Kjetil and Zoe Njoten live four houses away from Erik and Jen Strom in the Los Angeles area, but the couples had never talked beyond the occasional “Hi” or a friendly wave.
They bonded — from a safe distance — at an impromptu neighborhood get-together this month over their shared Norwegian heritage.
Kjetil Njoten grew up on Njoten Island in Norway. Both Erik Strom’s and Jen Strom’s families are from the country.
Jen Strom’s family came from a town a couple hours away from where Kjetil Njoten grew up — a coincidence on its own.
Erik Strom told Kjetil Njoten that his family came from a small island that they’d never been able to find, Njoten said.
“They thought it was named Newton, which to us clearly wasn’t a Norwegian name,” Njoten told CNN’s “New Day.”
They joked that maybe the family came from Njoten Island, which can be pronounced like “Newton.” The island is only home to a couple dozen people.
“Wouldn’t it be even crazier if we were actually related, somehow,” Erik Strom said.
Strom said he called his mom to check their family history book, which traces her lineage back to the 1700s.
She texted a picture of his great-great-grandfather. His last name was also Njoten.
They sent that information to Kjetil Njoten’s mom, who was able to confirm the family connection.
It turns out that Kjetil Njoten and Erik Strom have the same great-great grandfather.
And their great-great grandfather lived in same house where Kjetil Njoten grew up 100 years later.
“So a crazy coincidence,” Njoten said.
They’re looking forward to spending more time together once the safer-at-home restrictions are lifted.
“Me and Jen were just squealing and jumping around and all of us were beaming with smiles and desperate to hug but can’t,” Zoe Njoten said.
Jen Strom said they’re planning a “huge family meal, a big party,” adding she’s been practicing making some Norwegian delicacies.
Erik Strom said he’s got lots of relatives looking forward to meeting the Njotens.
“There are people from all over the country who are related to us who are interested in coming out and meeting and just participating in the story,” Erik Strom said.
The Stroms have a 4-year-old daughter, and the Njotens have a 10-year-old son.
“My son is so excited that he’s got a new cousin on the street to play with, eventually,” Zoe Njoten said.