To my knowledge, none of my ancestors wrote a diary. To respond to this prompt I have had to look outside the box to find something that can be a substitute for a diary. When visiting Denmark last year I was very fortunate to lay eyes on my farmor’s (paternal grandmother) Skudsmålsbog which my brother found in one of his hiding-places. My old Danish-English dictionary of 1959 translates Skudsmålsbog to ‘Servant’s conduct book’. This was a book introduced in 1832 to record an employee’s places of work and sometimes also their conduct, rather than using loose employer reference letters. The practice was abolished in 1921.
|Name: Oline Laura Jensen|
|Birth: 3/8/1875 – Stubberup, Ørslev, Vester Flakkebjerg, Sorø|
|Marriage: 14/5/1909 – Førslev, Øster Flakkebjerg, Sorø|
|Spouse: Christen Peder Hansen|
|Death: 11/8/1928 – Harrested, Sludstrup, Slagelse, Sorø|
Oline was confirmed at the Ørslev church on 6th of October 1889 and the Skudsmålsbog was issued the day after signifying she was ready for employment. According to the book she did not leave home until eight years later when the first entry in the book states she left the parish of Ørslev on 1/11/1897 and went to Fodby. Here she was working on a farm for Knud Lund and his wife Maren, who had just seen their only surviving child getting married and leaving home. In the 1901 census there were two maids and two farm-helps on this farm and I expect it would have been the same in 1898 when Oline was there.
In the country a move from one employer to the next would usually take place in May and November. Period of employment would thus be reviewed every six months.
Oline worked for Knud and Maren for one year after which she went to Førslev. Here she stayed with her sister and brother in-law, who had just married the year before, whilst attending the near-by Hindholm Højskole (folk high school) for three years. Wikipedia informs me that not much is written about the school as it was not following the traditional Grundtvig doctrine.
End of March 1902 brought a new change for Oline. She left Førslev and moved to Ulse parish in Præstø county. Here she was the housekeeper on Slettehavegaard in Nielstrup for five years. The family consisted of bailiff Lars Christensen, his wife Karen and two children. In addition there were two maids and three farm-hands to feed every day.
There was a short period after Ulse where she in 1907 was back in Arløse for six months. Unfortunately the book doesn’t give any information as to where, but as her two sisters Ane Margrethe and Sidse Marie had both married Arløse farmers, it is likely that Oline stayed with them.
The final entry in her Skudsmålsbog is by my grandfather Christen Peter Hansen. Oline came to Sludstrup after Arløse where she worked on Christen’s farm, Bakkegaard, in 1908. As stated above they were married in May the following year.
Of course, Oline’s story doesn’t end with the last entry in her Skudsmålsbog. She gave birth to three children, where my father Poul was the firstborn in 1910, followed by Oline Marie in 1911 and Inge Margrethe in 1915. In addition she nursed Christen’s father, who was not well the last few years and who eventually died in 1918.
I never met Oline as she died when my father was only 18 and she was 53. To date I have been unable to find the cause of death which I fear might have been breast cancer. Her daughter Inge died from breast cancer and she was only 52. I know from other records provided by my 3rd cousin that she was nursed in the last few weeks by her sister Sidse from Arløse. Oline’s mother also died young – only 47 years old. Cause of her death was tæring (Dictionary: old description of tuberculosis and other illnesses that caused loss of weight, eg. cancer), according to the church register.