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 06/03 - 13         

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 Did you know...  

 3-7-3 Johan
 Christian Hojem
 who was a
 farmer in South
 Africa, has
 given name to
 the onion variety

 Read full story


The Oftebro family

The Oftebro family has been defined as all descendants, and their spouses, from Villum Christian Henriksen Oftebro (1775-1848) and Gunhild Oftebro (1777-1855). They lived at a small farm, Oftebro, in Lyngdal, Norway. The farm was in fact a cottage allotment, belonging to the pastor’s farm Aa, and in his function as a cottar Villum Christian responded to the pastor as his superior. Villum Christian’s contract as a cottar was quite humane, and it is interesting to notice that the pastor’s family and the cottar’s family, in spite of the social stratification of the society in those days, seem to have been on close, friendly terms. This close relation to the pastor and his family, and the inspiration our family gained from this friendship, became of great significance to early Oftebros in Lyngdal. It is even a fact that the world wide settlement that can be seen in the family today, to a large extent is due to the close contact with the pastor’s family, and to the inspiration for mission work this meant to the Oftebro family.

Gunhild and Villum Christian had 10 children. 4 of these children, Henrik (1800-1876), Tobias (1803-1889), Anne Marie (1806-1887) and Ommund (1820-1893) have founded the 4 main branches of the family. Based on these 4 main brances the Oftebro lineage consists of many families, using many different family names, beginning with Oftebro, Bjoernestad, Rom, Foss, Johnson, Opsal, Hojem and Reime. Descendants within these families carry today a great number of other family names, and the “Oftebros” have settled in many countries and on most continents.


In the Oftebro family we have registered more than 2000 members, counting those living today, and those that have passed away. Our graphical family tree is more than 16 m wide. One may study the separate branches of the tree, and find detailed information on each member, in the Oftebro family book which is available.
Houses at Oftebro no. 3, Villum Christian and 
Gunhild’s home.

Leaving Lyngdal

The forefathers of Villum Christian and Gunhild lived in Lyngdal and in the surrounding counties for several hundred years. From around 1850 this pattern changes at a growing rate, and an exodus takes place. Those who moved internally in Norway went east along the coastline to Mandal, to Kristiansand and to the Grimstad region. Westward one moved to the Stavanger region. The emigration was pronounced. In America one settled on the East coast, on the West coast, in the Mid west and in Canada. The emigration across the Atlantic followed the pattern of the great, general, economical emigration from Norway in the period.

Another marked Oftebro emigration led to South Africa. The growing interest in Norway for doing mission work abroad, in Lyngdal nursed and inspired by pastor Kielland, led 3 Oftebros from Lyngdal to a missionary pioneering work in Zululand. Later on another group of Oftebros, tempted by the rich gold- and diamond mines, also emigrated to South Africa. The descendants of the immigrants to Zululand have in general been very mobile, and today they have settled also in Zimbabwe, in Australia, in New-Zealand, in USA and Canada, and in Great Britain and Ireland.

When studying the settlement of the members of the Henrik main branch, the Tobias main branch and of the Ommund main branch, one finds the following pattern:

Henrik’s descendants have settled in equal numbers in Norway and abroad. Tobias’ descendants have also settled inland and abroad, but with clear preference to Norway. Ommund’s descendants have, for obvious reasons, all settled abroad. It is a striking fact that Tobias and his descendants have been more productive. In numbers they dominate the Oftebro family today.


Why Oftebro

The Oftebro family took its family name from the cottage allotment, Oftebro, where the early Oftebros lived in Lyngdal, Norway. The history about Oftebro and its cottars can be read in old documents back to 1668. Other families have also lived as cottars at Oftebro, but it seems that only our own forefathers adopted the name of their homestead as their family name. This makes all “Oftebros” in the world one big family. In 1877 the cottar at Oftebro bought the small farm as freeholder. In 1892 the farm was split in two halves, one for Villum Oftebro(II), and one for Gabriel Oftebro.

  The farm at Oftebro got its name from the river “Ofta” (today Litleåna (“The little River”)), and the bridge (“bro”) that crosses the river at this place. The name “Ofta”, or “Åpta” is derived from old Nordic “Alpt”, meaning Swan. From this we can deduct that Oftebro means “Swan Bridge”, or rather “Swan River Bridge”. Our minds are instantly led to mr. Stephen Foster:
Oftebro no. 5, Gabriel Oftebro’s farm.

“Way down upon the Swanee River
Far, far away.
There‘s where my heart is turning ever
There’s where the old folks stay.”

And so on.

The river at Oftebro was for generations known for its rich pearl fishery. Over-fishing and urbanisation have unfortunately brought an end to this natural resource.

Today also the Oftebro farm is history. The ground has been developed, but names of the streets in the area, like “Oftebroveien” and “Oftebro terrasse”, remind us about times that have passed. So does also the local Oftebro bus stop.

More information on the Oftebro family and the Oftebro farm can be found in the family book.


Mark Oftebro, Zimbabwe, with his family at the Oftebro bus stop.