Margrethe Bruun, 1843-1890

I have written about the first few generations back of my matrilineal line – my mother’s mother’s mother, etc. I’ve also written one post about the realization that a DNA test of this line would give me strong Danish roots, since my great grandmother was born there and her line back is all Danish for as far as I’ve gotten.

I also realized that I haven’t written anything about my 2x great grandmother, Margaret (or Margrethe) Bruun. Before I delve into the details of her somewhat short life, I need to explain a little about Danish surnames.

If you haven’t done any Scandinavian research, then you might not be aware of the patronymic naming system. Until the 1800’s, most Scandinavians, including Danes,  had surnames formed from their father’s given name. Thus, surnames of children could well be different than those of their parents and grandparents’ surnames could be something else entirely.

Here is an example, using my Adams line:

Thomas Adams, born 1783 was the son of John Adams
Daniel Adams, born 1810 was the son of Thomas Adams
Calvin Adams, born 1843 was the son of Daniel Adams
Charles Adams, born 1877 was the son of Daniel Adams
Vernon Adams, born 1899 was the son of Charles Adams

Now, searching in U.S. or Canadian records means I am hunting for Adams families. If these ancestors were Danish, I would be searching for the following people:

Thomas Johnsen
Daniel Thomsen
Calvin Danielsen
Charles Calvinsen
Vernon Charlesen (Carlsen)

Female siblings of these men would be Johnsdatter, Thomsdatter, etc. By the mid 1800’s, though, many of the females just took the “son” in their surname so they would also be, say, Johnsen. The surnames literally mean “son of whoever” and “daughter of whoever.”

This naming system makes research a bit more difficult because there are many more Jensens, Thomsens, etc. running around than there are Stufflebeans and Tarboxes. Layered on top of this naming system are military names or surnames added by craftsmen, which signified some social status. The military quickly realized there were too many men serving with the same name so some were given a surname to add to their own name. I’ve been told “Molin,” my Swedish line that emigrated to Denmark, is a common military surname.

My Jens Jensen was a master craftsman and added the surname “Lundqvist” and was then known as Jens Jensen Lundqvist, but his father was plain old “Jensen.”

I hadn’t had to deal with the patronymic system too much because my first steps into Scandinavian research included Jensen (who became Lundqvist), Bruun (Brown) and Molin.

That changed a couple of generations deeper into Danish records.

Now I am ready to talk about Margrethe Bruun, my 2x great grandmother. Margrethe was born on 1 May 1843 and baptized on 4 August 1843 in Flade, Hjorring, Denmark.

Flade is in the very northern region of Denmark and, today, is a small town with about 1200 people bordering Frederikshavn.

Margrethe was the daughter of Niels Thomsen Bruun and Ane Amalie Christensdatter Moller. Notice the double surnames of each parent- I was already beginning to worry about finding records.

Her father, Niels, was a fisherman who married “Amalie  Moller” on 1 November 1842 in Flade. Only one other birth/baptismal record was found for Niels and Amalie, that of son Peter, born 13 April 1845, also in Flade.

Niels Thomsen Bruun apparently died before 24 October 1847, when Amalie married (2) Jens Marinus Hansen. No death record or probate has been found for Niels Thomsen Bruun. Being a fisherman, it is possible that he died at sea and no death record, which was actually a burial record, was recorded in the village church records.

Between 1848 and 1859, Jens and Amalie had four children – Niels Christian, Bolette Marie, Julie Hansine Amalie and Ernst Alfred, so Margrethe had a number of half siblings.

I know little else about her childhood, but often wondered how she met her future husband, Frits Wille Oscar Emil Jensen, son of my very difficult to find ancestor, Johannes Jensen. When I was able to track the Jensens to Johannes’ chosen retirement locale, the answer was easy. The Jensens left Copenhagen when Johannes retired from the military and moved to Saeby, also in Hjorring County. Saeby is only about 20 miles from Frederikshavn.

I have no photos of Margrethe or her husband, Frits, even though they lived well into the era of photography, had access to photographers in Calais, Maine, if not in Denmark, and I have a picture of their daughter, Anna Elisabeth, my great grandmother. I wonder if Anna’s husband, Hartwell T. Coleman, threw away their photos after Anna died? I know he was unhappy that Frits never got a job while the families lived together and after Anna died in 1916, he tossed Frits out of his house. Maybe any existing photos went out the door, too??

I am getting a little ahead of myself, though, so I will backtrack to Denmark.

Margrethe Bruun married Frits Wille Oscar Emil Jensen on 12 October 1866 in Margrethe’s home village of Flade. Frits and Margrethe were the parents of either four or five children and, sadly, only two children lived to adulthood. Even sadder is the fact that the two who lived to adulthood died as fairly young adults.

I have found records for the following children:

1. Anna Elisabeth, born 30 September 1872, Frederiksberg, Denmark; died 4 March 1916, Calais, Washington, Maine. Anna bled to death during surgery performed on her in the family kitchen!
2. Ida Julie, born 4 June 1876, Frederiksberg, Denmark; died 19 July 1876, Frederiksberg, Denmark
3. Henry Robert, born 10 March 1878, Herstedvester, Denmark; died 16 May 1916, Calais, Washington, Maine. Henry was unmarried and died of tuberculosis.
4. Elfrida Ingeborg, born 2 November 1879, Herstedvester, Denmark; died young.

There might be a fifth child, also named Elfrida, born about 1882. I say might be because the Jensens’ emigration record in Copenhagen shows a child Elfrida, aged 11/12 months old. However, I have found no burial record in Denmark for Elfrida, born in 1879, or a baptismal record for a second Elfrida born to Frits and Margrethe. It is also possible that the age was incorrectly noted for Elfrida and that she was actually 5 years old.

Source: Danish Emibas Records

In any case, neither Elfrida survived to adulthood as my grandmother, Hazel, said her mother, Anna Elisabeth, only had one brother.  Of the four or five children born to Frits and Margrethe, only Anna, their firstborn, has descendants.

What happened to Margrethe? For many years, I had no idea what became of Margrethe, other than she had died before 1900, when Frits was enumerated in Calais, Maine as a widower.

In 1996, Vital Records from the Eastport Sentinel of Eastport, Maine 1818-1900 was published by Picton Press. This book of compiled abstracts of newspaper vital records held the secret of when Margrethe died.

On page 450, I found an entry for “Margrethe P. Johnson”:

Eastport Sentinel 1818-1900
Death of Margrethe Johnson

Deaths in Calais: 10 November 1890, Margrethe P. Johnson

There is no recorded death record for Margrethe Johnson in Calais and I have not found any burial record for her, but it is quite certain that she was buried in Calais.

What became of husband Frits Johnson? The family likely left Copenhagen in 1884 for high hopes of a better life in North America. In reality, daughter Elfrida died young, wife Margrethe died at the age of 47 years old, cause unknown to me. Adult children Anna and Henry died within about nine weeks of each other in 1916. Frits, himself, died on 24 November 1920, in Calais, Maine and was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Calais Cemetery.

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