Maternal Branches in the Family Tree: Johanna Elisabeth Molin (1814-1895)

Johanna Elisabeth Molin definitely qualifies as my least conventional 3X great grandmother, at least when compared with my Rusyn and early American families. In Scandinavian culture, she didn’t live a particularly unusual life at all.

Johanna Elisabeth Molin was the 9th of 11 children born on 12 November 1814 to Hans Niclas Molin and Anna Kjersti Sandberg in the small village of Öved in southern Sweden. Only two of Johanna’s siblings died in infancy, so their home was a busy one.

Discovering Johanna led to my first foray into the magnificent Swedish record, as she was living in Copenhagen, Denmark when I first found her. Danish records, by the way, are pretty terrific, too!

Hans Niclas, rather than being a tenant farmer or soldier, had a more specialized occupation. He was one of the men hired to protect the King’s forests and animals from hunters and poachers.

However, Johanna was to lose both her parents at a young age. Hans Niclas died in 1830 and Anna Kjersti in 1838, at which time there were still four children at home, left to fend for themselves.

Johanna worked as a servant in her teen years and early 20s in the big city of Lund, but after her mother passed away, Johanna sought a new life and made the short trip across the water to Copenhagen, Denmark.

The first record in which Johanna appeared was the 1850 census of Copenhagen, as I was searching for my 2X great grandfather, Frits Wille Oscar E. Johnson, who emigrated to Calais, Washington, Maine. He had reportedly been born in Copenhagen in  May 1845 and that information was proven to be 100% correct.

The Danish census not only enumerates married women by their maiden names, it also notes birth date and place of birth, which made it easy to pick up Johanna before she settled in Copenhagen.

She was married to Johannes Jensen (hence, Frits Americanizing his name to Johnson) and, in 1850, they were the parents of three daughters and one son at home. Johannes was a soldier in the Danish army and the family lived in army barracks next to Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen.

Given that Johannes was born in Copenhagen, the children were born there and the family lived in the city for a number of years, I was quite surprised that I couldn’t find their marriage record.

It wasn’t until the Jensens retired to Saeby, Hjorring, Denmark and I found daughter Wilhelmine’s confirmation record that said she had been baptized at the Hospital for Unwed Mothers in Copenhagen that the light bulb turned on.

It was fairly common for young ladies in Scandinavia to give birth out of wedlock.In fact, the Danish king opened the King’s Hospital for Unwed Mothers in 1765 to combat the high birth rate and poor care for the mothers.

However, Johanna was a bit more untraditional than most as she and Johannes had two children before they married with a third on the way when they finally tied the knot on 31 August 1842 in Copenhagen.

After yet more research, I discovered that Johannes, himself, had been born at the same hospital and given up for adoption when he was two days old.

Although all her children shared Johannes as their father, I have to wonder how she felt, pregnant with a third child, when she and Johannes finally married. Perhaps it was unimportant to her since she and Johannes were living together.

Johannes and Johanna were the parents of six children, all born in Copenhagen:

1. Wilhelmine Amalie, born 5 July 1840; died after 25 March 1904 when she is found on a residents’ list, probably in Copenhagen, Denmark; unmarried
2. Stillborn Daughter, 8 May 1842
3. Emilie Olivia Frederikke, born 18 May 1843; died 6 November 1916, Saeby, Hjorring, Denmark; married Niels Christen Christensen, 16 November 1866, Saeby, Hjorring, Denmark
4. Frits Wille Oscar Emil, born 12 May 1845; died 26 November 1920, Calais, Washington, Maine; married Margrethe Bruun, 9 June 1867, Flade, Hjorring, Denmark
5. Ludovica Josephine Henriette, born 4 June 1847; died after 1911, probably Aalborg, Denmark; married Jens Peter Moller, 28 April 1865, Saeby, Hjorring, Denmark
6. Avilda Eleonora Philipine, born 11 October 1850; died 25 July 1860, Saeby, Hjorring, Denmark

Johannes died at the young age of 55 years on 9 April 1865 in Saeby. Ludovica married less than 3 weeks after her father’s passing, Emilie married in 1866 and Frits in 1867.

Johanna and Wilhelmine lived with Emilie and her family in Saeby in 1870, but both seemed to prefer big city life and they returned to Copenhagen before 1880. However, each lived on their own.

Johanna died on 24 May 1895 in Copenhagen.

In 2013, we had the opportunity to visit Copenhagen and I was pleased to walk in my ancestors’ footsteps. We even viewed, from the street, the apartment which was Johanna’s last home.


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