Part 4 – Some Success in Copenhagen

My next step was to search the 1850 census for Frits, aged 5. Quick success there – I found him with his parents, Johannes Jensen, 40, a soldier, born in Copenhagen and Johanna Elisabeth Molin, 35, born in Sweden. The 1910 and 1920 U.S. censuses had the correct places of birth for Frederick Johnson’s parents – his mother was, indeed, Swedish. Johannes’ and Johanne’s children were Wilhemine Amalie, 9; Emilie Olivie Frederikke, 6; Fritz Wille Oscar Emil, 4 and Ludoviga Josephine Henriette, 2. All were born in Copenhagen except for Johanne Elisabeth.

 With Family Search indexed records and the church baptismal registers on, I was able to put together the following family:

Johannes Jensen, born about 1810, Copenhagen, Sergeant in the Danish Army, drummer

Johanne Elisabeth Molin, born about 1815, Sweden


Wilhelmine Amalie, born about 1840, no baptismal information found

(Here – possibly a deceased child since there was at least a three year gap between Wilhelmine and Emilie)

Emilie Olivie Frederikke, 18 May 1843, Garnisons Church, Copenhagen

Frits Ville Oscar Emil, 12 May 1845, Garnisons Church, Copenhagen

Ludovica Henriette Josephine, 4 June 1847, Garnisons Church, Copenhagen

Avilda Eleonora Philipine, 11 Oct 1850, Garnisons Church, Copenhagen

 I also found Johannes Jensen in 1840, an unmarried soldier, rank of sergeant, living in the barracks with other soldiers in Copenhagen. I could not find Johanne Elisabeth Molin in 1840, nor could I find Wilhelmine who could possibly have been born as early as 1839. Johannes and another “permiterit” soldier were boarding with the young family of Anders Thomsen in Copenhagen in 1834.

Since the Danish censuses have a gap between 1801 and 1834, I had no other pre-1834 census to search for Johannes Jensen. I had no other clues as to his parentage or siblings. No marriage record had been found for Johannes and Johanne, whose first known child was Wilhelmine, born about 1840, in the Garnison Church registers, nor could I find Wilhelmine’s baptismal record there.

 I decided to try looking in other parishes in the 1840-1843 range for Wilhelmine’s baptism and possibly for a deceased child and happened to start with Trinitatis Church because it was also a large parish. Wilhelmine was not to be found. However, the baptismal records for Trinitatis Church included a stillborn daughter, entered 8 May 1842 in the register, born to Johanne Elisabeth Molin and reputed father Johannes Jensen. I had only looked for marriage records up to 1840, thinking Johannes and Johanne married before Wilhelmine was born. Emilie’s baptismal record listed her father and mother, so they had married before 18 May 1843. I looked again for a marriage between 1840-43; no marriage was found at Trinitatis Church, but the Garnison Church register included an entry on 31 August 1842 for Johannes Jensen and Johanne Molin. One more puzzle piece had been found, but there still was nothing found for daughter Wilhelmine, who was apparently born before Johannes and Johanne married. There were no further clues about Johannes’s parents either. The marriage record didn’t include vaccination dates for the bride or groom. I decided to leave the issue of Wilhelmine’s birth place and baptismal record to focus on the search forthe parents of Johannes Jensen. He appeared to have no middle names, as the census records included middle names for his wife and children, but he was always “Johannes.” A suggestion was made to look at godparents’ names on the baptismal records of his children. That was a dead end. The spot on the record for those names was either empty, or it said “the parents” or maybe “Farmer so and so” from down the road. The only avenue that I could see for further research on Johannes was his military record.


Part 3 – Fast Forward Danish Research to 2011

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.

Frits-1880-Census-1The 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!


Part 2 – The 1980 Research Brick Wall

Around 1980, my research into Anna’s family was at a standstill. The only new information I had came from the 1910 census, which was released in 1982. Nothing new had been discovered about Anna. However, Frederick, her dad, reported in 1910 that while he and his father were born in Denmark, his mother was born in Sweden. I also determined that Henry five doors away from the Colemans in the 1900 census was, indeed, Anna’s brother.  However, the 1910 census was the last time Anna or Henry would be enumerated. Henry died of tuberculosis on 16 May 1916, only two months after Anna died.

Henry Johnson Death Certificate

I hired an Accredited Genealogist who specialized in Scandinavian research in the hopes that someone named Frederick William Oscar E. Johnson born in May 1845 reportedly in Copenhagen wouldn’t be all that difficult to find.

I had a quick learning curve about Scandinavian records. First, they were housed by local parishes, not in a centralized government repository. Second, although I had an emigration year narrowed to 1883-1885, Frederick William Oscar E. Johnson could not be found regardless of the spelling of his last name. Third, without knowing the original form of the surname (Hazel had never heard anything but the Americanized “Johnson”), it would be quite difficult to find him in a church record. Fourth, my grandmother had always been told the family was from “Copenhagen,” but she had no idea if that meant the city proper, an outlying village, or that the family originated from some other area of Denmark but left from Copenhagen. This made a huge difference in any potential church-to-church search through the records.  So, with the exception of the release of the 1920 census in 1992, there was no other apparent route to search in the quest for Anna’s roots in Denmark. Frederick was alive and living alone in 1920. My grandmother said that after her mother died, her father kicked Fred out of the house because he apparently showed no inclination to get a job. Hazel married in 1920 and my grandparents moved to the Boston, MA area and she didn’t see much of her grandfather after that time. Frederick passed away sometime between 1920 and the 1930 census. I’ve been told that he is buried in a pauper’s grave at Calais Cemetery because my great grandfather wasn’t about to pay for his burial either. I figured back then that that was the end of my search for my Scandinavian roots and I left that line for many years.