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Gerontology Wiki
Velgjer Svien
Velgjer Svien
Birth: 10 October 1842
Vang, Valdres, Oppland, Norway
Death: 23 January 1953
Northfield, Rice, Minnesota, USA
Age: 110 years, 105 days
Country: NorwayNORUnited StatesUSA

Velgjer Tostensdatter Svien (née Nystuen; 10 October 1842 – 23 January 1953) was a Norwegian-born American supercentenarian who was one of the earliest people on record to have reached the age of 110. Her age was validated by the Gerontology Research Group (GRG) in 2014.

Born in Norway, Svien moved to the United States as a child, and lived most of her life in Minnesota. At the time of her death, she was the second-oldest living person in the United States and the world. She was also the oldest person ever born in Norway and the oldest person ever to die in Minnesota, records which she held for more than three decades.


Early Life

Velgjer Svien was born on 10 October 1842 in Vang, Valdres, Oppland, Østlandet, Norway, one of four children born to Tosten Johnson and Berit Iversdatter Nystuen. Her mother died when she was six years old, and her father subsequently got remarried to Anna Opdahl, with whom he had nine children. The family moved to the United States in 1854, on a boat trip that took 11 weeks. They spent three years living in Wisconsin before moving to St. Ansgar, Iowa.

In 1860, Svien married another Norwegian immigrant, Andrew J. Svien (1837–1927). Five years later, they moved to a farm in Goodhue County, Minnesota. They had four biological children: Carrie, John (who was killed in a train wreck), Thomas, and Annie (who died of tuberculosis as a child). Svien survived all four of her children. They also had one foster daughter, Susan.

The Sviens moved to Northfield, Minnesota in 1876, where for a time they operated a hotel. Andrew also worked as a policeman with the Northfield Police Force for 13 years. They would live in the same town for the rest of their lives.

Later Life

After her husband's death in January 1927, Svien lived on her own. In the mid-1930s, her daughter Carrie moved in with her, an arrangement that lasted until Carrie's death in 1939. Svien subsequently moved in to the Hanson Rest Home, of which her niece was a proprietor.

In October 1942, Svien celebrated her 100th birthday with fellow members of her church, and she was also interviewed on the radio. From the age of 104, she was cared for by her grandson, William Lockrem, and his wife. By that point she was reportedly quite deaf and required a magnifying glass to read.

Svien celebrated her 110th birthday in October 1952. She died in her grandson's home in Northfield, Rice County, Minnesota, USA on 23 January 1953 at the age of 110 years, 105 days. At the time of her death, she had six grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren, and six great-great-grandchildren.

Longevity Records

Upon reaching her 110th birthday on 10 October 1952, Svien became the ninth validated supercentenarian case on record, according to the GRG. However, she was never the oldest living person in the world or even in the United States, as Betsy Baker of Nebraska was a seven weeks older and outlived her.

Svien was the first recorded supercentenarian born in Norway. She held the record as the oldest ever Norwegian-born person until she was surpassed by Wilhelmine Sande on 7 February 1985. Svien was also the first supercentenarian and oldest person ever to die in Minnesota, until her record was broken by Julia Lyng on 7 April 1989.

At the time of her death, Svien was the eighth-oldest person ever recorded. She fell out of the all-time top ten validated people after her age was surpassed by Ella Ille Rentel on 2 September 1962.