Tag Archives: Denmark

A (Somewhat Lackluster) Homestead File

When I sent away to the National Archives for a copy of a homestead file, I was sure that I was in for a treat. I was aware that, in addition to the homestead application and final certificate, a homestead entry file would typically include proof documents in the form of testimony from the applicant and two witnesses. I couldn’t wait to read what this testimony would have to say about the home, family, and farm of Jens Madsen Schmidt of Bon Homme County, South Dakota.1 Jens had applied for a homestead on 23 November 1870,2 just months after his arrival from Denmark and less than a decade after the passage of the Homestead Act of 1862.3

As it turned out, I shouldn’t have gotten too excited. Apparently, on 8 June 1877, Luman N. Judd, Register of the Land Office at Springfield, had better things to do than to fill in the three blank lines meant to describe the home of Jens Madsen Schmidt, or the additional three blank lines meant to detail the improvements made upon his land.4 Of course, perhaps Mr. Judd isn’t to blame, and the witnesses – Peter Anderson and John Haase – were either unable to communicate these facts in English or were particularly reticent that day.5 To be fair, these men likely had crops to get back to and saw no reason to belabor the details, especially if they were equally well acquainted with Jens and knew that nothing stood in the way of his patent.

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Jens Madsen Schmidt, Bon Homme County, South Dakota, ca. 1900; digital image 2003, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

All was not lost with the homestead file. I learned that, in 1877, Jens had cultivated about forty acres of land.6 I learned, too, that his inclination to Anglicize his Danish name to James Smith had caused some issues with the paperwork; in 1878, he signed a document swearing that the “correct orthography” of his name was, in fact, Jens Madsen Schmidt.7

Regardless of the details – or lack thereof – of the homestead file, Jens Madsen Schmidt became the proud owner of one hundred and sixty acres of land located in Section 1, Township 93, Range 58 of Bon Homme County, South Dakota.8

If you would like to order your ancestor’s own homestead file, I would suggest beginning with the General Land Office Records of the Bureau of Land Management, where you will be able to locate the necessary information to order the file from the National Archives. I used their online form, and found it quick and easy. Fifty dollars and a few weeks later, perhaps you will find that your ancestor’s neighbors had at least a few things to say about his living situation!

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A Keepsake from Denmark

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Kathrine Christensen, ca. 1905, Thisted, Refs, Denmark; digital image 2013, privately held by Nicole Kilanowski, 2014.

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.

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Tombstone Tuesday: Johanne Marie Larsen

Johanne Marie (Larsen) Walsted of Aalborg, Denmark was sixty-three years old when she immigrated to America in the spring of 1900.1 She traveled alone; her husband of thirty-two years had passed away the year before,2 and most of her children had already left Denmark for brighter opportunities in Iowa and Wisconsin. They had paid for her passage aboard the Norge, and she carried fifteen dollars.3

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Grave of Johanna M. Walsted, 1836-1914, Graceland Cemetery, Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa; image date 2001, privately held by Melanie Frick.

Johanne was christened on 28 September 1836 in Bolle, Nordjylland, Denmark, the daughter of Lars Jensen Bak and Ane Cathrine Christensdatter.4 At the age of thirty, she married Christian Jens Jacobsen Walsted,5 a widower with two young children, Jens Jacob and Lars Marinus Walsted. The couple went on to have seven more children together: Jensine Kathrine, Eskild, Lars Peter, Mandrup, Anna Kathrine, Ellen Eskelline, and Jens Jacob Walsted.6 All but two of the children, the elder Jens Jacob and Eskild, survived to adulthood.7 Christian was a shoemaker, and eventually moved with his family from rural Dronninglund to the city of Aalborg,8 where he died in 1899.9

By the time Johanne made her journey to America, six of her seven surviving children and step-children awaited her arrival. Only her youngest son remained in Denmark; he was to follow two years later.10 In the years to come, Johanne moved between the homes of her children, some of whom she hadn’t seen in more than a decade. She was enumerated in the 1900 U.S. census less than two months after her arrival in the country, at which time she resided with a daughter in Iowa;11 she later joined another daughter in Oklahoma City.12

Johanne’s health may have been poor in her later years; a notation on the ship manifest suggests that she had a deformity of some kind,13 and her death record stated that she suffered from senility.14 Johanne Marie (Larsen) Walsted died at the age of seventy-eight on 3 November 1914 in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa. Services were held at the Danish Lutheran Church, and she was buried at Graceland Cemetery.14

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A Mystery Solved: Identifying a Family Photograph

Last year, my cousin’s wife and I embarked on a combined research effort to track down the descendants of Christian Jens Jacobsen Walsted (1833-1899) of Aalborg, Denmark. Christian, a shoemaker,1 married twice, first to Mariane Jensen,2 and later to Johanne Marie Larsen.3 In all, seven of his children survived to adulthood, and all eventually immigrated to America. In 1900, less than a year after Christian’s death, Johanne joined several of their children in western Iowa.4

This unidentified photograph was shared with my cousin’s wife by one of the many helpful descendants with whom we made contact.5 In all of our hours of research, we had never thought that we might come up with a photograph of our central subjects! Given that this photograph was taken in Aalborg, we immediately felt that it could be Christian and his second wife, Johanne. A librarian at the Museum of Danish America thoughtfully suggested that it might have been taken to commemorate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. This would date it to 1892.6

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Christian Jens Jacobsen and Johanne Marie (Larsen) Walsted, ca. 1892, Aalborg, Denmark; privately held by L.V. [personal information withheld], 2013.

At the time of their anniversary, Christian would have been fifty-eight years old,7 and Johanne would have been fifty-five.8 These seem to be plausible ages for the couple in the photograph, particularly given the gray in the man’s beard. The woman wears a flattering black dress and a headpiece over her hair. Her sleeves are puffed, but not in an exaggerated fashion.9 The man wears a three-piece suit and what appears to be a watch chain. He sits in a finely carved chair at a studio, which, according to the photograph, was located at Slotsgade 15 in Aalborg. A photographer allegedly operated at this location from 1891-1910.10

Later, I would hear from another descendant who possessed an identified copy of this same photograph,11 verifying our suspicion that it was, indeed, a photograph of Christian and Johanne (Larsen) Walsted. Success!

If you have a mystery photograph, be sure to find out if any of your relatives also have a copy. If you are able to locate a copy that is identified, and if the identification matches the clues in the photograph, you’re in luck. However, even if you come across a copy that is not identified, you may be able to narrow down who is in the photograph based on the branch of the family that held it, or who initially passed it down.



SOURCES
1 Abbey of Our Lady Parish (Aalborg, Denmark), Christian Jens Jacobsen Valsted (1899).
2 Dronninglund Parish (Dronninglund, Denmark), Christian Jens Jacobsen Valsted and Mariane Jensen (1863).
3 Dronninglund Parish (Dronninglund, Denmark), Christian Jens Jacobsen Valsted and Johanne Larsen (1867).
4 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 December 2013), manifest, S.S. Norge, Copenhagen to New York, arriving 1 May 1900, Johanne Walsted; citing National Archives microfilm T715, roll 119.
5 J.W. [personal information withheld], to Melanie Frick, e-mail, 27 May 2012, “Photo,” Personal Correspondence, Walsted Family, Frick Research Files; privately held by Frick.
6 M.M. [personal information withheld], The Danish Immigrant Museum [now Museum of Danish America], to Melanie Frick, e-mail, 30 May 2012, “Danish Wedding Photograph,” Personal Correspondence, Walsted Family, Frick Research Files; privately held by Frick.
7 Dronninglund Parish (Dronninglund, Denmark), Christian Jens Jacobsen Valsted and Johanne Larsen (1867).
8 Dronninglund Parish (Dronninglund, Denmark), Christian Jens Jacobsen Valsted and Johanne Larsen (1867).
9 Joan Severa, Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1995), 458.
10 “Fotografer,” Aalborg Leksikon (http://aalborgleksikon.dk/Fotografer.htm : accessed 6 December 2013).
11 D.A. [personal information withheld], to Melanie Frick, e-mail, 1 June 2012, “Walsted Photo,” Personal Correspondence, Walsted Family, Frick Research Files; privately held by Frick.

Finding Your Danish Immigrant Ancestors

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Kathrine Christensen at the Christensen family home photograph, 1905, Vestervig, Thisted, Denmark; digital image 2013, privately held by [personal information withheld].

When searching for Danish immigrant ancestors, you might feel as though they have been lost in a sea of Scandinavians. Nielsens, Larsens, and Hansens abound. Given names might be different than those used in American records. Family members might not have traveled together. All of these factors, on top of the typical transcription errors that make life exciting for genealogists, can make Danish immigrants difficult to track down.

I met a challenge of this nature when attempting to locate the siblings of my mother’s grandmother, who carried the woefully common Christensen surname. As it turned out, between approximately 1889 and 1906, at least six of the nine surviving children of Laust and Ane (Nielsen) Christensen of Vestervig, Thisted, Denmark1 left the thatched roof of the only home they had ever known for America, traveling one or two at a time over a period of seventeen years. All came, at least temporarily, to Newell, Buena Vista, Iowa.

Else Marie Christensen was the first to arrive in northwestern Iowa. It was there that she married Anton Mikkelsen in the summer of 1889, when she was seventeen.2 Fully ten years later, in 1899, Niels H. Christensen and Ane Petrine “Anine” Christensen journeyed together to join their older sister in Newell.3 Niels settled there, where he married Kathrine “Katie” Larson;4 Anine moved west to the urban center of Sioux City, Woodbury, Iowa, where she married John P. Hansen.5

In 1900, their brother Laurits Anton “Louis” Christensen arrived.6 He too settled in Newell, and married Anna Marie Godfredson.7 Kristine “Christina” Christensen came to America in 1905, along with her husband, Jens C. Pedersen, and her young niece,8 the daughter of her widowed brother Christen Christensen, who had remained in Denmark.9 They settled first in Newell, before moving to Sioux City.10

The following year, in the summer of 1906, Kathrine Christensen, my great-grandmother, was the last to leave home,11 leaving only her aforementioned brother and sisters Johanne Christensen and Ane Marie Christensen in Denmark.12 Kathrine, twenty, also joined her siblings in Newell before moving on to Sioux City. It is there that she married Jens “James” Jacob Walsted in 1909.13

Where can you find Danish immigration records? If you’ve been over- (or under-) whelmed with your search results on databases such as Ancestry.com or Ellis Island’s Passenger Search, I recommend visiting the Dansk Demografisk Database. By selecting “Emigrants,” you will be able to access an index of Danes who traveled via Copenhagen or Hamburg. The search options are flexible; try searching for everyone of a particular surname who originated in the same parish, or search for anyone bound for the same destination. It goes without saying to be creative with spellings, although, in my experience, this index remains truer to the original Danish spellings than others. With the information you find here, you might just have luck turning up a passenger list with your ancestor’s name!



SOURCES
1 “Denmark, Marriages, 1635-1916,” index, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 30 October 2013), entry for Laust Christensen and Ane Nielsen, 1868.
2 “Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 30 Oct 2013), Anton Mikkelson and Elsa Marie Kristensen, 1889.
3 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 October 2013), manifest, S.S. Paris, Liverpool, England to New York, arriving 13 February 1899, Niels Christensen and Anine P. Christensen; citing National Archives microfilm T715, roll 47.
4 “Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 30 Oct 2013), Niels Christensen and Kathrine Larson, 1901.
5 1920 U.S. census, Woodbury County, Iowa, population schedule, Sioux City, Enumeration District (ED) 232, p. 4857 (penned), sheet 6-B, dwelling 129, family 129, Anine Hanson; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 October 2013), citing National Archives microfilm T625, roll 521.
6 “Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1956” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 October 2013), manifest, S.S. Parisian, Liverpool, England to Quebec, arriving 9 June 1900, Laurids Christensen; citing National Archives microfilm M1464, roll 6.
7 “Iowa, County Births, 1880-1935,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 30 Oct 2013), Lewis A. Christensen and Anna Marie Godfredsen in entry for Ludvig Arnold Christensen, 1907.
8 “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, Karoline M. Pederson; citing National Archives microfilm T715, roll 602.
9 [personal information withheld], to Melanie Frick, Ancestry.com message, 7 August 2013, “Cecelia,” Christensen Family File; privately held by Melanie Frick.
10 1920 U.S. census, Woodbury County, Iowa, population schedule, Sioux City, Enumeration District (ED) 234, p. 5951 (penned), sheet 5-A, dwelling 90, family 97, Christina Peterson; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 October 2013), citing National Archives microfilm T625, roll 521.
11 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 October 2013), manifest, S.S. Cedric, Liverpool, England to New York, arriving 22 July 1906, Kathrine Kristensen; citing National Archives microfilm T715, roll 744.
12 “Public Member Trees,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 October 2013), “Christensen Twete,” entries for Christen Christensen (b. 1869), Johanne Christensen (b. 1876), and Ane Marie Christensen (b. 1879); submitted by [personal information withheld], citing Vestervig Church Book.
13 Sioux City, Iowa, Marriage Register, Book E: 1906-1910, James Walsted and Kathin Christinsen, 1909.