The Anna Johnson story is a great example of why one should never give up, particularly with all the technological advances that are being made. Just about three years ago today, I was sitting at my computer and hadn’t thought about my Danish roots for quite some time. I’ve told my friends that my grandmother, Hazel, who died in 1995, was up there one night in January 2011 telling me that it was time for me to resume the hunt. The thought crossed my mind to see what kind of records Denmark had on line that were free and searchable. (I have added a page on the bar above to some fantastic free Danish help sites.)
Lo and behold, there was an 1880 census of the country that was searchable by individual names and places. I was up until about 2 that morning trying different variations of Frederick’s name in Copenhagen. Now that search engine didn’t bring up Soundex spellings – spelling had to be exact – and I don’t speak any Danish so when I got an error message, I used Google translation to figure out what I did wrong.
I was running out of options of Johansen, Jensen, Frederick and Fritz when I finally tried searching for a “Frits.” To my shock, up came “Frits Wille Oskar Emil Jensen” born in Copenhagen in 1845 and still living in Copenhagen. There he was! Click on the census image of the 1880 Herstedvester (suburb of Copenhagen) enumeration and check out Family #36.
The information on this page was invaluable. Head of household was Frits Ville Oscar Emil Jensen, 34, Lutheran, born in Copenhagen, prison guard. Also in the household is Margrethe Jensen f. Brun, which means “born Brun” or her maiden name was Brun. She is 36, Lutheran and born in Frederikshaven, housewife. Remember, Anna Elisabeth’s death certificate said her mother was Margaret Brown. Children in the household included Anna Elisabeth, 7, born Copenhagen, Henry Robert, 1, born in this parish, unnamed baby (who died soon) born in this parish and Vilhelmine Jensen, 39, born Copenhagen, sister of head of household. Frits’s sister, Vilhelmine, would give me an additional clue in pinpointing the correct Jensen family if I found more than one who could be Frits’s family.
As I looked at the other censuses digitized on line, I found 1870, 1860, 1855, 1850, 1845, 1840, 1834 and 1801 and 1787.
Of course, after waiting for 30+ years to find Frits in Denmark, I wasn’t about to plod through each census right away – I had to check the 1845 census to see if Frits was a baby with his family. I discovered that the Danish censuses were taken on February 1. Since Frits reported in the U.S. census that he was born in May 1845, I did not find him. However, I did look for Vilhelmine, who was apparently about five years older than Frits.
I don’t have a screen shot of the 1845 census, but I did find the family of Johannes Jensen, aged 35, born Copenhagen, drummer, living at the 10th Line Infantry Batallion 1st Company, Kronprindsessegaden No. 404, 4th floor in Copenhagen. With him were wife Johanne Elisabeth, 31, born Sweden (hmm – remember in the 1910 census of Calais, Maine Frederick said his father was born in Denmark, but his mother was born in Sweden) and two daughters. Vilhelmine, 5, born Copenhagen and Emilie Olivie Frederikke, 2, born Copenhagen.
Finding 5 year old Vilhelmine in Copenhagen with a Swedish mother and not finding another Vilhelmine the same age made me think I probably had the right family. If I could find them in 1850, when Frederick, or Frits, would be 5 years old, I would have the proof I needed.
These two census records represent the first progress I had made in three decades. Knowing that there were multiple other census records PLUS church registers gave me hope that I would quickly enlarge the small hole created in this brick wall. If only it were that simple!