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.


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