Category Archives: Jensen-Johnson

Traumatic Twists and Turns to Uncover 27 April 1810

I poured my heart and soul into finding Johannes Jensen. Not only was Scandinavia my 30 year brick wall, but even when I crashed through to find the family in Copenhagen, Johannes’s story was still deeply buried. Without the hand holding and help of the Scandinavian staff, who welcomed me like an old friend each time I appeared in Salt Lake City, I don’t think I would ever have found him.

I have no pictures of Johannes as he died on 9 April 1865 in the small town of Saeby in Hjorring County, Denmark, 18 days shy of his 55th birthday. I doubt that he ever even had his picture taken.

In spite of the tough hand that life dealt to him, he grew up to be a respected citizen and provided his family with a stable home life, something that he never, ever had.

I have written prolifically about Johannes Jensen. The short version of his story is that he was given up for adoption. You’ll have to follow the links if you’d like to learn more about the energy and resources it took to uncover his origins and learn who his parents were. The 7-part series contain some of the very first posts I wrote in January and February of 2014.

Part 1 – The Long Saga to Find Anna Elisabeth Johnson’s Family

Part 2 – The 1980 Research Brick Wall

Part 3 – Fast Forward Danish Research to 2011

Part 4 – Some Success in Copenhagen

Part 5 – Searching Danish Military Records

Part 6 – Thinking Outside the Box to Assemble the Puzzle Pieces

Part 7 – Questions Answered, More Created

Danish Laegdsruller or Military Levying Rolls

Danish Military Records, Part 2

Another Trip to Salt Lake – Finding Jens Jensen Lundqvist

I wasn’t content with finding Johannes’s family, I dearly wanted to walk where he walked and to see a glimpse of where he lived his life. We were lucky enough to take a transatlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Amsterdam in the spring of 2014.

My husband knew I had ulterior motives – that was as close as I could get to Copenhagen and I wasn’t about to be so near and NOT continue on, so we flew to Copenhagen.

There, my curiosity was satisfied. These posts are about my journey around Copenhagen.

Copenhagen Discoveries

Johannes Jensen at Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Johannes Jensen, Company Fiddler and Drummer

Johannes, it took decades  plus another two years of countless hours reading hundreds of pages of records to find you , but I did.

Today, your family is thinking of you on the 206th anniversary of your birth.





Researching an Oops!

Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors challenge for this week focuses on an “oops.” The suggestion was made that the “oops” be in relation to a research error, but I am following a different path.

My “oops” is the kind of oops where there is an unexpected addition to the family. My attention is still firmly set on the Jensen-Molin family, a brick wall which began to crack open four years ago after 30+ years of no new information. I’ve written extensively about the trials and tribulations of finding my 2x great grandfather Frits Wille Oscar Emil Jensen’s family in Denmark.

That research led to his father, Johannes Jensen, who was given up for adoption soon after his 27 April 1810 birth at the Unwed Mothers’ Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark.

I think about Johannes often and wonder what circumstances led his mother, Kirsten Jorgensdatter, to give up her son to another family.

Today, my reflections will be from the points of view of Johannes’ mother from the perspective of the era in which they lived.

First, in 1750, the Danish king decreed that Den Kongelige Fødselstiftelse be established in Copenhagen. This was the beginning of the unwed mothers’ hospital, which continued its task until the early 1900s. There were many babies being abandoned in the street by mothers who had no prenatal care and no way to care for them so the government stepped in to provide this service.

Den Kongelige Fødselstiftelse Today

The original hospital building still stands today, although it is now an office building. That is me standing in front of it when we visited Copenhagen last year.

 I only was able to discover the names of Johannes Jensen’s parents due to an unusual notation in his birth record. Women who came to this hospital could remain anonymous if they so wished and their babies’ hospital records were kept separately from their own.

JohannesJensenDenKglFodsBirth27Apr1810 copy

From this record, which is difficult to read, you can see that Johannes was the 160th baby born in the hospital that year. The number in the right hand column, 574, is the corresponding file number for his mother.

His mother’s record is actually three pages long, but it is the third page which gives the most important information.

Kirsten Jorgensdatter’s Record

According to the first two pages, Kirsten chose to remain anonymous in 1810 when she gave birth to Johannes. Shortly afterwards, she agreed to give him up to the wife of Master Tanner Zinn, who lived nearby, likely with the expectation that Johannes would receive care and learn the tanning trade at the appropriate time. I researched the Zinn family – Mr. Zinn died before Johannes was five years old and his widow had a child of her own to raise.

I can’t imagine what a kindergarten aged Johannes must have thought. He may well have understood that the Zinns were not his natural parents, but they provided the only home he had ever known.

I have never been able to find a confirmation record for Johannes, even though it appears he spent most of his life in Copenhagen, but I suspect that Mrs. Zinn sent him to the Copenhagen orphanage.

However, his mother was still living nearby – did he ever know that? I doubt it, but not only was Kirsten living close to him, she must have been aware of his circumstances, but did not take him back.

The proof of this is in the comments added (image above), most unusually, to the hospital record created when she gave birth. Ten years later, in 1820, a notation was made that not only gave her name, it also indicated her age, that she lived in the neighborhood WITH the child’s father, who agreed to provide a suit of clothing for him.

If Johannes had been placed with another master, the master would have been responsible for providing food and clothing for him as he grew up. An orphanage, on the other hand, would certainly try to obtain some kind of support for a child if they knew the parents were nearby.

What is known of Kirsten Jorgensdatter’s circumstances? She was born about 1780, probably in Sondersup, Soro, Denmark. Being about 30 years old when she gave birth, she was not what would be considered a young mother. I also have found no evidence that she gave birth to any other children, although if she again gave birth anonymously, it would be impossible to find the children without knowing their names and exact date of birth. Even then, if her name was not mentioned in her own record, she could not be identified.

What became extremely clear in the 1820 notation was that Kirsten AND his father both knew where Johannes was and of his circumstances. Yet, it seems that Johannes was not brought home to live with his parents.

A further search of Copenhagen’s church books turned up a marriage on 13 August 1824 at Vor Frelser Church for Jens Jensen Lundqvist and Kirsten Jorgensdatter. The bride’s age matched the age given for Johannes’ mother in 1820. Johannes, then, was 14 years old when his parents finally married.

Jens and Kirsten obviously had a long term relationship going for years before they married, at least back to the summer of 1809 when Johannes would have been conceived.

Jens Jensen, later Lundqvist, was from Helsingor, a town about 25 miles north of Copenhagen. Jens had been married before he met Kirsten, but his wife, Inger Andersdatter, died on 12 July 1809 in Helsingor. Why Jens was in Copenhagen around the time of her death is not known. Perhaps he had a quick affair with Kirsten during that summer visit and then returned to Helsingor? What is certain is that he and Inger were the parents of two daughters, Kierstine and Bodil, born in 1802 and 1805 and of one son, Jens Andersen Lundqvist, born Christmas Eve in 1808.

Whether Jens knew of Kirsten’s pregnancy at the time is not known either. Thus, from her point of view, she was 30, unmarried and facing the responsibility of raising a child on her own. Kirsten may have decided that her baby would have a better life being raised by someone else. The Zinns would provide a home and care for her child and her son would learn a trade which would provide a living.

I found it a bit shocking that a marriage record turned up for Jens Jensen Lundqvist exactly one week after the birth of Johannes. On 4 May 1810, he married Anna Dorthea Gyse. At the age of 43 when she married, Anna apparently had no children of her own so was the stepmother to Jens’ three children.

Did Kirsten know that Jens remarried in 1810? Did she keep in touch with him? Did they have an ongoing relationship between 1810 when he married Anna Dorthea and 1820, when the hospital record noted that Kirsten was living with Johannes’s father? What can be ascertained is that Kirsten and Jens kept in touch with each other in some way. Otherwise, unless by coincidence, how would they find each other after a ten year interval? Was Kirsten a  girlfriend down in Copenhagen while Jens was married to Inger and/or Anna? There is no way to answer that question either.

Church records have turned up no other marriage records for Kirsten and no burial record has yet been found for her either. Did she leave Jens at some point after their marriage? It is possible, but when Jens’s death and burial was entered in the church register on 22 December 1839, still at Vor Frelser Church where he married, his marital status was not noted.

From what I have read, there was no particular stigma against an unmarried woman having a child and I am having a difficult time not judging Kirsten and Jens to some degree for turning their backs on their son. Kirsten turning her child over to a family whose head would teach her son a trade is very understandable and she likely thought his future would be much brighter than with her.

What is much harder to understand is the knowledge that not one, but both parents knew of Johannes’s circumstances ten years later yet chose to keep him out of their own lives. Jens was a carpenter by trade so he made a comfortable living. He had three children of his own. Did he not want any more? Was he aware of Johannes’s existence before 1820? Or perhaps Kirsten wanted no children of her own. More questions that can’t be answered.

I’ve also wondered about Johannes’ take on the cards that life dealt him. I do know that just before his 16th birthday, he entered the army, which became his career. I also know that while he had no middle name, his only son had four given names in a time period when children were given anywhere from one to three names. I think he wanted Frits to know he was “somebody” with a father who loved him. I also know that of all the given names of his children, there is not a Jens nor a Kirsten among them.


A Thought About Missing Marriage Records

Recently, I have read several family stories where the writer commented that he/she has been unable to find a marriage record, but that the couple in question married “before (whatever year), when their first child was born.”

I’d like to share three examples of having to spread the parameters far and wide when searching for marriage records in my own family history journey.

1. FamilySearch has now indexed baptismal and marriage records for Copenhagen, Denmark, but just a few years ago, I had to do the same search by hand, reading rolls of microfilm for the various parishes. Johannes Jensen, my long time brick wall, was married to Johanne Elisabeth Molin and was the head of a household with the two adults plus three young children. The oldest, Wilhelmine Amalie, was born in July 1840 in Copenhagen.

I had no marriage date or record for Johannes and Johanne so I searched parish records through 1840, looking for their marriage. Nothing was found. However, there was a gap in births between Wilhelmine and Emilie, born in May 1843, also in Copenhagen.

The neighborhood in which they lived was in the old section of Copenhagen and records for this family were found both at Trinitatis Church and Garnison’s Church. I decided to search baptismal records at both churches for an infant who might have died young between 1840 and 1843. There was a record for another child found in the records at Trinitatis Church:

Last Line “Stillborn”

The last line of this cropped page is dated 8 May 1842. In the commentary to the right, it identifies mother Johanne Elisabeth Molin and the REPUTED father, Johannes Jensen!

I then searched up to 1845 for a marriage record. None was found at Trinitatis, but Garnisons Church, where their other children were all baptized, had their marriage record. This couple didn’t marry until 31 August 1842. Lesson learned to keep searching for the record in a date range that is after the birth of the first child.

2. Dave’s Abraham Dulworth has been a bit difficult to pin down in many records, too. His eldest child, Matilda Jane, was born about 1867 probably in Cumberland County, Kentucky. It took a while before I found her living with her mother and grandmother in 1870 – not with her father. Mary Jane Adams was her mother. She and Abraham apparently had somewhat of an up and down relationship through the years. They had ten children born between 1867 and 1894, but, again, for the longest time I could find no marriage record.

When I searched anew many years later, I found a marriage record for them in Clay County, Tennessee, where they had sometimes lived. They married on 1 February 1883, after the births of at least four of their children.

3. A collateral line includes Helen Marr Blyther born in Calais, Washington, Maine in 1842. I found a marriage record for her to Charles Henry Wright in Providence Rhode Island on 17 June 1887. However, this seemed odd because Charles was the father of her two children, born in 1877 and 1884, both in Boston, Massachusetts. They were both born in Maine, so they moved around a fair number of times. I knew very little about Helen Blyther, aside from the census records in Maine. I knew the family had ties to New Brunswick so I turned to one of my favorite websites, the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB).

Blyther is an uncommon name in that area of Maine and Canada and I soon found there was a bit more to this story. Helen had apparently married a Mr. Merrill sometime between 1870 and 1875, when a legal notice was published announcing that she was reverting to her former name of Helen Blyther. There was also a marriage announcement in the St. John newspaper in May 1876, when Helen married Charles Wright there. Now I had two marriages for Helen, both to the same man. The puzzle was quickly solved when the next newspaper notice, filed by Mrs. Charles Wright (not Helen!), announced that he was a bigamist and legally married to her!

I found no other resolution to this problem, but Charles and Helen remained together, as far as I can tell. I’ve wondered if Charles was never divorced from the first Mrs. Wright and that the 1887 marriage in Providence was triggered by the death of that Mrs. Wright. I have not been able to determine exactly who wife #1 was or when she died.

The moral of the story here is to think outside the box when looking for elusive marriage records. You never know what you might find.