 63-chapter bilingual translation went to press in 2006, allowing readers to trace the trails of 3,800 indexed immigrants through Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas as they explored new frontiers and built new communities. Their hardships (diseases, grasshopper plagues, prairie fires and loneliness) and triumphs (establishing homes and communities in the wilderness) are documented. The book, edited by Jo Ann Winistorfer (me!), went on to win the G.K. Haukebo Resources Award via the Heritage Education Commission, Minnesota State University Moorhead. The award recognizes projects that preserve and/or restore cultural heritage.

    Since then, Deb has produced a number of books of historical value—including another Haukebo award winner, the Martin Ulvestad three-volume set of “Norwegians in America, Their History and Record: A translated version of the 1907 and 1913 Nordmændene i Amerika, deres Historie og Rekord.”

     Many thousands of Norwegians who immigrated to America from 1825-1913 were recorded in Ulvestad’s oversized volumes in the Norwegian language. The data included pioneers living in 41 states and 500 counties in the U.S. and six Canadian provinces, and emigrating from 1,700 locations in Norway.

    The project was completed with the help of two translators (Odd Steinar Dybvad Raneng and Olaf Tronsen Kringhaug) and two editors (Margit Nysetvold Bakke and Deb herself). The Gothic script of the original books was transcribed by Deb’s younger son, Ben Huntrods.

    Raneng, a Norwegian-Australian historian, writes: “These books are not just for genealogical research of your family with lists of statistics upon statistics. No, herein lie the true facts of the pioneer life, their daily lives ... Stories of drought, floods, fires, storms, plagues, mortal diseases, starvation, and more, even murder. ... But here there are also stories that will bring a smile to your lips.”

    Another bilingual project of Astri My Astri was the book “Norwegians in America: Some Records of the Norwegian Emigration to America (Nordmændene i Amerika)” by Knud Langeland, published in 1888. Langeland, a Norwegian emigrant, was editor of several Norwegian-American newspapers, including Skandinaven.

    Divided into two sections, the first part deals with immigration and the authors experiences in America. The second section retraces his life in Norway prior to emigration.

    Translator Raneng says of this book: “Those of us who are historians will know about the arrival of Norwegians in America. But we are missing one important chapter. Their life before they emigrated. Well, here it is!”

    Several of Deb’s projects are excellent for those wishing to learn Norwegian. Especially instructive is “Kings of Norway,” a 128-page, richly illustrated nonfiction book that features 58 bilingual vignettes of the kings (and one queen) who ruled Norway from circa 875 to present. Accompanying the book are three CDs featuring audio in both English and Norwegian; the English is narrated by Deb’s older son, Alex Huntrods, who has helped her on many translation projects.

    Her latest books, fresh off the press, can be enjoyed by “kids” of all ages. Originating in Norway in 1944 as a cartoon series that appeared in Norsk Barneblad, “Norwegian Folk Tales, Fairy Tales and Trolls: Tuss og Troll, Volumes 1 and 2” is based largely on the collected folk tales of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe, as well as others. Many of these tales were gathered nearly two centuries ago. Each of the newly revived “Tuss og Troll” books is packed with more than 600 full-colored illustrations. “Tuss og Troll” translates to “gnomes and trolls.” Princes and princesses and other fascinating characters lurk on these pages, with comic-book-style illustrations accompanying the bilingual English-Norwegian text.

    The next time you attend a bygdelag meeting or a Scandinavian festival, check to see if Astri My Astri is one of the exhibitors or presenters. It’s your chance to meet Deb Nelson Gourley in person and purchase a book or two. Look for her in the Trondheim Book Store of Norsk Hostfest, Oct. 2-5, at the North Dakota State Fairgrounds in Minot.

    For more information on books by Astri My Astri Publishing, log on to:

    Reprinted with permission:
    “Old trunk inspires Astri My Astri publisher” by Jo Ann Winistorfer appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Scandinavian Press. The magazine is available at the following address: Scandinavian Press, P.O. Box 1, Minot, ND 58701.

    Posted in Astri My Astri Publishing, Deb Nelson Gourley,

    Norwegians in America, their History and Record, 3-Volume-Set, received the 2012 G. K. Haukebo Heritage Resource Award for Historical Emphasis

    Posted on October 05, 2012 by Deb Nelson Gourley

    Norwegians in America, their History and Record: A translated version of the 1907 and 1913 Nordmændene i Amerika, deres Historie og Rekord, 3-Volume-Set. The book was written by Martin Ulvestad; translated into English by Olaf Tronsen Kringhaug (Vol 1) and Odd-Steinar Dybvad Raneng (Vols 1, 2, 3); transcribed from Gothic script by Benjamin Keith Huntrods; edited by Margit Nysetvold Bakke (Vol 1) and Deb Nelson Gourley (Vols 2, 3). The 3-volume-set was published by Deb Nelson Gourley, Astri My Astri Publishing.

    Several forewords, prefaces and leaflets, written and signed by Norwegian author and publisher, Martin Ulvestad, were discovered during the process of both transcribing from Dano-Norwegian Gothic script and translating into English his oversized 100-year-old-books. Thousands upon thousands of Norwegians, who immigrated to America from 1825-1913, were contained in Ulvestad’s 1,379 pages originally published in 1907 and 1913. The data included pioneers living in 41 states and 500 counties in the USA, 6 Canadian provinces and emigrating from 1,700 locations in Norway. In Ulvestad’s own words, he described how he compiled the Norwegian-American pioneer data by sending out 163,000 small books and pamphlets along with 450,000 circulars and forms to the early immigrants and their families.

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    Sigmund Aarseth: Norway Painted in Light and Color received the 2009 awards for both the North Dakota Professional Communicators Competition and the National Federation of Press Women

    Posted on September 11, 2009 by Deb Nelson Gourley

    Sigmund Aarseth: Norway Painted in Light and Color published by Deb Nelson Gourley, Astri My Astri Publishing and English co-edited by Diane Edwards and Jo Ann B. Winistorfer won first at the state level and then went on to win at the National level. The NDPC and NFPW awards were for editing. The paintings of Sigmund Aarseth capture beautifully the many seasons and moods of Norway. This book takes you on a journey through the mountains and the valleys painted with lush strokes of color and light. With the commentary of his artist daughter, Marit, and designed by his son, Gudmund, you will be able to see and experience the Aarseth home interiors and their famly life in its idyllic setting in the mountain landscape of Norway. The bilingual English Norwegian book was translated into English by Kari Bye and Norwegian edited by Halldis Aarseth.

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    History of the Norwegian Settlements received the 2007 awards for both the North Dakota Professional Communicators Competition and the National Federation of Press Women

    Posted on September 21, 2007 by Deb Nelson Gourley

    History of the Norwegian Settlements: A translated and expanded version of the 1908 De Norske Settlementers Historie and the 1930 Den Siste Folkevandring Sagastubber fra Nybyggerlivet i Amerika. The book was published by Deb Nelson Gourley, Astri My Astri Publishing and edited by Jo Ann B. Winistorfer won first at the state level and then went on to win at the National level. The NDPC and NFPW awards were for editing. The 63-chapter non-fiction book lets readers trace the trails of 3,800 immigrants through Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas as they explore new frontiers and tame the wilderness during 1830-1870. Along the way lurk killer diseases, grasshopper plagues, prairie fires and loneliness.

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