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 4 – I’d Like to meet..

Lene Bolton, August 28th 2019

I would like to meet all of my ancestors and hear their stories, but in particular, I would like to meet the women. It is hard to find anything about Danish women other than their names and dates in the church records but that is probably the case all over the world. Often their names were not even mentioned in the church registers, only daughter of, or wife of so and so. Having to pick one ancestor for this challenge, I have chosen this fine-looking lady. It is the oldest photo I have of an ancestor and to me she looks strong, capable and organised yet also friendly and caring. Sidse Jacobsdatter was my Great-Great Grandmother on my father’s side.

Sidse Jacobsdatter
Name: Sidse Jacobsdatter
Birth: 17/8/1811 – Kvislemark, Øster Flakkebjerg, Sorø
Marriage: 8/4/1831 – Holsteinborg, Vester Flakkebjerg, Sorø
Spouse: Jens Hansen
Death: 22/8/1872 – Bisserup, Holsteinborg, Vester Flakkebjerg, Sorø

I am guessing this photo was taken around 1865 when Sidse was in her mid 50s.

Marriage

Sidse was Jens Hansen’s second wife. He first married Sidse’s older sister Anna Jacobsdatter, but when she died 2.5 years later, six days after the death of her son Jacob, Sidse, aged 19, was willing and able to fill the gap. She had been the godmother to Jacob and as she lived close by, she may have nursed both Anna and Jacob in their final days. Jens, would have been a respected man in the community, holding a lease for his family farm. There is no doubt in my mind that Sidse thought him a good catch, because their wedding was just two months after Anna had died.

Holsteinborg

Jens Hansen’s farm, Vængegaard, was leased from Count Frederik Adolph Holstein of Holsteinborg as were all other farms in the village of Bisserup during the 1800s. I think Count Frederik would have been one of the kinder masters in Denmark at that time, as he was noted not only for his deep religious belief and philanthropic activities, but also for instigating reforms for his country-people, building schools and helping the poor. Count Frederik was followed by his son Count Ludvig in 1836, who continued his father’s ambitions for the country-people. In the early 1870s Count Ludvig was the equivalent of Denmark’s prime minister and played host to writer Hans Christian Andersen on numerous occasions.

Vængegaard

Vængegaard

The lease for Vængegaard was an inherited lease passed down from Jens’ father, Hans Hansen, known as ‘Hans Slagter’ (Hans Butcher). The lease required the tenant to not only look after his own farm and land but also to annually pay taxes to the Count in silver, deliver various produce, usually grain but often also farm animals like sheep and geese and maybe some butter. In addition in the early 1800s the farmer was required to work on the Count’s estate for a set number of days per year. This was changed in 1811, when the farmer could pay his way out of this work obligation, and from the mid 1800s the houses and farms were made available for purchase.

Bisserup

In 1840, when Sidse had given birth to four of her eight children, the village of Bisserup was listed as having 311 citizens spread over 70 households. Let’s go for a walk in the 1840 Bisserup and try to get a feel for who lived there and what life was like for Sidse. Bisserup is situated on the south-east coast of Sealand.


We begin with house no 1 where Christian Ludvig, the night watchman on Holsteinborg lived. Opposite in 2 and 3 was The old school, used till 1839 when it was moved a little out of town. 5 was Gessner’s Tile Factory, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 were rented houses occupied by small-holders. The Blacksmith lived in the middle of town in no 11.

There were three weavers in Bisserup, Per Jensen in 12, The man from the island of Fynen, Jens Christiansen in 18, who had moved here to be close to the God awakening movement? It is not known where the expert weaver Anne Olsdatter lived. However, when they required extra fine cloth at Holsteinborg, Anne was the one they called upon.

Toftegaard

13 is the farm Toftegaard which in 1840 was occupied by Jens’ aunt. 14 and 15 were yards and workshops for two sawyers, followed by a cooper’s shop in 16 and a basketmaker in 17.

‘Margrethe’s house’ in Strædet

The house at 19 is interesting for two reasons. This house belonged to Sidse’s parents and she was born here in 1811. However, later this house became known as Margrethe’s House. In 1863, the house was leased by Kirsten and Lars Jørgensen who, paid by the Countess of Holsteinborg, looked after Sick Margrethe. Margrethe had been a seamstress at Holsteinborg until her legs gave way making her an invalid. The Countess paid for many treatments but in 1863 the 24-year-old Margrethe gave up and stayed in bed till her death in 1914. The countess once visited her in the company of Hans Christian Andersen and this visit is thought to have inspired the fairytale The Cripple. Margrethe’s bedroom was behind the window at the end of the house.

20 and 21 were occupied by small-holders. 22 is the Old Inn which in 1840 was leased by the local vet. 23 is another farm Bygaard which had earlier been both a flax-factory and an oil-mill. Until 1803 the farm had been leased by Jens’ uncle Christian Nielsen. Opposite is Sidse’s and Jens’ Vængegaard followed by The Poorhouse no 25 and a small-holder house 26. Finally we have Tangegaard which was leased by Sidse’s sister Kirsten Jacobsdatter and Hans Nielsen. This farm has been in the family’s occupancy/ownership for 270 years.

Tangegaard, 1949

Having family so close by must have been wonderful for Sidse and looking at the photos and knowing which industries existed in her village has given me some idea of what her life might have been like.