Friday, October 31, 2014

Manifest Destiny

I'm a bit tired of the Danes, if I'm honest.  I've seen thousands of names, dates, streets and locations over the past few weeks and I really needed a break.

Of course, just because I am tired of my husband's father's side of the family, does not mean that I am tired of my own family tree, so back to the search to fill in some gaps for them, I went.

I ordinarily have a bunch of windows open when I'm doing online research (we all do, I'm sure).  At any given time, I can be on, Family, and archives specific to different countries. Not to mention, I might be looking at available censuses on various websites, or even personal web-pages.  (I also have both Facebook and Twitter open at all times to keep up with my friends' posts.)

Yesterday, I decided to focus on my father's side of the family.  I was poking around on Family and not coming up with much that I didn't already have, so I went back to and started clicking on those tantalizing green leaves that pop up all the time.  I usually end up "ignoring hint", but I began to check out some of the ones that were glaring at me.  At this point, I drifted back and forth between my dad's family and my mom's (I have a real problem with focus when so much information is so easily available).  Eventually, I decided to see if there was anything new for my actual father.  I started searching from his profile and had to do quite a bit of tweaking the search form - my father had four names and a confirmation name as well.  I cut off all the names but his first one and then something I had not seen before came to light.

Under UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960.  I found the ship's manifest for my father's passage to Canada from England on May 16, 1953.  I wrote about this journey in a post on my other blog, "Acadianeire's Heritage" back in 2010.  At that time, I only had a photo and a date to go by, but I had pieced together a few things.  This paled in comparison to actually seeing my then 26 year-old father's name and details on a document saying he was coming to Canada to be a permanent resident. Had he not done so, I would not be here to tell this tale.

I shared this information with my mother, who is still alive and who lives with me and my husband. She was as thrilled as I to see it.

Having discovered this, it occurred to me that I might be able to track my husband's father's journey from Denmark to Canada in the 1950s too.  So back to I went, and it didn't take long to find the document under New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. The date was May 7, 1955. What was surprising was that the document also listed his younger brother. This had never been mentioned before.  We know that his brother returned to Denmark and stayed there, but later on, his younger sister did come to Canada and made a life here. In fact, she lives very close to  her older brother.

When I went to bed last night, I had lots to think about.  Not least, was that I should be able now to find the passage back to Denmark for my husband's uncle, and the passage over for his aunt.

Sometimes it's fun to be "all at sea".

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rattling Skeletons

original images manipulated by Kat Mortensen

It's interesting, all the little secrets that can be revealed when one is doing a genealogy search.  From watching such programs as "Who Do You Think You Are" and "Finding Your Roots", and even "Heir Hunters", it becomes apparent that many families had secrets or memories that they wanted to bury. Whether it was a criminal past, a horrific experience during the war, or some other awful family story, they often got locked away to save face or sanity.

My husband's family has a few secrets too.  Nobody likes to talk about the fact that the Mortensen name could just as easily have been Rasmussen. My husband's grandfather was illegitimately fathered by someone with that surname, but his Great-grandmother chose to retain her own last name for her son.

Nobody will discuss what happened with the two children that Ellen Mortensen birthed between 1911 and 1919 other than that they were raised in an orphanage.

Even his grandmother's side has a bit of a secret of its own: Wera Mortensen fodt (born) Nilsson was the grand-daughter of another "ugift" (unmarried) mother.  In this case however, he was christened with his father's last name. I haven't found a marriage record, but I will.

Yesterday, I was focusing on a later branch of this family and had another one of those "a-ha" moments.  It turns out that my husband's own father was nearly born out of wedlock too. His parents married in October 1932, and he was born in January 1933.

Of course, in this day and age, illegitimacy has become more or less accepted, but I have to wonder how it was looked upon in Denmark back in the 1800s. It's not that it wasn't prevalent, it was. There are many ugifts recorded in the church books. I also can't help wondering about the circumstances in Ellen's case.  In all documents I can find, her place of residence is the workhouse and every hospital reference is to the Almendelig (Almshouse) hospital in Copenhagen.

All I can say is, some of these Danish women must have had it pretty rough.

I still haven't found Gerda's birth notice, but I remain undaunted.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dead Again

As I mentioned earlier, I had a huge breakthrough last week with the case of the missing Gerda. After much intensive searching through the Statens Arkiver's Family Law documents. I found a reference in a child support register to Gerda's mother, with payment being made for a child born in 1919. Eureka! At last I had a specific year of birth and a name for Gerda's elusive and rumoured-to-be-foreign father.  The fellow's name was quite a mouthful! How about, Oscar Johannes Vilhelm Petersen for a moniker?

I was able to trace Oscar through a baptismal reference on Family and this gave me his parents' names. Back to, where I plugged the three of them in and discovered the origins were actually German, in the region of Schleswig Holstein and a town called Rendsburg.

Here's a funny coincidence:  A few weeks ago, a tile trivet at my local thrift store caught my eye and I picked it up for a buck because it was a map with Denmark at the top and SCHLESWIG HOLSTEIN at the bottom.  At the time, I had a niggling feeling that Kevin's grandmother's family hailed from the region. It turned out that I had mistakenly remembered that information; they actually came from Mecklenburg.

So this tile had been sitting on my desk for no particular reason other than the fact that it is pretty. Imagine my surprise to learn that Gerda's father has a connection to this exact spot!

Unfortunately, the information given in the legal register has proved to be a dead end, so far.  I have not been able to link the date of birth on the page to an entry in any of the available church books online.

Oh, Gerda! Why do you haunt me so?

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Hands of Time

Photo snipped by Kat Mortensen 10/10/14

While searching through the indexed online archives of Denmark, I happened upon this more recent contribution to the effort. I'd love to know who belongs to this hand and when the photocopy was taken.
Funny the things you come across in genealogical research. I can't imagine anyone thinking that this pursuit is dull, can you?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Brick by Brick

Three days of scanning through Family Law cases on the Statens Arkiver and I've finally found something!

I looked at adoption registers, and gave up.  I looked at more census documents (than I can possibly say) and gave up. Then I started looking at the name registers for Child Support payments and at 5:00 p.m. last night, I hit paydirt!

This is a child support document with Kevin's Great-grandmother's name on it.  The time is right, the dates are good and even the location of the  Stiftelse workhouse and the Almendelig  hospital matches that of his grandfather's birth information from 8 years earlier.

I now have a father for Gerda. Woo hoo!

If there are any Danish folks out there who wish to translate and give me more information, I'd be glad to accept it.  My Danish friend, Lisbeth, on Facebook has been of great assistance, but as she says, you really need an older Dane to work it out.

It looks like the father was compelled to pay up!

I'm so excited that I'm shaking! (It could be the coffee.)

I'll be back when I find more details. Wish me luck!

Friday, October 3, 2014

What I know so far ...

The Mortensens: circa 1940 (my husband's father is the boy in front on the left)
 Gerda is the pretty young woman on the far right.

I got interested in genealogy, shortly after my father passed away six years ago. He came from a family of twelve, out of Northern Ireland.  My mother's side is Canadian from Nova Scotia, with roots in Scotland, the United States and France.

I was equally fascinated with my husband's side of the family since his father is Danish and we had willingly embraced the Danish culture and much of the Scandinavian way of life.

A wealth of information was available for my side of the family, and a good deal on my mother-in-law's side, but the Danish branch was, shall we say, quite bare.

Initially, I was given two fragmented and not terribly useful pieces of information about the Danish family from Copenhagen.  Only through dogged determination (along with an obsessive focus that allows me to spend hours looking at online Danish books from old world Censuses and Churches) have I managed to piece together the bulk of the relationships on the Mortensen side.

With one exception: my Father-in-law's Aunt, Gerda

Here are the two pieces of information I was initially handed regarding my husband's father's family.

From my mother-in-law, in an e-mail dated, April 29, 2010

Farfar  (Hans Svend-Aage Mortensen)
Parents unknown - Grew up in an orphanage with his sister Gerda Mortensen

From my husband's aunt Lis, in Denmark, an e-mail dated, March 25, 2012

I am sorry, but I can not help you about Gerda. I do not know when she has bithsday.
She was that type who never told you how old she was.
Farfar was older than Gerda.
They were both brought op on a fosterhome
Farfarwas born the 29, of marts and dyed in december 1970

I've come a long way, but as yet, Gerda is still undiscovered in any record books online. I have much work to do!
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