Category Archives: Jensen-Johnson

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.

Johannes Jensen, Company Fiddler and Drummer

How do I begin to explain that musical ability was the talent that brought success to the life of Johannes Jensen? I guess I will start at the beginning.

Johannes, no middle name, Jensen is my 3x great grandfather, born 27 April 1810 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Johnson/Jensen family was my brick wall for thirty years. It has only been during the past four years that the wall came crumbling down, bit by bit.

My grandmother, Hazel Coleman Adams, was musically inclined. She had a piano in the basement which she played regularly. I remember her showing me middle C and teaching me to play a simple song like “America,” (My Country ‘Tis of Thee). I have no musical talent whatsoever so my lessons never went further. I have wondered through the years where she got her natural abilities in both music and art.

Now I have an answer and it is Johannes Jensen. I’ve written posts about Johannes and my Danish research multiple times, but I’ve never taken the time to outline what Johannes’s life was really like.

He received only two things from his parents, and they weren’t love and a home. His unwed mother gave birth to him in the Den Kgl. Fodselsstiftelsse, the Hospital for Unwed Mothers established by the Danish king in the 1750’s. Kirsten Jorgensdatter promptly signed rights over to the wife of Master Tanner Zinn.

Entrance to former Unwed Mothers’ Hospital
Copenhagen, Denmark in May 2014

What did he receive from his father, Jens Jensen Lundqvist? More about that in a bit.

Kirsten Jorgensdatter likely thought that baby Johannes would be cared for by the Zinn family and that, when the time came, he would be apprenticed and learn the tanning trade. That was not to be, as Master Zinn died by the time Johannes was five years old.

No records have been found from 1815 until March 1826 when a not-quite- sixteen year old Johannes entered the Danish army. I believe that Mrs. Zinn, with a couple of her own children to feed and raise, probably sent Johannes to the Copenhagen orphanage. No direct records exist in terms of day-to-day lists of its residents.

There are confirmation records – every child would have been baptized and confirmed in that era, regardless of family circumstances. However, much to my chagrin, about a decade’s worth of confirmation records for the orphanage are lost and it is precisely in that time period that Johannes would have been confirmed. A search of confirmation records in all the other parishes in Copenhagen has not turned up any likely candidates to be my Johannes.

Now back to the gift that Johannes received from his father. There is an odd second entry in Johannes’ birth record at the Fodselsstiftelsse. A note was added ten years after he was born, in 1820. This second entry actually names his mother – women could choose to remain anonymous when giving birth at the hospital and Kirsten initially chose to do so. Besides naming Kirsten, her age is given AND it mentions the fact that she is living in the area with the child’s father. The unnamed father agreed to provide one outfit of clothing for Johannes. This is a second clue that makes me think he was living in the orphanage.

Johannes’ entry at top
Note different ink between 1810 & 1820 entries

The relationship between Johannes’s parents was interesting, to say the least. Jens married (1) Inger Andersdatter in Helsingor, Frederiksborg, Denmark on 24 August 1801. They had at least three children together before Inger died on 12 July 1809 in Helsingor. There is no way to know how Jens felt about the loss of his wife, but the timing of Johannes’s birth at the end of April 1810 indicates that he quickly traveled to Copenhagen and had a relationship with Kirsten.

There is also no way to know whether or not Jens was aware that Kirsten was pregnant with his child, but exactly one week after Kirsten gave birth, on 4 May 1810, Jens married  Anna Dorthea Gyse back in Helsingor. Jens and Anna Dorthea had no children together and no burial record has been found for her.

However, the records of Vor Frelser Church in Copenhagen do contain an entry of the marriage of Jens Jensen Lundqvist and Kirsten Jorgensdatter on 13 August 1824.

They obviously maintained a long term on-off relationship. The fact that Jens agreed to provide an outfit of clothing for ten year old Johannes is proof that, by 1820, he was indeed aware that he had a son. However, it doesn’t appear that Jens and Kirsten were interested in claiming any parental rights and I have found no crumbs of information leading me to believe that Johannes ever even knew who his parents were.

No burial record has been found for Kirsten, but Jens died on 22 December 1839 and was buried in Vor Frelser parish. However, his burial record does not indicate if he was married or a widower. It also appears that Johannes was the only child born to Kirsten Jorgensdatter.

At this time in Danish history, children born to unwed mothers, or outright orphans, had little chance to move up the social or economic ladders. A military career was the exception to this situation and this was the path that Johannes chose for his life.

In late March of 1826, a few weeks before his 16th birthday, Johannes entered Danish military service and became a career soldier. Given the circumstances of his early life, it is extremely unlikely that he had any formal musical training.  However, he must have had some innate talent because his military records indicate that he was the company fiddler and drummer. Until modern times, the company musician held an important job as it was their duty to keep the unit marching in order, whether they were on guard duty or heading into battle.

Danish Military Card Index to Underofficers

Notice the left card under “Johannes” is written “Tamb” for “stabstambor” or “drummer.” The card on the right says “Spillemand” or “fiddler.”

Johannes spent his entire career stationed in the old historic area of Copenhagen. The 1840 and 1850 censuses list the street address of each family. Johannes was unmarried in 1840, but his address was the same before and after marriage. He lived in the army barracks at Rosenborg Slot, or Rosenborg Castle.

The barracks were built in the 1600’s and are still used for military housing today.

Army Barracks at Rosenborg Castle

I visited Copenhagen last year and, while I was walking the grounds of Rosenborg Slot, I heard fife and drum-type of music nearby.

Sounds of Music Behind Barracks Wall, left

I was in this garden when I looked around and saw the soldiers’ heads marching by for the Changing of the Guard. How fortuitous that we happened to be at the castle right at that moment! I can see Johannes marching that same path 165 years ago. That was his job.

Being MUSICAL opened a lifetime career for Johannes Jensen, a young boy who had to create his own path to success.

Photos were taken by Dave on our spring 2014 trip.