Copenhagen Discoveries


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.

Black Sheep Isaac Sturgell and His Family – Continued

After I discovered that Mary Sturgell was now Mary Cookman living in Peoria, IL, I started checking IL records. It appears that when Isaac and Mary either separated or divorced (no divorce records have been found, but the Civil War was going on around them), the boys apparently stayed with Isaac in MO, while the girls, Margaret and Mary, born in 1861 in AR, went with their mother. Baby girl M.J., born about 1848, likely died young. Amanda, born 1850, is with the family in 1860, but not found after that time. Depending on when Isaac and Mary separated, Amanda could have been 15 or 16 years old and married by 1866. Isaac didn’t marry Susannah Douthit Alberty until 1867. However, I have never found a trace of Amanda after 1860 in AR, MO or IL.

Why did Mary go to Peoria, IL? She had family there and likely went back to them possibly first to OH or else directly to IL.

Mary married (2) probably William J. Wade, 12 Jan 1869, Tazewell Co., IL (3) Benjamin Cookman, on 28 July 1877 in Peoria Co., IL. Ben died of lupus in the Alms House in 1885. (4) George Jacob Fouts, 7 Mar 1889, Peoria Co., IL.

A William J. Wade married a Mary Sturgeon in 1869; the timing and place are right, as Tazewell County is right next to Peoria County and Mary stated on her marriage certificate to George Fouts that it was her 4th marriage. She and the girls haven’t been found in 1870, nor has William J. Wade. However, a William J. Wade married again in Tazewell County on 8 OCt 1877 to Elizabeth Jones. Perhaps Mary divorced a second time.  George Fouts died 26 Nov 1894 in Fulton Co., IL. His obituary makes no mention of a widow and no further record has been found for Mary Bandy Sturgell Cookman Fouts.

Isaac had quite the life after Mary left him. His sons Andrew Jackson (AJ) and George apparently wandered the Ozarks with him. In fact, my husband’s great grandfather, Abijah, is the only one who stayed put in Barry County and married only one time.

I mentioned that Susannah Douthit Alberty was Isaac’s second wife. The divorce packet contained the details of their acrimonious divorce and I have to say I clearly stand with Susannah. Isaac states that Susannah left him on 17 Feb 1873; the divorce was settled in October 1874. If the copies were a bit darker, I would post some of the pages of allegations. The only allegation that Isaac makes against Susannah is that she left him. She, in turn, gave testimony and had supporting witnesses that declared Isaac squandered the little money she received from her first husband John Alberty’s estate so that Susannah had nothing left. He refused to provide clothing for her or any of the family (including her minor children) and left only cornbread for them to eat. Isaac, according to the testimony, openly declared that he would not work to make a living. Further, he not only became surly and obstinate, he brought home and kept a lewd woman in the house with her and the children!

As a result of this testimony, the judge found in favor of the defendant – Susannah – and awarded her $75 in alimony. Isaac didn’t have the cash to pay her so there is a note written by someone else for Susannah to the clerk of Barry County Court stating that she received the gray mare from Isaac in lieu of the $75. Susannah was granted the right to marry again, which she didn’t do.

Nothing was said in the court papers about Isaac having the right to remarry, but that he did. He, A.J. and George traveled through the Ozarks. Isaac may have actually walked or hitched a ride because I found him on several Arkansas personal property tax lists and he was never taxed for more than a few pigs, never for a horse. Isaac married (3) Nancy R. Fields, 27 Apr 1876, Boone Co., AR. There is a Nancy Fields living alone in Boone Co., born about 1831 in TN who is probably this woman. One year later, on 1 Aug 1877, he married (4) Nancy P.  (maybe Hensley) Treadwell Cooper in Pope Co., AR. That marriage apparently didn’t last long either as Nancy Treadwell is living with a married daughter and son-in-law in Pope County in 1880.

Andrew Jackson Sturgell was busy getting married himself. He married (1) Mary Fowler, 23 Feb 1871, Barry Co., MO (2) Delanie E.R. Ketchum, 1 Jan 1874, also in Barry County (3) Sarah J. Davis, 24 Feb 1875 and (4) Mary Catherine Turney, 2 July 1876, Pope County, AR. Mary was widowed and living in her father’s home in 1880 so A.J. likely died before that time. He hasn’t been found in any record after his 1876 marriage, but with the divorces and remarriages in this family, I guess it is possible that they split up.

George W. Sturgell married (1) Caroline Holmes, 31 Oct 1878, Van Buren Co., AR and (2) Hannah Tinney, 5 Jan 1886, Pope Co., AR. Neither George nor Hannah have been found after their 1886 marriage.

While the Sturgells were busy living and marrying in AR, Isaac Sturgell was still the owner of Homestead Act land in Barry County that he acquired after the Civil War. On 30 Nov 1876, Andrew J. and George W. Sturgell gave oath on the final homestead proof that Isaac Sturgell had, from 7 Jan 1870 to the present day of 30 Nov. 1876, lived continuously and made his exclusive home the farm on the land granted by the Homestead Act. (Remember he married Nancy Fields in Benton Co., AR in April 1876.)

So what became of Isaac Sturgell? A very elderly grandchild remembered back in the 1980’s that he was a mean old man. She remembered the children hiding under a bed to get away from him, but he would poke them with a broom handle to get them out.

Isaac hasn’t been found in 1900, but the local Cassville newspapers had several items published about him:

6 Mar 1902 – The Financial Statement of the Barry County Paupers Fund showed J.A. Barnes receiving money for the care of Isaac Sturgill.

12 Nov 1903 – T.W. Brewer received $12 for poor house support of I. Sturgill

12 May 1904 – county warrant for $10 for Isaac Sturgill, poor

4 Aug 1906 – news clipping that Isaac Sturgill, a very old man at the county farm, was very ill.

26 Feb 1909 – Monett Times – Died. Rev. Isaac Sturgill, age 80-85 at County Farm. Buried Oak Hill Cemetery. All children dead, but has grandchildren.

The Sturgell family still in Barry County have an old newspaper obituary in the family Bible, undated that says: “Isaac Sturgle died at the county farm Monday night, aged about 80 years. For a number of years, Mr. Sturgle had been a consumptive and this dreadful disease together with old age made death a welcome visitor to the lonely sufferer.  He was a faithful member of the Baptist church and one of the county’s most worthy charges. He was interred at the Oak Hill cemetery Tuesday afternoon.”

I have been to Oak Hill Cemetery and walked every row, but Isaac is apparently in an unmarked grave, which is consistent with living at the county poor farm. His sons were all dead, as noted in the Monett Times notice; his daughters likely hadn’t seen him for almost 40 years and had their own lives in Illinois.

It turns out there was quite a story to be found after the Civil War.

Genealogy Tips & Family History