Category Archives: Copenhagen DK

Copenhagen Discoveries

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The family origins of my great great grandfather, Frits Wille Oscar Emil Johnson, had been my brick wall for thirty years, in spite of the fact that my grandmother, Hazel Coleman, knew Frits, her grandfather, and knew that her mother’s family hailed from Copenhagen. I have already written about how I picked up the family trail, proving that they were actually the Jensen family and that they did, in fact, live in the city proper of Copenhagen. In April, my husband Dave and I took a cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Amsterdam. Besides the fact that we like to cruise and it was a great price, I had an ulterior motive. I decided that this was going to be the year I visited Denmark and planned out all the places in Copenhagen that I wanted to visit. From Amsterdam, we took a short flight to Copenhagen and got settled in. Yes, we did the tourist stop visits – the Little Mermaid and the various castles, museums and palaces, but the important places to me were the places that were part of the daily life of the Jensen family.

The first stop on the Jensen tour was Amaliegade #25. This house was built in 1755-1757 as the home of Lauritz de Thurah, a noted Danish architect who lived from 1706-1759, although he never lived in it.  The house was quite a mansion, even by today’s standards. Today, it is a somewhat unassuming building full of small offices.  However, from the late 1700’s until the early 1900’s, it became known as Den Kongelige Fødselsstiftelse, the Royal Birth Foundation, begun by Queen Juliane Marie, providing care for unwed mothers-to-be and their newborn children.

On 27 April 1810, Johannes Jensen began life in that hospital and a few days later, after he was baptized there, he was given up by his mother to the wife of Master Tanner Carl Henrich Zinn. As I put the pieces of Johannes’ life together, I wondered why he joined the Danish army a month before he turned 16 and, although I have found out a lot about his life, I have had to speculate about his life before he became a career soldier. His mother, Kirstine Jorgensdatter, likely believed she found a good life with a future for her son. Johannes was to be apprenticed to Mr. Zinn and learn the tanning trade.  There were few people named Zinn in Denmark at that time, so it was not long before I found the master tanner and his family.  However, Mr. Zinn died before 1816, when his widow buried their young son. Mrs. Zinn did not remarry and she died a few years later. No record has been found of Johannes between his birth in 1810 and a new notation written in 1820 in his mother’s record at Den Kongelige Fødselsstiftelse. This notation gave his mother’s name, her age and stated that she was currently living with Johannes’ father, who agreed to provide a suit of clothing for Johannes. No confirmation record has been found for Johannes, although I have searched every extant parish record in Copenhagen for it. I believe, but can’t yet prove, that after Mr. Zinn died, Mrs. Zinn couldn’t afford to care for him and sent him to the orphanage. Confirmation records for the orphanage for the years in which Johannes would most likely have been confirmed have been lost. It might also explain why the father was providing some clothing for Johannes ten years after he was born and given up for adoption. It would definitely explain why a fifteen year old would be joining the army. Military life would provide Johannes with food, clothing, shelter, a family of sorts, and an income. He eventually was promoted to the rank of sergeant; Johannes was the company drummer and fiddler.

Johannes was not the only member of his family to be born at Den Kongelige Fødselsstiftelse. I had been able to locate all the baptismal records for his children, with the exception of his eldest daughter, Wilhelmine Amalie, born on 5 July 1840. It wasn’t until I found the children’s confirmation records in Saeby, Hjorring County, where Johannes retired, that I discovered that Wilhelmine had also been born there. Johannes and wife Johanne Elisabeth Molin didn’t marry until three months after the stillborn birth of their second child in April 1842. Wilhelmine was born, baptized and vaccinated at the same hospital where her father had been born.

The picture in this post is the entrance to the door into the former hospital, Den Kongelige Fødselsstiftelse, at Amaliegade 25.

Next stops on my Copenhagen family tour were Garnisons Church and Trinitatis Church, where Johannes Jensen married Johanne Elisabeth Molin and where their other children were all baptized.

Back Again on the Genealogy Trail

I am back! When I decided to begin a blog, I carefully thought out what I wanted to accomplish and when I wanted to begin actually posting items and planned to write regularly. First, to back up a bit, I decided to begin the blog in January of this year as our house had been up for sale during the last six months of 2013. By December 31, it hadn’t sold so we took it off the market. January was the perfect time to get my blog up and running since moving house was not going to happen in 2014, or so I thought. The best laid plans don’t always turn out the way we expect! The last people who looked at our house in December came back in February, made an offer and our house was sold. It also meant we needed to find a new place to live AND we had a trip to Europe planned in April. Blog posts slipped down the list of things I needed to get done. Although our actual move won’t happen until August, we do have a new home on the horizon and I actually have time to get back to blogging.

My first new post will be related to the trip we took in April because we had a four day stay in Copenhagen, Denmark, home to my past brick wall – Johannes Jensen and his family.

Part 7 – Questions Answered, More Created

The story is almost complete, but there are yet more surprises to come.

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Above is a not very good image of the birth register page proving that on 27 April 1810, two male babies were born there, one named Nikolaj and the second named Johannes. By the time I had gotten this far with the quest to find Johannes Jensen, all the ladies at the Scandinavian desk in Salt Lake were checking on my progress. Everyone agreed that the odds were strongly in my favor that this baby, Johannes, was my 3x great grandfather. All the pieces fit together and there were no pieces that didn’t fit. They particularly felt that the military list with the notation that the father’s name was not recorded when all the other men had their fathers’ names or a note that the father was deceased indicated that Johannes’ parents were unmarried at the time he was born.

My Danish researcher was fabulous (not inexpensive, but wonderful) as he followed up with my frantic overnight email asking if he could retrieve the mother’s record from the Copehagen archives before I left Salt Lake. The next day, I found the following:

JohannesBirthMotherRecordPage1JohannesBirthMotherRecordPage2

Seven lines up from the bottom of the left image is another recording of the birth of Johannes on 27 April 1810. The right image is the other side of the ledger, but the page of the most interest is the one below.

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The top half of the page pertains to Johannes. It states that when he was a few days old, he was given to the wife of master tanner Zinn. However, there is an additional notation made in 1820 – ten years after the birth – which is very unusual. It said that the mother, Kirsten Jorgensdatter, who was about 30 when she had Johannes (so about 40 in 1820), was currently residing with the child’s father, who agreed to provide a suit of clothes for him! It also gave the neighborhood where she lived which is in Vor Frelser Church parish.

I scurried off to read the marriage and death records for Vor Frelser. In it, I found that on 13 August 1824, Kirsten Jorgensdatter, aged 44, married Jens Jensen Lundqvist. You can bet that I did a great big happy dance! With the Danish patronymic system of a baby’s surname being the father’s given name + “sen” or “datter” attached, Johannes’ father would have been named Jens. There are no other Kirsten Jorgensdatters or Jorgensens in the parish at that time and her age exactly matches the “about” age given in the Fodselstiftelse record.  This record was not easy to read. My new found best friends at the Scandinavian help desk spent the better part of a day with overlapping workers all giving opinions about their deciphering of the hospital text. I could not have done this by myself.

It only took 34 years to unravel much of the story of the Johnson family who emigrated to Calais, Maine in 1883. I believe I know much more about Johannes’s parents than he ever did, but, even so, there are more questions to answer:

1. Only one Jens Jensen Lunqvist has been found in the indexed records on familysearch.org. He appears to be one and the same man. Johannes was born on 27 April 1810. On 4 May 1810, Jens Jensen Lundqvist married his second wife, Anne Dorthea Gyse in Helsingor, Denmark. Did he know that Kirsten Jorgensdatter had just given birth to his son?

2. Master tanner Zinn was Carl Henrich Zinn who appears to be the Zinn buried at Skt. Peter’s Church on 31 August 1814 as his wife is referred to as the widow of tanner Zinn in another church record a short time later. It isn’t likely that his wife kept the child who was to be apprenticed when she was now a widow with her own children to feed. What happened to Johannes? He enlisted in the army one month before he turned 16. I believe he may have been sent to the orphanage when he was four years old. Another path to research.

3. Who are the parents of Kirsten Jorgensdatter? She was from a village near Slagelse in Soro County, as noted in the hospital record. There are several possible girls born in the right time frame to be my Kirsten.

I feel like I know Johannes Jensen a little more now. While the establishment’s expectations of marriage before children and having baptismal sponsors for your children didn’t seem to be important to Johannes, I think he used the unusually lengthy names he gave his children to give them the sense of belonging to a family that he never had.

In a couple of weeks, I will be heading to Roots Tech 2014 in Salt Lake City. Guess where every spare minute will be spent?

I will be posting many other stories about research successes that I’ve had. Some will take several posts to tell (although the Jensen story is, by far, the most complicated) while others will be shared in one post. I hope you will come back to read more about my genealogical adventures. I also hope that my experiences will help you to look at your own brick walls with new eyes.