Viking ship named for Arlington Heights man's ancestor

  • Norman Oyen, 78, of Arlington Heights is the 33rd great-grandson of the Norwegian king Harald Fairhair, for whom the Viking ship replica Draken Harald Hårfagre now at Navy Pier is named.

    Norman Oyen, 78, of Arlington Heights is the 33rd great-grandson of the Norwegian king Harald Fairhair, for whom the Viking ship replica Draken Harald Hårfagre now at Navy Pier is named. Courtesy of Sons of Norway

  • The Draken Harald Hårfagre silhouettes Chicago's skyline as it approaches Navy Pier Wednesday for the Tall Ships exhibition.

    The Draken Harald Hårfagre silhouettes Chicago's skyline as it approaches Navy Pier Wednesday for the Tall Ships exhibition. Morgan Timms | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/29/2016 4:44 PM

One of the financial donors who helped bring the replica Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre to Chicago this week is an Arlington Heights man who discovered only two years ago that he's the 33rd great-grandson of the Norwegian ruler for whom the ship is named -- King Harald Fairhair.

Norman Oyen, 78, said he was more than happy to contribute $100 to the fund for his 10th-century ancestor's namesake to reach Navy Pier for the Tall Ships exhibition.

 

Unfortunately, Oyen believes his current health will keep him from visiting the Draken while it remains on display through Sunday.

Oyen has lived in Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect for most of his adult life, except when he was in the service. He said his mother and father came from different parts of Norway before they met in Chicago.

Though his relationship to the king who first united Norway had fallen out of family lore, he rediscovered it through an ancestry search.

Because royalty tended to marry royalty centuries ago, the records that otherwise might not have survived were well documented, Oyen said.

"It's exciting! I spent hours on it," he said.

Nevertheless, he never expected to see his distant ancestor's name mentioned in the newspaper until he saw an article about the Draken's arrival in the Daily Herald.

Oyen said many Norwegians made their way to Chicago and other parts of the Midwest from a belief that there was a similarity of climate -- even though Chicago gets colder in the winter than Norway does.

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The Draken made history this week by being the first replica Viking ship to sail from Norway to Chicago since another made the journey for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.

That earlier ship -- The Viking -- is now housed at Good Templar Park in Geneva.

The Draken crew will sail on to Green Bay, Wisconsin, next week, but to continue its tour through the Great Lakes, more money is needed to hire the pilots required to navigate the boat through U.S. waters. So far, the Minneapolis-based Sons of Norway foundation has raised more than $85,000 online at sonsofnorway.com/draken. But a total of $430,000 is expected to be necessary for the Draken to sail to all its scheduled cities.

As a result, the crew of the Draken has not yet committed to any stops after Green Bay.

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