Chose New Zealand instead of America

Photo: Ida Louisa Williamsdatter from Flekkefjord

Ida Louisa Williams Daughter was one of a few, perhaps the only one from the south of Norway that emigrated emigrated to New Zealand in the 1870s. The several hundred Norwegians who emigrated to the country “Down Under” were from Eastern Norway.

Ida Louisa was the daughter of William Matias Larsen and his wife Christine Pauline Jansdatter from Flekkefjord. They had at least five children in addition to Ida, namely Malia, Ludvig, Petra, Tamin and Amina, according Val Burr, who has written the book “Mosquitoes & Sawdust. A history of Scandinavians in early Palmerston North & surrounding districts.” Ida came to New Zealand around 1872, but it is unknown with which ship.

March 27, 1874 she married the Finnish immigrant John Coldstream. The couple had twelve children, of which there were two twins. But much grief struck the family. Six children died, these were the four twins. Most births are registered in Ellesmere, Canterbury.

Brother & Sister Also Emigrated

Around 1884 Ida’s brother Ludvig and sister Petra came to New Zealand. They came ashore in Patea and was greeted by Ida. The two had had a dramatic experience in London, where Petra did not come with the train which was to bring her to the ship. She could not speak English but must have managed to get on board in time.

In 1885 the family lived in Palmerston North, where so many Norwegian had settled. While they lived there wrote Ida signed a petition for female to be able to vote. And the women of New Zealand actually got to vote before women in Norway did.

Ida and John were separated around 1897-1898. John died aged 65 in 1907, probably after falling down from a bridge, though the death certificate says heart problem was cause of death.


Ida worked as a midwife and became known as very hardworking. It was said she was both harsh and friendly. Residents on site paid her to travel to Dunedin to take an oral exam to become a midwife. But her English writing skills were not good enough for her to pass the written exam. Her granddaughter Ngaire Cole has a mark of “Old Colonist Association”, probably a mark she got because she was a midwife.

Bed & Breakfast

In 1908 Ida opened a bed and breakfast in Horopito, where as many as 40 could stay at one time. Meanwhile, she continued to work as a midwife and as late as in 1917, she was still working as a midwife.

At least once, possibly twice, she returned to Norway. She then worked as a waitress on the ship, and her daughter Ruth was with her on the trip. Ruth married Francis Gray.

Ida died in 1930, 76 years old. She is buried at Raetihi cemetery.

Ida’s brother Ludvig worked as a shoemaker in Palmerston North. Later he moved to Australia.

Sister Petra married Frederick Maul.

Val Burr says there are many descendants from the Williamsen siblings from Flekkefjord.

(Written 2010)

1 Comment on "Chose New Zealand instead of America"

  1. Gaynor Morrissey | May 10, 2022 at 7:43 am | Reply

    Ida was my great-grandmother.
    Her daughter, Ruth birthed my mother Nola.

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