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.

2 thoughts on “Week 8 – Family Photo”

  1. Loving your stories Lene. I’m amazed how much of this has survived from the 1600s. Is that quite common in Denmark? In most Scottish parishes nothing remains prior to about 1750. Would you say that in Denmark, society has been relatively unscathed from wars, floods, fires and other upheavals? I’d agree that you’ll carry almost none of these ancestors’ autosomal DNA. That’s not the case of course with Mitochondrial DNA if the woman is in your direct maternal line or if you had a brother and the man was in the direct male line. In both cases the DNA will be very similar in fact almost identical.
    Looking forward to more.
    Rod Macduff


    1. You have to be lucky to find things this old. I have also had help from the Øvle Clan which was discovered 100 or more years ago. I have just acquired the transcriptions from court books from this particular area from 1657 to 1668 and 1699 to 1706. Absolute gold, except I have not yet worked out who very many of my ancestors were at that time – and of course their names are as common as you know what. Some church books are missing due to fire, mainly in the districts where my father’s ancestors came from. My brother has a very interesting Y-DNA. His haplogroup Q-M242 is quite rare in Scandinavia and so far nobody else with the same group has been found in Denmark and only a couple in Sweden and the same in Norway. However there are many of the American native indians that carry that Y-DNA. I can not go back further than 1683 in his fathers fathers line and there are no other surviving male descendants, so I can’t test the DNA. I have hundreds of matches with my mtDNA, but so far none close enough to investigate.


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