What are friends for?

Speaking of family, I know a little bit more about my great grandma and grandpa on my Dad’s side.  Fortunately, I have a friend who has Danish ancestry and has been to Denmark several times, also Faroe Islands.  Last summer I was talking to him about my Danish roots and what my sister had come up with from 1996 when she went to court houses, graveyards, churches in southern Minnesota to search our records and clues about our great grandparents. I wanted all this information before our family’s Century Farm celebration. My friend dropped out of the picture for about four months until several weeks ago. I got an e-mail that read in the subject line “I’m still alive.”

We already knew that my great grandpa had an unusual name and it was changed to be more Anglicized. It would have worked back in Denmark but not in the U.S. His gravestone reflects that change for the good of his children, my grandpa’s Dad. I had been told he was an alcoholic and yet the records state that the cause of his death was gastric intestinal problems.  The question I have is when did he actually die?  Some places I have seen that he died on Dec. 31st 1900 but the gravemarker reveals Jan. 1, 1901. Not sure why the discrepancy?  Maybe it doesn’t really matter.  My great grandma died in St. Peter in 1931 where she had been living with her daughter.  She had been widowed for 30 years.

What I found out from my genealogist friend, who I have known since the early 1980s, is that my great grandmother went by the name of Sena in the U.S.  However, her actual name was Reinsena and that was easier for him to pick up from the Danish records or census that they keep.  I also learned that my great grandmother came by ship to Quebec from Liverpool with her younger brother Soren in May of 1869.  She was 24 years old and Soren was 21. What I could not figure out was Soren was the only boy in the family of five older sisters.  Why would he leave Denmark?  Was it because he was draft age?

My great grandparents got married in Wisconsin across the river from Red Wing, Minnesota in December of 1869. My great grandpa was 22 years older than his bride.  So, from what I gathered the two Danish families originally were about 5-10 miles apart back in Denmark.  My great grandpa’s father was a tanner or shoemaker and they lived in a bigger city Horsens and my great grandma’s family was in the neighboring province and they were rural farmer types.  Did they know of each other’s families and go to the same church?  How did my great grandpa know about Sena and had he been married before?

Family lore has it that my great grandpa had been drafted into the Prussian army and around Civil War time was near New York when he jumped ship.  I heard from another genealogist that that is a common story that is right up there with being related in the bloodline to Pocahantus or some other well known native American woman.  So, the question remains, how did my great grandpa get from Denmark to Wisconsin and then eventually southern Minnesota?

That’s what friends are for…he will continue to search whatever happened to Soren once he got to the U.S.  What happened to my great grandpa BEFORE he came to the U.S. and did he really jump ship close to Cape Cod?  Stay tuned!

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