This is a beautiful cabinet card portrait by L. H. Gram of Thisted, Refs, Denmark, whose stamp features a quaint floral pattern. Kathrine Christensen of Vestervig, Thisted, Refs, Denmark, pictured here circa 1905, wears a dress with a high “officer’s” collar, set off by a simple looped chain necklace.1 A fine decorative fabric with crocheted lace trim is draped over her shoulders, something like a shawl or an open collar. Her seemingly abundant hair is piled elegantly in the style of the time, with a few soft curls at her forehead.
Kathrine gazes just beyond the camera, her expression serious. In the summer of 1906, she would leave Denmark behind – saying farewell forever to her father and three of her siblings – to join five other siblings and their families in Iowa.2 This photograph was previously in the possession of her young niece, who immigrated to America with her parents a year before Kathrine.3 Perhaps Kathrine sent it along as a keepsake to be shared with her older siblings in advance of her own arrival; at least one of her sisters had not seen her since she was a toddler.4 It’s possible that additional copies remained in Denmark with her family and friends.
I have only a few photographs of Kathrine, my mother’s grandmother, and never would have seen this one in particular if it weren’t for my Public Member Tree on Ancestry.com. Several months ago, I heard from a member of the family of Kathrine’s aforementioned niece – a niece I hadn’t known existed until I found her in the records and added her to my tree a few days previously – who had come into possession of a collection of her family photos.5 This treasure was among them.
1 Joan Severa, Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1995), 526.
2 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 February 2014), manifest, S.S. Cedric, Liverpool, England to New York, arriving 22 July 1906, Kathrine Kristensen; citing National Archives microfilm T715, roll 744.
3 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 October 2013), manifest, S.S. Helig Olav, Liverpool, England to New York, arriving 24 July 1905, Cecilie M. Pedersen; citing National Archives microfilm T715, roll 602. Cecelia Marie Christensen Petersen was Kathrine’s niece.
4 “Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 30 Oct 2013), Anton Mikkelson and Elsa Marie Kristensen, 1889. Else Marie Christensen was Kathrine’s oldest sister.
5 Nicole Kilanowski to Melanie Frick, Ancestry.com message, 7 August 2013, “Louis and Anna Christensen,” Christensen Family File; privately held by Melanie Frick.