Week 9 – At the courthouse

Guilty or Not guilty?

Jørgen Wipenz, a farmer from the country, was accused of murder!

This is an entry in the 1787 census for Slagelse, Sorø Amt. The building at Torvet 1, which I assume to be the jail, was occupied by the bailiff, his wife and four children. In addition, there were three prisoners, a vagrant, a horseman from the Sealand Calvary Regiment and Jørgen (Wipenz/Wincentzen).

Name: Jørgen Wincentzen
Birth: 28/11/1748 – Skafterup, Fyrendal, Øster Flakkebjerg, Sorø
Marriage: 13/9/1778 – Hyllested, Vester Flakkebjerg, Sorø
Spouse: Anne Pedersdatter
Death: 1/10/1819 – Høve, Vester Flakkebjerg, Sorø

Jørgen Wincentzen is the brother of my 4th Great Grandfather.

The year Jørgen turned 30, two important things happened in his life. He signed a contract to lease a farm from Holsteinborg Estate in Eggeslevmagle and he married Anne. Together they and had five children, but only three survived infancy. In 1800, their eldest surviving daughter Karen Jørgensdatter and her husband took over the farm contract.

Beginning few lines of the farm contract

Did Jørgen really commit murder?

In the 1965 Yearbook of the Sorø Amt’s Historical Society, is a transcript of the Holsteinborg Birk’s court proceedings and judgement with respect to Jørgen Wincentzen .

The incident occurred on Friday the 1st of December 1786. Jørgen Wincentzen, Morten Povlsen and Lars Jørgensen had delivered wheat to Korsør as per their contract with Holsteinborg. Once the business was completed they returned separately to Eggeslevmagle. However, Morten was badly hurt and covered in blood when he arrived home and died a week later from his injuries.

The previous year Morten and Jørgen had had a dispute about some land, a fact, which was common knowledge in the village. Rumours were now circulating that Jørgen had been the attacker. Anyone who came to visit Morten, including the vicar, was told by a very ill and severely deranged man that ‘Jørgen did it’.

Jørgen was called to give evidence. He said he had passed Morten on the way home, as he was driving too slowly, but had not seen him thereafter. When asked why he had not visited Morten on his deathbed, he replied he had no reason to do so as Morten had accused him of assault.

Lars had completed a couple of errands before heading home and caught up with Morten along the way. Lars reported that Morten hadn’t made much sense and his head was bloodied and swollen. Lars managed to get him onto his wagon and took him home to his wife. He had not seen Jørgen on the road nor had he noticed any animosity between the two.

A farmhand from across the paddock, had seen two wagons stop on the road. The driver of one had run up to the other and beat him so hard on the head that he fell backwards in the wagon. More bashing followed before the attacker returned to his wagon and moved on. The farmhand had been too scared to confront the men, but later went over to have a look. When he saw all the blood and heard the man moaning he immediately left being too frightened to even talk. He did not know Jørgen and could therefore not say if he had been the attacker, however, from his posture he felt it could have been Jørgen.

Dømt for Rett: – Judgement

The decision was handed down on the 3rd of August 1787 after Jørgen had been in jail for 7-8 months. The judge was assisted by 8 other men – a jury?

The Judgement: Jørgen Wincentzen must swear that he did not cause the injuries to Morten Povlsen from which he died. If he cannot do that, he shall be beheaded by sword and the body shall be buried in the cemetery without ceremonies. In addition he will lose his farm, pay the Prosecution and Defence plus an amount of 10 ‘Daler’ to the court.

Jørgen must have sworn to the court, as he lived for a further 32 years.

Was he guilty – or not?

Week 8 – Family Photo

Looking through my photo collection I was searching for a traditional picture of mum, dad and the kids. Nothing seemed to be quite right. I nearly settled for something that ‘would do’, when I came across this..

Jesper Rasmussen and family

..which fits the description of a family photo. It is a painting that forms part of an epitaph hanging in Odder Church (Odder is a mid-sized town 23 km south of Århus on the east coast of Jutland)

Name: Jesper Rasmussen
Birth: 1597
Marriage: 1624
Spouse: Berrithe Michelsdatter
Death: 9/3/1679 – Fillerup, Odder, Hads, Århus

Jesper and Berrithe are my 8th great-grandparents, just two out of a possible 1024. Even if I could find them all, there wouldn’t be that many different people as it was common for cousins to marry. I wonder if I carry any of their DNA? – probably not, and if I do it would be so minuscule that the testing companies would not be able to detect it.

Jesper was an important man in his day. He had the role of recording proceedings at the district court. Not many people were literate in the 1600s and fewer still had sufficient command of the written language to succeed in such a role. I wish I knew who his parents were, how they afforded his education and where he had been studying. Jesper and Berrithe had three sons, however one died young and is therefore depicted as a very small boy. They also had three daughters and one of them Anne Jespersdatter married Peder Øvlisen from the Øvli clan and their son Øvli Pedersen continued the line.

The painting shows two of the three younger women wearing a bonnet as does the mother. That indicates they were married and Anne would be one of those women. The third, a younger looking girl without a bonnet kneeling in front of the others, was therefore not married at that particular time. I don’t know anything about the clothing but I would imagine that it was the customary Sunday best. Alternatively, it could be the artist taking a bit of licence by dressing them all the same.

The whole epitaph, which is dated 1664, is pictured above and is described in The History of Odder Church as Moses with the tablets on the left, John the Baptist on the right pointing to the crucifix at the very top. At the sides, just below the crucifix, sits two women. One with a book and cross and the other with a dove and anchor – the womanly virtues.

Week 7 – Love

How do you know if there was love among your ancestors? I believe there was, lots of it, but unless you speak to them, how can you be sure? There are many kinds of love of course, and for this week I have chosen to write about Morten Sørensen. I don’t know if he had romantic love, although I’d like to think so, but as I learn about his life I feel sure he had love for family and community and that he was loved in return.

Name: Morten Sørensen
Birth: 1797 – Skafterup, Fyrendal, Øster Flakkebjerg, Sorø
Marriage: 29/5/1818 – Kvislemark, Øster Flakkebjerg, Sorø
Spouse: Margrethe Jacobsdatter
Death: 19/6/1880

I am connected to Morten in two ways. He is brother to my 3rd great grandmother Maren Sørensdatter and he married a sister to my 2nd great grandmother Sidse Jacobsdatter, who I wrote about in week 4.

Sketch of Morten Sørensen

Sadly, Morten and Margrethe did not have any children of their own, but they were godparents to many children in their community. I checked the register of the local church in Fyrendal for the first ten years of their marriage, and found they were godparents to 35 children during that time. Usually it would be both of them but on a few occasions it was one or the other. In addition, Morten was godfather to all of Sidse’s 8 children in Holsteinborg and Margrethe held two of them, Jacob and Søren, over the christening font.

Those two boys ended up spending a lot of time with Morten and Margrethe. Jacob, my Great Grandfather, moved in with them when he was 11, according to the military register, and stayed ‘in place of a child’ per the 1860 census, until the day he married aged 30. Søren, being 17 years younger, also came to Morten and Margrethe at a young age and was equally described as being ‘in place of a child’.

Prøveholmsgaard main building built by Søren’s father-in-law, so his daughter could live comfortably. (Septmber 2018)

When the time came to pass on the farm which Morten had inherited from his father Søren Wincentzen, Jacob was already married and settled on a different farm and it was only natural that the farm lease should go to Søren. Morten may have had a role to play at the christening where Søren was given the middle name of Vincent, same as Morten’s father and grandfather. This way the name Vincent stayed in the family and with the farm for many generations.

SVJ and ANJ on the gable of Prøveholmsgaard stands for: (Søren Vincents Jensen and Anne Marie Jensen) (September 2018)

In a local newspaper from 1867 I found a notice where several high-ranking members of the community such as The Earl Holstein-Holsteinborg, Judges, Parliamentarians and Farmers including Morten were inviting the local community to a festival by the Holsteinborg castle. The proceeds were to benefit the true, needy people of Slesvig. In 1864 Denmark had lost the provinces of Slesvig-Holstein to Prussia in a devastating war.

Convinced that, in these for our homeland serious times, we feel a need to get together to support each other in the fight for Danishness and freedom, we invite men, women and children to a festival in Holsteinborg forest by Bisserup beach, Tuesday the 11th of June.

For many years, Morten held the honourable role of ‘Sognefoged’ – the country police officer working for the district courts. The person for this position was selected by the local council and had to be ‘one of the best suited, most honest and knowledgable farmers in the parish‘. Later Morten was made a ‘Knight of Dannebrog’, a royal order awarded for special deeds or conspicuous service to Denmark.

Words on the cross are: God and The King

Week 6 – Surprise

February 7, 2019

There are always surprises when you do genealogy, and I have had my share. This week I have chosen to write about Niels Peter Hansen, my great-uncle, not because of surprises I had when researching him, although there were a couple, but more so because of the surprise HE had on his 80th birthday.

Name: Niels Peter Hansen
Birth: 26/4/1893 – Harrested, Sludstrup, Slagelse, Sorø
Marriage: None
Spouse: None
Death: 13/9/1975 – Sebring, Highlands, Florida, USA

Niels Peter was born and grew up on his father’s farm in Harrested, south-west Sealand. Being the youngest of seven siblings, he had no chance of inheriting the family farm. Instead, he took a liking to gardening and at 18 left home to see other places and spent a couple of years honing his trade in Copenhagen and northern Sealand.

1914-1918 1st WW

Denmark sought to remain neutral during the first world war and managed this by staying on the friendly side of both Germany and England. Germany pressurised Denmark into establishing a mine-field in the main strait between Sealand and Funen. Subsequently, England was advised of the mines and their ships never came near. However, with these warring parties being neighbours, the Government decided to strengthen Denmark’s military capabilities – just in case.

On the 26th of October 1914, Niels Peter was called upon to serve his country in the army’s 27th Battalion. To date, I have not found any evidence to suggest he spent the full four years in the army, and it is possible that his time as a soldier was much shorter.

What happened to Niels Peter?

It is fair to say that Niels Peter became a bit of an eccentric, never letting anyone know what he was doing or where he was going. I found him impossible to trace until one day, I found Niels Peter Hansen on a passenger list from the ship S.S. Oscar II arriving into New York harbour on the 14th of December 1923. I knew he went to the USA at some point, and now I had a date. His two sisters Laura and Kristine had already migrated there, so it is understandable that he too wanted to have a look outside Denmark and perhaps try a new life in the USA.

S.S. Oscar II

Niels Peter stayed with his sister Laura in New York – on and off. Laura owned an apartment block on Lexington Avenue, where she leased out rooms mostly to singles, and could usually find space for Niels Peter whenever he decided to turn up. He would stay with her for weeks or months at a time and then suddenly one day get up and say ‘Goodbye’ and be gone for several months or years not telling anyone where he was. Over time, the family learned he had taken gardening jobs with large wealthy families across the United States.

There is a family story where Niels Peter, being persuaded by his sisters, decided to sail to Denmark for a visit. Unfortunately, the summer he chose was one of the wettest on record. He hated the Danish weather to such a degree that he swore never again to set foot in Denmark – and he never did.

Through Laura’s descendants, I have inherited a couple of documents which I treasure. One is the original USA Certificate of Citizenship, Issued to Niels Peter when he at one time was living in Washington D.C. – In testimony whereof the seal of the court is hereunto affixed this 2nd day of October in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and twenty-nine and of our Independence the one hundred and fifty-fourth.

USA Certificate of Citizenship – Niels Peter Hansen

And then there is this cutting from the Pan AM magazine July, 1973. Niels Peter had never flown in an aeroplane, so as a present to himself on his 80th birthday he decides to fly to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands for a four hour visit, after which he would return to New York. When the staff heard about this 80 year old neophyte, they decided to surprise him with a birthday cake. He was greeted with a chorus of ‘happy birthday’, and was afterwards taken for a tour of the island where a stop was made for him to shop. He wanted two items: One bottle of Cream de Cacao and one bottle of lavender water.

Pan Am magazine July 1973

To finish this story I must explain that St. Thomas was once a Danish colony. Denmark-Norway conquered the Island in 1666 along with the islands of St. John and St Croix. The islands’ economy was driven by sugarcane, and the plantation owners became dependant on slave labour. Records show the largest slave auctions in the world were being held on St. Thomas in the mid 1680s. Years later the sugar trade became very competitive and the prosperity of the free islanders began to wane. The colony was poorly managed by the Danes and in 1917 the islands were sold to the United States for the sum of $25 million in Gold. This was also a strategic military move by the US to achieve full control over the Caribbean during the 1WW.

Week 5 – at the Library

Lene Bolton, 1st February 2019

Last week I was offered some Danish books from a deceased estate. Being a little greedy I accepted all of them – 4 boxes. Among my newly acquired library I found a book by Gudrun Andresen: Særke 1770-1870 (særke = shifts – a woman’s innermost articles of clothing).

Since all my ancestors were farmers, I had no trouble finding someone who would have worn a shift similar to the ones described in this book. I chose my 3rd Great Grandmother, Anna Sørensdatter.

Name: Anna Sørensdatter
Birth: 29/11/1788 – Saksild, Hads, Århus
Marriage: About 1809
Spouse: Rasmus Nielsen
Death: 4/7/1859 – Saksild, Hads, Århus

As the book was published in 1976 it is still under copyright. However, I learnt that the country-women made their shift from linen, except in some parts of Jutland where the soil was not suitable for growing flax. If someone didn’t have the money to buy the necessary lengths of linen, fine wool was used. Anna lived in Jutland but the soil was good on the east coast, so I believe Anna’s shifts were made of linen. The book also explains that shifts for special occasions were lightly fitted and embroidered with white thread, sometimes very elaborately, and often decorated with names or initials. The everyday shifts for work were loose functional garments without adornments.

Chest for a young girl’s trousseau – Photo taken at The National Museum, Copenhagen

In the 17 and 18 hundreds, people living in the country were self-sufficient. The only way to help the daughters was to provide them with a well stocked chest of wool and linen items so they would have enough for their time. After marriage, the young woman would start filling a chest for the next generation.

I believe that Anna and Rasmus were married in 1809, as their first child was born in April 1810. I cannot say if Anna would have had such a beautiful large chest filled with her trousseau when she got married, but her new home was a farm with near new buildings.

The village, Kysing, consisted of 9 leased farms in 1788. However the owner was in a poor state financially and the farms were put to auction and self-ownership of the individual farms resulted.

The farms were built close together and when a fire broke out on the 6th of April 1793 only two were saved. At that time there was a campaign across Denmark to move farm buildings from the villages out onto the land. In Kysing the fire caused this to happen sooner than perhaps was planned.

As a result of all this, when Anna got married she moved into a new farm Matr. No. 8 owned by her husband Rasmus Nielsen. This map is from the 1820s. The farm was later named Kysing Lundgaard.

No 8 – Rasmus Nielsen, Kysing

Anna and Rasmus had three children Niels 1810, Søren 1815 and Maren 1819. The firstborn, Niels Rasmussen my 2nd great grandfather, took over the farm in 1842.

It is also important to mention that not only is Anna my 3rd Great Grandmother, but so is her sister, Mariane Sørensdatter. Anna’s son Niels and Mariane’s daughter Karen married in 1848. Looking at the rest of my family tree I note that it was common for cousins to marry in the 1800s.