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Tamatoa Jonassen

Related to privatee captain Jonas Jonassen?

5 months ago
Written by Ronald Toppe
Life on board > Related to privatee captain Jonas Jonassen?

Related to privatee captain Jonas Jonassen?

5 months agoLife on board
Written by Ronald Toppe
Tamatoa Jonassen

An email from the Secretary of Justice in the Cook Islands reminded us of a fantastic story from the sailing ship era, and gave us a mystery to solve.

A few days before Statsraad Lehmkuhl dropped anchor at Rarotonga this June, we got an email.

Kia Orana from the Cook Islands,

A contact from Bergen University mentioned that your vessel will be coming to the Cook Islands shortly.

I am the great-grandson of the Norwegian Captain Reinhardt Jonassen who settled in the Cook Islands. He was the subject of a Norwegian documentary some years ago that saw my grandfather and father go to Norway and meet our family from Farsund. I also currently work in the Cook Islands government and head the Ministry of Justice.

It would be good to know what your plans are while in the Cook Islands and if there is anything I can assist with. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

Tamatoa Jonassen

Not bad, an almost Norwegian Secretary of Justice on the other side of the globe! And not only that, Tamatoa Jonassen is possibly also related to Jens Joachim Hiorth, the captain of Statsraad Lehmkuhl, through the well-known privateer captain Jonas Jonassen from Loshavn in Norway. He is Hiorth's great-great-great-great-grandfather.

Jens Joachim Hiorth outside Cape Horn. Photo: Hanna Thevik
Jens Joachim Hiorth outside Cape Horn. Photo: Hanna Thevik

The Napoleonic Wars

From 1801 to 1815, the Napoleonic Wars raged in Europe. Denmark-Norway was allied with France, with England and Sweden as counterparts. The Danish-Norwegian authorities issued so called "letter of marques", permissions which allowed private individuals, privateers, to capture English ships and keep the ship and cargo as booty. In exchange they had to pay the state one percent of the sales value. For Norway, this was a tough period, which led our country to a break with Denmark, and into the union with Sweden in 1814.

Many civilian ships mounted cannons and went hunting. Also Jonas Jonassen from Loshavn, who had lost one of his ships to English privateers.

The house in Loshamn where Jonas Jonassen grew up. Photo: loshavnsidene.net
The house in Loshamn where Jonas Jonassen grew up. Photo: loshavnsidene.net

He rebuilt the pilot cutter Veiviseren, which ended up as the most profitable privateer ship in the whole country. After the war, he was rewarded with the danish Order of Dannebrog, and lived on as captain on civilian tall ships for many years.

Gyda

The story of Minister of Justice Tamatoa Jonassen begins in 1897.

Reinert Godtfred Jonassen. Photo: Private
Reinert Godtfred Jonassen. Photo: Private

That year captain Reinert Godtfred Jonassen from Farsund is on board the bark Gyda in the Pacific Ocean. They head into a violent storm, but manage to get the wrecked ship to Tahiti. The crew eventually travels home, but Jonassen stays in Tahiti to take care of the insurance settlement.

His wife, pregnant with her second child, is waiting at home. The uncertainty of her husbands fate hits her hard, and she dies during childbirth. The child happily survives. When Jonassen receives the sad news, he decides to stay in Tahiti. He asks the family to bring his daughters to Tahiti, but they refuse to send the little girls out on the long journey.

Gyda being repaired on Tahiti. Photo: Aust-Agder museum
Gyda being repaired on Tahiti. Photo: Aust-Agder museum

Aitutaki

In Tahiti, Jonassen meets the widowed queen Tuariki from Aitutaki. They marry and move to Aitutaki, one of the Cook Islands. When Tuariki becomes ill and dies, Jonassen marries her cousin. They have three children. Jonassen establish boat routes, shops, and pearl fishing, and thrive on the Pacific island.

In 1917 he is injured on board a ship, got an infection, and dies on Rarotonga.

In 1937, the daughters of Jonassen in Farsund receive a letter from Michael Jonassen on Aitutaki, one of their siblings in the Pacific that they had no idea existed. He invites them to Aitutaki, but the war gets in the way, and the siblings never meet.

"Tore på sporet"

Now the family in Farsund knows that they have relatives on the Cook Islands, and fifty years later, Captain Jonassen's great-grandson decides to see if they can find them again. At the same time, Tore Strømøy, leading the popular TV-show on NRK "Tore på sporet" ("Tore on the track") is told that a man on Rarotonga is looking for his family in Farsund. His name is Jon Jonassen, and he is the grandson of Captain Jonassen.

Anne Paulsrud meets Jon Jonassen in 2002, the son of her great grandfather Reinert Jonassen. Photo: NRK
Anne Paulsrud meets Jon Jonassen in 2002, the son of her great grandfather Reinert Jonassen. Photo: NRK

In 2002, Tore Strømøy travels with the four great-grandchildren in Farsund to Rarotonga to meet their family. With them they had a stone from the shore close to Captain Jonassen's house, that they want to place on the captain's grave.

A special relationship

Captain Jonassen has more than a hundred descendants on the Cook Islands, and Norway has a very special position on the islands. Tamatoa Jonassen's generous offer of assistance during Statsraad Lehmkuhl's visit is easy to understand.

Statsraad Lehmkuhl made the news.
Statsraad Lehmkuhl made the news.

Unfortunately, even a Secretary of Justice could not do anything about Covid-19. Statsraad Lehmkuhl had to anchor outside Rarotonga, and no one was allowed to go ashore or admitted on board.

Tamatoa Jonassen could only look at the ship from land. It was not possible for him to meet Captain Hiorth.

This was the closest Tamatoa Jonassen got to Statsraad Lehmkuhl. Photo: Private
This was the closest Tamatoa Jonassen got to Statsraad Lehmkuhl. Photo: Private

- I would have liked to ask about the ship and his experience sailing the ship, writes Tamatoa Jonassen in an email to us. Having connections to ancestors who were ship captains definitely creates a keen interest in both the ship and the captain. And I would have very much liked to learn more about Norway, there has always been a feeling of an affinity with Norway. In my career I have lived and visited many countries, however, I have yet to have the opportunity to visit Norway, and feel that I must do so.

Tamatoa Jonassen greatly appreciates the fact that Statsraad Lehmkuhl, through One Ocean Expedition, focuses on the sea and the importance of the sea.

- There are many both in the past and the present who have viewed the Ocean as a great barrier or obstacle. Our ancestors saw it differently, and viewed the Ocean as something that connects us together. The Ocean is part of our identity and has played an integral part in forming my own identity and the national identity of the Cook Islands. We owe that identity to our ancestors, and how we interact with and appreciate the Ocean will shape the identity that we pass to our children. I am extremely pleased of the noble purpose of the One Ocean Expedition and the positive impact it is making.

Aititaki, a group of islands in a large lagoon. Photo: NASA
Aititaki, a group of islands in a large lagoon. Photo: NASA

Related?

Had Tamatoa Jonassen and Jens Joachim Hiorth had their chat, family ties would also have been a theme. Was Reinert Jonassen also related to Hiort's great-great-great-great-grandfather, the privateer captain Jonas Jonassen?

- I have been aware of the possibility for a couple of years, but unfortunately have not spent very much time verifying it, life has been filled with too much else, says Hiorth.

Loshavn, where Captain Jonas Jonassen lived, is not far from Farsund where Captain Reinert Jonassen comes from.

We called Anne Paulsrud, one of the great-grandchildren Tore Strømøy brought to the Cook Islands. She has not heard the story of the privateer captain before, but thinks it is not impossible that her great-grandfather is related to Hiort's great-great-great-great-grandfather.

- We have not followed the family further back than to great-grandfather, but there are just a few Jonassen families here in the Farsund area, and we are related to most, she says.

We decided to do some research, and see if we could solve the mystery.

Privateer captain Jonas Jonassen had eight children, born between 1801 and 1823. Edel Cicilia died as an infant, Amalia died in childbirth 26 years old, Maren died 34 years old. Hanne Marie, Oline, Christiane and Jonas all moved to the city Bergen in Norway. Ane Severine lived in Loshamn all her life.

Jens Joachim Hiorth, the captain of Statsraad Lehmkuhl, is a descendant of Christiane, who married Christian Cornelius Krohn.

Reinert Jonassen was born in 1868, and is at least two generations younger than the privateer captain, born in 1773. Reinert Jonassen's parents were Jonas Mikal Børresen, born in 1835, and Grethe Bolette Reinertsdatter, born in 1839.

None of their parents are children of the privateer captain, so to find out if the captain of Statsraad Lehmkuhl and the Secretary of Justice of the Cook Islands are related, we will have to go so far back that the records are doubtful.

Sources: Tore på Sporet / NRK, loshavnsidene.net, Familyseach, My Heritage

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