Crestleaf.com has issued the 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds challenge to bloggers. I am five days too late for June because I just found this challenge. It sounds like fun – when is getting to talk about ancestors not fun? – so here is my June entry.
It was easy picking my first Fascinating Family Find to share as it was the key to unlocking the family story of my 3x great grandfather, Johannes Jensen.
When I finally found Frits Wille Oscar Emil Jensen, my 2x great grandfather, as a child in the 1850 census of Copenhagen, Denmark, I thought all would be smooth sailing. My grandmother said her mother always claimed Copenhagen as the family home and there they were. Frits was Grandmother’s grandfather. Additionally, in the 1910 census of Calais, Washington, Maine, Frits reported that his father was born in Denmark, but that his mother was born in Sweden.
The 1850 Danish census of Frits’ parents and siblings listed his father as Johannes Jensen, born about 1810 in Copenhagen and his mother, Johanne Elisabeth Molin (yes, the Danish census gives maiden surnames of married women!) born in Sweden. All the pieces fit and it took me no time at all to trace the Molin family back several more generations in Sweden.
Johannes Jensen, though, was a tough cookie. There was nothing at all easy about discovering his story. The saving grace was that he was a career soldier – the company musician who attained the rank of sergeant during his career. With a LOT of help from the Scandinavian volunteers at the Family History Library, I was able to pick up several clues in the Danish military records.
Try as I might, I could never find a baptismal record for “Johannes Jensen” (no middle name) born about 1810 or possibly in late 1809 that seemed to fit my Johannes. I went through name by name in FamilySearch’s indexed database, checking every possibility.
My Fascinating Family Find became the key to unlocking the mystery surrounding Johannes Jensen:
How I found this page would take a long, convoluted explanation, but suffice it to say that I spent literally a hundred hours during several trips to Salt Lake City reading pages and pages of military rolls on microfilm. This is an entry from the Skanderborg, Denmark laegdsruller, or military levying rolls. Men are listed by numbers, but the numbers can and do change. Think of the number as a draft number that could be changed as information was updated.
The key is found in entry 173-146, the second man on the roll. It is my Johannes Jensen. It confirms that he was 27 in 1837, thus born about 1810, but that isn’t the important information here. See the words above his name? I don’t speak Danish and this writing isn’t the easiest to decipher. When I scanned the rest of the page for clues, I noticed something right away. The words above the other men’s names seemed to also be names. Look down three names below Johannes’ name. It is one of the easier entries to read. The soldier is “Niels” and above his name it says “Jens Peter Nielsen.” The other soldiers in the list also had names inscribed above their own names.
Being at the Family History Library when I found this, I immediately headed to the help desk and asked what the names were above the soldiers’ listings. Those were the names of the fathers of the soldiers! I looked again at Johannes’ name and, whatever it said, it wasn’t anybody’s name. Translation, please: FATHER NOT RECORDED!!!
All my puzzle pieces began to fall into place. By this time, I knew that Johannes’ and Johanne Elisabeth’s eldest child, Wilhelmine, had been born at Den Kgl. Fodselstiftelsse (Unwed Mothers’ Hospital) in Copenhagen before they married. Every record that I found for Johannes put his birth date and place about 1810 and always in Copenhagen and here was a military record that said “Father Not Recorded.” I had never been able to find even a hint of family for Johannes, although another military record had eventually been discovered that gave his birth date as 27 April 1810.
It hit me like a thunderbolt. What if Johannes had been born at Den Kgl. Fodselstiftelsse himself and been given up for adoption?
It turned out that that was exactly what had happened, but that yet another story.