Randy Seaver has a new Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge for us this week – Which ancestor do you admire the most?
I didn’t have to think twice about this one. For me, it’s my notoriously difficult-to-research 3X great grandfather, Johannes Jensen. I actually mentioned him yesterday in my post remembering Ruth Ellen Maness, as she was the guiding light who helped me unlock the story of his life.
Johannes Jensen was born on 27 April 1810 in Copenhagen, Denmark to Kirsten Jorgensdatter. As she was unmarried, she received care and gave birth to her only known child at Den Kongelige Fodselstiftelse, otherwise known as the The King’s Hospital for Unwed Mothers. The building is still standing today, although it is now used for offices.
At the age of two days, Johannes was given over to the wife of the Master Tanner Zinn, to be raised in their family and, presumably to be taught the tanning trade when he reached the appropriate age.
However, the master tanner died by the time that Johannes was five years old. Mrs. Zinn apparently didn’t want to be responsible for little Johannes on her own and I strongly suspect that he was sent to the Copenhagen Orphanage, where he remained until a month before he turned 16.
In March 1826, he joined the army and became the company fiddler and drummer. In that time period, an orphan wouldn’t have many career paths open to him, aside from the military. Johannes must have had an aptitude for music (which was passed on down to my grandmother) and his life’s work was the army.
He was stationed at Rosenborg Castle, where the crown jewels are housed and lived in the barracks on the castle grounds; his job was likely keeping time for the changing of the guard. Eventually, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant.
Rosenborg Castle Barracks and Gardens
Johannes married a Swedish girl, Johanne Elisabeth Molin, in Copenhagen and they became the parents of six children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Of those four, three married and had children of their own.
In 1854, Johannes retired from the army and the family moved to Saeby in Hjorring County in northern Denmark. I have no idea why he chose that place or how he knew of it – perhaps he was sent there on temporary assignment and liked it.
Johannes was definitely dealt the short straw in life, but he created a career and family life from his bleak beginnings. I don’t think he ever had any idea who his parents were, but his birth record has a very unusual addition to it, written in 1820, when he was ten years old. It says that his mother still lived in the neighborhood and was living with his reputed father, who agreed to provide a suit of clothing for him.
That reinforces my belief that he lived in the orphanage after Mr. Zinn died, but I find it heartbreaking that his parents never wanted him even when they were aware of his living circumstances.
Johannes died 18 days before his 55th birthday on 9 April 1865, but I have not found any cause of death. My 2X great grandfather, Frits Wille Oscar Emil Jensen, Johannes’s only son dutifully reported his father’s death to the authorities.